The Real Threat Of Climate Change, Explored In 11 Works Of Fiction

by Sadie Trombetta

Last October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change handed the world some devastating news: By the year 2030, global temperatures will be 1.5 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, a change that will put hundreds of millions of people at risk of extreme drought, floods, wildfires, and food shortages. The ominous report lead many to wonder, What will the world look like if we don't change course? It's a question many authors have pondered in their thought-provoking works of fiction that capture the real threat climate changes poses.

Extreme droughts in Colorado. Lethal wildfires in California. Catastrophic bomb cyclones across the midwest. Lethal hurricanes along the Atlantic. These are just a few of the devastating effects of climate change we've witnessed in the last year alone, and unless we do something to address the human activity that continues to escalate the problem, we can only expect things to get worse. Scientists from all over the world have provided enough proof to convince you the problem is real, but its authors of climate fiction — or cli-fi as it has come to be known in the book world — that are really bringing the dangers lurking on the horizon to life with their stories.

Here are nine works of fiction about climate change that offer a glimpse into our harrowing future — that is, if we don't do anything to stop it.

'The Completionist' by Siobhan Adcock

The planet Earth isn't the only thing altered by climate change in Siobhan Adcock's speculative novel The Completionist. All across America, people struggle with infertility issues. That is why a miraculously pregnant Fredricka has asked her brother Carter to look for their missing sister, Gardner. His search leads him to dangerous underground world he never really understood, and deep into their family's past where he uncovers a painful truth he's never been able to face.

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'The Wall' by John Lanchester

In this tense and timely fable, an island nation has built a gigantic concrete wall around its entire coastline in an effort to keep the Others out. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, is tasked with protecting his section of the Wall from those trapped on the other side, where seas are rising and resources are dwindling. Failure means becoming an Other himself, but a part of Joseph can't help but wonder: What would he do if he really did have to fight for his life?

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'Tentacle' by Rita Indiana, translated from Spanish by Achy Obejas

What if you could travel back in time and save the planet — and the people who live on it — from the devastating effects of climate change? Acilde Figueroa, the young maid and heroine at the heart of Rita Indiana's thrilling novel Tentacle, can. But before she can save the ocean and humanity, she must learn to become the man she has always been.

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'American War' by Omar El Akkad

In this compelling dystopian debut, the second American Civil War has broken out over the use of fossil fuels and the increasingly deadly effects of climate change. The book's protagonist Sarat Chestnut was only six when the war started, and her entire life — including her father's death and her family's displacement — has been shaped by the never-ending conflict. It isn't until she is befriended by a mysterious functionary and becomes an instrument of war herself that Sarat realizes her actions, and her choices, can shape the conflict.

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'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia E. Butler

In Octavia E. Butler's acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, global climate change and economic crises have created chaos across the nation. Outside, people will do anything it takes for a sip of water or a bit of shelter, but inside her gated community, 15-year-old Lauren Olamina is safe from the violence and her own debilitating hyperempathy. That is, until she decides to speak out and fight back against the disaster she knows is creeping right outside her door.

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'Dry' by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

In this stunning YA survival story, California's deadly drought forces one young teen to make life or death decisions in order to stay alive. When the tap runs dry and her neighborhood becomes a warzone for water, Alyssa realizes she will do anything to keep her family safe.

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'Age of Blight' by Kristine Ong Muslim, illustrated by Alessandra Hogan

In her provocative short story collection, author and poet Kristine Ong Muslim imagines a haunting future world ravaged by humanity's mistakes and missteps. Frightening as it is fascinating, Age of Blight puts the responsibility of mankind's survival directly in human hands.

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'New York 2140' by Kim Stanley Robinson

The year is 2140, and New York is unlike the place we know now. Rising sea levels has transformed the city's streets into canals and its skyscrapers into islands. In one building, though, life marches steadily on: A market trader finds new way to deal; a detective is never out of work; an internet star keeps entertaining fans; and a group of coders on the roof disappear, triggering a series of events that will shake the city to its core.

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'Gold Fame Citrus' by Claire Vaye Watkins

In Claire Vaye Watkins's genre-bending novel Gold Fame Citrus, extreme drought has transformed Southern California into a dry and hellish landscape from which there is no escape, thanks in part to armed vigilantes at the border and in part to an uncaring government. Most "Mojavs" have been evacuated to to internment camps — but not Luz and Ray. Tucked away in Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, the couple hide out in an abandoned mansion and bide their time drinking rationed cola and scavenging what little they can find nearby. But when a chance encounter with a child makes them yearn for something more, Luz and Ray embark on a dangerous journey east in hope of discovering a better life.

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