New wind farm off Shanghai
A rather good novel by Liz Jensen takes as its starting point a not too distant future where the famous 4C+ warming has arrived.
The Rapture, published by Bloomsbury in June 2009, and in paperback in January 2010, is an electrifying psychological thriller that explores the dark extremes of mankind’s self-destruction in a world on the brink.
In a merciless summer of biblical heat and destructive winds, Gabrielle Fox’s main concern is a personal one: to rebuild her career as a psychologist after a shattering car accident. But when she is assigned Bethany Krall, one of the most dangerous teenagers in the country, she begins to fear she has made a terrible mistake.
Raised on a diet of evangelistic hellfire, Bethany is violent, delusional, cruelly intuitive and insistent that she can foresee natural disasters – a claim which Gabrielle interprets as a symptom of doomsday delusion. But when catastrophes begin to occur on the very dates Bethany has predicted, and a brilliant, gentle physicist enters the equation, the apocalyptic puzzle intensifies and the stakes multiply. Is the self-proclaimed Nostradamus of the psych ward the ultimate manipulator, or could she be the harbinger of imminent global cataclysm on a scale never seen before? And what can love mean in ‘interesting times’?
Of the novel she writes:
…science fascinates me, and thanks to some excellent books on the environment, and to Dr Daniela Schmidt of the Department of Earth Sciences at Bristol University, I had some first-class brains to pick when it came to the research. Dr Schmidt is an expert on a geological catastrophe that ravaged the planet 55 million years ago: this event was the inspiration for the disaster in The Rapture.
The novel turned out to be one of the hardest books I’ve ever written. I spent a year working on a very different first draft – to give you an idea, it spanned four centuries – but then I decided it wasn’t working, scrapped it, and started all over again. Finally after two more years, and many more major revisions, I completed it. The novel does not have a happy ending. I make no apology for that. But there are survivors, and where there are survivors, there is hope. The writing of this book has brought me closer an understanding of where I think we are headed, and what new priorities may emerge as a result. I think we are living in the most ‘interesting times’ mankind has seen, and as a result we’re going to see more of the ecologically-themed fiction that some of our best writers, like Ballard, have been publishing for years. If The Rapture becomes part of a creative movement that raises awareness, then I’ll feel I’ve achieved something that goes beyond fiction. And I’ll be proud. But The Rapture is above all a story, whose mission is to entertain. If nothing else, I hope it does that.
She admits that the scenario she paints would not be likely to happen so quickly. It concerns ruthless energy corporations rushing hell-bent into tapping hitherto untapped sources of methane deep in the ocean, but even today the BP episode off the Louisiana coast is eerily similar if rather less dramatic than what happens in the novel. We should certainly question why we are now endeavouring to exploit more and more costly and dangerous sources of fossil fuels when the trick probably should be to explore alternative energy sources, though, as the picture heading this post suggests, that too is happening.
As a thriller I rate it .
However, check out geologist Dr Iain Stewart:
Now another book, not fiction: James Hansen’s new book, Storms of My Grandchildren.
The publishers should be shot, however, for their over-the-top cover – such sensationalism does not help and belies the tone of the book. The title refers to Hansen’s actual grandchildren who will quite likely be alive in 2100.
Hansen is famous for many things, including regarding the coal industry as the major villain. We should not lose sight however of the fact that the fossil fuel industry gives us rather more than hitherto cheap energy. See oil by-products and coal by-products. We would greatly miss many of the items listed there if we were simplistic in our prosecution of the fossil fuel industries.
He famously is pleased that Copenhagen failed, as he sees the cap and trade system as green-washing and no solution. He may well have a point there. He is however in favour of a carbon tax.
Finally he is a firm advocate of new generation nuclear energy which he foresees as reaching a point of sophistication where the nuclear waste involved will become negligible. He may well have a point here too. He regrets that environmentalists stymied the development of such technology over the past several decades.
For more see Hansen’s talk in Australia “Looking for real solutions after Copenhagen.”
James Hansen is known as the ‘grandfather of climate change’ and is perhaps the world’s leading authority on the science of climate change. He is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and has for the last 30 years focused on climate research, publishing more than 100 scholarly articles on the topic.
In this Sydney lecture he delves into the latest climate science, addresses the gap between the certainty of the science and the rise of climate changes scepticism, and also discusses the pros and cons of the world’s energy options, from nuclear to the (to his mind unlikely) viability of clean coal, as well as the various options for the necessary emissions reduction.
Presented by Sydney Ideas and the United States Studies Centre, March 2010
On the book read Ignore James Hansen’s climate predictions at your peril.
…The global-warming deniers have claimed for years that the overwhelming scientific consensus on this issue exists only because climate scientists are rewarded for making "alarmist" or "hysterical" claims. Hansen’s story shows this is the opposite of the truth. The pressure is, in reality, to make scientists play down their claims. Think of it as the real Climategate.
What are the politicians trying to hide when they try to silence Hansen? He explains—drawing on deep pools of scientific evidence—that the burning of oil and coal is emitting so many warming gases into the atmosphere that we are now very close to triggering a series of catastrophes we won’t be able to stop. The most striking to me, as I looked out over one of the world’s greatest ice sheets, is the danger of their disintegration—triggering a massive sea level rise. It used to be agreed that it would take millennia for ice sheets to go, but the evidence now shows this is wrong…
What must it be like to be a scientist who is exploring this every day and to walk out into an indifferent world? Hansen has worked hard at making himself a better communicator. He describes how he fought to overcome his shyness and the temptation to fall back on a technical scientific vocabulary in front of general audiences. He has channeled his anger in the best possible way—to make himself better able to warn us.
He did his job. So won’t the government do its job? These warnings aren’t coming from a crank, or a few random scientists. Virtually all scientists who study the climate regard Hansen as a hero. Why would government officials refuse to listen to such urgent threats to the U.S. homeland? Hansen’s explanation is simple: "Special interests have been able to subvert our democratic system," he says. If you want to run for office in the United States, you need to raise money—and the fossil-fuel industry is waiting with an open check book. Republicans and Democrats alike inhale the polluters’ cash, and as a result, we get only legislation that "coal companies and utilities are willing to allow." If we made the leap to a world powered by the wind, the waves, and the sun, they would hemorrhage profits, so it is not allowed. We are all being held hostage to the profit margins of a few polluters and their "lobbyists in alligator shoes."
The American political system as it currently works can provide only shams like the Waxman-Markey Bill, which Hansen exposes as an Enron-style con. It is so full of loopholes and lobbyist-authored treats for the polluters that it will achieve almost nothing. So what’s the way out? …
You will find more about Hansen in the comment thread on my post Monckton — the follow-up.
Since this is the last post for a while on climate change I am adding some more resources.
1. Slow TV has some excellent videos, lectures mostly by acknowledged authorities.
2. In particular see Australian Nobel Prize laureate Peter Doherty on the nature of climate science as seen from an experimental research scientist’s perspective. He corrects much spin and tripe about the IPCC reports. See also Prof Peter Doherty’s book launch speech for ‘The Clean Industrial Revolution’.
3. Speaking of IPCC here is Australia’s David Karoly, who also appears on Slow TV.