James Hansen – Climate Change in a Nutshell. Public awareness of anthropogenic climate change as a danger largely dates to NASA scientist James Hansen’s testimony to the US Congress in 1988 (pictured). This is his relatively short summary of the state of contemporary science. Download it here.
The Talking Climate Handbook. A helpful booklet discussing how best to talk about climate change, something many of us find difficult. Surveys show most people are now worried about climate change, but to drive change we need to make this concern more prominent in our collective culture. Download it here.
Jane Morton – Don’t Mention the Emergency? Continuing the theme of the importance of speaking out, this pamphlet sets out the basic rationale for climate emergency campaigning. Stark, honest communication of a danger is a spur, not a barrier to action, if it is linked to a clear path to effective action. Download it here.
Many of the following books have been the topic of our reading group, which meets once a month. If you would like to join, send us a message. Available in all good bookshops.
Joseph Romm – Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know. A generally reliable overview of the science of climate change, and of the available solutions.
Mark Lynas – Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency. A sequel to Lynas’ classic, Six Degrees, this book sets out the consequences for our world of each degree of warming above pre-industrial temperatures. We have already reached 1 degree, and even the early chapters are scary enough. But we are not going to get out of this crisis if we are not willing to look it in the face.
David Wallace-Wells – The Uninhabitable Earth. Speaking of staring gorgons in the face, this book explores worst case scenarios. Frequently terrifying, but ultimately also inspires a kind of hope in refusing to conclude that all is lost. Wallace-Wells argues that any limiting of warming is worth fighting for: if we go over 2 degrees, disastrous as that will be, it is still worth fighting to prevent 3 degrees, or 4 degrees.
Tim Flannery – Atmosphere of Hope. An attempt at an optimistic view of the resources available to us to meet the environmental crisis. Covers lots of interesting technical solutions, including the capacity for carbon drawdown by massive sea plantations of kelp. something we don’t hear about often enough.
Mike Berners-Lee – How Bad Are Bananas? The best popular guide to the carbon footprint of the stuff we use, and the actions we take, both individually and collectively. But remember that the idea of a carbon footprint was invented by BP to shift blame from fossil fuel companies to individuals. Individual action is important, but much of our carbon footprint is emitted on our behalf by economic actors we have little control over as individuals. Climate change is inescapably political and political economic.
Chris Goodall – What We Need to Do Now. An up to date survey of how Britain can reach net zero. Covers all areas, but a central argument is for massive expansion of renewable energy, with surpluses used to produce hydrogen for otherwise hard to decarbonise issues, like heating.
Joshua Becker – The More of Less. Minimalism is a philosophical attitude that focuses on freeing ourselves from consumerism. It is typically about happiness in life rather than sustainability, though this connection is now beginning to be made in recent books. But perhaps it is better to start with a book that focuses on the basic idea.
Kate Raworth – Doughnut Economics. Environmental critique of mainstream economics, with lots of good suggestions for alternatives. But ducks questions about markets, capitalism, and their possible alternatives, that remain fundamental.
Ann Pettifor – The Case for the Green New Deal. Makes the case for the Green New Deal. We know from IPCC reports and books like Flannery and Goodall’s, that it is scientifically possible to limit and, eventually, reverse global warming. But mainstream economists argue that we cannot afford to do this. By contrast, Pettifor argues that “we can afford what we can do”. Put that way, it’s hard to disagree. If it comes down to our planet or our economy, surely we need to change our economy.
Jason Hickel – Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World. Unpacks the metaphor of “growth”. Argues that we cannot decarbonise our economy and continue to grow it indefinitely at the same time. Argues that the drive to infinite expansion of capitalist economies, and the state goal of increasing national GDP must both be replaced by economies oriented to the good of human beings and the restitution of nature, in a globally equitable way.
Kim Stanley Robinson – The Ministry for the Future. A novel that attempts to imagine how the world might actually resolve the climate crisis. Centres on the efforts of a new UN Ministry for the Future set up to defend the rights of future generations. Long, and maybe better listened to as an audiobook, but a fascinating global narrative covering issues in politics, law and economics, to geoengineering, for the most part in an engaging way.