Climate Change Books (Updated)

I was recently asked what books would be good to read to get up to speed on climate change. I asked around and got a few suggestions.

There are several different kinds of books and the best book for you will depend on your interests. There are books about climate change itself, and books about the politics and social issues, and books that cover both. Here I’ll include titles, authors, brief descriptions (some from Amazon), and links so you can browse. At the end of the post is link to chapters of books on climate change (and evolution) made available for free by the National Center for Science Education.

ADDED: “How to Change Minds about Our Changing Climate” by Seth Darling and Douglas Sisterson, hot off the presses, REVIEWED HERE.

The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change by David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf.

An incredible wealth of scientific data on global warming has been collected in the last few decades. The history of the Earth’s climate has been probed by drilling into polar ice sheets and sediment layers of the oceans’ vast depths, and great advances have been made in computer modeling of our climate. This book provides a concise and accessible overview of what we know about ongoing climate change and its impacts, and what we can do to confront the climate crisis. Using clear and simple graphics in full color, it lucidly highlights information contained in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, and brings the subject completely up-to-date with current science and policy. The book makes essential scientific information on this critical topic accessible to a broad audience. Obtaining sound information is the first step in preventing a serious, long-lasting degradation of our planet’s climate, helping to ensure our future survival.

Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast by David Archer.

Archer’s Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast 2nd Edition, is the first real text to present the science and policy surrounding climate change at the right level. Accompanying videos, simulations and instructional support makes it easier to build a syllabus to improve and create new material on climate change. Archer’s polished writing style makes the text entertaining while the improved pedagogy helps better understand key concepts, ideas and terms.
This edition has been revised and reformulated with a new chapter template of short chapter introductions, study questions at the end, and critical thinking puzzlers throughout. Also a new asset for the BCS was created that will give ideas for assignments and topics for essays and other projects. Furthermore, a number of interactive models have been built to help understand the science and systems behind the processes.

Dire Predictions by Michael Mann and Lee Kump. (Amazon page here)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been issuing the essential facts and figures on climate change for nearly two decades. But the hundreds of pages of scientific evidence quoted for accuracy by the media and scientists alike, remain inscrutable to the general public who may still question the validity of climate change.

Esteemed climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump, have partnered with DK Publishing to present Dire Predictions-an important book in this time of global need. Dire Predictions presents the information documented by the IPCC in an illustrated, visually-stunning, and undeniably powerful way to the lay reader. The scientific findings that provide validity to the implications of climate change are presented in clear-cut graphic elements, striking images, and understandable analogies.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael Mann

In its 2001 report on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations prominently featured the “Hockey Stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years. The Hockey Stick demonstrated that temperature had risen with the increase in industrialization and use of fossil fuels. The inescapable conclusion was that worldwide human activity since the industrial age had raised CO2 levels, trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. Michael E. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the real story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He introduces key figures in the oil and energy industries, and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, bare-knuckled ways to cast doubt on the science. Mann concludes with an account of the “Climategate” scandal, the 2009 hacking of climate scientists’ emails. Throughout, Mann reveals the role of science deniers, abetted by an uninformed media, in once again diverting attention away from one of the central scientific and policy issues of our time.

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen.

In Storms of My Grandchildren, Dr. James Hansen-the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues-speaks out for the first time with the full truth about global warming: The planet is hurtling even more rapidly than previously acknowledged to a climatic point of no return. Although the threat of human-caused climate change is now widely recognized, politicians have failed to connect policy with the science, responding instead with ineffectual remedies dictated by special interests. Hansen shows why President Obama’s solution, cap-and-trade, which Al Gore has signed on to, won’t work; why we must phase out all coal, and why 350 ppm of carbon dioxide is a goal we must achieve if our children and grandchildren are to avoid global meltdown and the storms of the book’s title. This urgent manifesto bucks conventional wisdom (including the Kyoto Protocol) and is sure to stir controversy, but Hansen-whose climate predictions have come to pass again and again, beginning in the 1980s when he first warned Congress about global warming-is the single most credible voice on the subject worldwide. Hansenpaints a devastating but all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in the near future, mere years and decades from now, if we follow the course we’re on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is stilltime to do what we need to save the planet. Urgent, strong action is needed, and this book, released to coincide with the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009, will be key in setting the agenda going forward to create a groundswell, a tipping point, to save humanity-and our grandchildren-from a dire fate more imminent than we had supposed.

Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Betsy Kolbert

Long known for her insightful and thought-provoking political journalism, author Elizabeth Kolbert now tackles the controversial and increasingly urgent subject of global warming. In what began as groundbreaking three-part series in the New Yorker, for which she won a National Magazine Award in 2006, Kolbert cuts through the competing rhetoric and political agendas to elucidate for Americans what is really going on with the global environment and asks what, if anything, can be done to save our planet. Now updated and with a new afterword, Field Notes from a Catastrophe is the book to read on the defining issue and greatest challenge of our times. Elizabeth Kolbert was a reporter for the New York Times for fourteen years before becoming a staff writer covering politics for the New Yorker. She and her husband, John Kleiner, have three sons. They live in Williamstown, MA. Praise for Field Notes from a Catastrophe: “[A] small miracle of concision, gaining by its brevity and its plan of attack a rhetorical power that elucidates, rises to meet and deftly answers the historic crisis in which we find ourselves.” —Los Angeles Times “Important…Precise and measured. Visiting an Inupiat community in Alaska, a butterfly expert in England, or a midlevel Bush administration official in Washington, D.C., [Kolbert] lets readers connect the dots to form a frightening (and still avoidable) vision of our future…[Grade:] A.” —Entertainment Weekly “If you have time this year for just one book on science, nature or the environment, this should be it.”—San Diego Union-Tribune “Passionate…well-researched.”—New York Times Book Review

Introduction to Modern Climate Change by Andrew Dessler.

This textbook is tightly focused on the problem of anthropogenic climate change. It is unique among textbooks on climate change in that it combines an introduction of the science with an introduction to the non-science issues such as the economic and policy options. Unlike more purely descriptive textbooks, it contains the quantitative depth that is necessary for an adequate understanding of the science of climate change. The goal of the book is for a student to leave the class ready to engage in the public policy debate on this issue. This is an invaluable textbook for any introductory survey course on the science and policy of climate change, for both non-science majors and introductory science students.

The Rough Guide to Climate Change

“The Rough Guide to Climate Change” gives the complete picture of the single biggest issue facing the planet. Cutting a swathe through scientific research and political debate, this completely updated 3rd edition lays out the facts and assesses the options – global and personal – for dealing with the threat of a warming world. The guide looks at the evolution of our atmosphere over the last 4.5 billion years and what computer simulations of climate change reveal about our past, present and future. This updated edition includes scientific findings that have emerged since the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as background on recent controversies and an updated politics section that reflects post-Copenhagen developments. You can discover how rising temperatures and sea levels, plus changes to extreme weather patterns, are already affecting life around the world. “The Rough Guide to Climate Change” unravels how governments, scientists and engineers plan to tackle the problem and includes information on what you can do to help.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science, by Allison, I., N.L. Bindoff, R.A. Bindschadler, P.M. Cox, N. de Noblet, M.H. England, J.E. Francis, N. Gruber, A.M. Haywood, D.J. Karoly, G. Kaser, C. Le Quéré, T.M. Lenton, M.E. Mann, B.I. McNeil, A.J. Pitman, S. Rahmstorf, E. Rignot, H.J. Schellnhuber, S.H. Schneider, S.C. Sherwood, R.C.J. Somerville, K. Steffen, E.J. Steig, M. Visbeck, and A.J. Weaver. 2009. The Copenhagen Diagnosis, 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science. Sydney, Australia: The University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC). Download a copy at this site, or buy a newer edition here.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis is a summary of the global warming peer reviewed science since 2007. Produced by a team of 26 scientists led by the University of New South Wales Climate Research Centre, the Diagnosis convincingly proves that the effects of global warming have gotten worse in the last three years. It is a timely update to the UN’s Intercontinental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Fourth Assessment document (IPCC AR4).

The report places the blame for the century long temperature increase on human factors and says the turning point “must come soon”. If we are to limit warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial values, global emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest and then decline rapidly. The scientists warned that waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized. By 2050 we will effectively need to be in a post-carbon economy if we are to avoid unlivable temperatures.

