However, others are pressing their claims. Environmental economists dismiss most green thinking as so much mumbo jumbo. For them, a proper approach must be hard-edged and phrased in terms of the costs and benefits of different strategies, with markets having the upper hand. They also tend to look towards carbon markets as likely to contribute most to enabling us to cope with global warming.This book was published in 2009 and is already very dated. Climate change is a topic that I orbit around a bit at work (more so in my last job) and it’s striking to realise just how much the debate has moved on in the last nine or ten years. Most obviously, carbon markets fell way out of fashion with the 2008 crash, and the big focus now is on renewables (Giddens just missed the German Energiewende). But also the Paris climate accord looks even more remarkable from the 2009 perspective than from the 2018 perspective; the points of reference of the global debate have completely changed. Another crucial development, which Giddens barely hoped for but is now a fundamental part of the dynamic, is the shift of Chinese policy in favour of environmental issues. This is enough to make the US federal government much less relevant, thought perhaps not much less dangerous (Gidddens spends some time agonising about Bush and post-Bush policies; we did not know we had it so good).
There are good questions to be asked about whether vaguely democratic and vaguely capitalist systems will find the necessary impetus to implement the massive changes that are needed. The scale of the problem is even starker now than it was a decade ago. James Murray published a must-read piece about the scale of the problem just this week. But I was cheered by reading this book and realising that the debate does move on. I hope it will move fast enough. You can see for yourself if you like.
This was the non-fiction book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that list is Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability and Survival, by Daniel Jaffee.