The best books on the climate change debate: a clarion call to avoid a catastrophe

Bruce E. Johansen Author Of The Global Warming Desk Reference
By Bruce E. Johansen

Who am I?

As a professor of Environment, Communication, and Native American Studies, Johansen taught, researched, and wrote at the University of Nebraska at Omaha from 1982 to 2019, retiring to emeritus status as Frederick W. Kayser research professor. He has published 55 books in several fields: history, anthropology, law, the Earth sciences, and others. Johansen’s writing has been published, debated, and reviewed in many academic venues, among them the William and Mary Quarterly, American Historical Review, Current History, and Nature, as well as in many popular newspapers and magazines, such as The New York Times and The National Geographic.

I wrote...

The Global Warming Desk Reference

By Bruce E. Johansen,

Book cover of The Global Warming Desk Reference

What is my book about?

Having written what he calls “a textbook with an attitude,” in Global Warming and the Climate Crisis, Bruce E. Johansen, attempts to balance terrifying prospects with reasonable solutions, and stresses the expiration date on this debate with an urgent plea—ignore the hoaxers, and very quickly. Citizens of all nations must learn that the climate-change clock is ticking, and purge quibbling nationalism to co-operate. This also means to work diligently to develop solutions through internationally shared science. This work is also designed as a textbook, for growing use in schools, but is also a good read for the general public with an interest in a taut, but also level-headed and comprehensive view of the subject. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Understanding Climate Change: A Practical Guide

Why did I love this book?

In this thought-provoking book, environmental science expert and professor Frank R. Spellman, PhD, gives a clear-eyed and concise overview of climate change—explaining what is really happening to our planet, why it is happening, and what can be done about it. Emphasizing scientific data and climate change indicators, Spellman gives a sober (but not panicked) assessment of the problems (natural and human-made) that we face and looks at possible mitigating factors and solutions. Understanding Climate Change: A Practical Guide is an invaluable resource to the student, policy maker, and others facing this crisis, which is to say near all of us except, perhaps, the die-hards who reject essential science. An extensive glossary demystifies much of the jargon employed in the public arena. Given the standards set in the market, however, $89.32 is steep for a paperback book.

By Frank R. Spellman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding Climate Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this thought-provoking title, the author stresses the need for more scientific study and less panic to truly understand climate change. Using science, Frank R. Spellman will attempt to answer many questions surrounding climate change such as what is really happening to our planet, why is it happening, and what can and should we do about it. Although human behavior did not cause climate change, Frank R. Spellman, PhD will discuss how it is making it worse. Understanding Climate Change: A Practical Guide covers many topics including global warming, fossil fuels, greenhouse gas, flooding, and reforestation.

Book cover of Climate Change as Class War: Building Socialism on a Warming Planet

Why did I love this book?

This title sounds as if it was written by Karl Marx in the 1850s (“Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to but your oil-scarred planet.”) Huber advocates organizing and educating the working class as to who is doing what to whom; that is, who profits from continued use of fossil fuels, and who would benefit from a society that runs on clean energy. Huber argues that the carbon-intensive capitalist class must be confronted with the worldwide dangers of failing to react so that the atmosphere will be restored to normal. As in classical socialist movements, Huber asserts winning the climate struggle by forming an internationalist based on a planetary working class in solidarity. This is well and good, perhaps, but a scientific basis is required along with class struggle.

By Matthew T. Huber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Climate Change as Class War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The climate crisis is not primarily a problem of 'believing science' or individual 'carbon footprints' - it is a class problem rooted in who owns, controls and profits from material production. As such, it will take a class struggle to solve. In this ground breaking class analysis, Matthew T. Huber argues that the carbon-intensive capitalist class must be confronted for producing climate change. Yet, the narrow and unpopular roots of climate politics in the professional class is not capable of building a movement up to this challenge. For an alternative strategy, he proposes climate politics that appeals to the vast…

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

Why did I love this book?

Yes, this is the Bill Gates, and judging by audience response at, with 9,781 ratings as of late July 2022, his book is at the top of the climate-change heap. While Matthew T. Huber believes that the uber-rich will have to be educated into a working-class point of view to take part in a worldwide climate-changing strategy, Bill Gates, who is about as oligarchic as they come (that is, one of the richest people on the Planet) joined with Knopf, one of publishing’s leading (and richest) voices, and, the biggest book dealer on the Planet, to argue the need for countering malign climate change, and doing it quickly. A review in Science, which is as good a source as possible, calls it “pragmatic and grounded in forward-thinking economic reasoning.” Don’t, however, accuse Gates of carpetbagging. He also has been offering solutions to “prevent the next pandemic,” when we don’t even know what it will be. Nonetheless, The New York Times says that Gates’ book can help move us to zero greenhouse-gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. 

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 Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Why did I love this book?

What I like most about this book is how it projects the present situation about climate change into the future, when weather and climate will be much more extreme than it is today. I have studied the science, and I realize what most of the media do not spend much airtime on—that is, through a process called thermal inertia, the results of today’s greenhouse-gas emissions will not affect us for 50 to 100 years after they occur.   

The Uninhabitable Earth is a clarion call, a no-holds-barred blast that reminds our generation and the next that we are the ones left holding the climatic bag after almost 200 years of gorging on fossil fuels. This is the important message that I get from this book. 

By David Wallace-Wells,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'An epoch-defining book' Matt Haig
'If you read just one work of non-fiction this year, it should probably be this' David Sexton, Evening Standard

Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the Sunday Times, Spectator and New Statesman
A Waterstones Paperback of the Year and shortlisted for the Foyles Book of the Year 2019
Longlisted for the PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

It is worse, much worse, than you think.

The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says…

Book cover of Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide

Why did I love this book?

I love Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide, by Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London, because he is very good at combining a sterling knowledge of science with activism. This is exactly what I have been doing in several books on the world climate crisis during the last 25 years. While I have trouble with some of the connections he is that he is trying to make (does global warming really have a tie to vulcanism?), I really love McGuire’s easy-to-read style. The fact that he works both with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and as an author of books, as well as work several U.K. and U.S. newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian, The [London] Times, The Observer, New Scientist, Focus, and Prospect, means that his work speaks to several audiences at once. I agree wholeheartedly with several reviewers who stress that it is rare indeed, for a top scientist to spell out with blunt honesty the hell that we are heading into and that we (all of us!) should appreciate what we can do personally and professionally to deal with this crisis.

By Bill McGuire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hothouse Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'It's a paradox but this was one of the most chilling books I've read this year. It's the definitive guide to where we're heading' ANTHONY HOROWITZ

'The Earth is already in a dangerous phase of heating. Many scientists admit privately to actually being "scared" by recent weather extremes. But the public doesn't like pessimism, so we environment journalists hint at future optimism. This book provides a more steely-eyed view on how we can cope with a hothouse world.' - ROGER HARRABIN, former BBC Environment Analyst

'This accessible and authoritative book is a must-read for anyone who still thinks it could…

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