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 posted earlier this week, Yale Climate Connections offers a chronological listing of more than two dozen titles.
The descriptions of the 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 2013 and 2017
The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World, by William Nordhuas (Yale University Press 2013/2015, 378 pages, $20.00 paperback)
Climate change is profoundly altering our world in ways that pose major risks to human societies and natural systems. We have entered the Climate Casino and are rolling the global-warming dice. But there is still time to turn around and walk back out. In this book, William Nordhaus describes the science, economics, and politics involved – and the steps necessary to reduce the perils of global warming. Using language accessible to any concerned citizen and taking care to present different points of view fairly, he discusses the problem from start to finish: from the beginning, where warming originates in our personal energy use, to the end, where societies employ regulations or taxes or subsidies to slow the emissions of gases responsible for climate change.
Economic Risks of Climate Change: An American Prospectus, by Trevor Houser, Solomon Hsiang, Robert Kopp, and Kate Larsen (Columbia University Press 2015, 384 pages, $60.00)
Climate change threatens the economy of the United States in myriad ways, including increased flooding and storm damage, altered crop yields, lost labor productivity, higher crime, reshaped public-health patterns, and strained energy systems, among many other effects. Combining the latest climate models, state-of-the-art econometric research on human responses to climate, and cutting-edge private-sector risk-assessment tools, Economic Risks of Climate Change crafts a game-changing profile of the challenges faced in the United States. Expanding upon the report commissioned by the Risky Business Project, this beautifully illustrated and accessibly written book is an essential tool for helping businesses and governments prepare for the future.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein (Simon & Schuster 2014/2015, 576 pages, $16.99 paperback)
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change is an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she shows why the market has not – and cannot – fix the climate crisis. Can we make the necessary changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet, by Dieter Helm (Yale University Press 2015/2016, 277 pages, paperback $20.00)
Natural capital is what nature provides to us for free. Renewables – like species – keep on coming, provided we do not drive them towards extinction. Non-renewables – like oil and gas – can only be used once. Together, they are the foundation that ensures our survival and well-being, and the basis of all economic activity. In this book, Helm presents the first real attempt to calibrate, measure, and value natural capital from an economic perspective and goes on to outline a stable new framework for sustainable growth. Bristling with ideas of immediate global relevance, Helm’s book shifts the parameters of current environmental debate. As inspiring as his trailblazing The Carbon Crunch, this volume will be essential reading for anyone concerned with reversing the headlong destruction of our environment.
Why Are Waiting The Logic, Urgency, and Promise of Tackling Climate Change, by Nicholas Stern (The MIT Press 2015/2016, 405 pages, $19.95 paperback)
Stern argues that the risks and costs of climate change are worse than he estimated in his landmark Stern Review in 2006. He reminds us that we have a choice. We can rely on past technologies, methods, and institutions – or we can embrace change, innovation, and international collaboration. The first might bring us some short-term growth but would lead eventually to chaos, conflict, and destruction. The second could bring about better lives for all, growth that is sustainable over the long term, and help win the battle against worldwide poverty. The science warns of the dangers of neglect; the economics and technology show what we can do and the great benefits that will follow; an examination of the ethics points strongly to a moral imperative for action. Why are we waiting?
Greening the Global Economy, by Robert Pollin (The MIT Press Boston Review 2015, 164 pages, $23.95)
In order to control climate change, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 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. Not only that, Pollin argues that with the right investments, these efforts will expand employment and drive economic growth. All too frequently, inaction on climate change is based on its potential harm to the economy. Pollin shows greening the economy is not only possible but necessary: 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 254 pages, $35.99 paperback)
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 authors argue that despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to maintain ‘business as usual’. The book reviews 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.
Green Growth, Smart Growth: A New Approach to Economics, Innovation, and the Environment, by Ralf Fücks (Anthem Press 2015, 371 pages, $29.95)
This book is not another warning about the end of the world. It is neither a penitential sermon on environmentalism, nor an appeal to frugality and self-restraint. Far from having exhausted the era of technological, social and democratic progress, we are on the brink of a new stage of industrial modernity: a shift from a fossil-based to a post-fossil economy, from the ruthless exploitation of nature toward growth in tandem with it. Decoupling economic growth from environmental consumption is an ambitious goal, but also an achievable one. Drawing on the German experience tackling climate change, Green Growth, Smart Growth outlines a positive way forward, and it does so in the conviction that the danger industrial civilization poses to our future can be overcome with the effective use of science, technology and democracy.
Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitman (Princeton University Press 2015, 250 pages, $27.95)
In Climate Shock, Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman explore in lively, clear terms the likely repercussions of a hotter planet. They show that the longer we wait to act, the more likely an extreme event will happen. A city might go underwater. A rogue nation might shoot particles into the Earth’s atmosphere, geoengineering cooler temperatures. Zeroing in on the unknown extreme risks that may yet dwarf all else, the authors show how economic forces that make sensible climate policies difficult to enact also make radical would-be fixes like geoengineering all the more probable. What we know about climate change is alarming enough. What we don’t know about the extreme risks could be far more dangerous. Demonstrating that climate change can and should be dealt with, Climate Shock tackles the defining public policy issue of our time.
Environmentalism of the Rich, by Peter Dauvergne (The MIT Press 2016/2018, 218 pages, $16.95 paperback)
Over the last fifty years, activists and policymakers have fought hard to make the earth a better place to live. But has the environmental movement actually brought about meaningful progress toward global sustainability? Signs of global “unsustainability” are everywhere, from decreasing biodiversity to scarcity of fresh water to steadily rising greenhouse gas emissions. And increasingly, the movement is dominated by the environmentalism of the rich – diverted into eco-business, eco-consumption, wilderness preservation, energy efficiency, and recycling. But more eco-products can just mean more corporate profits, consumption, and waste. Through a series of case studies, Dauvergne reveals why a global political economy of ever more – more growth, more sales, more consumption – is swamping environmental gains.
An Introduction to Climate Change Economics and Policy, Second edition, by Felix R. Fitsroy and Elissaios Papyrakis (Routledge 2016, 242 pages, $69.95 paperback)
The 2nd edition of An Introduction to Climate Change Economics and Policy explains the key scientific, economic and policy issues related to climate change. FitzRoy and Papyrakis show how economists and policymakers often misunderstand the science of climate change, underestimate the growing threat to future civilization and survival, and exaggerate the costs of radical measures needed to stabilize the climate. In contrast, they show how direct and indirect costs of fossil fuels – particularly the huge health costs of local pollution – actually exceed the investment needed for transition to an almost zero carbon economy in two or three decades, using available technology.
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, by Kate Raworth (Chelsea Green 2017/2018, 308 pages, $18.00 paperbacks)
It is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. In Doughnut Economics, she sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does. Along the way, she points out how we can break our addiction to growth; redesign money, finance, and business to be in service to people; and create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design. Named after the now-iconic “doughnut” image that Raworth first drew to depict a sweet spot of human prosperity, Doughnut Economics offers a radically new compass for guiding government policy and corporate strategy, and sets new standards for what economic success looks like. Raworth uses the best emergent ideas to address this question: How can we turn economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, into economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow?