His admission now that these concerns were ‘laughably off base’, as the past three decades of delay and active obstruction have made painfully clear, is an apt introduction to this book, one which, in an ideal world, should be absurdly out of date in 2017, with the planet already well on its way to being ‘saved’.
Instead, given our reality, with the United States now destabilising the Paris Agreement, the one agreed global treaty for combating climate change, it’s bang on topic. Pope in particular displays his ability to communicate complex ideas in simple language, with a thorough and engaging initial summary of what climate change is, and what we now know about the impact it will have in the future. For anyone only just catching up to the issue, this would be an excellent place to start.
Effective though Pope is, he has a powerful ally in Michael Bloomberg, whose skills, that served him so well in business and politics for decades, are out here in full force. His particular schtick is that even he, a former Republican, can see the overwhelming case against coal and other fossil fuels, and in favour of renewable alternatives. With a few snappy stories, he engages the reader in his own adoption of climate change mitigation as a key cause to champion in recent years. Despite the actions of President Trump, Bloomberg is confident that America – indeed, the world – will continue the revolution towards a more sustainable world. ‘The reason is simple,’ he argues. ‘Cities, businesses, and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded – just as China has – that doing so is in their own self-interest’.
As if the complete collapse of the unusually stable climate we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years (and consequently been able to establish our civilisation in) weren’t enough of a warning, Bloomberg understandably turns to the multiple threats of air pollution, sea level rise, heat waves, political instability and ocean acidification, any one of which would normally be deemed worrying enough to solve the problem. Instead, the point has to be laboured for the zillionth time. He also has a unique insight into the way New York, and indeed hundreds of global cities, have undergone revolutionary changes in recent years. Pedestrianising Times Square – as he did during his tenure as mayor – has proved to be good for the city, its residents, its air pollution problems, as well as helping counter climate change. ‘Cities are actually the key to saving the planet,’ is his professional assessment.
Pope, meanwhile, elaborates on the rapid transformation of the auto industry, from Detroit’s iconically gritty manufacturing base, to the shiny electric machines produced by Tesla’s Elon Musk. Similar to the benefits to the world’s cities, climate change is merely a background issue, an added bonus to the other benefits deriving from these dramatic changes.
‘I’m an unrepentant capitalist,’ Bloomberg tells us, and his vast business empire certainly endorses this perspective. So, when someone of his stature pens a chapter addressing what the financial industry needs to address to adequately respond to climate change, it’s worth paying attention to. Shattering myths such as the dependency of solar, wind and other renewables on government subsidies (fossil fuels receive four times the financial support that renewables do) he crafts a tale of how CEOs and asset managers are waking up – finally – to the threats and opportunities in front of them. ‘The capitalists who seek to stay stuck in a fossil fuel past forget that progress is its own economic stimulus,’ he writes.
Their final passage includes a vision for the future that attempts to compromise between the left and right of American politics, particularly Republicans who see climate change as a purely Democratic issue. ‘Being conservative means being cautious about the future,’ they write. ‘It means taking steps now to mitigate events that, if they come to pass, will exact a terrible toll, both in lives and dollars lost.’ By advocating typically Democratic policies to enable climate action through the language of Republicans, a book such as this may just make in-roads where many others have failed.