Reason in a Dark Time, by Dale Jamieson

Reason-In-A-Dark-TimeThis new addition to the burgeoning bookshelf of global warming riffs provides a probing history of generations of climate inaction, both in the U.S. and internationally. Philosopher Dale Jamieson, currently a professor of environmental studies at New York University, offers this definitive account of failed climate negotiations as he meticulously explains the repercussions of ceaseless political dithering on greenhouse gas pollution.

What’s most extraordinary about this book is that it took Jamieson almost 25 years to write, beginning the manuscript he was 40 years old, and finally finished when he had nearly reached 60.

“I would like to say that it was a labor of love, but it was really an avocation that became an obsession,” Jamieson writes in the book’s preface. “When people asked me why my first attempts to write a book on this subject failed, I would say that it was impossible to write the book until I knew how the story ended.”

A major emphasis of the book is how America’s leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, have so far prevented the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change from delivering any kind of international agreement that could actually make a difference for the world. And it was the ongoing failures of international climate talks that finally spurred him to finish his manuscript.  “When Copenhagen went down the way it did, I knew that I had the story that I wanted to tell,” he told me.

The depth of knowledge of this climate-watching veteran shines through in the clarity of his oft-depressing, but always intriguing, assemblage of facts and illuminating observations.

This is not a book that dwells on the technicalities of the science of climate change. It focuses instead on ethics and politics. It’s not always an easy read. But, particularly for those who spend more time immersed in climate science than in the politics or philosophy of the warming crisis, it’s a read that’s well worth the time.

John Upton