Book Review

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by Nancy Truher

Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, 2017

The authors of Climate of Hope, in chapters alternating by author, present climate change solutions that they feel will make the world healthier and more prosperous. Climate change causes and impacts are also described, especially those discernable in the present and likely in the near future. Six obstacles to investment are listed that, when cleared, should lead to profits for investors. As Bloomberg says, “We can't solve the climate puzzle without business involvement.” We need to look at climate change not as a political issue but as a financial and economic one.

Michael Bloomberg was the mayor of New York City in 2002-2013, and in 2014 was appointed the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. He also founded Bloomberg LP, a global media and financial services company; his Foundation is Bloomberg Philanthropies, with five main focus areas of which one is the environment.

Carl Pope is the former Executive Director and Chairman of the Sierra Club. He is currently the Senior Climate Adviser to Bloomberg and the Principal Adviser to Inside Straight Strategies on sustainability and economic development.

As one of few books on the topic so far published since the November 2016 election, Climate of Hope offers some perspective on the new administration. Pope's view is that Trump might reverse certain climate-change-related rules, but that citizens and communities have power when they organize and fight back. According to Bloomberg, no matter what Trump does, cities and businesses will reduce emissions because it's in their self-interest, and we will meet or exceed our 2015 Paris Agreement pledges.

Bloomberg, a self-described “unrepentant capitalist”, feels that preventing climate change will require more than goodwill and government regulation: it will require the profit motive. He quotes Tom Steyer, the hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist: “One side argues morality and polar bears, and the other side argues jobs. You're never going to win with polar bears.”

Pope feels optimistic about carbon dioxide capture strategies, especially using trees and other plants. He also states, “If we go over our [carbon dioxide] emissions budget briefly, but promptly start reducing concentrations, we can eventually heal the climate...”, but that it would take decades.

Climate of Hope has earned 4-1/2 stars on Amazon, and 78% of reviewers give it 5 stars. The book is intended for a general, non-technical audience. Accordingly, there are no chapter notes, index, or list of sources, and most data is unattributed.

Quotation from the book, by both authors: “We can stop global warming. Not by slowing down economies but by speeding them up. Not by depending on national governments but by empowering cities, businesses, and citizens. Not by scaring people about the future but by showing them the immediate benefits of taking action. If we accomplish this, we will be healthier and wealthier. We'll live longer and better lives. We'll have less poverty and political instability. And, while we're at it, we'll pass on to our children and theirs a brighter future.”

This book has been described as optimistic and hopeful. David Orr, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, has been quoted thus: “Optimism is the recognition that the odds are in your favor; hope is the faith that things will work out whatever the odds.” If so, I would say that optimism about climate change is more appropriate than hope.