The Carbon War: Dispatches from the End of the Oil Century - Jeremy Leggett (Allen Lane, 1999)

Jeremy Leggett is quite an interesting fellow. He was Professor of Earth Sciences at Imperial College, a leading expert on the geology of ocean floors, consultant to major oil companies. One day, seeing the effect carbon extraction was having on global warming, and the dire consequences for the planet, he left his job and became scientific director of Greenpeace. There are few people with this level of integrity, too many walk the other way.

To the public, and probably many of their own members too, Greenpeace is associated with high profile campaigning (it gets publicity, brings in the money, and as I write, Greenpeace activists have just 'hijacked' an oil-rig destined for Atlantic frontier exploration). This is only part of their work, as Jeremy Leggett shows, much of the work is behind the scenes high level negotiations and presentations. Jeremy Leggett writes from a not disinterested perspective, he was a participant or observer in many of the important talks that took place this last decade.

A book chronicling the last decade's meetings on climate change sounds excruciatingly boring. Surprisingly The Carbon War is not, at least not the way Jeremy Leggett tells it. He graphically shows the naked power of Big Business in the international arena. How governments are bullied. How, reminiscent almost a decade later of the WTO/Seattle meeting, Third World Countries are shut out of closed negotiating sessions. We can almost forget the subject matter, oil, and just concentrate on Big Business. What Jeremy Leggett clearly demonstrates is why large multinational companies have to be smashed, that is if we are to safeguard what masquerades as democracy and what little remains of the environment.

Although not a technical book, or a book on global warming, much of what the lay person needs to know is scattered through the book as evidence and arguments presented to various meetings. Lacking, and would be a useful addition, are footnotes to the many papers Leggett refers to. Also useful would be an appendix listing the Web addresses of the many organisations referred to. Useful too would be a follow-up reading list for those whose appetites have been wetted - covering abuses by Big Business, global warming and climatic change, and the future of solar energy.

Recommended reading for those in the business of fighting Big Business.

Jeremy Leggett is now chief executive of Solar Century, a company at the forefront of promoting solar energy. A Penguin paperback, with an updated epilogue, is expected to be published July 2000.

Books Worth Reading
(c) Keith Parkins 2000 -- March 2000 rev 0