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.
Updated 1 Dec 2015
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, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change by Michael Mann and Lee Kump.
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.
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.
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: Man, Nature, and Climate Change 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” 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.