All books reviewed image

Take a look at some cold-weather reading – for those in the northeastern U.S., finally! – on warming climate-related issues, with the descriptions drawn from publishers’ copy.

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Joseph Romm (Oxford University Press, 2015; 328 pages, $16.95 paperback)

This book offers the most up-to-date examination of climate change’s foundational science, its implications for our future, and the core clean energy solutions. Alongside detailed but highly accessible descriptions of what is causing climate change, this book . . . answers questions about the practical implications of this growing force on our world:

* How will climate change impact you and your family in the coming decades?
* What are the future implications for owners of coastal property?
* Should you plan on retiring in South Florida or the U.S. Southwest or Southern Europe?
* What occupations and fields of study will be most in demand in a globally warmed world?
* What impact will climate change have on investments and the global economy?

Everyone will become a part of this story of the century. Here is what you need to know.

Icebergs: Their Science and Links to Global Change, by Grant R. Bigg (Cambridge University Press, 2016; 250 pages, $125.00)

Icebergs are increasingly seen to play key roles in past and present climate change. This book gives a comprehensive, multidisciplinary view of icebergs and their interaction with the Earth system, from the physical and biological interaction with the ocean and climate, to how iceberg detritus informs us about past Earth history. Societal and cultural aspects of icebergs are also examined, in terms of the risks and opportunities posed by icebergs in the modern world, as well as how these might develop in the future. With extensive illustrations and key links to online resources, Icebergs is a valuable reference for academic researchers and graduate students studying oceanography, cryospheric science, climatology and environmental science.

Big World, Small Planet: Abundance within Planetary Boundaries, by Johan Rockström and Mattia Klum, with Peter Miller (Yale University Press, 2015; 208 pages, $27.50)

Big World, Small Planet probes the urgent predicament of our times: how is it possible to create a positive future for both humanity and Earth? We have entered the Anthropocene – the era of massive human impacts on the planet – and the actions of over seven billion residents threaten to destabilize Earth’s natural systems, with cascading consequences for human societies. In this extraordinary book, the authors combine the latest science with compelling storytelling and amazing photography to create a new narrative for humanity’s future. Johan Rockström and Mattias Klum reject the notion that economic growth and human prosperity can only be achieved at the expense of the environment. They contend that we have unprecedented opportunities to navigate a “good Anthropocene.” By embracing a deep mind-shift, humanity can reconnect to Earth, discover universal values, and take on the essential role of planetary steward.

Greening the Global Economy, by Robert Pollin (Boston Review Books/The MIT Press, 2015; 175 pages, $22.95)

In order to control climate change, the International Panel on Climate Change estimates that greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall by about forty percent by 2030. Achieving the target goals will be highly challenging. Yet in Greening the Global Economy, economist Robert Pollin shows that they are attainable through steady, large-scale investments – totaling about 1.5 percent of global GDP on an annual basis – in both energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources. Drawing on years of research, Pollin explores all aspects of the problem: how much energy will be needed; what efficiency targets should be; and what kinds of industrial policy will maximize investment and support private and public partnerships so that a clean energy transformation can unfold without broad subsidies. Greening the economy is not only possible; global economic growth depends on it.

Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg (Cambridge University Press, 2015; 228 pages, $34.99)

This book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and examines the central role of corporations in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis. The principal message of the book is that despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to rely on the maintenance of ‘business as usual’. The authors explore the different processes through which corporations engage with climate change. Key discussion points include climate change as business risk; corporate climate politics; the role of justification and compromise; and managerial identity and emotional reactions to climate change. Written for researchers and graduate students, this book moves beyond descriptive and normative approaches to provide a sociologically and critically informed theory of corporate responses to climate change.

The Problem of Social Inequality: Why It Destroys Democracy, Threatens the Planet, and What We Can Do About It, by Scott G. McNall (Routledge, 2016; 292 pages, $39.95 paperback)

Within and among nations, rising levels of social inequality threaten our collective future. Currently, upwards of 80 percent of people’s life chances are determined by factors over which they have absolutely no control. Social inequality threatens the democratic project because it destroys the trust on which governments depend, and it gives rise to corrupt political and economic institutions. How can we get out of the traps we have created for ourselves? We need to reboot capitalism. Drawing on diverse examples from a range of countries, McNall explains the social, economic, and ecological traps we have set for ourselves and develops a set of rules of resilience that are necessary conditions for the creation and maintenance of democratic societies, and a set of rules essential for creating a sustainable future.

