The best global warming books

13 authors have picked their favorite books about global warming and why they recommend each book.

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Drawdown

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.

What We Know about Climate Change

By Kerry Emanuel,

Book cover of What We Know about Climate Change

To understand climate change, you need to start with the scientific fundamentals. There is no one better to explain the fundamentals of climate change than Kerry Emanuel. Besides being a world-renowned climate scientist, Kerry is a great communicator. With all the misinformation floating around social media and the internet regarding climate change (and most other topics), this book is for anyone wanting to know the real facts about climate change and its implications for humanity. I have been lucky enough to get to know Kerry (we both work at MIT) and can personally attest that he is one of the most trusted sources for information about what we know and what we don’t know about climate change.


Who am I?

I have been consulting and conducting research on climate change for over 30 years as a member of the research staff at MIT. While I originally approached the topic from a technological viewpoint, I quickly understood that that was only one piece of the equation. It was also important to understand the science, the policy, the economics, the politics, and the social aspects of climate change. In selecting my book recommendations, I wanted to cover the many different aspects of climate change.


I wrote...

Carbon Capture

By Howard J. Herzog,

Book cover of Carbon Capture

What is my book about?

I wrote this book for the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series to give a concise guide to carbon capture for the non-specialist.  Carbon capture refers to a suite of technologies that reduce CO2 emissions by “capturing” CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere and then transporting it to where it will be stored or used. These technologies can also remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. For many years, carbon capture was a promising but often overlooked climate change mitigation pathway. However, the recent increase in urgency to deal with climate change has elevated the interest in carbon capture. 

My book explains the fundamentals of carbon capture, as well as the larger context of climate technology and policy.  

Daylight Come

By Diana McCaulay,

Book cover of Daylight Come

I actually have two books by this Jamaican author and environmental activist to recommend but this one feels more urgent. It is a climate change future dystopia set in the Caribbean, which in reality is among the most vulnerable to climate change notwithstanding its comparably small carbon footprint and often muted voice. In this story, youth is an asset and the sun has become deadly; it is survival of the fittest, and the fittest are whoever can survive the rough terrain, the angry packs, the totalitarian state, and the night. It is also a story built on love and alliances and adaptation; the things that could potentially save us in this reality. It’s the climate change messaging for me!


Who am I?

I am an Antiguan-Barbudan writer. When I was a teen, there weren’t a lot of books from my world. So, I was excited when the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature was announced. While that prize ran its course after five years, it left a library of great books in this genre, including my own Musical Youth which placed second in the inaugural year of the prize. I have since served as a judge of the Caribbean prize and mentor for the Africa-leg. I love that this series of books tap into different genres and styles in demonstrating the dynamism of modern Caribbean literature. For more on me, my books, and my take on books, visit my website.


I wrote...

Musical Youth

By Joanne C. Hillhouse,

Book cover of Musical Youth

What is my book about?

Musical Youth follows Zahara, Shaka, and their mixed group of friends over a summer of music, creativity, personal discovery, and love in Antigua. It has been a CODE Burt Award finalist for teen/young adult Caribbean literature; and a Kirkus Book of the Year, and top teen and romance indie. It received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, and has variously been described as a “must-read”, “compelling”, “beautifully crafted”, and “un-put-downable” by readers and critics alike.

While tackling themes like colourism and family secrets, it also manages to be joyful. Per Caribbean Beat magazine, its strength is in “never shying away from the truth about our problems, while simultaneously celebrating the hard-won historical joys of our freedom – as citizens and music makers alike.”  

Tales of Two Planets

By John Freeman,

Book cover of Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World

Any discussion of how people and nature relate to each other in the twenty-first century will come up against the issue of climate change. And there are so many good books to read on the topic – Elizabeth Rush’s Rising comes right to mind, or the collection All We Can Save, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson. What Tale of Two Planets offers is a global perspective on rising seas, changing seasons, and damaging weather through genres from poetry to prose to fiction. Each author brings clarity to the science and politics of climate change, but the sections here are also portraits of love for place and community. If you’ve never read a book on climate change before, it’s a great start; if you’ve read them all, there’s something new and beautiful here.


Who am I?

Bathsheba Demuth is a historian and prize-winning writer, interested in how people, ideas, places, and other-than-human species intersect in the far north. Her interest in these subjects began when she was 18 and spent several years in the Yukon, mushing huskies, hunting caribou, fishing for salmon, and otherwise learning to survive in the taiga and tundra. Now, when not in the Arctic, she lives in Rhode Island, where she is a professor at Brown University.


I wrote...

Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

By Bathsheba Demuth,

Book cover of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait

What is my book about?

Whales and walruses, caribou and fox, gold and oil: through the stories of these animals and resources, Bathsheba Demuth reveals how people have turned ecological wealth in a remote region into economic growth and state power for more than 150 years.

