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Recommended Reading on Climate Change

Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall, Bloomsbury, 2014.

A gripping book that concerns a lot more than messaging. Marshall applies current theories about how the brain works to the question of climate change, then moves out to consider the unfortunate timing of its discovery. Climate change cannot be "fixed" the way the hole in the ozone layer was. It is open-ended. And climate change is not just an environmental problem, a question of smoke stacks versus polar bears. It is a question of whether civilization survives.

Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, May 24, 2015.

This will probably turn out to be the most influential climate document of all. Religion is the center beam, everything else is poetry and revolution, expressing "both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor." My favorite line: "Our goal is … to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it."

Eaarth: Marking a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben, Times Books, 2010.

McKibben was a writer before he turned into a very influential pioneering activist, so it is not surprising that this is the book with the most evocative picture of what is happening now and what we are already doomed to in the future. He makes you feel the loss of our old "sweet" earth intensely and argues for a general retrenchment – smarter, smaller agriculture and more localized energy production.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein, Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Klein's powerful argument connects climate change with social justice. Fighting for the future of the planet will not just be costly or require sacrifices. Today's grow-or-die form of capitalism is in inherent opposition to it. She cites many eye-opening examples, including international trade agreements and the fossil fuel industry's business model, which is dependent on constant additions to exploitable reserves. But she sees this as an opportunity. Progress will happen only with a redistribution of power.

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed – And What It Means For Our Future, Dale Jamieson, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Don't be put off by the close legalistic defining of the problem. And don't despair over the all-too accurate assessment of why humans can't get their minds around the threat to the climate. The solutions chapter is the most persuasive I've read. This may be because of (rather than in spite of) Jamieson's pessimism. Temperatures will rise from 2.5° to 5° C even in the unlikely event that every nation sticks to its pledges. But the lower number is still within reach. Some of the fixes are familiar, some controversial. The difference is that Jamieson anchors them all in frameworks through which they might plausibly be achieved. His immediate suggestion: Get rid of coal.

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, Mark Lynas, National Geographic Society, 2008.

A terrifying and very detailed degree-by-degree description of what a temperature rise will mean to our planet. The degrees are centigrade, not fahrenheit, so the predictions are dire indeed. Lynas hot-foots it, for example, from Pacific Islands slipping under the waves (1°) to constant Sandy-like submersions of New York City (3°) to thick, salty, anoxic oceans in which all life dies (6°). In welcome contrast, the solutions chapter is a sober smorgasbord of approaches, illustrated with a pie chart. As in Jamieson, it's not a question of choosing which to do. This is war, and all weapons have to be deployed.

Global Weirdness, Climate Central, Pantheon Books, 2012.

Very short, precise, neutrally-written chapters grouped under certain themes: the science, the current changes in the climate, the predicted changes, and whether we can avoid the worst. A good introduction in a slim volume. For more up-to-date information go to Climate Central's website,