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The U.S. in 2016 “experienced 16 weather and climate disasters each with losses exceeding $1 billion, totaling approximately $306 billion – a new U.S. record,” according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released earlier this month. Several of 2017’s natural disasters have now been linked to climate change, most notably the “rain bomb” that flooded Houston during Hurricane Harvey.

Natural disasters impact local, regional and even national and global economies. Conversely, economic choices clearly affect the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Understanding these interrelationships between climate change and economics has been the focus of numerous books over the last decade and half. In this and a companion bookshelf, Yale Climate Connections offers a chronological listing of more than two dozen titles.

The descriptions of the fifteen books listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers. When two dates of publication are included, the second marks the release of the paperback edition of the original hardcover.

Books published between 2005 and 2012

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Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, Second edition, with a new afterword on Climate Change, by James Gustav Speth (Yale University Press 2005, 352 pages, $21.00 paperback)

In this powerful book, a renowned environmental leader warns that despite all the international negotiations of the past two decades, efforts to protect Earth’s environment are not succeeding. He explains why this is so and presents eight specific steps that governments and citizens can take to achieve a sustainable future. For this new paperback edition the author has added an Afterword on climate change that brings the narrative up to date.

Capitalism As If the World Matters, by Jonathan Porritt (Earthscan 2005, revised and updated in 2007, 360 pages, $38.95)

In this substantially revised and updated edition, Porritt extends his powerful and controversial argument that the only way to save the world from environmental catastrophe is to embrace a new type of capitalism by providing fresh evidence and suggesting new actions. New content includes in-depth coverage of the USA, with case studies examining the role of huge American corporations such as Wal-Mart and General Electric, plus a close look at China and the global impact this economic giant may have in the twenty-first century. This is a must-read for everyone who has a stake in the future of the world, from business executives to environmental activists, from community leaders to the politicians with their hands on the levers of power.

The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, by Nicholas Stern (Cambridge University Press 2006, 692 pages, $95.00 paperback)

There is now clear scientific evidence that emissions from economic activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels for energy, are causing changes to the Earth’s climate. A sound understanding of the economics of climate change is needed in order to underpin an effective global response to this challenge. The Stern Review is an independent, rigourous and comprehensive analysis of the economic aspects of this crucial issue. It has been conducted by Sir Nicholas Stern, Head of the UK Government Economic Service, and a former Chief Economist of the World Bank. The Economics of Climate Change will be invaluable for all students of the economics and policy implications of climate change, and economists, scientists and policy makers involved in all aspects of climate change.

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A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies, by William Nordhaus (Yale University Press 2008/2014, 234 pages, $27.50 paperback)

In this important work, William Nordhaus integrates the entire spectrum of economic and scientific research to weigh the costs of reducing emissions against the benefits of reducing the long-run damages from global warming. The book offers one of the most extensive analyses of the economic and environmental dynamics of greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change and provides the tools to evaluate alternative approaches to slowing global warming. The author emphasizes the need to establish effective mechanisms, such as carbon taxes, to harness markets and to harmonize the efforts of different countries. This book also provides rationales and methods for achieving widespread agreement on our next best move in alleviating global warming.

The Shadows of Consumption: The Consequences for the Global Government, by Peter Dauvergne (The MIT Press 2008/2010, 336 pages, $22.95 paperback)

In The Shadows of Consumption, Peter Dauvergne maps the costs of consumption that remain hidden in the shadows cast by globalized corporations, trade, and finance. Dauvergne traces the environmental consequences of five commodities: automobiles, gasoline, refrigerators, beef, and harp seals. Dauvergne’s innovative analysis allows us to see why so many efforts to manage the global environment are failing even as environmentalism is slowly strengthening. We know that we can make things better by driving a high-mileage car, eating locally grown food, and buying energy-efficient appliances; but these improvements are incremental, local, and insufficient. More crucial will be reforms to reduce the global inequalities of consumption and correct the imbalance between growing economies and environmental sustainability.

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs (Penguin Books 2008/2009, 386 pages, paperback $19.00)

In Common Wealth, Jeffrey D. Sachs – one of the world’s most respected economists – offers an urgent assessment of the environmental degradation, rapid population growth, and extreme poverty that threaten global peace and prosperity. Through crystalline examination of hard facts, Sachs predicts the cascade of crises that awaits this crowded planet – and presents a program of sustainable development and international cooperation that will correct this dangerous course. Few luminaries anywhere on the planet are as schooled in this daunting subject as Sachs, and this is the vital product of his experience and wisdom.

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The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, by James Gustave Speth (Yale University Press 2008/2009, 320 pages, $18.00 paperback)

Gus Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning and a widely respected environmentalist, begins his new book with the observation that the environmental community has grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to decline, to the point that we are now at the edge of catastrophe. This situation is a severe indictment of the economic and political system we call modern capitalism. Our vital task now is to change the operating instructions for today’s destructive world economy before it is too late. The book is about how to do that.

