David Roberts

David Roberts is a senior staff writer at Grist.org, a Web site devoted to environmental news and commentary.

Recent Articles

A Way to Win the Climate Fight?

There's a tense scene in Eric Pooley's The Climate War when Jim Rogers, CEO of coal utility Duke Energy and leader of a shaky coalition of power companies, faces a moment of truth. Ten Fortune 500 companies and four major environmental groups are at the table. They've got a statement of legislative principles they can agree on and are ready to throw their collective weight behind a long-overdue comprehensive climate-change bill in the United States. They just need his sign-off. For Rogers, under intense pressure from his industry's biggest polluters, it amounts to a career-risking leap into the dark. "OK," he says. "If you write it right, I'm in." It's a moment of genuine drama, one of many in a book that might seem unlikely to have any dramatic tension given that its subject is a decades-long stretch of conferences, meetings, and PowerPoint presentations. From this florescent-lit raw material, Pooley weaves the kind of propulsive potboiler political junkies love to read. It does for...

The Ultimate Sunblock

Schemes to reverse climate change through geoengineering attract an odd cast of characters.

Leading scientists have proposed mimicking the effect of volcanos to artificially to offset global warming. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate by Jeff Goodell Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 272 pages, $26.00 During the 1950s, the atomic scientist Edward Teller was eager to prove that nuclear bombs could be used in construction as earthmovers, and in 1958 he won the approval of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission for Project Chariot, a proposal to explode several multi-megaton hydrogen bombs near Point Hope, Alaska, just above the Arctic Circle. In less than two seconds, explosions equal to 160 times the power used on Hiroshima would dig a new, half-mile-long deep water harbor to help export coal. "What objections could there possibly be to this large-scale atomic harbor-blasting project?" asked the editors of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner . As it turned out, there could be objections. For instance, the Inupiats, who had been living on Point Hope for about 5,000 years, were less than enthusiastic. But progress is progress. "When we have the...

This Is How You'll Get There

Cars, roads, and parking could be transformed completely. The technology is there, but is society ready?

Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century by William J. Mitchell, Christopher E. Borroni-Bird, and Lawrence D. Burns, The MIT Press, 227 pages, $21.95 Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt, Knopf, 416 pages, $24.95 Ask about the future of information technology and many people will tell you something out of The Matrix or, as we call it now, Google. Ask about the future of transportation technology and you'll generally hear about ... cars. Cars that go faster, cars that use less or different fuel, but cars, doing basically what cars do today. This paucity of imagination reflects a shift in our thinking. In the industrial age, people thought about the future in terms of mechanical inventions. Today, when information technology is central, the hardware is a mere window into a limitless digital "cloud." The automobile, in contrast, remains pure hardware, resolutely machine , thus difficult to project onto a digital...

The Way to the New World

David Roberts reviews three new books on our environmental crisis, and wonders why newly minted greens sound more ambitious about the future than movement insiders.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America , by Thomas L. Friedman Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 438 pages, $27.95 Earth: The Sequel: The Race To Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming , by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn, W.W. Norton, 279 pages, $24.95 Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction To Oil and Coal , by Michael Brune, Sierra Club Books, 269 pages, $14.95 *** Last year, when An Inconvenient Truth won an Academy Award, there was a sense of triumph and vindication among environmentalists. The interminable debate over the realities of global warming seemed finally, mercifully over. But the rapture proved short-lived. It soon became clear that the next debate, about what and how much to do about the problem, would be every bit as contentious. Conservatives shifted seamlessly from climatic Pollyannas to economic Chicken Littles, insisting that strong steps to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions would destroy prosperity. Cute pictures of...