Planetary Thinking

Carbon Zero

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“Hurricane Sandy reminded us that cities are where climate change crashes into everyday life. But the news isn’t all bad — this remarkable little book shows how the future of the planet depends on building better cities and the kind of new thinking we need to get started. Read Carbon Zero right away, because time is short.”

—Bill McKibben,

“Can planet Earth support 10 billion people? The answer depends on what happens to the world’s cities. Alex Steffen illuminates the strategies by which, in an age of climate and population changes, we can hope to innovate, act and prosper.”

—Chris Anderson, curator, TED conferences

“Alex Steffen may be the world’s boldest, most innovative thinker about future cities. Carbon Zero will stretch, provoke, inspire, and reassure you. It’s the perfect gift for your smartest friends.”

—Denis Hayes, Earth Day founder and president of the Bullitt Foundation

“Carbon Zero shows us how rethinking cities can enable us to cut emissions, bring nature back into our communities and build a constructive path forward into the future. Please read this important book. It’s time to get to work.”

—Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy

“A deep and inspiring manual for imagining how our cities can become the solution to our climate woes.”


“Could help us find a way to survive and even thrive in the face of a planetary challenge that political leaders… have been reluctant to face.”

—The Atlantic

“Redefines what being a successful city means in a rapidly warming and increasingly urbanized world.”


Carbon Zero Cover (Draft)

Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities That Can Save the Planet

Carbon Zero is a short, clear, optimistic look at how cities can succeed in the age of climate consequences. It’s about changing how we grow our cities, so we can seize a better future. Whether your main concern is the future of your neighborhood or the future of the planet, this is a book you need to read.

The climate crisis is upon us, it’s massive and it’s getting worse quickly. We must make bold and rapid reductions in our climate emissions. In fact, in just the next couple decades we must achieve net-zero climate emissions. That target, zero carbon, presents a stupendous challenge.

Our cities, though, give us amazing opportunities to reduce our climate emissions while improving both our economy and our communities.

Solutions abound. From cutting edge green buildings to more walkable neighborhoods, new “walkshed” technologies to green infrastructure, the sharing economy to the reconnection of urban places to rural nature, we have a tool chest of approaches that can make our lives frugal in energy but abundant in wealth and quality of life. If we bring the best solutions together in our cities, we can build cities that can lead us into the zero-carbon future.

We can’t build, though, what we can’t imagine. Carbon Zero takes on the task of imagining how all these innovations might work together, and gives you the tools to reimagine the possibilities of your city. It’s not a blueprint. It’s not a manifesto.

Carbon Zero is an invitation to imagine winning the climate fight.