The Global Deal: Climate Change and the Creation of a New Era of Progress and Prosperity, by Nicholas Stern (Public Affairs 2009/2010, 245 pages, $17.99 paperback)

In October 2006, Nicholas Stern made headlines around the world with his report, which reviewed the costs and benefits of dealing with global warming. The world’s community had known it must act to mitigate global climate change, but until the Stern Review, no one knew how much it would cost or how to do it. Now, Stern has transformed his report into a powerful narrative book for general readers. The Global Deal evaluates the economic future, and the essential steps we must take to protect growth and reduce poverty while managing climate change. The future Stern outlines is optimistic and pragmatic; he believes we have the capacity to change. But we need the will to inspire our political leaders to drive a new global strategy.

But Will the Planet Notice How Smart Economics Can Save the World, by Gernot Wagner (Hill and Wang 2011/2012, 258 pages, $16.00 paperback)

You are one of seven billion people on Earth. Whatever you do personally – eat tofu in a Hummer or hamburgers in a Prius – the planet doesn’t notice. In our confrontation with climate change, it is what several billion people do that makes a difference. The solution? Smarter economics. The hope of mankind, and indeed of every living thing on the planet, is now in the hands of the dismal science. But economists can help save us from global warming, if only we let them.

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The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix It, by Dieter Helm (Yale University Press 2012, revised & updated 2015, 304 pages, $22.00 paperback)

In a new edition of his hard-hitting book on climate change, economist Dieter Helm looks at how and why we have failed to tackle the issue of global warming and argues for a new, pragmatic rethinking of energy policy. “An optimistically levelheaded book about actually dealing with global warming,” said Kirkus Reviews. And in a review for Financial Times, Pilita Clark praised Dieter Helm for turning “his agile mind to one of the great problems of our age: why the world’s efforts to curb the carbon dioxide emissions behind global warming have gone so wrong, and how it can do better.”

See also the Oxford University Press collection edited by Dieter Helm and Cameron Hepburn: The Economics and Politics of Climate Change (2009).

The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics, by Adrian Parr (Columbia University Press 2012/2014, 218 pages $27.00 paperback)

Although climate change has become the dominant concern of the twenty-first century, global powers refuse to implement the changes necessary to reverse these trends. Instead, they have neoliberalized nature and climate change politics and discourse. Adrian Parr argues that, until we grasp the implications of neoliberalism’s interference in climate change talks and policy, humanity is on track to an irreversible crisis. Dismissing the notion that the free market can solve debilitating environmental degradation and climate change, Parr contends that the sustainability movement must engage more aggressively with the logic and cultural manifestations of consumer economics to take hold of a more transformative politics.

America the Possible: A Manifesto for a New Economy, by James Gus Speth (Yale University Press 2012/2013, 272 pages, $18.00 paperback)

In this third volume of his award-winning American Crisis series [see the two entries above], James Gustave Speth identifies a dozen features of the American political economy where transformative change is essential. He spells out the specific changes that are needed to move toward a new political economy – one in which the true priority is to sustain people and planet. Supported by a compelling “theory of change” that explains how system change can come to America, Speth also presents a vision of political, social, and economic life in a renewed America. Speth argues that we yet have it in ourselves to use our freedom and our democracy in powerful ways to create something fine, a reborn America, for our children and grandchildren.

An addendum of books published by ‘Lukewarmers’

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Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, by Bjorn Lomborg (Alfred J Knopf 2007/2010, 300 pages, $15.95 paperback)

Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and staggeringly expensive actions now being considered to meet the challenges of global warming ultimately will have little impact on the world’s temperature. He suggests that rather than focusing on ineffective solutions that will cost us trillions of dollars over the coming decades, we should be looking for smarter, more cost-effective approaches (such as massively increasing our commitment to green energy R&D) that will allow us to deal not only with climate change but also with other pressing global concerns, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. And he considers why and how this debate has fostered an atmosphere in which dissenters are immediately demonized.

Smart Solutions to Climate Change: Comparing Costs and Benefits, edited by Bjorn Lomborg (Cambridge University Press 2010, 413 pages, $24.99 paperback)

The failure of the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2009 revealed major flaws in the way the world’s policymakers have attempted to prevent dangerous levels of increases in global temperatures. The expert authors in this specially commissioned collection focus on the likely costs and benefits of a very wide range of policy options. To further stimulate debate, a panel of economists, including three Nobel laureates, then evaluates and ranks the attractiveness of the policies. This authoritative and thought-provoking book will challenge readers to form their own conclusions about the best ways to respond to global warming.

See also these cost-benefit analyses, edited by Bjorn Lomborg, on a broader range of environmental issues: Solutions for the World’s Biggest Problems (2007); Global Crises, Global Solutions, Second edition, (2009); How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World (2013); Global Problems, Smart Solutions (2013), and Prioritizing Development: A Cost Benefit Analysis of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (forthcoming in 2018).

Climate Economics: Economic Analysis of Climate, Climate Change, and Climate Policy, by Richard S.J. Tol (Edward Elgar 2014, 208 pages, $39.95)

This unique textbook offers comprehensive coverage of the economics of climate change and climate policy, and is suitable for advanced undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral students. Topics discussed include the costs and benefits of adaptation and mitigation, discounting, uncertainty, policy instruments, and international agreements. Special features include in-depth treatment of the economics of climate change; careful explanations of concepts and their application to climate policy; customizable integrated assessment model that illustrates all issues discussed; specific usage guidelines for each level of reader; and a companion website with data, extra reading, quizzes, videos and more. An essential text for students in economics and environmental policy, the book also serves as a resource for researchers and practitioners.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...