New York Stock Exchange building

The significant transformations required to meet the challenges posed by climate change are, from another perspective, fabulous opportunities. Inventors, entrepreneurs, and business strategists recognized this fact many years ago. Their activities have since been chronicled and analyzed by reporters, researchers, and, in some cases, the entrepreneurs themselves. For this month’s bookshelf on climate change and business, Yale Climate Connections has assembled two different lists. This first list covers books published in the last five years. The second list covers recent free reports on the same subject from international organizations, government agencies, and D.C.-based think tanks.

The descriptions of the twelve books listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers. Whenever two dates of publication are listed, the second is for the paperback edition of the book.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken (Penguin Books 2017, 256 pages, $23.00 paperback)

In this book, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here. These solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities are currently enacting them with skill and determination. If deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, they represent a credible path forward, not just to slow the Earth’s warming but to reach drawdown, that point in time when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline. These measures promise cascading benefits – giving us every reason to see this planetary crisis as an opportunity to create a just and livable world.

Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, by McKenzie Funk (Penguin Books 2014/2015, 320 pages, $18.00 paperback)

McKenzie Funk has spent six years reporting around the world on how we are preparing for a warmer planet. Funk shows us that global warming’s physical impacts can be separated into three broad categories: melt, drought, and deluge. The melt is a boon for newly arable, mineral-rich regions of the Arctic. Drought raise food prices globally; there is no more precious asset. The deluge – the rising seas, surging rivers, and superstorms that will threaten island nations and coastal cities – presents an existential threat. By letting climate change continue unchecked, we are choosing to adapt to a warming world. Some will benefit, but much of the planet will suffer. To understand how the world is beginning to warm, Windfall follows the money.

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy, by Hal Harvey with Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman (Island Press 2018, 376 pages, $25.00 paperback)

Designing Climate Solutions is an accessible resource on lowering carbon emissions for policymakers, activists, philanthropists, and others in the climate and energy community. In Part I, the authors deliver a roadmap for understanding which countries, sectors, and sources produce the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In Part II, they break down each type of policy, from renewable portfolio standards to carbon pricing, offering key design principles and case studies where each policy has been implemented successfully. We can’t afford to wait for new technologies or strategies to create a low carbon future. Designing Climate Solutions gives us the tools we need to put us on the path to a livable climate future.

Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy, by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley (Island Press 2016, 248 pages, $25.00 paperback)

In Our Renewable Future, energy expert Richard Heinberg and scientist David Fridley explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy. Beginning with an overview of our current energy system, the authors then survey issues of energy supply and demand in key sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, transportation, buildings, and manufacturing. The book concludes with a discussion of energy and equity and a summary of key lessons and steps forward at the individual, community, and national level. The transition to clean energy will not be a simple matter of replacing coal with wind power or oil with solar; it will require us to adapt our energy usage as dramatically as we adapt our energy sources.

Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation, edited by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal (Palgrave Macmillan 2015, 200 pages, $33.00 paperback)

“Free Market Environmentalism for the Next Generation examines how the greatest hope for progress in dealing with the conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment is to be found in the striving of individuals to realize the mutual gains from exchange and the dynamic and creative innovation in the market economy. It is a brilliant exposition full of well-argued points and clearly illustrated examples demonstrating why the solution to our social tensions and woes is to be found in entrepreneurial creativity and private initiative. This is a must read if we hope to have a rational discussion in this too often emotionally charged area.” Peter Boettke, Prof. of Economics and Philosophy, George Mason University. [book reviewer comment]

Green Growth That Works: Natural Capital Policy and Finance Mechanisms from Around the World, edited by Lisa Mandle, Zhiyun Guyang, James Salzman, and Gretchen C. Daily (Island Press, September 2019, 368 pages, $35.00 paperback)

The dilemma of our times is to figure out how to improve the human condition without destroying nature’s. If ecosystems collapse, so eventually will human civilization. One answer is inclusive green growth – which minimizes pollution and strengthens communities against natural disasters while reducing poverty through improved access to health, education, and services. Green Growth That Works is the first practical guide to bring together pragmatic finance and policy tools that can make investment in natural capital both attractive and commonplace. Pioneered by the Natural Capital Project, this valuable compendium of proven techniques can guide agencies and organizations eager to make green growth work anywhere in the world.

