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We are facing a climate catastrophe. A plethora of studies describe the damage we’ve already done, the droughts, the wildfires, the super-storms, the melting glaciers, the heat waves, and the displaced people fleeing lands that are becoming uninhabitable. Many people understand that we are facing a climate emergency, but may be fuzzy on technical, policy, and social justice aspects. In Is Science Enough?, Aviva Chomsky breaks down the concepts, terminology, and debates for activists, students, and anyone concerned about climate change. She argues that science is not enough to change course: we need put social, racial, and economic justice front and center and overhaul the global growth economy.
Chomsky’s accessible primer focuses on 5 key issues:
1) Technical questions: What exactly are “clean,” “renewable,” and “zero-emission” energy sources? How much do different sectors (power generation, transportation, agriculture, industry, etc.) contribute to climate change? Can forests serve as a carbon sink?
2) Policy questions: What is the Green New Deal? How does a cap-and-trade system work? How does the United States subsidize the fossil fuel industry?
3) What can I do as an individual?: Do we need to consume less? What kinds of individual actions can make the most difference? Should we all be vegetarians?
4) Social, racial, and economic justice: What’s the relationship of inequality to climate change? What do race and racism have to do with climate change? How are pandemics related to climate change?
5) Broadening the lens: What is economic growth? How important is it, and how does it affect the environment? What is degrowth?
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: TECHNICAL QUESTIONS
Can technology solve climate change?
What are greenhouse gases?
What are the main sources of GHG emissions?
How can we clean up our energy grid? What exactly are “clean,” “renewable,” and “zero-emission” energy sources?
What’s the difference between “zero-” and “net-zero” emissions?
Can forests serve as a carbon sink?
What is carbon capture? Is it a viable solution?
Does LEED certification mean that our buildings are using less energy?
CHAPTER 2: POLICY QUESTIONS
What was the Kyoto Protocol?
What is the Paris Agreement?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of putting a price on carbon?
How does a cap-and-trade system work?
How does a carbon tax work?
What about carbon offsets?
How does the United States subsidize the fossil fuel industry?
Is natural gas a bridge fuel?
How have the fossil fuel and other industries influenced policy discussions?
What kinds of policy solutions do environmentalists propose?
What is the Green New Deal?
CHAPTER 3: WHAT CAN I DO AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Should I buy a Prius?
What about giving up my car and using Uber and Lyft?
Should we all stop flying?
Should we all be vegetarians?
What are strengths and weaknesses of pipeline protests as a strategy? What about divestment from fossil fuels?
Do we need to consume less?
Conclusion: What kinds of individual actions can make the most difference?
CHAPTER 4: SOCIAL, RACIAL, AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
What’s the relationship of inequality to climate change?
What do race and racism have to do with climate change?
How will different people—and different parts of the world—be affected by climate change, now and in the future?
How are pandemics related to climate change?
How can we fairly hold different countries, people, and institutions accountable for their contributions to climate change? What methods for calculating emissions best show who is emitting the most, and where to target our efforts for change?
What do workers and the labor movement have to say about climate change? Is climate change a union issue?
What is a “just transition”?
What is “energy democracy”? How is it related to the struggle to confront climate change?
Conclusion: Should social, racial, and economic justice issues be linked to the fight to stop climate change?
CHAPTER 5: BROADENING THE LENS
Is population growth the root of the problem?
Is immigration bad for the environment?
What is economic growth? How important is it, and how does it affect the environment?
Can we have economic growth without increasing emissions?
Do we even need growth? What is degrowth? Is it a good idea?
Is degrowth compatible with the Green New Deal?
Are we making progress?
Conclusion: Reasons for optimism
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