The best books on climate change mitigation

4 authors have picked their favorite books about climate change mitigation and why they recommend each book.

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A Bright Future

By Joshua S. Goldstein, Staffan A. Qvist,

Book cover of A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow

I read this book to stay true to my commitment, inspired by John Stuart Mill, to always make an effort to understand the strongest against your own convictions (a key reason for always including Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom in my political philosophy courses). Like most progressives in the 70s, I was part of the anti-nuclear movement, not just opposition to nuclear weapons, but to nuclear power as well. I did not expect this book to radically shift these commitments—but it did. Not the first one, but the second. I realized on reading this book that I had not thought seriously about these issues in decades. The issue of climate change was not on the table in those days, and I had not paid much attention to the development of nuclear power since then. The issue today is too urgent to ignore. Looking at the evidence presented in this book…

Who am I?

I have a certain degree of scientific expertise deriving from the education leading to my Ph.D. in mathematics and a deep interest in ethical issues, which led to my pursuing a second Ph.D. in philosophy. I am passionate about the issue of climate change, because (among other reasons) I have four grandchildren who will be living in the new world that is being created now. As I often said to my students during my last few years of teaching, “You are living at the time when the most momentous event in human history is unfolding. Historians of the future—if there are any remaining—will write extensively about this period, about what happened and why, about what those of us alive today did or did not do.”

I wrote...

After Capitalism

By David Schweickart,

Book cover of After Capitalism

What is my book about?

After Capitalism has offered students and political activists alike a coherent vision of a viable and desirable alternative to capitalism. David Schweickart calls this system Economic Democracy, a successor-system to capitalism which preserves the efficiency strengths of a market economy while extending democracy to the workplace and to the structures of investment finance. In the second edition, Schweickart recognizes that increased globalization of companies has created greater than ever interdependent economies and the debate about the desirability of entrepreneurship is escalating. The new edition includes a new preface, completely updated data, reorganized chapters, and new sections on the economic instability of capitalism, the current economic crisis, and China. Drawing on both theoretical and empirical research, Schweickart shows how and why this model is efficient, dynamic, and applicable in the world today.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures

By Julia Finley Mosca, Daniel Rieley (illustrator),

Book cover of The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

As an animal lover and vegan, I am impressed with all Temple Grandin has done to help humans understand how the minds of animals work. When Grandin was a child, no one knew what to make of her. Diagnosed autistic, she looked at the world differently than many people. She grew up to be a renowned scientist and animal behaviorist who changed lives. Grandin’s unique way of seeing caused her to physically put herself at the eye level of cows being pushed into slaughterhouses. She helped redesign a more humane, less stressful loading process. Her book, How Animals Make Us Human gave me new insights as I wrote my own book, which explores how eating no or less meat would help combat climate change.

Who am I?

Ever since I read Island of the Blue Dolphins in 5th grade I’ve loved historical fiction. I am inspired by amazing humans who lived across centuries and around the globe and left their mark on the world. My 2023 book I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People is about a social activist artist. Future published books include middle grade novels on the 1838 Trail of Tears, a day on Ellis Island in 1907, and a 1935 book about Eleanor Roosevelt and the planned community of Arthurdale, WV. Like I said, I love exploring history! I read in many genres, but still enjoy learning about history through fiction.

I wrote...

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

By Anne Broyles, Anna Alter (illustrator),

Book cover of Priscilla and the Hollyhocks

What is my book about?

Based on a true story, Priscilla and the Hollyhocks follows a young enslaved girl from her early years on a Southern plantation to her forced march along the Trail of Tears to the chance encounter that leads to her freedom. On her journey from slave to free woman, Priscilla carries something precious with her: hollyhocks seeds… and hope. Nikki Giovanni said, “Priscilla and the Hollyhocks tells a story too often ignored or overlooked—a story of how the West was not won but captured. Reading about Priscilla’s remarkable life makes all our hearts a bit warmer of filling our hearts with a much-needed piece of American history.”


