A Short Climate Change Reading List

Climate change is an issue on the minds of many people around the world. After years of unsuccessful attempts to come together around this issue, 195 countries met in December 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference and adopted the first ever universal, legally binding deal to address climate change. Yet the issue of climate change was noticeably absent from the televised political debates leading up to the November 2016 U.S. election. I’ve been struggling to wrap my mind around this complex and contentious issue, and I wanted to share some books that I’ve found to be helpful in cutting through the confusion and malaise.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben
McKibben is one of the leading environmental activists in the United States. He has covered climate change as a journalist for over 30 years and seen little mobilization to address it. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful that we can change our perspectives and hunker down into small-scale, locally-produced, low-carbon food and products for sustainable living. In fact, it’s already starting to happen in places like his home state of Vermont. Part popular science read, part policy analysis, and part manifesto, McKibben’s work masterfully lays out the realities of what we’re facing as well as guiding principles of what we must do as a human species to live in an inhabitable planet.

The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton
Some people have found this book to be too long for its subject and at times jargony and unfocused. Such criticisms are not totally without merit. However, for me this book did have a wonderful stream of consciousness quality where it felt like I was sitting in on a conversation with a really well-read scientific mind, discussing a fascinating topic that deserves more coverage and serious consideration. Morton makes a strong case that we should be putting more research and development into geoengineering because 1) cutting carbon emissions may not be enough, and 2) better solutions may be developed if we take geoengineering as a serious endeavor.

Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis by Tim Flannery
Flannery reaches the opposite conclusion as Oliver Morton, rejecting geoengineering as dangerous and failing to address the real problem: CO2 levels. He’s optimistic that what he calls “third way solutions”- processes that capture and store carbon, from natural approaches like planting trees and kelp to direct air capture using resins- will be able to pull enough carbon out of the air to avoid the widely recognized tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World by Bill Nye
True to his roots, Nye sees climate change as an engineering problem just waiting to be solved with a little bit of education and collective will, both of which he aims to improve with this book. Nye debunks many of the common myths and misunderstandings about climate change. He also objects to the status quo of having two-thirds of the energy we put in our cars immediately being thrown out of the tailpipe, calling for more resources to go into engineering our way out of our current predicament. Nye even discusses some strategies for cooling the planet that you may never have heard before, such as creating trillions of reflective bubbles in our bodies of water. This is a fun, optimistic read that reflects the uniquely engaging and charismatic style of Bill Nye.

Climate Change and the Health of Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations by AJ McMichael
This unique book looks at how human populations have responded to climate changes in the past in order to gain a better understanding of the hazards that may wait us in the future. What can we learn about climate and food yields, climate and human conflict, climate and disease, extreme temperature changes and the adaptive capabilities of humans? McMichael wonderfully threads together history and science, giving insight into the human cost of climate change.

~ posted by Di Z.

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