Book collage

In the midst of a Coronavirus-dominated Thanksgiving season, the climate-concerned find themselves scurrying for ways the incoming Biden/Harris administration can best move forward on climate action, whatever the political obstacles. Real action on climate change will require difficult, long-term efforts to organize and maintain a broad and diverse coalition of interests – and do so in the face of concerted and well-funded opposition.

Several individuals and organizations have been thinking through various approaches, and the results of their efforts are now available in new books and reports highlighted below.

The list begins with a plan for day one of a new climate-conscious administration, includes works on climate leadership, youth activism, and environmental justice, and concludes with books and reports that re-imagine economic and energy policymaking for a prosperous, low-carbon future. A number of the items listed can be downloaded for free.

As always, the descriptions of the titles in this list are drawn from copy provided by the organizations or publishers that released them. If two dates of publication are offered, the second is for the paperback edition of the title.

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Presidential Climate Action on Day One: A Foreign Policy Guide for the Next President, by Fred Shaia and Jeff D. Colgan (Watson Institute for International Affairs 2020, 35 pages, free download available here)

Presidential Climate Action on Day One offers a sweeping set of recommended actions to address climate change, this century’s defining global challenge. Because his campaign issued the most assertive climate change plan in U.S. history – surpassing efforts by President Barack Obama – the report recognizes former Vice President Biden’s climate commitments and proposes 10 additional recommended actions. Most of these recommendations can be done through Executive Orders, rather than legislative actions, so they can be implemented on Day 1 of the new presidential administration. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and World Health Organization, and then elevating climate change to WHO’s top priority are just two examples.

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Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America, by Majority Staff (House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis 2020, 547 pages, free download available here)

With the devastating consequences of climate change growing at home and abroad, the U.S. must harness the technological innovation of the moonshot, the creativity of our entrepreneurs, the strength of our workers, and the moral force of a nation endeavoring to establish justice for all. Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America calls on Congress to build a clean energy economy that values workers, centers environmental justice, and is prepared to meet the challenges of the climate crisis. This comprehensive set of policy recommendations will reduce carbon pollution, make communities more resilient, and build an equitable clean energy economy.

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America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan, by Zero Carbon Consortium (Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA 2020, 401 pages, free download available here)

Climate change represents a profound policy challenge – requiring a response at a sweeping scale and with unprecedented speed. The move to a clean energy future must be advanced at the same time America works to recover from the most serious pandemic in a century and the economic collapse it triggered. In response to this challenge, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network USA, has released America’s Zero-Carbon Action Plan. The Plan offers solutions for reducing emissions in every sector of the economy. The ZCAP also lays out a strategy for putting Americans back to work building a vibrant 21st century U.S. economy based on advanced technologies, good jobs, clean energy, climate safety, and economic security.

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Lead for the Planet: Five Practices for Confronting Climate Change, by Rae Andre (University of Toronto Press 2020, 272 pages, $29.95)

With so much evidence in the news, it’s hard to believe that we’ve had to spend so much time convincing each other that climate change is real. Lead for the Planet shifts the focus to how we are going to organize to solve the twin issues of climate change and energy evolution. Building on her experience as an organizational psychologist, Rae André outlines five practices that successful climate leaders will need to adopt, from getting out the truth about the state of the planet, to identifying the risks and interests of key stakeholders, to implementing change within and between organizations and sectors on a global scale. Lead for the Planet is a guide for the kind of leadership that is necessary to create a clean energy future for the generations to come.

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Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It, by Jamie Margolin, Foreword by Greta Thunberg (Hachette 2020, 272 pages, $16.99 paperback)

The 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests. March for Our Lives, and School Strike for Climate. What do all these social justice movements have in common? They were led by passionate, informed, engaged young people. Jamie Margolin has been organizing and protesting since she was fourteen years old. Now the co-leader of a global climate action movement, she knows better than most how powerful a young person can be. In Youth to Power, Jamie presents the essential guide to changemaking, with advice on writing and pitching op-eds, organizing successful events and peaceful protests, time management as a student activist, utilizing social and traditional media to spread messages, and sustaining long-term intersectional activism.

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Climate Courage: How Tackling Climate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Bridge the Political Divide in America, by Andreas Karelas (Beacon Press 2020, 248 pages, $17.00 paperback)

Andreas Karelas has a message we don’t often hear: we have all the tools we need to solve the climate crisis and doing so will improve our lives, our economy, and our society. But to engage people in the climate fight, we need stories that are empowering, inclusive, and solutions-oriented. Karelas digs into the latest data on the rapidly falling costs and increased efficiencies of clean energy technologies compared to fossil fuels, looks at the rate of job creation in the clean energy sector, and introduces the reader to the inspiring work of climate heroes on both sides of the aisle – from mayors and governors to activists, businesses, and faith communities. Climate Courage shows us how we can create a sustainable economy that works for everyone.

