ISBN: 978-0-593-42041-6

Nils Petter Gleditsch


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The title of this book summarizes the content well: Since continuing use of low-cost fossil fuel is essential for the livability of our world, its elimination would be apocalyptic and even a partial elimination would perpetrate mass suffering and death. This is an astounding claim, and as the author acknowledges, in conflict with the contemporary ‘knowledge system’. The author usefully reminds us that today’s high standard of living is built on the availability of low-cost fossil fuel. He also asserts, not unreasonably, that environmentalists have sometimes been prone to exaggerating the catastrophic effects of environmental change, and that they tend to prioritize untouched nature over human flourishing. Epstein is not equally convincing in his discussion of future policies. He tends to dismiss the costs of adapting to climate change with its potentially damaging effects on human societies such as sea-level rise. He points to the problems involved in replacing fossil fuel energy with alternatives like solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal but pays surprisingly little attention to nuclear energy beyond pointing out (rightly, it would seem) that it is opposed by the same people who want to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. The book is provocative and interesting, but repetitive and written in an annoyingly self-confident style.