Authors: Ian Allison, Nathaniel Bindoff, Robert Bindschadler, Peter Cox, Nathalie de Noblet-Ducoudre´, Matthew England, Jane Francis, Nicolas Gruber, Alan Haywood, David Karoly, Georg Kaser, Corinne Le Que´re´, Tim Lenton, Michael Mann, Ben McNeil, Andy Pitman, Stefan Rahmstorf, Eric Rignot, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Stephen Schneider, Steven Sherwood, Richard Somerville, Konrad Steffen, Eric Steig, Martin Visbeck, Andrew Weaver

Named a 2012 Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association’s Choice publication
A synthesis of more than 200 timely, up-to-date, and peer-reviewed papers that serves as an interim evaluation of climate science midway through the IPCC Assessment Report cycle
Authored by 26 of the world’s leading climate scientists, most of whom are also contributing authors to the IPCC Assessment Reports.

Covers a broad range of topics evaluated by the IPCC, including greenhouse gas emissions, the global carbon cycle, sea level rise, and future climate projections.

An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s New York Times #1 bestselling book is a daring call to action, exposing the shocking reality of how humankind has aided in the destruction of our planet and the future we face if we do not take action to stop global warming. Now, Viking has adapted this book for the most important audience of all: today’s youth, who have no choice but to confront this climate crisis head-on.

Dramatic full-color photos, illustrations, and graphs combine with Gore’s effective and clear writing to explain global warming in very real terms: what it is, what causes it, and what will happen if we continue to ignore it. An Inconvenient Truth will change the way young people understand global warming and hopefully inspire them to help change the course of history.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate

Based on a series of viral videos that have garnered more than 7.2 million views, this visually
appealing book gives readers-be they global warming activists, soccer moms, or NASCAR dads-a way to decide on
the best course of action, by asking them to consider, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And for those
who decide that action is needed, Craven provides a solution that is not only powerful but also happens to be
stunningly easy. Not just another “change your light bulb” book, this intriguing and provocative guide is the first to
help readers make sense-for themselves-of the contradictory statements about global climate change.

What We Know: The reality, risks, and response to climate change. by AAAS. Click link to get to a download of the PDF.

The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.

Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement.[i] Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real. Moreover, while the public is becoming aware that climate change is increasing the likelihood of certain local disasters, many people do not yet understand that there is a small, but real chance of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in the United States and around the world.

For more books specifically on the “war on science” and denialism of science, click HERE.

A college level textbook: What are Global Warming and Climate Change?: Answers for Young Readers by Chuck McCutcheon.

Free book chapters (PDF files) provided by the National Center for Science Education are HERE.

My other, mostly science related, book reviews are HERE.


  1. #1 Stevo Raine
    Adelaide hills South Australia
    June 6, 2014

    I’d add a few books to that list including Poles Apart’ by by Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal :

    Tim Flannery’s ‘The Weather Makers’ by Aussie author and climate change scientist.

    Journalist Jo Chandler’s Feeling the Heat’ see :

    George Marshall’s Carbon Detox’ :

    among others.

  2. #2 Stevo Raine
    June 6, 2014

    ^ D’oh! Italics fail there sorry. Please fell free to fix Greg Laden. Only titles intended to be italicised.

    Also ‘The Long Thaw’ by David Archer which is a very plain science, no polemics good text :

    Plus George Monbiot’s ‘Heat’ :

    and Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees’ :

    among still others but the best not yet mentioned so far in my view.

  3. #3 Stevo Raine
    June 6, 2014

    Oh and one more that just has to be on that list, I reckon, is Spencer Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’ available here :

    All these are one’s that I’ve found really interesting, readable and informative anyhow as well as those listed above here which are also excellent.

    Good idea thanks Greg Laden.

  4. #4 roberte
    United States
    June 6, 2014

    Climate change book for young readers by Chuck McCutcheon.:What Are Global Warming and Climate Change?: Answers for Young Readers (Worlds of Wonder)
    by Chuck Mccutcheon

    Link tries to go to a different book though.

    Great list!

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    June 6, 2014

    OK, I think it’s fixed now, thanks.

  6. #6 Rick
    June 10, 2014

    Your link to the McCutchen book appears to still be broken.

    Although most people I know would not consider a book with a target audience of ages 10-13 to be “college level” — but maybe you are more familiar with the current crop of college students than I am :).

  7. #7 dan bloom
    June 11, 2014

    Sir, you forgot to mention the rise of a new genre of climate fiction novels dubbed CLI FI,,,,,see blog at CLI FI CENTRAL and see list of CLI FI BOOKS at and email me sir at dan ASAP – i coined and created the CLI Fi genre term as NYT and TIME mag reported. also Guardian last year

  8. #8 dan bloom
    June 11, 2014

    correct email greg is

    danbloom AT gmail DOT com

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    June 11, 2014

    Well, that is interesting.

