Climate Change Reading

As part of consuming less news, I made it a goal to read more books. One of the first topics I tackled was climate change. Let’s take a pause here. Climate change is not an opinion or hoax, it is supported by science from every angle over a long period of time1. Now that we have that out there, I’d like to recommend three of the books I read.

Planetary Boundaries

Big World, Small Planet by Johan Rockström2 discusses how in two generations, we’ve overwhelmed the earth and ”went from a small world on a big planet to a big world on a small planet”. There are planetary boundaries (greenhouse gases, ocean acidification, etc.) that we must stay within or we risk going to a point of no return. While we have an idea what will happen if we exceed the boundaries, we can be sure there will be some catastrophic surprises. The author goes on to discuss how we can still succeed economically and as a society while remaining within the boundaries. In order to do this, we need to change our mindset and spark innovations to solve the issues at hand. If you want to be informed about the science and be inspired by some great photography, I highly recommend this book3.

Human Capability to Change

Earth in Human Hands by David Grinspoon is a much longer read. Being more of an academic book, it weighs in at over 500 pages with numerous footnotes and references. Regardless, I found it an intriguing read. The author is an astrobiologist and discusses how Earth’s climate got to where it is, as well as research on other planets’ climates. He discusses how we can learn from this research to help imagine what might happen to Earth if we don’t make changes. Overall, this book takes a much more optimistic tone (on a long term time scale) and is a proponent of engineering the planet to make sure we keep the climate under control.

Climate Denial

The Madhouse Effect by Michael E. Mann is a quick, but excellent read. Combined with satirical cartoons, the author discusses climate denial and how we got into the current political mess surrounding climate change4. The author is skeptical of geoengineering5 and doesn’t see how we feasibly could move to another planet in the next several generations6. His solution is that we must work toward clean energy so we can keep fossil fuels in the ground.

  1. See the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and National Academies
  2. For a brief overview of the main points from the author, check out the book’s website
  3. I read the book on Kindle, but I’ve heard that the physical book is beautiful. 
  4. This book was published during the 2016 election campaign, and seems to be a bit more optimistic than it would be now. That part is a little painful… 
  5. We might make a mistake, and we don’t have another Earth to experiment on. 
  6. Although, Elon Musk is working on it