For this year’s holidays, Yale Climate Connections is posting two bookshelves.
The first, for occasional climate readers, consists of new books in popular genres like nature writing, history, current events, advice, and fiction.
The second shelf of titles, presented below, is for the climate activists and academics on your gift list, the sort who can digest books written in more academic prose, published by university presses, and focused on specific aspects of climate change. If you’re shopping for someone who fits this description, then take this further assurance: Most of the titles in this list are so new that there’s little chance they’re already on the shelf of your intended recipient.
Leading off the list are three titles that deepen our understanding of already recognized problems: the fossil-fuel-funded far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change, the net-negative effects of rising CO2 levels on the plants on which humanity relies (contrary to the “CO2 is plant food” meme popularized by climate “deniers”), and the role climate change is already playing in accelerating global migration.
The next three titles reaffirm an old but often forgotten maxim: “think global, act local.” When it comes to mitigation and adaptation, which often include technological innovation, the most effective solutions emerge from the bottom-up rather than the top down. One needs to see and feel both the particulars of the climate problem to be solved and the consequences, intended and unintended, of attempts to address it.
The last six titles explore a common, paradoxical proposition: the real barriers to action on climate change are our habits of mind. We don’t know how to calibrate a problem when the horizon for what is possible keeps shifting. The apocalyptic stories we tell ourselves about the way the world works — and ends — make corrective change more difficult. And our social norms and interactions often blinker our perceptions of our choices. Thus, some of the work of adapting to climate change must be done on ourselves.
And that work can begin by gifting one of these books.
As with all of Yale Climate Connection’s monthly bookshelves, the descriptions of the titles are adapted from copy provided by the publishers.
The Petroleum Papers: Insider the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change by Geoff Dembicki (Greystone Books 2022, 256 pages, $27.95)
In The Petroleum Papers, investigative journalist Geoff Dembicki tells the story of how the American oil companies that founded the tar sands in Alberta, Canada—home to the third-biggest oil reserves on the planet—ignored warnings about climate devastation as early as 1959. Instead of alerting the world to act on this impending global disaster, Exxon, Koch Industries, Shell and others created ad campaigns saying climate change isn’t real and that alternatives to oil are an economic disaster. With experts now warning we have less than a decade to get global emissions under control, The Petroleum Papers provides a step-by-step account of how we got to this precipice and the politicians and companies who deserve our blame.
Greenhouse Planet: How Rising CO2 Changes Plants and Life as We Know It by Lewis H. Ziska (Columbia University Press 2022, 240 pages, $24.95)
Greenhouse Planet reveals the stakes of increased CO2 for plants, people, and ecosystems—from crop yields to seasonal allergies and from wildfires to biodiversity. Veteran plant biologist Lewis H. Ziska describes the importance of plants for food, medicine, and culture and explores the complex ways higher CO2 concentrations alter the systems on which humanity relies. Ziska confronts the claim that “CO2 is plant food,” a longtime conservative talking point. While not exactly false, it is deeply misleading. CO2 doesn’t just make “good” plants grow; it makes all plants grow. It makes poison ivy more poisonous, kudzu more prolific, cheatgrass more flammable. Many crops grow more abundantly but also become less nutritious. Greenhouse Planet is an indispensable book for all readers interested in the ripple effects of increasing CO2.
Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape the World by Gaia Vince (Macmillan Publishers 2022, 288 pages, $28.99)
Drought-hit regions bleeding those for whom a rural life has become untenable. Coastlines diminishing year on year. Wildfires and hurricanes leaving widening swaths of destruction. The cause is climate change, but not enough of us are willing to confront one of its biggest consequences: a total reshaping of the earth’s human geography. Global migration has doubled in the past decade, on track to see literal billions displaced in the coming decades. How will this new great migration reshape us all? In Nomad Century, Vince draws on a career of environmental reporting and over two years of travel to the front lines of climate migration across the globe, to tell us how the changes already in play will transform our food, our cities, our politics, and much more. Her findings are answers we all need, now more than ever.
Fixing the Climate: Strategies for an Uncertain World by Charles F. Sabel and David G. Victor (Princeton University Press 2022, 256 pages, $24.95)
Global climate diplomacy—from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement—is not working. Despite decades of sustained negotiations by world leaders, the climate crisis continues to worsen. The solution is within our grasp—but we will not achieve it through top-down global treaties or grand bargains among nations. Charles Sabel and David Victor explain why the profound transformations needed for deep cuts in emissions must arise locally, with government and business working together. They show how some of the most iconic successes in environmental policy—like the Montreal Protocol and the rise of electric vehicles—were products of this experimentalist approach. Fixing the Climate is a road map to institutional design that can finally lead to reductions in emissions that years of global diplomacy failed to deliver.
Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future by James Morton Turner (University of Washington Press 2022, 256 pages, $34.95)
To achieve fossil fuel independence, few technologies are more important than batteries. Used for powering zero-emission vehicles, storing electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and revitalizing the electric grid, batteries are essential to scaling up the renewable energy resources that help address global warming. In Charged, James Morton Turner unpacks the history of batteries to explore why solving “the battery problem” is critical to a clean energy transition. As activists focus on what a clean energy future will create—sustainability, resiliency, and justice—the history of batteries offers a sharp reminder of what building that future will consume: lithium, graphite, nickel, and other specialized materials. With new insight, Turner draws on the past for lessons that will help us build a just and clean energy future—from the ground up.