Climate Change in World Politics, by John Vogler (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015; 232 pages, $32.00 paper)

John Vogler examines the international politics of climate change, with a focus on the United Nations Framework Convention. He considers how the international system treats the problem of climate change, analyzing the ways in which this has been defined by the international community and the interests and alignments of state governments. Why are relatively obvious solutions avoided? How is the seemingly irrational behavior of state governments to be explained? What are the issues that lurk beneath the public declarations of future climate action? What has been the impact of the enormous structural changes in the global political and economic systems since the signature of the Climate Convention in 1992? Applying elements of International Relations theory to answer all these questions, the author provides an overview of the key issues which will be discussed at the 2015 Paris Conference of the Parties.

Storm Warning: Water and Climate Security in a Changing World Paperback, by Robert William Sanford (Rocky Mountain Books, 2016; 264 pages, $25.00 paperback)

Human beings and industrial-based society are changing the composition of our planet’s atmosphere and causing it to warm at an unnatural and oftentimes astonishing rate. Much of that warmth is being absorbed by water, which is accelerating the rate water moves through the global hydrological cycle. A warmer atmosphere carries more water vapor, which means that as temperatures continue to rise storms will be more intense, last longer, and cause more damage to our towns, cities and vital infrastructure. On the other side of the hydro-climate coin, we can also expect deeper, more persistent and damaging droughts throughout the world, resulting in dramatic losses, difficult economic outcomes and fundamental alterations to landscape. This highly considered, accessible and readable book explains how changes in the water cycle have already begun to affect how we think about and value water security and climate stability and what we can do to ensure a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

Militarizing the Environment: Climate Change and the Security State, by Robert P. Marzec (University of Minnesota Press, 2015; 320 pages, $27.00 Paperback)

As the seriousness of climate change becomes more and more obvious, military institutions are responding by taking a prominent role in the governing of environmental concerns, engaging in ‘climate change war games,’ and preparing for the effects of climate change. This combat-oriented stance stems from a self-destructive pattern of thought that Robert P. Marzec names ‘environmentality.’ Militarizing the Environment traces the rise of this influential mindset, in America and other nations, that threatens to supplant ideas of sustainability. In this extensive historical study of scientific, military, political, and economic formations across five centuries, Marzec reveals how environmentality has been instrumental in the development of today’s security society. Marzec exposes the self-destructive nature of this increasingly accepted worldview and offers alternatives that counter the blind alleys of national and global security.

Climate Change and Human Rights: The 2015 Paris Conference and the Task of Protecting People on a Warming Planet, Marcello Di Paola and Dannika Kamal, editors (Global Policy, 2015; 107 pages, $9.95 ebook)

Successive climate conferences have attempted to align states against an unprecedented global threat whose dramatic contours are becoming clearer by the day. However our economic, political, and social systems, down to our everyday routines, are currently powered in ways that are incompatible with climatic stability. . . . The task, therefore, after almost thirty years of failed climate diplomacy, is to set the stage for coping with these challenges before it is too late. What will be the values driving the navigation of such complexity? In particular, can framing climate change as a ‘human rights issue’ be expected to strengthen the political resonance of the problem and spur immediate and significant action? Can it open fertile legal avenues for its management? And is it the correct way of framing the problem? These are the questions addressed by Global Policy’s new e-book.

Why Women Will Save the Planet, Friends of the Earth (Zed Books, 2015; 213 pages, $14.95)

This provocative collection gathers essays and interviews from the leading lights of the international environmental and feminist movements to mount a powerful case that gender equality is essential to environmental progress. Up to now, women’s issues have been largely ignored by major environmental and conservation groups, but in Why Women Will Save the Planet contributors like Vandana Shiva, Caroline Lucas, and Maria Mies help us see the undeniable links between the two. Using specific case studies, the contributors lay out the ways in which women’s issues intersect with environmental issues, and they detail concrete steps that organizations and campaigners big and small can take to ensure that they are pursuing these goals in tandem. A rallying cry designed to unify – and thus strengthen – two crucial movements in the global fight for social justice, this book will spur action and, crucially, collaboration.

Gender and Climate Change: Impacts, Science, Policy, by Joane Nagel (Routledge, 2015; 264 pages, $32.95)

Does gender matter in global climate change? This timely and provocative book takes readers on a guided tour of basic climate science; then it holds up a gender lens to find out what has been overlooked in popular discussion, research, and policy debates. We see that, around the world, more women than men die in climate-related natural disasters; the history of science and war are intimately interwoven masculine occupations and preoccupations; and conservative men and their interests drive the climate change denial machine. We also see that climate policymakers who embrace big science approaches and solutions to climate change are predominantly male with an ideology of perpetual economic growth, and an agenda that marginalizes the interests of women and developing economies. The book uses vivid case studies to highlight the sometimes surprising differential, gendered impacts of climate changes.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since 2005. Before completing his interdisciplinary...