As one of the most contested issues between America’s political parties, and one of the most urgent crisis facing our planet today, climate change is something we can all afford to learn more about — even those of us who already have a fair number of books about climate change on our shelves. With the research constantly evolving, the scientific data ever-increasing, and the polar bears getting skinnier by the day, the challenges facing our environment can start to confuse even the most science-savvy among us — from genetically modified crops; to the endangerment and extinction of the animals we share our planet with; to the complex and sometimes-fragile air, soil, and water systems that sustain human life; to the weather patterns that have profoundly affected our lives; and more. And with so many conflicting opinions floating around the internet, it’s no wonder that the task of keeping the climate change facts straight can seem more daunting than halting the damaging effects of climate change itself.
That’s why we need to turn to the folks who know their climate change stuff — and luckily, a lot of them are writing books about it. Here are 11 essential books about the science of climate change and the future of our planet.
1. ‘Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know’ by Joseph Romm
If you only add one book about climate change to your bookshelves this year, make it Joseph Romm’s Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know — especially if climate change hasn’t spent a lot of time on your own political radar of late. Romm’s book answers the kinds of questions that make the urgency of climate change more accessible for readers, like: “how will climate change impact you and your family in the coming decades?”, “what impact will climate change have on investments and the global economy?”, and “what occupations and fields of study will be most in demand in a globally warmed world?”. Romm also explains both the human causes of climate change and the clean energy solutions we should bank our futures on.
2. ‘Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet’ by Mark Lynas
Published by National Geographic in 2008, Mark Lynas's Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet is still as relevant today as it was eight years ago. Lynas examines the scientific predictions of what the future holds for both the planet and the humans who will inhabit (and pollute) it over the next 100 years. When this book was first written, scientists were predicting the global temperature would rise between 2 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century — an increase some scientists are now arguing we're already on the path to exceeding. Though the numbers might seem small, Lynas explains what extreme changes such increases in temperature will cause for the Earth.
3. ‘Gender and Climate Change: Impacts, Science, Policy’ by Joane Nagel
We don't often discuss gender when it comes to issues of climate change, but the facts indicate that climate change disproportionately affects women more than men — both in daily living (especially in developing nations where women are still largely in charge of tasks like gathering clean water, and caring for those with illnesses and disease; and where climate-damaging economic agendas of the west marginalize women) and in the fact that more women than men die in climate-related natural disasters. Joane Nagel's book, Gender and Climate Change: Impacts, Science, Policy, explores all these issues and more, and will open your eyes to the specific impacts climate change has for women around the world.
4. ‘Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist’ by Bill McKibben
If you were (and still are!) rooting for the DAPL activists who made daily headlines throughout this past year, author and activist Bill McKibben's book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, will definitely resonate with you. In the summer of 2011, McKibben was arrested while leading the largest protest seen in Washington D.C. in decades — against the Keystone XL pipeline (a now defunct but similarly-contested oil pipeline system beginning in Canada and traveling through the Midwestern United States, to Texas, with then-proposed expansions throughout the northwestern.) Oil and Honey is the book born of that arrest, detailing McKibben’s explorations into the politics of sustainability — from the influence of small-scale beekeepers (never underestimate the power of the bee!) to the impacts of the global fossil-fuel industry. This book will increase your awareness of the small acts you can take each day to contribute to the global movement to preserve our planet.
5. ‘Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change’ by Elizabeth Kolbert
Published in 2006, and now featuring a recently updated afterward, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert's book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, examines the complicated, misleading, and conflicting rhetoric some American political parties are still using to discuss climate change and it's impacts on the planet and human life. Kolbert offers hard scientific facts about climate change and the human activities that cause it, written in clear and accessible language that even the most avid of climate change skeptics will have a difficult time arguing with.
6. ‘The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet’ by Heidi Cullen
Heidi Cullen is one of America’s foremost experts on weather and climate change, as well as a senior researcher with Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science. Her 2011 book, The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet, predicts what different parts of the planet will look like in 2050 (just 33 short years away) if we don't reduce our current levels of carbon emissions. And yeah, it's scary.
7. ‘Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas’ by Eva Saulitis
Eva Saulitis's book, Into Great Silence: A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas, is an absolute heart-breaker. Saulitis, who began her whale research in Alaska in the 1980s, became especially focused on one single family of endangered orcas, and subsequently witnessed the devastation of their habitat and their genetic diversity as a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. Demonstrating both the real devastation that the extinction of even one family of orcas has on the health of the entire species, as well as the interconnections of the ocean's health with that of humans', Into Great Silence will make you think about the great responsibility humans have to the animals we share the Earth with.
8. ‘Powering Forward: What Everyone Should Know About America's Energy Revolution’ by Bill Ritter Jr.
We heard a whole lot about coal during this last election cycle — probably more than most Americans, especially those whose families are not directly affected by the coal industry, ever expected in 2016. Published last year, Bill Ritter's Powering Forward: What Everyone Should Know About America's Energy Revolution takes a look at sustainable energy sources being used in the United States, highlighting the urgent need for all Americans to question our continued reliance on carbon-intensive oil, coal, and natural gas.
9. ‘Storms Of My Grandchildren: The Truth About The Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance To Save Humanity’ by James Hansen
However terrifying, anticipating the storms of our grandchildren is the very real place in which we find ourselves beginning this year. And as one of the world’s leading scientists on climate change issues, James Hansen is a voice you’ll want to listen to. In Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance To Save Humanity Hansen gets real about the grave environmental challenges facing our planet today — human-caused climate change, the politicians and corporations that deny it, and what these environmental changes mean not only for our own lifetimes, but in the lifetimes that come after ours.
10. ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate’ by Naomi Klei
Published in 2014, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate has become something of a Silent Spring for the modern environmentalist — it’s the book that everyone seems to have read, and it’s inarguably eye-opening. Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein takes everything the mainstream media has ever told you about climate change and turns it inside out, in this literary call-to-action, shedding light on the economic reasons for denying (and/or contributing to) climate change and exposing the people and corporations that profit from activities that damage the planet. But among all of Kline’s staggering statistics is a message of hope — one that gives voice to the places around the world where the fight to protect our planet is already finding success.
11. ‘Modified: GMOs and the Threat to Our Food, Our Land, Our Future’ by Caitlin Shetterly
After learning that genetically modified corn was making herself and her child sick, journalist Caitlin Shetterly began to look deeper into the science behind GMOs — exploring the environmental impacts of everything from pesticides and the decline and extinction of some bee colonies, to the economic agendas of corporations who profit from genetically modified food. Written from the perspective of a mother and a journalist, Modified: GMOs and the Threat to Our Food, Our Land, Our Future will make you think differently about the food you eat, the soil it comes from, and what GMOs mean for the future of our planet.