Memorial Day Weekend typically triggers a change in expectations. Afterwards, Americans expect to be baked by summer’s rising temperatures. With that seasonal metaphor in mind, this month’s bookshelf offers a baker’s dozen of titles on the science, history, geography, politics, social ethics, technology, and psychology of climate change. 

The list leads with the State of the Global Climate just released by the World Meteorological Organization; the report interprets meteorological data collected in 2021 for what it indicates about the changing climate. 

Thereafter, books are paired with reports on different aspects of climate change. 

For the start of the 2022 hurricane season, this month’s bookshelf reaches back to historian Eric Jay Dolin’s 2020 account of 500 years of American hurricanes. Dolin’s book is then paired with the March 2022 update on projected sea-level rise and implications for coastal communities in the U.S. 

Fire is next on the list, with the global political overview provided by Global Burning and the First Street Foundation’s property-by-property analysis of fire risks faced by American homeowners. 

The very different consequences climate impacts, like floods and fires, will have on the vulnerable, both in the U.S and worldwide, are the focus of the next pair. 

The epic inability of the U.S. to address causes and consequences of climate change is then addressed by journalist Eugene Linden’s new book (see separate YCC review here) and by InfluenceMap’s new report on finance and climate change. 

The dismal messages delivered by Linden and InfluenceMap are at least partly offset by the “solutions” presented in the new book Super Charge Me and in a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency 

Wrapping up the list are a new book and a recent report on the psychological toll on youths of increasing “climate anxiety.” Thankfully, both works review techniques for enhancing resilience. 

As always, the descriptions of the titles are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. When two dates of publication are offered, the latter marks the release of the paperback edition. 


State of the Global Climate 2021, by WMO Research Staff (World Meteorological Organization 2022, 57 pages, free download available here

State of Global Climate 2021 provides a summary on the state of the climate indicators in 2021 including the global temperatures trend and its distribution around the globe; most recent finding on greenhouse gas concentrations; ocean indicators; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice; Greenland ice sheets,glaciers and snow cover; stratospheric ozone; multi-decadal events, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation; global precipitation distribution over land; extreme events, including those related to tropical cyclones and wind storms; and flooding, drought and extreme heat and cold events. The report also provides recent finding on climate-related risks and impacts, including on food security, humanitarian and population displacement aspects and impact on ecosystems.

See also Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a More Resilient Future, the 2022 Global Risk Assessment Report from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. 

A Furious Sky: The Five Hundre Year History of America’s Hurricanes, by Eric Jay Dolin (W.W. Norton 2020/2021, 432 pages, $18.95 paperback) 

Weaving together tales of tragedy and folly, of heroism and scientific progress, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin shows how hurricanes have determined the course of American history, from the nameless storms that threatened the New World voyages to our own era of global warming and megastorms. Along the way, Dolin introduces a rich cast of unlikely heroes, and forces us to reckon with the reality that future storms will likely be worse, unless we reimagine our relationship with theplanet. A Furious Sky is, ultimately, a story of a changing climate, and it forces us to reckon with the reality that as bad as the past has been, the future will probably be worse – unless we drastically reimagine our relationship with the planet.

Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, by W.V. Sweet et al (U.S. Geological Survey / NOAA 2022, 111 pages, free download available here)

This report provides 1) sea level rise scenarios to 2150 by decade that include estimates of vertical land motion and 2) a set of extreme water level probabilities for various heights along the U.S. coastline. Estimates of flood exposure are assessed using contemporary U.S. coastal flood-severity thresholds for current conditions (e.g., sea levels and infrastructure footprint) and for the next 30 years, assuming no additional risk reduction measures are enacted. In particular, the set of global mean sea level rise scenarios from that 2017 task force report are updated and downscaled with data from the United Nations’ IPCC Sixth Assessment Report. As with the 2017 report, these global mean sea level rise scenarios are regionalized for the U.S. coastline. 

Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis, by Eve Darian Smith (Stanford University Press 2022, 230 pages, $22.00 paperback)

Recent years have seen out-of-control wildfires rage across remote Brazilian rainforests, densely populated California coastlines, and major cities in Australia. What connects these separate events is more than immediate devastation and human loss of life. In Global Burning, Eve Darian-Smith contends that fire serves as a symbolic and literal thread connecting different places around the world and thereby allows us to better understand the growth of authoritarian politics, the climate crises, and their interconnected global consequences. In thinking through wildfires as environmental and political phenomenon, Global Burning challenges readers to confront the interlocking powers that are ensuring our future ecological collapse.

The Fifth National Risk Assessment: Fueling the Flames, by FSF Fire Model Partners (First Street Foundation 2022, 135 pages, free download available with registration)

The First Street Foundation Wildfire Model builds upon publicly available data and decades of wildfire research and expertise to estimate wildfire risk on a property-by-property basis across the United States today and up to 30 years into the future. Properties covered include residential, commercial, and critical and social infrastructure. This report provides a high-level overview of the methodology behind the model, a summary of wildfire risk across the nation, and a series of state pages that summarize and provide insight into new findings about wildfire risk. Across the country, there are 49.4M properties with minor wildfire risk; 20.2M properties with moderate risk; 6.0M with major risk; 2.7M with severe risk; and 1.5M properties with extreme risk.

What Climate Justice Means – And Why We Should Care, by Elizabeth Cripps (Bloomsbury Books 2022, 224 pages, $18.00 paperback) 

Philosopher Elizabeth Cripps approaches climate justice not just as an abstract idea but as something that should motivate us all. Using clear reasoning and poignant examples, starting from irrefutable science and uncontroversial moral rules, she explores our obligations to each other and to the non-human world, unravels the legacy of colonialism and entrenched racism, and makes the case for immediate action. The second half of the book looks at solutions. Who should pay the bill for climate action? Who must have a say? How can we hold multinational companies, organizations – even nations – to account? Cripps argues powerfully that climate justice goes beyond political polarization. Climate activism is a moral duty, not a political choice.

