Many Australians will not know of George Monbiot. He is one of the best left wing journalists writing in the British media today and he was briefly a member of Respect.
His latest book, Heat, is a best seller, reflecting the mass market for radical ideas to deal with climate change. The book criticises the mainstream climate scientists’ view that the goal must be to limit global warming to 2 degrees, which of course is a lot less than is expected if no radical action is taken.
He explains that a 2 degree increase in global temperature would – amongst other disasters – lead to 97% of the world’s reefs being bleached. Monbiot argues that we must aim for no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, “which means more than 1.4 degrees above the current point”. Heat is particularly useful as the bulk of the book outlines concrete ways to reach this target.
or example forcing the construction industry to have cavity wall insulation and other improvements such as the use of geopolymeric cements; changes to the storing and distribution of goods in the retail industry to cut emissions and encourage virtual and local shopping instead of driving cars to out-of-town hyper stores; using already feasible alternatives to the distribution of energy such as a micro electricity grid system; and a combination of greater public transport and the use of hyper car technologies.
On the continued use by bosses of carbon-emitting ‘normal’ cement instead of using geopolymeric cements (Monbiot quotes the Australian CSIRO as stating that this alternative can be used for every major purpose for which ordinary cement is bought today), he explains: “the construction industry is notoriously conservative, and the cement companies have a powerful financial incentive to maintain their existing plants, rather than to start up somewhere else with a different process.”
The changes Monbiot argues for would be a matter of course under a democratic socialist society where protecting our future comes before the profit line of privatively-owned big companies.
Under capitalism however, the necessary changes will only come through the mass mobilisation of ordinary people, forcing change onto resistant pro-market governments and the private sector. Either way, to be a consistent environmentalist it is necessary also to be a socialist. If you agree with the arguments in Heat, you should be in the Socialist Party.
Reviewed by Stephen Jolly
Heat: How can we stop the planet burning
By George Monbiot
Penguin Books, 2007
Recommended retail price $24.95