Back in February, I wrote a post about why the fossil fuel industry looks worried. My intention was not to argue that the carbon war was already won, but rather to convey the sense of momentum that was building around ambitious, far-reaching decarbonization as the world gears up for the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
Since then, we've seen the G7 commit to complete decarbonization, we've seen oil giants turn on coal, and we've witnessed as Apple, Google and Facebook sent warning shots across the bows of NC legislators trying to water down renewable energy targets. (Oh, and let's not forget that Bank of America dumped coal mining too!)
In other words, that momentum just keeps on building.But while most of us have been witnessing this momentum from our desks—scanning our news feeds and visiting sites like Grist, Cleantechnica and, of course, TreeHugger—others have been fighting the fight on the front lines.
Few can be more involved in this fight than Jeremy Leggett, a former oil industry geologist turned environmental activist turned solar entrepreneur, and he has been documenting the astounding changes going on in a fascinating, serialized e-book called The Winning of the Carbon War (the final chapter will document the last night of the Paris talks). From the board rooms of coal and oil giants to the preliminary UN negotiations before Paris, from an insider's peek into the Vatican as it prepared for Pope Frances' recent encyclical on climate change to private conversations with former oil CEOs, Leggett has a unique vantage point that he shares frankly, openly and with candid humor and humility.
I don't tend to gush about books on climate politics, but I can't recommend this resource highly enough. I've been eagerly reading what actually comes across as a thriller (at least if you geek out on this stuff like I do), and can't even begin to list all the insights gleaned so far. There's one, however, which stands head and shoulders above the rest:
Within the next few years, Leggett believes (based on conversations with prominent insiders) that one of the oil majors will commit to a road map to complete decarbonization. While this may seem astounding when you first think about it, we're already seeing carbon intensive utilities making similar commitments. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him proven right.
Now I'd be remiss if I didn't note that Leggett is far from an impartial bystander. Leggett's company, Solarcentury, was responsible for building the world's largest solar bridge, not to mention what might be the greenest solar farm ever and Solar Aid, the charity he helped found, has been at the forefront of pushing a renewables-based vision for universal electrification.
Given that many of the "energy experts" who dominate the media narrative, not to mention the legislators who set up our energy playing field, are deeply embedded in the Big Energy status quo, and given that all of us rely on a stable climate to live, I am pretty sure that none of us are really impartial bystanders. Indeed, there's a reason that Leggett describes the current transition as a war. Here's his take on it from an interview with Inside Climate News:
It feels like a civil war, you know, minus the bullets of course. It's real conflict, and there are two end-member camps, pretty clearly, with a lot of fuzziness in between. And like every civil war in history, the believers in the two end-member camps very often live under the same roofs—be they inside companies, in governments, different ministries and in political parties. And of course, later in the book, we get the leak where the lobbyist tells all the energy executives, 'you have to think of this as an endless war, and you have to fight dirty if you're going to win.'
Interested in tracking progress in this "war"? You can download a copy (currently updated through June) of The Winning of the Carbon War here. There's no charge, but donations to Solar Aid are appreciated.
We can win this.