Climate – Poverty Connections: Opportunities for Synergistic Solutions at the Intersection of Planetary and Human Well-Being, by Y. Jameel et al (Project Drawdown 2022, 111 pages, free download available here

The Drawdown Lift Human Well-Being Index, introduced in this report, serves as a framework for assessing 12 health, socioeconomic, and societal dimensions of human well-being and for highlighting the nexus between climate mitigation solutions and human well-being. The report then summarizes the co-benefits of 28 Project Drawdown climate solutions that advance human well-being in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries. For example, climate solutions related to improving agriculture and agroforestry can also increase family income. Increased income can lead to better educational outcomes. And better education can improve economic opportunities for women and boost their ability to participate in decision making.

See also the World Inequality Report 2022 from World Inequality Database.

Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change, from 1979 to the Present, by Eugene Linden (Penguin Random House 2022, 336 pages, $28.00) 

Eugine Linden wrote his first story on climate change, for Time magazine, in 1988; it was just the beginning of his investigative work. In Fire and Flood, Linden looks back over the intervening years and explains how and why we failed to act on the early warnings. Fire and Flood shows how devilishly effective moneyed climate-change deniers have been at slowing and even reversing the progress of our collective awakening. When a threat entails future disaster, but addressing it means losing present profit, capitalism’s response has been sadly predictable. Now, however, some industries see the dangers clearly. The insurance industry, for example, now engages in “climate redlining.” The whole system is teetering on the brink. There is a path back from the cliff, but we must pick up the pace. Fire and Flood shows us why, and how.  

Finance and Climate Change: A Comprehensive Climate Assessment of the World’s Largest Financial Institutions, by Research Staff (Influence Map 2022, 44 pages, free download available with registration) 

A comprehensive assessment of the world’s 30 largest listed financial institutions shows a clear disconnect between the concrete short-term targets and actions needed to address the climate emergency and the limited, long-term targets currently being set by the financial sector. This research, a product of InfluenceMap’s FinanceMap platform, seeks to compare the sector’s stated climate policies and commitments to its climate-relevant financing and policy lobbying activities. The report, downloadable on the right, is accompanied by the release of the FinanceMap Finance and Climate Change platform, allowing in-depth investigation of the analysis and findings for each of the financial institutions assessed.

See also The Carbon Bankroll (CSLN, OPO & BankFwd) and Transferred Emissions: How Risks in Oil and Gas M&A Could Hamper the Energy Transition (EDF). 

Supercharge Me: Net Zero Faster, by Eric Lonergan and Corinne Sawers (Columbia University Press 2022, 232 pages, $16.95 paperback) 

Almost everyone has a target for reducing CO2 emissions. The goal is to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees. The striking omission is a coherent framework for action, which empowers individuals and incentivizes nations. Supercharge Me is a fast-paced, clearly-written, manual on how to accelerate the green transition. Written by Eric Lonergan, a leading policy economist and author of the bestseller, Angrynomics, and Corinne Sawers, a sustainability and climate expert, the book introduces the concept of “supercharging,” a new framework for accelerating our response to climate change. Supercharge Me will embolden activists, reinvigorate the disheartened, and reframe the climate crisis as an opportunity.

World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5C Pathway, by Renewable Energy Roadmap and Socio-Economic Teams (International Renewable Energy Agency 2022, 312 pages, free download available here, executive summary here

The World Energy Transitions Outlook outlines a pathway for the world to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and halt the pace of climate change by transforming the global energy landscape. Offering high-level insights on technology choices, investment needs, policy framework and the socio-economic impacts of achieving a sustainable, resilient and inclusive energy future, the report describes ways to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and bring CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. Over 90% of these possible solutions involve renewable energy through direct supply, electrification, energy efficiency, green hydrogen and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage. Innovative solutions are reshaping the energy system. Yet, the deployment levels compatible with 1.5°C will require targeted policies and measures.

See also Renewable Energy Market Update – May 2022 from International Energy Agency. 

Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis, by Britt Wray (Penguin Random House 2022, $24.00) 

Climate and environment-related fears and anxieties are on the rise everywhere. As with any type of stress, eco-anxiety can lead to lead to burnout, avoidance, or a disturbance of daily functioning. In Generation Dread, Britt Wray seamlessly merges scientific knowledge with emotional insight to show how these intense feelings are a healthy response to the troubled state of the world. Weaving in insights from climate-aware therapists, critical perspectives on race and privilege in this crisis, ideas about the future of mental health innovation, and creative coping strategies, Generation Dread brilliantly illuminates how we can learn from the past, from our own emotions, and from each other to survive – and even thrive – in a changing world.

Climate Change and Youth Mental Health: Psychological Impacts, Resilience Resources & Future Directions, by L. Dooley et al (See Change Institute 2021, 90 pages, free download available here)

Young people seem to be particularly vulnerable to the psychological impacts of climate change. Blue Shield of CA’s NextGen Climate survey of 1,200 youth ages 14-24 found that 83% were concerned about the health of the planet, and 75% said that the issue had impacted their mental health. Evaluation is key for improving interventions and maximizing effectiveness, but potential differences in racial, ethnic, gender, and age subgroups must be respected. This report (1) synthesizes a decade of research on climate and mental health with a focus on youth and BIPOC, (2) shares a framework of climate anxiety interventions, and (3) highlights promising approaches in schools, families, communities, and clinical settings for climate anxiety support. 

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...