Mark Z Jacobson, No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air

IssueApril - May 2023
Review by Gabriel Carlyle

This book explains how we could use existing technologies, such as wind turbines and heat pumps, to create a worldwide energy system based entirely on wind, water (tides and waves) and solar power (WWS).

Such a system would help solve three major crises: the air pollution crisis (which currently claims some seven million lives a year); global warming (overwhelmingly caused by fossil fuels); and energy insecurity (dramatically illustrated in the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine).

It would also be considerably (63 percent) cheaper for consumers, use less land than our current energy infrastructure and create far more jobs than would be lost from phasing out fossil fuels.

No Miracles Needed is one long argument that the main barriers to such a worldwide conversion ‘are not technical, resource based, or economic… they are political and social’.

Jacobson explains a vast number of things including: how a solar cell works; how a spinning magnet is used to generate an alternating current; and – crucially – how to create a stable electrical grid using 100 percent WWS electricity (a problem, as the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow).

Best read out of sequence, almost half of the book is devoted to introducing you to the main characters in the drama. The action doesn’t really get started until p261!

Chapter Eight (‘What doesn’t work’) will be of special interest to PN readers because it contains a convincing set of arguments against including nuclear power in the world’s future energy mix.

Pitched at the ‘lay reader’, this is a book that really wants you to understand the details. So, a knowledge of GCSE-level science (what an electron is and so on...) is probably essential. I learned a ton.

Strongly recommended.