Book Review - The Climate War

The Climate War is a book detailing the inner workings of the fight to save the earth from climate change. While the US attempts to withdrawal from the Paris accord and the EPA removes “greenhouse gases” and “global warming” from its website, The Climate War remains as important now as it did when it was published in 2010. Unfortunately, 8 years later and the war rages on.

If you’ve been wondering why the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the developed world in terms of climate change acknowledgement and action, The Climate War is a worthy read. Written by Eric Pooley, current Senior Vice President for Strategy and Communications at EDF and former columnist and deputy editor at Bloomberg, the book chronicles the intersection of policy “wonks”, NGO executives, power company CEOs, and climate activists. It spans two years, starting with the 2007 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali and ending with the conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

The climate war is a race against time, with governments, industries, and environmentalists fighting to reduce emissions before its too late. Within this war, however, are many sideshow battles which slow the overall progress of mitigating climate change. Of course we have the age-old battles of republicans vs. democrats and industrialists vs. environmentalists. But one of the main reasons the U.S. has so far failed in making progress, Pooley argues, is the in-fighting taking place amongst environmentalists and democrats.

Fred Krupp is the charismatic leader of EDF, an environmental organization which has utilized private sector collaboration and market-based solutions to help the improve the environment for over 30 years. This market-based approach worked for the acid rain problem, and for a problem as big as cutting emissions to a fraction of what they are now, they believe it would work for climate change as well. Unfortunately, many environmentalists consider them traitors instead of pragmatic centrists. When environmentalists can’t agree between themselves on what needs to be done to limit emissions, it is hard to get outsiders onboard.

In-fighting between democrats also harmed progress in reducing emissions. The main bill discussed in The Climate War is the Waxman-Markley bill which sought to implement a cap-and-trade policy. While climate deniers and tea baggers proclaimed it would cost Americans thousands per year (it would cost money, but only a fraction of what deniers were claiming), Democrats fought on what exactly to include in the bill and how they should advertise it. As the bill evolved, more and more benefits for big polluters and legal loopholes were created, causing further disagreements between democrats. Eventually, the bill died, and cap-and-trade has remained a taboo subject ever since.  

The book has no happy ending. No major laws were passed, and the overall enthusiasm for getting on track and reducing emissions in a productive way is long gone. Emissions and temperatures continue to rise. The U.S. is backing out of international climate agreements and seeking to repeal the few laws in place that do help, like our vehicle emissions laws. Our politics continue to become more partisan by the day, and it seems that climate change is the least of everyone's concerns. In light of the current political climate, The Climate War is an eye-opening and informative read that we highly recommend to anyone interested in climate change, NGOs, and politics.


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