Ten Technologies to Save the Planet: Review

27 January 2009

Ten Technologies to Save the Planet: Review

Chris Goodall

Profile Books

Price £9.99

Paperback, 224 pp.

Everyone agrees we need to slash global greenhouse emissions. But how do we actually achieve that? Politicians can set targets and consumers can try to live greener lives. But the world will only avoid runaway global warming with the help of technological breakthroughs.

In this fascinating book, Chris Goodall profiles ten technologies to watch, explaining how they work and telling the stories of the inventors and entrepreneurs driving them forward. Some of Goodall's selections, such as the electric car, are familiar. Others are more surprising. Algae, for example, can soak up carbon dioxide and produce fuel, while charcoal made from waste vegetable and forestry matter can lock carbon into soils and reduce the need for fertilizers. Wind and wave energy are carefully analysed.

Cutting-edge and accessible, this is popular science at its most crucial. Goodall calculates, for example the CO2 payback time on a large wind turbine he helped finance – it is four months, so every year one medium-sized turbine would save the emissions of 2000 tonnes of fossil fuel produced electricity. He also shows how the national electricity grid is capable of absorbing the “intermittency” of wind energy.

He makes the point that evergy technology needs to be centrally planned: the market will not provide a solution that is appropriate and timely. He concludes that although decarbonising the atmosphere and the world's electric grids is a large task, it can be done.

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