Climate Change Adaptation: An Earth Institute Sustainability Primer by Lisa Dale (Columbia University Press 2022, 216 pages, $20.00 paperback)
Climate change policy has typically emphasized mitigation, calling for reducing emissions and shifting away from fossil fuels. But these efforts have floundered even as floods, wildfires, droughts, and other disasters became more frequent and potent. As risks escalate, we must ask how to adapt to a changing climate. In clear, accessible language that draws on her expertise in sustainable development, Lisa Dale describes key strategies that governments, communities, and the private sector are deploying in order to govern climate adaptation. She presents the theory and practice that underlie efforts at local and global scales, providing illuminating case studies that foreground the problems facing developing countries. Her book is an invaluable introduction for all readers interested in how societies can meet the challenges of an altered climate.
Horizon Work: At the Edges of Knowledge in an Age of Runaway Climate Change by Adriana Petryna (Princeton University Press 2022, 224 pages, $26.95)
Anthropologist Adriana Petryna examines the climate crisis through the lens of “horizoning,” a mode of reckoning that considers unnatural disasters against a horizon of expectation in which people and societies can act. She talks to wildfire scientists who, amid chaotic fire seasons and shifting fire behaviors, are revising predictive models calibrated to conditions that no longer exist. She tells the stories of firefighters who could once rely on memory of previous fires to gauge the behaviors of the next. But sometimes the very concept of projection becomes untenable. Yet if all we see is doom, we will overlook something crucial about the labor needed to hold back climate chaos. Horizon Work reveals how this new way of thinking can reverse harmful legacies while creating spaces for collective action and recoverable futures.
An Inconvenient Apocalypse: Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity by Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen (University of Notre Dame Press 2022, 184 pages, $24.00 paperback)
For decades, our world has understood that we are on the brink of an apocalypse—and yet the only implemented solutions have been small and convenient, feel-good initiatives that avoid unpleasant truths about the root causes of our impending disaster. The climate crisis has already progressed beyond nondisruptive solutions. The only question now about the end result is how bad it will be. Though the challenge can feel overwhelming, Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen use a secular reading of theological concepts—the prophetic, the apocalyptic, a saving remnant, and grace—to chart a realistic path for humanity not only to survive our apocalypse but also to emerge on the other side with a renewed appreciation of the larger living world.
Beyond Climate Breakdown: Envisioning New Stories of Radical Hope by Peter Friederici (The MIT Press 2022, 200 pages, $25.00 paperback)
Why is society unable to grasp the enormity of climate change? In Beyond Climate Breakdown, Peter Friederici writes that the answer must come in the form of a story, and that our miscomprehension of the climate crisis comes about because we have been telling the wrong stories. These stories are pervasive; they come from long narrative traditions, sanctioned by capitalism and Hollywood, and they revolve around a myth: that the nation is primarily a setting for economic activity. The story that “the economy” takes priority over everything else may seem foreordained, but it actually reflects choices made by specific people out of self-interest. So we need new stories—stories that center the persistence of life, rather than of capitalism, stories that embrace contradiction and complexity.
The Climate Crisis: Science, Impacts, Policy, Psychology, Justice, Social Movements by Adam Aron (Cambridge University Press 2022, 350 pages, $34.99 paperback)
Why, despite all we know about the causes and harms of global heating, has so little effective action been taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions? This book explains the mechanisms and impacts of the climate crisis, traces the history and reasons behind the lack of serious effort to combat it, describes some people’s ongoing skepticism and how to shift it, and advances an urgent program of action. It argues that the pathway to stopping dangerous global heating will require a much larger mobilization of advocacy and activism to impel decision makers to abandon fossil fuels, and to transition to renewable energies, in a political and social framework guided by principles of justice. It is an excellent resource for students and researchers on the climate crisis, the need for a renewable energy transition, and the current blocks to progress.
Children’s Health & the Peril of Climate Change by Frederica Perera (Oxford University Press 2022, 248 pages, $35.00)
Children’s Health and the Peril of Climate Change brings to light the mental and physical harms to children’s health inflicted by climate change and its root cause–our addiction to fossil fuel. Drawing on the author’s extensive expertise in children’s environmental health, this essential and thought-provoking text exposes the unique vulnerability of the developing child and the multiple and synergistic effects of climate change and air pollution on child health, especially for disadvantaged children. But the book also presents a roadmap to a brighter future with case studies of climate change and air pollution policies that have benefitted children’s health and the economy. Frederica Perera’s timely book is a call to action to replace denial and despair around climate change with purpose and commitment for a healthier, more sustainable future.
Sustainable Solutions: The Climate Crisis and the Psychology of Social Action by Robert G. Jones (American Psychological Association 2022, 205 pages, $34.99 paperback)
A sustainable future requires more than just technological innovation. We must change the way we think and behave to avoid environmental catastrophe. In this book, Robert G. Jones combines insights from biological adaptation with a psychological analysis of the ways in which we identify problems, consider solutions, and take action. He examines the complicated web of behaviors and motivations that underlie our sustainability problem, and identifies actions social scientists, policymakers, and individuals can take to help transform ourselves, and our planet. For centuries, human beings have transformed our physical environment to service our needs and desires. But today, with the looming threats of climate change, we must learn to adapt ourselves in order to create a sustainable planet for our children and grandchildren.