By Paul Hawken (editor),

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

The “yes, we can” of the climate crisis. If I’m going to start out with the most optimistic book on what we can do, this is the way to go. It’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff. It’s not super expensive. Some of it is common sense and expected: alternative types of energy, LED lighting, composting. Some of it is less expected. There’s a section titled “Women and Girls,” part of which is about simply educating girls. (I first heard of that as a solution to many problems in a great, if slow, movie called Mindwalk that talks about systems thinking. The book it’s drawn from, Fritjof Capra’s Turning Point, could be on an expanded version of my list.)

Who am I?

I’m an architect, ecodesigner, economist, environmentalist, author, and professor. I like making use of all or parts of these to break down silos between fields in order to better understand and communicate sustainability. As a professor who is hoping to entice the next generation to not repeat our environmental mistakes, I try to emphasize carrots rather than sticks. I look to the win-win-win approaches: the symbiotic overlaps between sustainability, health, happiness, and economics. I call this EcoOptimism, and it’s the focus of my blog by the same title. Though it can be harder to remain optimistic amidst the worsening climate crisis and other environmental issues, I still find it one of the most viable routes.

I wrote...

Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide

By David Bergman,

Book cover of Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide

What is my book about?

This is a book about sustainable architecture and interior design, but it’s not only for professionals. Too much of the literature on environmentalism and ecodesign is dense and therefore exclusionary, not to mention unenticing. My response to this is a book on green design that’s written for both professional and lay readers. Wherever possible, I avoided jargon and tried to simplify complex topics, often through straightforward illustrations and photos. It’s not a textbook—you don’t need an engineering degree to understand how to make buildings more energy efficient or how to utilize some of the cool things nature can teach us.

Has It Come to This?

By J.P. Sapinski (editor), Holly Buck (editor), Andreas Malm (editor)

Book cover of Has It Come to This?: The Promises and Perils of Geoengineering on the Brink

I don’t often praise edited collections, but this book is the most clear-eyed discussion of our current predicament in the face of worsening global warming I have ever encountered. The authors argue that the political deployment of geoengineering to ‘save’ us has become essentially a foregone conclusion—forget all that wishful Green New Deal happy talk. They then proceed to argue out the various potential political scenarios concerning what this means for future politics. Read this and weep.

Who am I?

I am an economist who came to realize that the marketplace of ideas was a political doctrine, and not an empirical description of how we came to know what we think we know. Science has never functioned in the same manner across centuries; it was only during my lifetime that it became recast as a subset of market reality. I have spent a fair amount of effort exploring how economics sought to attain the status of a science; but now the tables have turned. It is now scientists who are trained to become first and foremost market actors, finally elevating the political dominance of the economists.

I wrote...

The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

By Philip Mirowski, Edward Nik-Khah,

Book cover of The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information: The History of Information in Modern Economics

What is my book about?

This book is a history of how American economists sought to incorporate “information” into their theories of choice and markets. Far from being driven by psychology or philosophy, we argue most of the options were borrowed from the natural sciences. The version which eventually became dominant by the late 20th century was prompted more by the politics of neoliberalism than by any logical or empirical considerations.

The book illustrates my larger interest, which is to explore how claims to know something are often rooted in a curious admixture of science and politics. I continually find that the supposed separation of science from politics rarely holds up in history.

Great Adaptations

By Morgan Phillips,

Book cover of Great Adaptations

Great Adaptations explores different adaptation strategies explored around the world, analysing which should be supported and which are to be avoided. This book also shows the various approaches between countries and global communities, all of whom face different environmental challenges. This book is written in short chapters, focusing on separate topics, meaning it is a great read to pick up and put down as and when you like. 

Who am I?

