Who wouldn’t want to learn more? Daniel Cohan has provided an excellent opportunity to do just that, in his new book by this title.
For those interested and involved in any aspect of building a clean energy future, Confronting Climate Gridlock provides both a useful starting point and a comprehensive overview. Anyone who picks it up will find a clear exposition of the clean energy challenge—its nature, its origins, why it matters (and matters existentially), and why nations, governments, corporations, and individuals worldwide find their individual and concerted efforts to cope gridlocked. But the author is no mere doomsayer. Instead he argues, in compelling fashion, that the necessary “unlocking” requires simultaneous attention and progress with respect to three interwoven endeavors: diplomacy (international actions by states), technology, and policy (in-country actions by states and the private sector). Several chapters provide extensive introductions to each of these topics in turn. While stressing their interconnected nature and the need to address all three dimensions of the problem simultaneously, the author avoids getting enmeshed in complexity and keeps the reader focused on manageable specifics.
Several features of Confronting Climate Gridlock are noteworthy: 1) the author’s masterful job of balancing his treatment of diplomacy, technology, and policy—three relatively disparate topics, each demanding in its own right; 2) a thorough summary description of each (readers will be hard put to identify any options or approaches that have been left ignored); and 3) the book’s utility as a portal—providing extensive links to a vast amount of material available to help the reader follow up on any aspect that they might consider of special interest.
The book will make a great textbook—unsurprising, given that Daniel Cohan is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. But it will also be a useful desk reference for engineers in the field, as well as for diplomats and policy wonks. Speaking of simplification, one suggestion he introduces early on, and repeats throughout: the gridlock that matters most is here in the United States. If we can make progress here, the rest of the world will follow.
A closing note: I first met Dan in 2003, when he was a Harvard-educated mathematics BA, finishing up his Ph.D. in atmospheric science at Georgia Tech. He participated in that year’s AMS Summer Policy Colloquium, joining a group that included Paul Pisano, from the Federal Highway Administration; Pam Emch, from Northrop-Grumman; Julie Pullen, then working for the navy, and now at Jupiter Intel; Jason Samenow, then of EPA, who founded The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang; Aimee Devaris, then of NWS, and now USGS regional director for Alaska; and others too numerous to list by name here. If you’re an early-career scientist or engineer who wants to master the use of diplomatic, policy, and technology tools to make a better world, if you want to network and collaborate with like-minded peers, not just for 10 days but for a lifetime, you might consider participating in a future Colloquium (more information at https://www.ametsoc.org/index.cfm/aMS/policy/summer-policy-colloquium/).
(William H. Hooke is AMS associate executive director and former director of the AMS Policy Program. This essay was posted March 7, 2022 on his blog, https://www.livingontherealworld.org. In 2010, AMS published his book, Living on the Real World: How Thinking and Acting Like Meteorologists Will Help Save the Planet.)