book review

Book review: The Future We Choose

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By Anders Lorenzen

Christiana Figueres is the former head of UNFCCC and someone many people associate with facilitating the final signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. 

Since leaving the UNFCCC, she has continued to be a high profile and outspoken ambassador and spokesperson for climate action. Her new book The Future We Choose, which she wrote with her former UNFCCC strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, she has again set her heart on demystifying how best to tackle the climate crisis.

In the book, the co-authors set out to do something any writer would find difficult to do, by attempting to predict the future. In their narrative structure, they visualise two future 2050 worlds; one that explored a world weak in climate ambition and another that does all it can to limit the temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees. 

One can though speculate whether the 1.5 world the book is describing is one based on realism and science or one based on hope and wishful thinking. It is arguable likely though that the real future we look at is somewhere in between the two scenarios. 

The authors look at how we live our lives and our consumption habits. Instead of putting overconsumption down to the high carbon lifestyles that many of us live and which we know the planet cannot afford they put it down to mindsets that need to be reformed to what they call the ‘regenerative mindset’. This leads to the book playing around with the very tricky issue of climate psychology without properly going into further details. This made this reader think that the book tries to do too much in too little time. 

The book’s narrative switches back and forth between the personal account of Christian Figueres’ experience of leading the of the 2015 COP21 climate negotiations and her view of how to create a zero-carbon world. This narrative structure is at times confusing and leads one to wonder whether the publishers should have stuck to one or the other. 

It contains several strong pieces of great content, including a useful 10 point list of steps that individuals can take to take action on climate change. But does the book offers a USP over the countless other books written about the climate crisis

This reader, whilst respecting and being grateful for Figueres’ enormous expertise and contribution in this field over the years, admittedly struggled to find one and was at times left disappointed by the quality of the written language as well as weak fact-checking in places, for example, when the book states that 100% of Costa Rica’s energy and 50% of the UK’s energy is sourced from ‘clean power’ when in fact its exclusively the two countries’ electrical energy that is from clean sources, which is quite different, which means it’s not also their heat and transport. As climate communicators is it absolutely key such facts are correct, especially when a full chapter of the book is dedicated to climate change misinformation.   

All being said, however, the book is a good starting point for newcomers to the climate movement who are eager to learn and find inspiration. If you have been in the movement some time this book is probably not for you.

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