    I didn’t actually forget to mention it .. the point of this list is to suggest books that will help people get up to speed on climate change. But CLI FI is important. I’m writing a CLI FI novel myself at the moment. Perhaps a post just on that would be cool.

  10. #10 Victor Venema
    June 11, 2014

    Is there a book one could recommend to a climate “sceptic”? No policy, just science. No catastrophic title or author that has been (unjustly) burned at WUWT and Co.? Just some science, that help people to see how ludicrous the claims at WUWT and Co. are.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    June 11, 2014

    Victor, actually the best source of that is probably Skeptical Science, the web site.

    Otherwise I might suggest the Rough Guide.

    The best book for this purpose is one that hasn’t been published yet but it will be some day.

  12. #12 Victor Venema
    June 11, 2014

    Skeptical Science is a red flag to them. :) I was thinking of a book that does not do any debunking, just presenting the science as if there were no climate “debate”. Once you understand the climate system, you cannot read WUWT anymore without crying. And it would also be great to get these people to read books, not blogs.

  13. #13 Lars Karlsson
    June 11, 2014

    About the ehtics of climate change:

    A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change
    by Stephen M. Gardiner.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    June 11, 2014

    I’d probably go with the Rough Guide then.

    Denialists have messed the whole thing up so much it is hard for their crap not show up here and there.

    Also, the IPCC summaries are good for this. They are not controversial, just give the facts, etc.

  15. #15 Victor Venema
    June 11, 2014

    Greg, thanks. I have tried at Climate Etc. I fear a little about the mentioning of the IPCC in the blurb. :) We life in a strange world.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    June 11, 2014

    I think you need to be honest with these people.

  17. #17 Christopher Winter
    June 14, 2014

    This is a good list. I would also put The Climate Crisis at or near the top of my list. But I haven’t read all the others here — only Storms and Field Notes.

    FWIW: Here are the customer review statistics for the ones on Amazon (sorry about the formatting.)

    5-star 4-star 3-star 2-star 1-star LATEST REVIEW
    THE CLIMATE CRISIS 14 1 0 0 0 13 October 2013
    GLOBAL WARMING 8 0 2 0 1 19 May 2014
    DIRE PREDICTIONS 20 3 2 1 3 14 October 2013
    THE HOCKEY STICK 178 19 5 8 45 22 May 2014
    STORMS 95 21 8 4 6 20 May 2014
    FIELD NOTES 64 24 7 3 1 7 June 2014
    INTRO. MODERN 1 1 0 0 0 31 Dec 2012
    ROUGH GUIDE 10 2 0 0 1 19 March 2014
    INCONVENIENT TRUTH 22 5 0 4 18 22 May 2014
    WHAT’S THE WORST? 41 3 1 1 7 30 April 2014

  18. #18 Christopher Winter
    June 14, 2014

    I’ll suggest two additions. The first warns gently; the second screams in strident alarm — an alarm built on decades of research.

    The first is by ecologist Amy Seidl, writing about changes around her Vermont home. Here’s my review.

    The second is Under a Green Sky by Peter D. Ward. It is perhaps the best explanation in book form of why scientists have begun to speak out in public about the dangers they see ahead — dangers revealed not by computer models, but by established laws of physics and by comparison of current conditions with evidence gleaned from the fossil record.

  19. #19 Christopher Winter
    August 4, 2014

    Another member of the MBH99 team has a book out on climate change politics too:

    How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up
    Raymond S. Bradley
    Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011

    On page 141 he writes:

    Science must remain separate from politics, but once scientists understand the issues, we must then decide our own political stance. By the same token, politics must stay out of science. Once politicians try to influence public opinion by manipulating scientific information or suppressing the findings of government scientists, we enter a world of duplicity and deception. Trust evaporates and cynicism triumphs. And then we all lose.

    True that.

  20. […] to get up to speed on the issues. For a scientist’s list of recommended books, check out the National Geographic ScienceBlogs website. For a few more suggestions, read […]

  21. #21 Astrostevo
    October 27, 2014

    @12. Victor Venema

    “I was thinking of a book that does not do any debunking, just presenting the science as if there were no climate “debate”. Once you understand the climate system, you cannot read WUWT anymore without crying. And it would also be great to get these people to read books, not blogs.”

    Yes- although there’s a place for both. My belated and repeated recommendation there would be ‘The Long Thaw’ by David Archer which is a very plain in clearly presenting the actual science with no polemics – good text :