Ian McEwan defines Obama’s agenda

"America finally has a president who, whatever his profession of faith, has a high regard for science (look at his sturdy views on intelligent design in Nature magazine of September 25) and has surrounded himself with scientific advisers of impeccable quality, and committed himself to the dreamy target of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2050." Thus writes Ian McEwan in The Guardian, in a wonderful piece ('The world's last chance') defining the scientific agenda that faces the new president as his most pressing challenge.

Ian McEwan's inspiring, confident and stirring article describes, with his characteristic poetic precision, the environmental devastation of the Earth and our inability to translate the power of the Sun or the wind to large-scale renewable energy resources. He urges the new president not to become sidetracked or to be cautious about tackling this uniquely important crisis, and to go to Copenhagen to "make a bold commitment". The world has tipped into a financial crisis "because we always thought we could": Obama may succeed in tipping the nations toward a low-carbon future "simply because people think he can."

This piece is the most inspiring and important piece of writing I've read for a very long time. I urge everyone to read it. 

Thanks so much to Karen of Euro Crime for alerting me to it.

5 thoughts on “Ian McEwan defines Obama’s agenda

  1. I know how much you love McEwan, and myself know how well and persuasively he writes — I'll read this and thanks for the heads-up, Maxine.

  2. As someone in the energy biz, I'd say it's as good a summary of current energy issues as I've read recently. Just about every time I said "But…." he answered the next question. I'm not sure the real political will to support long-term thinking is there yet in the US, but we'll see.
    One quibble: A big reason we haven't harvested solar and wind as much is intermittency, which we may be able to get around (batteries, etc.) But we can't get past the fact that solar and wind are very, very, very diffuse energy sources. It's much harder to deal with energy in that state. You can drink water from a glass easier than licking it off the table. Or perhaps a better example is that you feel warm and cozy by a nice fireplace. If you spread that same amount of heat out around your whole house by making the walls and ceiling each a tiny bit warmer, you'll lose most of the coziness. Same amount of energy, but a different amount of usefulness, depending on concentration. And trying to re-concentrate it into one spot again will prove fiendishly difficult.
    Still, an excellent article I'd whole-heartedly recommend. He does write very well.

  3. I agree, James, about the difficulty of creating useable, renewable energy from these sources. And he does not use the "n" word (nuclear) which many feel is the answer. It is just so nice to read an article by someone who has thought, and isn't interested in petty carping, and who has bothered to understand the science, etc. (As well as his undoubted ability to write!)

  4. He did such a good job on everything else that I didn't notice the lack of the n word until you pointed it out. I think he covered enough ground he didn't even need to weigh in on that hot topic.

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