What We Need to Do Now

Chris Goodall ★★★★★
For a Zero Carbon Future

Really good book about a sustainable future.

Some topics are more detailed and researched than others, but I think that’s natural and fine. I learned most from the chapter about energy.

Give Shell a $10bn project, I say, and you will find no company in the world better at completing it on time and on budget.

In the UK, onshore wind farms – and probably offshore turbines in future – are the most cost-effective source of power, although even in the UK solar is already cheap enough to beat fossil fuels. (Photovoltaics strongly prefer the cooler temperatures of our cloudy country to the heat of very sunny places, helping to overcome the disadvantages of our latitude.)

To achieve net zero, we will need to completely wipe out all emissions resulting from our home energy use. It is sometimes tempting to think that domestic heating is such a difficult problem that we should focus on other sources of greenhouse gases first. But, as we will see later, several other sources of carbon emissions represent problems just as intractable. We have little alternative but to focus on improving homes, not least because better housing adds to the standard of living in many different ways, including improving public health.

We should also note that, although electric cars are far less polluting than their equivalents with engines, they still produce large amounts of micro-particulates that seriously affect health. (These arise from the wear on the brakes and tyres.) The fewer cars of all types on the roads, the better for urban health.

How might free public transport be financed? In Tallinn, Estonia, it is funded by a share of national income tax, but it could be logical to finance it through a local charge for private cars.

Another advantage is that raising the cost of using cars and cutting the price of public transport improves economic equality as well as making travel quicker.