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Entertaining and authoritative, The Curve reveals climate change as the most fascinating intellectual, social and political puzzle in human history. It shows that – despite increasingly dire warnings from scientists – carbon emissions are still accelerating upwards, following a trend that goes back hundreds of years. The reason, The Curve argues, is that cutting carbon emissions is like squeezing a balloon: gains made in one place reappear as bumps elsewhere.
We save energy in one country but then import goods from overseas; we build renewable energy or make more efficient cars, but that frees up fossil fuels for use elsewhere. The root problem, Berners-Lee and Clark show, is that we have far more oil, coal and gas than we can burn. Avoiding disaster will mean persuading the world to abandon fuel reserves worth hundreds of trillions of dollars – at least until technology exists to help us burn them safely. What mix of politics, economics, technology and psychology might that take? What are our chances? And what happens if we fail?
Mike Berners-Lee is a leading carbon consultant and author of How Bad Are Bananas?, one of the bestselling green books of recent years. Duncan Clark is a Guardian environment journalist and author of various successful books, including The Rough Guide to Green Living.