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.

The books I picked & why

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

By Bill Gates,

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

Why 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.


The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet

By Michael E. Mann,

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

Why 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.


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

By Paul Hawken (editor),

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

Why 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.


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

By William Rosen,

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

Why 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.


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

By Sam White,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in global warming, Colonial America, and famine?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about global warming, Colonial America, and famine.

Global Warming Explore 52 books about global warming
Colonial America Explore 35 books about Colonial America
Famine Explore 16 books about famine

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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