The best books about the contested meanings of climate change

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the weather since as a schoolboy I avidly followed the cricket scores and the fate of tomorrow’s match. This co-dependence of my passion for cricket with the state of the weather turned into a professional career as, first, a research scientist and then later a professor of geography, I studied the idea of climate and the many ways in which it intersects with our social, ecological and imaginative worlds. As human-caused climate change became a defining public and political issue for the new century, my interests increasingly focused on understanding why people think so differently about the climate, its changes, its future trajectory—and what to do about it. 


I wrote...

Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

By Mike Hulme,

Book cover of Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity

What is my book about?

Climate change is an environmental, cultural, and political phenomenon which is changing the way we think about ourselves, our societies, and humanity's place on Earth. But changing us not in the same way. In this book, I explain the different ways in which climate change is understood by different people, but even more so why our responses to climate change are so different—why the idea of climate change can inspire technological innovation, the overthrow of capitalism, the emergence of a global government, the unweaving of western civilisation. 

Climate change is more than a singular ‘problem' waiting for a universal ‘solution'. The book uses the standpoints of science, economics, faith, psychology, communication, sociology, politics, and development to explain why we disagree about climate change.  

The books I picked & why

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The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science

By Raul P. Lejano, Shondel J. Nero,

Book cover of The Power of Narrative: Climate Skepticism and the Deconstruction of Science

Why this book?

People make sense of their experience of the world through the stories they tell each other. These stories bind people together into social formations. This is as true for climate change as it is for many other bewildering or unsettling phenomenon. Lejano and Nero start from this premise and show how the narrative of climate skepticism has been able to forge a social movement and stake a challenge to the hegemony of the larger community of scientists on what is regarded (falsely) as a matter of science. Using narrative and discourse analysis, richly illustrated with examples, the book takes the reader on a journey, across times and places and social realms; throughout, the power of narrative is revealed, making believers, or skeptics, of us all.


How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts

By Candis Callison,

Book cover of How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts

Why this book?

Too often, climate change debates reduce to throwing around scientific facts – how much warming, how soon will it happen, how many people will it affect, and so on. Candis Callison recognises that such arguments don’t get us very far when deciding what to do. There are different types of facts. In this book she shows why the facts about climate change that really matter in different human worlds – in corporations, in religious groups, amongst journalists, in village communities – are social facts; these are shared ‘facts’ about what climate change means to different social formations. And it is through these diverse communal facts that climate change comes to matter.


Climate Change as Social Drama: Global Warming in the Public Sphere

By Philip Smith, Nicolas Howe,

Book cover of Climate Change as Social Drama: Global Warming in the Public Sphere

Why this book?

For too long, too many earnest people have believed that the key to untying the Gordian knot of climate change lay in science—more science, better science, more precise science, more consensual science. In this beautifully written book, Smith and Howe decisively expose this belief as false. Culture, not science, shapes public perceptions of climate change. The key to acting in the world is to be found in understanding the different ways in which the social drama that is climate change is made meaningful to people. This book is an important read for climate scientists, policy advisors, and activists alike.


Climate Change Scepticism: A Transnational Ecocritical Analysis

By Greg Garrard, Axel Goodbody, George B. Handley, Stephanie Posthumus

Book cover of Climate Change Scepticism: A Transnational Ecocritical Analysis

Why this book?

This book examines the idea of climate change from an unconventional standpoint and that says something new and surprising about a topic that has been endlessly written about. Co-written by four literary scholars—hailing from the UK, Germany, the USA and France—it takes seriously the phenomenon of climate scepticism and seeks to understand it by dissecting literary texts originating in these four national cultures. They use the power of literary analysis to turn the question, “Who is a climate sceptic?” into a much more profound and uncomfortable one, “Where within you does your climate scepticism reside?”


The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren't Enough?

By Alex Evans,

Book cover of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren't Enough?

Why this book?

This short punchy book is written by ex-policy advisor Alex Evans, following his disillusionment with high power international climate politics. Having worked for the British Government and for the UN Secretary-General in the 2000s, Evans realised that scientific evidence and rational arguments were not enough to change the world for the better. In The Myth Gap, he therefore makes the case to recognise – or else to create – different stories, or myths, which provide the orientation and motivation for different people groups to act out change in their own different worlds. No one story will do the job; we need many.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in climate change denial, the news media, and myth?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about climate change denial, the news media, and myth.

Climate Change Denial Explore 5 books about climate change denial
The News Media Explore 10 books about the news media
Myth Explore 41 books about myth

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, and The New Climate War if you like this list.