Public Relations Blog

The Burning Question by Mike Berners-Lee & Duncan Clark

The Burning Question Cover


There have been many books on this issue but THE BURNING QUESTION lives up to the urgency of its title. Clearly set out, steely with the numbers but fair and humane in its assessments of human strengths and weaknesses, it is a book to reignite the debate.
The Guardian

Abstinence.  For some experts, this is the only way we are going to get control of our abuse of our natural resources.  But when considered together, the economic, political, and psychological implications of giving up the way we consume energy are daunting.  Now Mike Berners-Lee, who boiled down the carbon footprint of everything in his previous book, How Bad are Bananas?  and Duncan Clark have joined together to unravel the complexities of this issue and shed some light on what the solutions could be in THE BURNING QUESTION: We can’t burn half the world’s oil, coal and gas.  So how do we quit? (Greystone Books; October 15, 2013; $16.95; 978-1-77164-007-7).

Carbon emissions are still accelerating upwards, following an exponential curve that goes back centuries. One reason for this? Saving energy is like squeezing a balloon: reductions in one place lead to increases elsewhere. What’s more, using clean energy sources has not diminished the rate of fossil fuel extraction. Tackling global warming will mean persuading the world to abandon oil, coal and gas reserves worth many trillions of dollars―at least, until we have the means to safely capture and store carbon. The burning question is whether that can be done. What mix of politics, psychology, economics and technology is required to control global temperature increases and ensure stability?

In the sharpest of terms, THE BURNING QUESTION defines the bottom-line numbers and our need to stay within a carbon budget, most of which has already been used. With clarity and foresight, Berners-Lee and Clark outline policies, technologies and campaigns that frame climate change solutions and explore the pieces of the great global puzzle, such as the impact on feeding the world while cutting emissions.

THE BURNING QUESTION is an exposition that cuts across science, politics, economics and psychology to make sense of the key challenge of our time and reveals that answers to the climate change crisis can be more inspiring and intriguing than we think.


Mike Berners-Lee is a leading expert on carbon emissions, founder of Small World Consulting and author of How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.

Duncan Clark is a consultant editor on the Guardian environment desk, co-founder of digital journalism company Kiln and a visiting researcher at the UCL Energy Institute. He is the author of The Rough Guide to Green Living.


Published in partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation Publishers Group West.