Suck It Up: My book about climate change, geoengineering and air capture of CO2

I’m pleased to let you know that my book, Suck It Up: How capturing carbon from the air can help solve the climate crisis, is being published today as an Amazon Kindle Single. Please buy the ebook here for just $1.99.

The book reflects two years of reporting and my best thinking about three topics that matter: climate change, geoengineering and a technology called direct air capture of CO2. It explains why we’ve made so little progress (none, actually) in dealing with the climate threat, and how that might change. Part of the answer is to look for ways to recycle and reuse CO2.

I’m going to print the introduction to the book below, but first a word about the publishing process. As the newspapers, magazines and book publishers that traditionally support long-form journalism are struggling, exciting new outlets like blogs and ebooks are opening up. I’m the publisher as well as the author of Suck It Up, with a big assist from Amazon, which has selected the book as a Kindle Single.

The Kindle Single allows writers to tell stories that are longer than a magazine article and shorter than a book. Suck It Up is about 17,000 words long, the equivalent of 60 to 70 double spaced typewritten pages. It’s intended to be read in one or two sittings, and it’s priced so the ideas in it will spread. If you don’t own a Kindle, you can read the book on your smart phone, iPad or laptop. Just download the free Kindle software here.

I’d like to sell lots of copies of Suck It Up not just because I think it’s a good read about an important topic, but because I want to make the ebook business model work. It’s an exciting new platform for in-depth reporting.

So, please read the intro, check out the book and if you like it, help me spread the word through social media or the old-fashioned way–tell a friend about the book. [click to continue…]

It’s time for the US to study geoengineering

Can we mimic volcanoes and cool the earth?

Geoengineering — deliberate, planetary-scale efforts to counter the impact of climate change — is so controversial that a high-powered 18-member Washington task force that spent almost two years studying the idea couldn’t decide what to call it.

Most want to rename it “climate remediation.” A few want to stick with geoengineering. But all agreed that, whatever you call it, the U.S. government should begin “a coordinated federal research program to explore the potential effectiveness, feasibility, and consequences of climate remediation technologies.”

In a 33-page report released today in Washington, the task force of the Bipartisan Policy Center emphasized that climate remediation is not a substitute for managing the risks of climate change through mitigation (i.e., reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, most of them generated by burning fossil fuels). It also says that no geoengineering technology is ready for deployment.

But, the group said, it’s imperative that governments, scientists and engineers learn more about geoengineering because the risks of climate change are increasing.

Mitigation measures currently being considered, regardless of their pace of efficacy, will not be able to return atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to pre-industrial levels for centuries…

Although we do not know exactly how much the climate will change or how fast, globally disruptive or even catastrophic results are possible…Global climate change could unfold in ways that would be very difficult to manage

In plain language: what we’re doing (or not doing) now to deal with climate change isn’t working, and the consequences of those failures are likely to be disastrous.

“I’m not sure we would have had a consensus recommendation on research if mitigation efforts were going great guns,” said Stephen Rademaker, co-chair of the task force and a former assistant secretary of state during the Bush II administration. [click to continue…]

Why Walmart changed

Business is business, they say, but I’m often reminded that business is personal, too.

Back in about 2005, Lee Scott, who was then Ceo of Walmart, traveled with Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, to the top of Mount Washington, to visit a weather research station and meet with environmental scientists, including Steve Hamburg, who’s now the chief scientist at EDF. On their way, Scott stopped to visit with a New Hampshire maple farmer who told him that warmer weather was threatening the maple syrup business his family had operated for four generations. By the end of the trip, Scott had seen the impacts of climate change for himself – and seen how they could evolve into business issues for Walmart.

Mike Duke, Scott’s successor as Ceo, took a climate-change field trip of his own a few years later. He spent the night in an ice hotel on a glacier in Sweden, where he heard about the impact of climate change on the arctic. A doubter before then, he was convinced. Meanwhile, another Walmart exec went to Turkey to meet with cotton farmers, visiting a conventional farm — where cotton plants are intensively treated with herbicides and pesticides — and an organic farm where workers and the land were treated better.

Jib Ellison

These trips were arranged by a former river rafting guide named Jib Ellison, whose consulting firm, BluSkye, has guided Walmart on its remarkable journey towards sustainability. A colorful character–he once arranged rafting trips with Americans and Russians to help ease Cold War tensions–Ellison is the hero of a lively new book, Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution (HarperCollins, $27.99), by Edward Humes, an award-winning journalist. It’s the first book about the greening of WalMart, and a valuable one, particularly for its insights into array of overlapping forces that drove the makeover of Walmart.

About those field trips, for example, Humes writes that the WMT execs

…returned home–as Ellison had planned and hope–moved by what (they) had seen, felt and heard. As never before, Wal-Mart’s leaders had seen the face of climate change, pesticides and air pollution–and it was the weathered face of a maple farmer, it was the vanishing snow lines of ancient glaciers, it was the clothing and skin of children dusky from pesticide residue. “You don’t get that in a briefing paper,” Ellison remarked to Scott. The CEO nodded.

Now, business isn’t just personal, of course. Scott began exploring sustainability back in the mid-2000s because Walmart had s terrible reputation, particularly in places (like Chicago and LA) where it had no stores and wanted to open some. Once Ellison got in the door, thanks to his friendship with Peter Seligmann, the founder of Conservation International, who introduced him to Rob Walton, Walmart’s chairman, he was able to show Scott that the company could save money by going green. [click to continue…]