The best books on climate change today and in the past

Brian Fagan Author Of The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
By Brian Fagan

Who am I?

Brian Fagan is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of numerous books about archaeology, the past, and climate change for general audiences. I was asked to write my first climate change book (on El Niños) and was astounded to find that few archaeologists or historians focused on the subject, whether ancient or modern. Now that’s all changed, thanks to the revolution in paleoclimatology. I’m convinced that the past has much to tell us about climate change in the future. Apart from that, the subject is fascinating and vital.

I wrote...

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization

By Brian Fagan,

Book cover of The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization

What is my book about?

Humanity evolved in an Ice Age in which glaciers covered much of the world. But starting about 15,000 years ago, temperatures began to climb. Civilization and all of recorded history occurred in this warm period, the era known as the Holocene-the long summer of the human species. In The Long Summer, Brian Fagan brings us the first detailed record of climate change during these 15,000 years of warming and shows how this climate change gave rise to civilization. A thousand-year chill led people in the Near East to take up the cultivation of plant foods; a catastrophic flood drove settlers to inhabit Europe; the drying of the Sahara forced its inhabitants to live along the banks of the Nile, and increased rainfall in East Africa provoked the bubonic plague.

The Long Summer illuminates for the first time the centuries-long pattern of human adaptation to the demands and challenges of an ever-changing climate-challenges that are still with us today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

Why did I love this book?

Bill Gates has a unique, global perspective on far more than climate change. He has consulted experts in many relevant fields, as well as drawing on his unrivaled experience of innovation. This is a book that is, above all, about electrification and the rapidly falling costs of new power sources. It is not political discourse but is valuable for lay readers.

By Bill Gates,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked How to Avoid a Climate Disaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical - and accessible - plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions…

Book cover of The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet

Why did I love this book?

Mann has been on the front lines of the climate change battle for a long time. Here he describes some of the ways fossil fuel companies have attempted to deflect blame for the climate crisis onto all of us. This important book draws the battle lines and lays out a plan for forcing governments and corporations to make real changes. An important, very timely book.

By Michael E. Mann,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The New Climate War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the FT/McKinsey Business Book of the Year award

A renowned climate scientist shows how fossil fuel companies have waged a thirty-year campaign to deflect blame and responsibility and delay action on climate change, and offers a battle plan for how we can save the planet.

Recycle. Fly less. Eat less meat. These are some of the ways that we've been told can slow climate change. But the inordinate emphasis on individual behavior is the result of a marketing campaign that has succeeded in placing the responsibility for fixing climate change squarely on the shoulders of individuals.

Fossil fuel…

Book cover of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Why did I love this book?

The essays in this remarkable book offer ideas and potential solutions that are sometimes breathtakingly simple but always forward-looking. This book describes 100 solutions for drawing down greenhouse gasses. Eighty percent of them are already in use. He urges us to concentrate on solutions rather than describing the problems.

By Paul Hawken (editor),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Drawdown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

• New York Times bestseller •

The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world

“At this point in time, the Drawdown book is exactly what is needed; a credible, conservative solution-by-solution narrative that we can do it. Reading it is an effective inoculation against the widespread perception of doom that humanity cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. Reported by-effects include increased determination and a sense of grounded hope.” —Per Espen Stoknes, Author, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming…

Book cover of The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War, and the Famine History Forgot

Why did I love this book?

The Third Horseman combines a discussion of climate change with a major disaster, the great famine of the fourteenth century. Vividly written and fast-paced, this well-written book makes history enjoyable. The author wears his research lightly, which makes for a rattling good story. Not a global book, but it will make you think.

By William Rosen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Third Horseman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The incredible true story of how a cycle of rain, cold, disease, and warfare created the worst famine in European history—years before the Black Death, from the author of Justinian's Flea and the forthcoming Miracle Cure

In May 1315, it started to rain. For the seven disastrous years that followed, Europeans would be visited by a series of curses unseen since the third book of Exodus: floods, ice, failures of crops and cattle, and epidemics not just of disease, but of pike, sword, and spear. All told, six million lives—one-eighth of Europe’s total population—would be lost.

With a category-defying knowledge…

Book cover of A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe's Encounter with North America

Why did I love this book?

Written by a first-rate historian of wide learning, this is one of those rare books that causes one to rethink your assumptions about history. White brings climate change to the forefront in a book that ranges widely over the European settlement of America and looks at it from a climatic perspective. This is technically an academic book but is so nicely written that you’ll be glued to the page.

By Sam White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cold Welcome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Europeans first arrived in North America, they faced a cold new world. The average global temperature had dropped to lows unseen in millennia, and its effects were stark and unpredictable: blizzards and deep freezes, droughts and famines, and winters when even the Rio Grande froze. This period of climate change has come to be known as the Little Ice Age, and it played a decisive role in Europe's encounter with the lands and peoples of North America. In A Cold Welcome, Sam White tells the story of this crucial period in world history, from Europe's earliest expeditions in an…

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