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The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America, by Jenny Rowland-Shea, Sahir Doshi, Shanna Edberg, and Robert Fanger (Center for American Progress 2020, free download available here)

Using a new analysis by Conservation Science Partners (CSP), commissioned by Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and the Center for American Progress, this report supplements the many individual voices and grassroots efforts that have been working to solve the inequities and injustices in American natural resource policy. The report confirms the scale of racial and economic disparities in access to nature. It finds that there are fewer forests, streams, wetlands, and other natural places near where Black, Latino, and Asian American people live. Notably, families with children – especially families of color with children – have less access to nature nearby than the rest of the country. In other words, these communities are nature deprived.

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Climate Change and Digital Advertising: Climate Science Disinformation in Facebook Advertising, by InfluenceMap (Influence Map 2020, 36 pages, free download available – after registering with website)

Facebook has a wealth of information on its 2.7 billion monthly active users, presenting advertisers with unparalleled opportunities to promote a brand or message in a highly targeted and effective manner. In September, Facebook launched its Climate Science Information Center, stating it is “committed to tackling climate misinformation” through its existing fact-checking program. New research from InfluenceMap reveals that even under this new program anti-climate groups are using Facebook’s advertising platform and unique targeting abilities to spread disinformation about the science of climate change. This report analyzes the presence, messaging strategies, and spread of climate disinformation ads on Facebook’s platforms.

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Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet, by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin (Penguin Random House 2020, 192 pages, $18.95 paperback)

In this compelling new book, Noam Chomsky, the world’s leading public intellectual, and Robert Pollin, a renowned progressive economist, map out the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate change – and present a realistic blueprint for change: the Green New Deal. Arguing against the misplaced fear of economic disaster and unemployment arising from the transition to a green economy, they show how this bogus concern encourages climate denialism. Humanity must stop burning fossil fuels within the next thirty years and do so in a way that improves living standards and opportunities for working people. Climate change is an emergency that cannot be ignored. This book shows how it can be met, both politically and economically.

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Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States, by Leah Cardamore Stokes (Oxford University Press 2020, 336 pages, $29.95 paperback)

In 1999, Texas passed a landmark clean energy law, auguring a groundswell of new policies that would make the US a world leader in renewable energy. As Leah Stokes shows in Short Circuiting Policy, however, that policy did not lead to momentum in Texas. Examining clean energy laws in Texas, Kansas, Arizona, and Ohio over a thirty-year time frame, Stokes argues that the conflict between advocate and opponent interest groups is central to explaining why states are not on track to address the climate crisis. More than a history of energy policy, Short Circuiting Policy offers a bold new argument about how the policy process works, and why seeming victories can turn into losses when the opposition has the resources to roll back laws.

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Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System, by Climate Related Market Risk Subcommittee (Commodity Futures Trading Commission 2020, 196 pages, free download available here)

Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System is the first of-its-kind effort from a U.S. government entity. When the Market Risk Advisory Committee convened to examine climate change-related financial risks in June 2019, it also initiated this effort to examine climate-related impacts on the financial system itself. The work involved both private market participants from all sectors of the economy, including the academy, as well as government entities across the globe, including more than 40 central banks and supervisors like the European Central Bank, the World Bank, and the People’s Bank of China. The report presents 53 recommendations to mitigate the risks to financial markets posed by climate change and its direct and indirect impacts.

America’s New Climate Economy: A Comprehensive Guide to the Economic Benefits of Climate Policy in the United States, byDevashree Saha and Joel Jaeger (World Resources Institute 2020, 66 pages, free download available here).

This working paper draws on the latest economic research to demonstrate how climate policy and investments in low-carbon infrastructure can reboot America’s economy and set it up for long-term success. The United States has made substantial progress towards a low-carbon economy over the past several years. Low-carbon technologies have become more efficient and affordable, and U.S. clean energy investment and deployment grew to new heights, creating millions of jobs. Whether this continues will depend on how the government responds to the COVID-19 crisis. Inequalities highlighted by the crisis make it clear that the U.S. must ensure that climate policies are fair and equitable and ensuring that the benefits of climate policies are shared by all.

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State of Climate Action: Assessing Progress from 2030 to 2050, by Katie Lebling et al (World Resources Institute 2020, 128 pages, free download available – after registering with website)

To keep the window open to limit global warming to 1.5 C, countries need to accelerate transformation towards a net-zero emissions future across all sectors at a far faster pace than recent trends, according to this report from World Resources Institute and ClimateWorks Foundation, with input from Climate Action Tracker. The rapid transformation needed to halve emissions by 2030 will require significant financial investments, technology transfer and capacity-building for developing countries. Estimates indicate that between $1.6 and $3.8 trillion per year will be needed through 2050 to transform the energy system alone. Countries, businesses, philanthropy and others must urgently put in place policies, incentives and financial investments to accelerate us toward that safer, prosperous and more equitable future.

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...