A scientist’s inconvenient truths about decarbonizing the economy

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The Washington Post

Former vice president Al Gore won an Academy Award 15 years ago for his documentary about the dangers of climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

It’s too bad that title is already taken. It would have been perfect for a new book about how difficult — daunting, really — it will be to end or even substantially reduce global dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuel use.

Author Vaclav Smil chose “How the World Really Works,” which was apt enough. Whereas Gore sought to alarm his audience into action, Smil offers something akin to a timeout for reflection. His goal is to steer climate debate between what he considers equally unproductive extremes of “catastrophism” and “techno-optimism.”

“We are a fossil-fueled civilization whose technical and scientific advances, quality of life, and prosperity rest on the combustion of huge quantities of fossil carbon,” Smil declares, “and we cannot simply walk away from this critical determinant of our fortunes in a few decades, never mind years.”

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