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Review: Hot Air by Jeffrey Simpson, Mark Jaccard, and Nic Rivers

January 19, 2012

Hot Air CoverTitle: Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge
Author: Simpson, Jeffrey, Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers
Length: 280 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Environmental, Politics
Publisher / Year: McClelland and Stewart / 2005
Source: Unknown… tbr pile
Rating: 4/5
Why I Read It: I’ve been working my way through the series.
Date Read: 04/01/12

I used to be huge into environmentalism, but that faded a bit in the past two years as I got into other topics, thanks in large part to blogging. Reading the books for the Roommate Challenge is reminding me of this past interest as quite a few of the books deal with the environment and our actions in it.

One reason that I moved away from the environmental books and blogs is that they were often so unrealistic, saying in effect that changing our lifestyles would do everything and showing this naive hope that everyone would be willing to change – and that those around the world should basically be happy with what they have now instead of striving for a better life with more conveniences and thus more emissions. I am very happy to report that Hot Air shared my concerns! Energy efficiency, they say, is not the end or the only solution.

In this book the authors talk about the importance of climate change to the planet and especially to Canada, and the fact that climate change highlights the tragedy of the commons, where no one cares enough because it is shared space. They talk about Canada’s actions to date, or rather, lack of action, on the subject. They then talk about the dangers of both the environmental groups and of the business groups who both argue extreme points to both side. Rather than trying to appease either, they claim, the government should pursue options that can be tested and shown to work. None of the ideas now in place do any good as they rely on voluntary changes and programs with very high free-rider-ship, thus making them almost useless. Instead, they posit, the Canadian government should take lessons from other countries who are seeing success. Any plan, they say, should meet four criteria:

effectiveness at achieving environmental targets,  economic efficiency, administrative feasibility, and political acceptance. (page 130)

In the final section of the book the authors lay out a number of solutions that they say meet the four targets. They also run them through a testing model to show the various levels of options and of success they would meet. Additionally, they prove that business wouldn’t suffer unduly – there will always be a bit of pain, they say, but their models prove these solutions are much sounder than others on the table which would cost a lot and do much less.

One big issue was the looking ahead sections where the authors talked about how the environment was proving more important to people at the time of writing and thus they saw the potential for more and swifter action. None of this, of course, has come to pass since their writing. I do think though, from what they said, that they would be very unsurprised at Canada withdrawing from the Kyoto accords as they talk about how it was a stupid decision to join in the first place with no plan, and with no plan implemented since that had any hope of meeting the targets.

Interesting book that shows both the hope and optimism of the time of writing and which shows some common sense and economically feasible options for Canadian climate change. I recommend it for Canadians interested in our options and policies, and for those from other countries interested in learning more about what some good options might look like.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 1:54 pm

    I used to big into environmentalism too, and also hated that attitude of individualistic, consumerist “change”–just buy these light bulbs instead of those! this biodegradable shampoo instead of that!–not that those things aren’t good to do (or that this was the only attitude I encountered), and I get that wielding that kind of purchasing power can feel empowering, but this is a problem that requires more coordinated, systematic solutions. Anyway, I’m glad this book was deeper than that!

    • January 19, 2012 11:31 pm

      Yes! I’m glad others agree with me Emily! I mean, it’s all good and those things are great, but certainly not a full solution. Loved that the book put forward bigger solutions and laid out the facts and all that!

  2. January 19, 2012 11:08 pm

    I find the fact that you read the book several years after it was published, giving you some insight into how accurate they were in their assessments of environmental issues. A lot has changed in the world in six years. The fact that you remain impressed with what they had to say is proof that these authors definitely know what they were talking about. Thanks for sharing!

  3. January 19, 2012 11:11 pm

    It’s nice to hear there are environmental books out there with some practicality instead of the rather hippy/new agey crapola I usually come across.

  4. January 20, 2012 5:12 am

    It is crucial that the movement proposes practical, inexpensive solutions especially for those us in developing nations. Most of our leaders see the environment thing as just another way of getting donor funding which will be squandered. But the impact of global warming and human-induced environmental degradation is real in these parts. And more workable solutions are needed. Glad to hear of environmentalists who are also practical.

    • January 20, 2012 10:19 am

      Frustrating the way so little actually gets done and such impractical solutions are discussed isn’t it Kinna? The practicality in this one really was good. The one major flaw was that he really discussed mostly Canada only.

  5. January 20, 2012 10:33 am

    Ah yes, rather than paralyze with inactivity because we can’t do everything, just remember that a little effort can have a big impact. :)

    • January 20, 2012 11:06 am

      It’s true Care! And if governments actually stand up and do something… that can have an even bigger impact :)

  6. January 20, 2012 3:15 pm

    I like the fact that the authors of this book present their material in a way that shows the likelihood of the success of some of these plans, and think that as a reader, it would make more sense for one to read a book that is more realistic and less speculative or punitive. Very interesting review today, Amy!

    • January 21, 2012 11:41 am

      Yes definitely a more realistic read than some. Thanks zibilee.

  7. January 24, 2012 4:18 am

    Yay for more nonfiction. I need to pick up one one of these days.

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