For the publication of our book, Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change, I have worked closely with activists and academics from around the world, hearing more about the work they do and the unique and individual ways they have made adaptations within their communities. This experience has allowed me to have a deeper understanding of climate adaptation as a topic, both in a scientific and a cultural sense, thus meaning I have been more readily able to recognise the qualities of a great adaptation book!

I managed...

Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change

By Emily Andrews, Morgan Phillips, Renuka Thakore, Andrew Suggitt

Book cover of Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change

What is my book about?

Climate Adaptation: Accounts of Resilience, Self-Sufficiency and Systems Change takes a look at real-life examples of communities that have adapted to the challenges presented by our warming world. With governments and large corporations proving ineffective at making significant changes, we must focus on more grassroots initiatives. The current model of extraction and exploitation is unsustainable - socially, economically, and environmentally, so shifts in our entire system must be made to benefit all corners of society.   

Under the Sky We Make

By Kimberly Nicholas,

Book cover of Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World

I can’t stand it when people say individual actions don’t matter – because they do. And Kimberly Nicholas gets that. In this book, she acknowledges yes, companies and governments are hugely responsible for the mess we’re in. But individuals can create real, significant, and lasting change to solve this problem.  She also explores finding purpose in a warming world, both reflecting on her scientific finds and her life experiences. 

Who am I?

Kathryn Kellogg is the founder of Going Zero Waste, a lifestyle website dedicated to helping others live a healthier and more sustainable life. She’s a spokesperson for plastic-free living for National Geographic, Chief Sustainability Officer at the One Movement, and author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste which breaks eco-friendly, sustainable living down into an easy step by step process with lots of positivity and love. She’s a spokesperson for plastic-free living for National Geographic and Chief Sustainability Officer at the One Movement. 

I wrote...

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

By Kathryn Kellogg,

Book cover of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

What is my book about?

We all know how important it is to reduce our environmental footprint, but it can be daunting to know where to begin. Enter Kathryn Kellogg, who can fit all her trash from the past two years into a 16-ounce mason jar. How? She starts by saying “no” to straws and grocery bags, and “yes” to a reusable water bottle and compostable dish scrubbers.

In 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, Kellogg shares these tips and more, along with DIY recipes for beauty and home; advice for responsible consumption and making better choices for home goods, fashion, and the office; and even secrets for how to go waste-free at the airport. “It’s not about perfection,” she says. “It’s about making better choices.”


By Bill McKibben,

Book cover of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Arguably, Bill McKibben has been this nation’s preeminent environmentalist since 1989 when he published The End of Nature. Falter is his latest book and it is a numbing take on our species and how we have damaged the environment, perhaps, to the point of no return. On the other hand, McKibben is as much an activist as an environmentalist and as such he cannot and, so far at least, has not lost hope no matter how dire the straits.  

Who am I?

When I left Wisconsin and arrived for a position at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I was struck by the state’s nearly manic fear of low prices for the oil flowing from Prudhoe Bay through the Alaska (or North Slope) oil pipeline. Years later I returned to Wisconsin and quickly learned that there was relatively little interest in a pipeline that ran down the entire state in the manner of the Alaska pipeline. Only this pipeline carried synthetic crude made from natural asphalt hacked or melted out of the ground in Alberta, Canada. My interest in the environmental and political aspects of that pipeline set me on the path to a book about asphalt.

I wrote...

Asphalt: A History

By Kenneth O'Reilly,

Book cover of Asphalt: A History

What is my book about?

The asphalt on approximately 94 percent of paved roads in the United States has a chemical cousin in the oil sands (or tar sands) of Alberta, Canada. Oil companies are converting that natural asphalt (called bitumen in Canada) into synthetic crude oil ("syncrude") or diluting it with chemicals ("dilbit") so it can ship south via pipeline through Wisconsin and into storage tanks in Illinois. Refineries are the end destination. Gasoline is the end product. 

Global warming imagery has the earth bleeding co2 and consumed by God knows what. Wildfire and rising sea? War and famine? Pandemic now and pandemic from now on? Asphalt helped shape our environment in so many ways. Now, it might help destroy our environment in one simple way.

Understanding Climate Change

By Frank R. Spellman,

Book cover of Understanding Climate Change: A Practical Guide

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.

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. 

Hope Matters

By Elin Kelsey,

Book cover of Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis

Kelsey builds an air-tight case for why the planet needs us to get more in touch with our emotions. Emotions dictate all our behavior and action in the world, and so we ought to know which emotions are most effective and in what situations to catalyze actions for climate justice. Because Kelsey is a scientist herself, she buttresses her case about the role of emotions in saving the planet with powerful data. We don’t need more books on “ten things you can do to save the planet.” What we do need is more books like this, which show us why doom and gloom isn’t the only game in town.

Who am I?

As an environmental educator over the past 18 years, I have come to see that the central question of our work is no longer “how do we get more people to care?” Our work now is to keep ourselves sustained for the long haul of climate justice advocacy that lies ahead. People now care, a lot, and need to know how to avoid burnout and “amygdala hijack”, cope with the hard emotions of it all, and build community. The solutions are no longer just political, technological, or economic. We need to develop existential tools, resources of interior sustainability, and cultural resilience if we have any hope of thriving in a climate-changed world.

I wrote...

A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet

By Sarah Jaquette Ray,

Book cover of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet

What is my book about?

A youth movement is reenergizing global environmental activism. The “climate generation”—late millennials and iGen, or Generation Z—is demanding that policymakers and government leaders take immediate action to address the dire outcomes predicted by climate science. Those inheriting our planet’s environmental problems expect to encounter challenges, but they may not have the skills to grapple with the feelings of powerlessness and despair that may arise when they confront this seemingly intractable situation.

Drawing on a decade of experience leading and teaching in college environmental studies programs, Sarah Jaquette Ray has created an “existential tool kit” for the climate generation. Combining insights from psychology, sociology, social movements, mindfulness, and the environmental humanities, Ray explains why and how we need to let go of eco-guilt, resist burnout, and cultivate resilience while advocating for climate justice.

Design for Biodiversity

By Carol Williams, Kelly Gunnell, Brian Murphy

Book cover of Design for Biodiversity: A Technical Guide for New and Existing Buildings

Many books now address designing low-energy buildings to mitigate climate change, but few focus on designing buildings to benefit wildlife. Given the global biodiversity crisis and modern buildings’ lack of accidental gaps to shelter birds, bats, and insects, more guidance on safely incorporating wildlife habitat within buildings and outdoor spaces is crucial. This was one of the inspirations behind my urban-rewilding campaign, Rewild My Street.

Who am I?

I am an architect, academic, and author, who is passionate about sustainable design. At London Metropolitan University I conduct design research on urban rewilding, and teach sustainable design to architecture and interior design students. I founded the Rewild My Street campaign, which aims to inspire and empower city residents to reverse biodiversity decline by transforming their homes, gardens, and streets for wildlife. My work combines my expertise in sustainable design; architectural-practice experience in housing, building conservation, and urban regeneration; and passion for wildlife. I am driven by designing and helping others design sustainable, biodiverse buildings, and cities.

I wrote...

Sustainability in Interior Design

By Sian Moxon,

Book cover of Sustainability in Interior Design

What is my book about?

The environmental impact of interior design practice is immense. This book highlights the need for designers to adapt the way they work and relearn lessons that have been lost. Sustainable design can be sophisticated and stylish. 

By its nature, a sustainable approach means considering the whole life cycle of a project and therefore improving the functionality, quality, human enjoyment, and bringing real social and economic benefits. A comprehensive reference book for anyone wanting to work in this area, this book has examples, techniques, and historical and contemporary case studies, all supported by useful resources and links. Moxon aims to introduce the ideas behind sustainability to students while they are formulating their understanding of the industry, encouraging and inspiring them with positive, creative and practical alternatives.

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