Global Climate Change: Five Books to Help You Understand
Ahhh, climate change. We hear about it in the news all the time. Just yesterday I saw that the already infamous British vessel, Boaty McBoatface, has made some interesting discoveries about Antarctic winds and rising sea temperatures on its maiden voyage. We learn new things about our changing planet every day.
Is this a politically charged issue? You'd better believe it. Global climate change has been a hot topic for a couple decades now, and seems to keep getting more and more tempestuous. And with good reason. The very place every human being we have ever known calls and has called home is changing to the point where the survival of our species could very well be at risk in the considerable future. We can see the impacts of climate change today, in very visible and tangible ways.
Yet there continues to be this disbelief, this denial that somehow, humans are responsible for any of it. "It all happens naturally," deniers say. "We have no impact on climate change."
Really? And the truly fun thing is that scientists can cite facts and figures until they are blue in the face, and these deniers will just keep coming up with more and more excuses and false science, much of which is from studies sponsored by the oil industry and other places that benefit from the destruction of our environment.
I've been spending a lot of time brushing up on my climate change science. In school, when I studied for a dual degree in physics and astronomy, I had to take courses on meteorology and geology to help my understanding of planetary sciences, but since then, we've learned so much more about our planet Earth, and there are a lot of new books out there that explain things in terms laypeople can understand. We live in an age where information is more accessible that ever before.
There are a ton of books out there on the topic, but here are five to help get folks started:
1. An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. This book has a lot of the same information as the documentary by the same name, but of course, in printed form where you can reference the graphs and go back to understand things further. There are great graphics in this as well. This is part state of the planet report, part memoir, since Al Gore has dedicated much of his life to educating the public around the world about global climate change.
2. Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC, by Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump. This is an excellent overview of global climate change, and is based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 report. This book explains the basics of how climate works, how climate change happens, what the impacts of climate change are, and what we can expect to see in the future. There is also section on steps we can take to solve some of the climate change issue, and things we can do to stop it from getting worse via our actions.
3. Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, by Elizabeth Kolbert. This is a very readable and informative book by the author of The Sixth Extinction. Kolbert chronicles her experiences in the field, talking to scientists and regular people about their experiences with climate change. She explores topics of melting sea ice, ocean acidification, and tar sand. There is a lot in here about very real effects of global climate change, and the book is a strong case for why we can't ignore this any longer. She also has a great section of suggested reading in the back.
4. Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World, by Bill Nye. Bill Nye has been one of the strongest proponents of science in the past couple decades, and this book captures many of his thoughts on climate change, spoken from the point of view of not only a scientist, but an engineer. His book captures his passion about the subject as well as his optimism that we can, indeed, make a difference and change things for the better.
5. This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein.Rob Nixon from The New York Times Book Review calls this book "The most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring." Indeed, there are some very "inconvenient truths" in this book that explores the connections between capitalism and the environment, and how going green and stopping climate change is not in the best interest of many industries, and our country's economic system as it stands today. It's a longer book and pretty dense, one of the more challenging in this list, but it's something that definitely deserves attention. It's a topic that gets a lot of resistance, but I would really encourage people to look at it with an open mind.
In the trailer for An Inconvenient Sequel, we can see Al Gore getting fired up like we've never seen him before. And who can blame him? This is important stuff. I'll be writing a lot more about climate change in the upcoming months, in the hopes of helping shed some light on this subject. Hopefully I will help dispel some myths and misinformation, and also will help inspire folks to become more active in this fight. Because it is, indeed, a fight. It's a fight for our future, our grandchildren's future, and also, for the futures of millions of species of life on this planet. And it is something we very much have an element of control over. So stay tuned!