Superpower: One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy, by Russell Gold (Simon & Schuster, June 2019, 336 pages, $27.00)

Any transition from a North American power grid that uses mostly fossil fuels to one that is predominantly clean requires a massive building spree – billions of dollars’ worth. Enter Michael Skelly, an infrastructure builder who began working on wind energy in 2000, when many considered the industry a joke. Eight years later, Skelly helped create the second largest wind power company in the United States – which was sold for $2 billion. Acclaimed journalist Russell Gold tells the story of this pioneer whose innovations, struggles, and persistence represent the groundbreaking changes underway in American energy. Thrilling, provocative, and important, Superpower is a fascinating look at America’s future.

A Finer Future: Creating an Economy in Service to Life, by L. Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, Anders Wijkman, and John Fullerton (New Society Publishers 2018, 432 pages, $31.99)

Humanity is in a race with catastrophe. Is the future one of global warming, 65 million migrants fleeing failed states, soaring inequality, and grid-locked politics? Or one of empowered innovators building a world that works for everyone? A Finer Future demonstrates that humanity has a chance – just – to thread the needle of sustainability and build a regenerative economy through a powerful combination of enlightened entrepreneurialism, technology, and innovative policy. The authors gather the evidence, outline the principles of a regenerative economy, and detail a policy roadmap to achieving it – by transforming finance, reimagining how we work, enhancing human well-being, and respecting ecosystems and human community.

Low-Carbon Investing: Defending the Climate Emphasizing Performance: A Practical Guide for Busy Investors, by J. Patrick Costello (Green World Publishing 2019, 196 pages, $30.00 paperback)

The most important new trend in investing today goes by the acronym E-S-G, which involves evaluating a company’s investment potential by scrutinizing its Environmental, Social and Governance practices. Analysts have developed tools for measuring the “carbon footprint” of companies and funds. But ESG can be manipulated by financial firms to camouflage a continued reliance on fossil fuel investments. This book will help investors make sure the high performance funds included in their portfolios use an ESG process that emphasizes fossil fuel divestment and carbon footprint reduction. Low-Carbon Investing will also help with next challenge: building a strategically diversified portfolio matches the risk tolerance of each investor.

The businesses of climate change denial

Coal, by Mark C. Thurber (Polity Books 2019, 200 pages, $19.95 paperback)

By making available the almost unlimited energy stored in prehistoric plant matter, coal enabled the industrial age – and it still does. Coal today generates more electricity worldwide than any other energy source. And yet continued reliance on this ancient rock carries a high price in smog and greenhouse gases. We use coal because it is cheap. In this book, Mark Thurber explains the barriers to a full accounting of coal’s environmental costs. Coal’s dominance, he contends, is supported by local and national politics that create false dichotomies of jobs versus environmental protection, by fragmented environmental movements that lose sight of the forest for the trees, and by polities that rarely treat climate change mitigation as a top-tier priority.

Climate Change Denial and Public Relations: Strategic Communication and Interest Groups in Climate Inaction, edited by Nuria Almicon and Jondis Xera (Routledge, July 2019, 240 pages, $140.00)

Climate Change Denial and Public Relations analyzes how strategic communication by interest groups contributes to climate change inaction. It does this from a multidisciplinary perspective that critically reflects on the roots of the problem, including the ethics of the denialist ideology and the rhetoric and role of climate change advocacy. Topics addressed include the power of persuasive narratives and discourses constructed to support climate inaction by lobbies and think tanks, the human supremacist and patriarchal roots of denialists and advocates of climate change alike, the role of public relations firms, the anthropocentric roots of public relations, and taboo topics such as human overpopulation, meat-eating, and the technological myth.

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by Christopher Leonard (Simon & Schuster, August 2019, 704 pages, $35.00) 150×228

If you want to understand how we killed the unions in this country, how we widened the income divide, stalled progress on climate change, and how our corporations bought the influence industry, all you have to do is read this book. Seven years in the making, Kochland reads like a true-life thriller, with larger-than-life characters driving the battles on every page. For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view toward very, very long-term profits. The book tells the ambitious tale of how one private company consolidated power – and how in doing so, it helped transform capitalism into something that feels deeply alienating to many Americans today.

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...