Book Lists

8 Books That Will Help You Talk About Climate Change So People Will Listen

There’s a superb article in the September edition of The Atlantic by Charles C. Mann, “How To Talk About Climate Change So People Will Listen.” According to Mann, the climate change debate is derailed by two factions. Environmentalists argue that humanity is nearing the apocalypse; economists counter that in the long run, innovation and smart policy will solve our problems. “Both envelop themselves in the mantle of Science, emitting a fug of charts and graphs… [And] for all the hot air expended on the subject, we still don’t know how to talk about climate change.”

Mann reviewed eight books in his article, each with a different but equally intelligent perspective on the debate. I’ve listed each book below.

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future

1The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future by Paul Sabin

"In 1980, [Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon] wagered $1,000 on the prices of five metals ten years hence. If the prices rose, as Ehrlich predicted, it would imply that these resources were growing scarcer, as Homo sapiens plundered the planet. If the prices fell, this would be a sign that markets and human cleverness had made the metals relatively less scarce: progress was continuing. Prices dropp. Enrlich paid up, insisting disingenuously that he had been 'schnookered...' The bet demonstrated little about the environment but much about environmental politics."

A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism

2A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism by Patrick Allitt

"As an issue, climate change is perfect for symbolic battle, because it is as yet mostly invisible. Carbon dioxide, its main cause, is not emitted in billowing black clouds, like other pollutants; nor is it caustic, smelly, or poisonous. A side effect of modernity, it has for now a tiny practical impact on most people's lives. To be sure, I remember winters as being colder in my childhood, but I also remember my home then as a vast castle and my parents as godlike beings."

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future

3Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future by Dale Jamieson

"[Climate charts] are meaningful to climatologists who make them. But for the typical citizen they are muddle, too abstract--too much like 10th-grade homework--to be convincing, let alone to motivate action. In the history of our species, has any human heart ever been profoundly stirred by a graph? Some other approach, proselytizers have recognized, is needed."

Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

4Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist by Bill McKibben

"The only solution to our ecological woes, McKibben argues, is to live simpler, more local, less resource-intensive existences--something he believes is already occurring. 'After a long era of getting big and distant,' he writes, 'our economy, and maybe our culture, has started to make a halting turn toward the small and local.' Not only will this shift let us avoid the worst consequences of climate change, it will have the happy side effect of turning a lot of unpleasant multinational corporations to ash."

The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings

5The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings by Pascal Bruckner

"A bestselling, telegenic public intellectual (a species that hardly exists in this country), Bruckner is mainly going after what he calls 'ecologism,' of which McKibbenites are exemplars. At base, he says, ecologism seeks not to save nature but to purify humankind through self-flagellating asceticism."

BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever

6BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever by Tony Horwitz

"The ranchers and farmers in Tony Horwitz's Boom, a deft and something sobering e-book, suggest Bruckner may be on to something. Horwitz, possibly best known for his study of Civil War reenactors, Confederates in the Attic, travels along the proposed path of the Keystone XL, a controversial pipeline intended to take oil from Alberta's tar-sands complex to refineries in Steele City, Nebraska--and the project McKibben has used as the rallying cry for 350.org."

The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World

7The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William D. Nordhaus

"[William] Nordhaus provides graphs (!) showing how a gradually increasing tax--or, possibly, a market in emissions permits--would slowly and steadily ratchet down global carbondioxide output. The problem, as he admits, is that the projected reduction 'assumes full participation...' Nordhaus's declaration that a global carbon tax is a simple answer is like arguing that the simple answer to death is repealing the Second Law of Thermodynamics."

A Case for Climate Engineering

8A Case for Climate Engineering by David Keith

"A Case for Climate Engineering is a short book arguing that we should study spraying the stratosphere with tiny glittering droplets of sulfuric acid that bounce sunlight back into space, reducing the Earth's temperature. Physically speaking, the notion is feasible... [But] Keith is candid about the drawbacks. Not only does geo-engineering involve tinkering with planetary systems we only partially understand, it can't cancel out, even in theory, greenhouse problems like altered rainfall patterns and increased ocean acidity."

SHARE
comments powered by Disqus
Get 250 words delivered to your inbox
Plus, get a FREE EBOOK when you join.
Offer expires 9/30/14 redeemable on Bookshout.com.
See Terms and Conditions and this month's selections
250 Words

The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph

What does it mean to be stoic? In first century AD, the Roman philosopher and Stoic Seneca the Younger began writing letters to Lucilius, the procurator of Sicily. Seneca riffed on a number of philosophical ideas, but he was especially drawn to misfortune, writing at one point that it “has a way of……

Read More

Blogroll

Sign up for our Newsletter

Plus, get a FREE EBOOK when you join.
Offer expires 9/30/14 redeemable on Bookshout.com.
See Terms and Conditions and this month's selections