The first-ever comprehensive history of Beringia, the Arctic land and waters stretching from Russia to Canada, Floating Coast breaks away from familiar narratives to provide a fresh and fascinating perspective on an overlooked landscape. The unforgiving territory along the Bering Strait had long been home to humans--the Inupiat and Yupik in Alaska, and the Yupik and Chukchi in Russia--before Americans and Europeans arrived with revolutionary ideas for progress. Rapidly, these frigid lands and waters became the site of an ongoing experiment: How, under conditions of extreme scarcity, would the great modern ideologies of capitalism and communism control and manage the resources they craved?

Adventures in the Anthropocene

By Gaia Vince,

Book cover of Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made

Gaia’s book came out at a time when climate change wasn’t a hot literary topic and Greta Thunberg hadn’t yet painted “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” on a sign. The Anthropocene marks a new Geological age, the Age of Humans, and Gaia, an editor at Nature, set out to discover what that means for the planet, her, and us. In her words: "I set out to discover whether our species will survive, and how". In so doing she became the first female winner of the Royal Society science book prize.

Who am I?

I’m an environmental journalist (BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times) and book author, based in the UK. My interest lies in the intersection between human health, the environment, and climate crisis: the actions we can take that not only reduce climate change for future generations but also improve biodiversity, health, and wellbeing right now. That led to me write my first book, Clearing The Air, about air pollution. And I’m now writing my second book, The Last Drop, looking at how climate change is affecting the world’s water cycle and our access to freshwater. My best books list below maybe misses out on some obvious choices (Naomi Klein, Rachel Carson, etc) in favour of more recent books and authors deserving of a wider audience. 


I wrote...

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

By Tim Smedley,

Book cover of Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

What is my book about?

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution is my journey to understand what air pollution is, and how it became a global public health crisis that kills some 7-10 million people globally each year. I was living in London, had just become a Dad, and a headline caught my eye on my commute home on the tube that read: “Oxford Street has worst diesel pollution on Earth”. This completely blindsided me, so I set out to answer four key questions: What is air pollution? What causes it? Why is it bad for our health? And – perhaps most importantly – what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers ultimately became this book, and took me to Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, and, erm, Milton Keynes. I came across some shocking stories, but I also found optimism and solutions for how we can start clearing the air and see instant results. 

Our Biggest Experiment

By Alice Bell,

Book cover of Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

Alice Bell offers a full history of climate science, from Eunice Newton Foote’s early CO2 experiments in the 1850s, to Thomas Edison, Big Oil, the formation of the IPCC, and beyond. Given such a pressing crisis, we can often get caught up with the here and now – Bell’s book allows us to take a step back and remind ourselves how we got here, and learn the lessons from history. 


Who am I?

I’m an environmental journalist (BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times) and book author, based in the UK. My interest lies in the intersection between human health, the environment, and climate crisis: the actions we can take that not only reduce climate change for future generations but also improve biodiversity, health, and wellbeing right now. That led to me write my first book, Clearing The Air, about air pollution. And I’m now writing my second book, The Last Drop, looking at how climate change is affecting the world’s water cycle and our access to freshwater. My best books list below maybe misses out on some obvious choices (Naomi Klein, Rachel Carson, etc) in favour of more recent books and authors deserving of a wider audience. 


I wrote...

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

By Tim Smedley,

Book cover of Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End Of Air Pollution

What is my book about?

Clearing The Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution is my journey to understand what air pollution is, and how it became a global public health crisis that kills some 7-10 million people globally each year. I was living in London, had just become a Dad, and a headline caught my eye on my commute home on the tube that read: “Oxford Street has worst diesel pollution on Earth”. This completely blindsided me, so I set out to answer four key questions: What is air pollution? What causes it? Why is it bad for our health? And – perhaps most importantly – what can we do about it?

My journey for the answers ultimately became this book, and took me to Delhi, Beijing, Paris, Helsinki, and, erm, Milton Keynes. I came across some shocking stories, but I also found optimism and solutions for how we can start clearing the air and see instant results. 

Climate Adaptation

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

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

This book provides a perfect balance between presenting realism and providing hope for the future. It is a mixture of personal accounts from individuals and communities who have had to face the harsh realities of climate change, as well as accounts from those who have found ways to alter their livelihoods in order to adapt. 


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.   

The Most Important Comic Book on Earth

By DK,

Book cover of The Most Important Comic Book on Earth: Stories to Save the World

From the jacket copy: “An anthology dedicated to saving as many species from extinction as humanly possible. The single largest collection of…comics calling for planetary change… The Most Important Comic Book on Earth is a global collaboration bringing together a diverse team of more than 300 leading environmentalists, artists, authors, actors, filmmakers, musicians, and more to present over 120 stories to save the world.” 

Purchasing this anthology helps support projects aiming to save some of the one million species facing extinction today. Is there a better reason to buy a book?


Who am I?

My formative experiences as a writer took place largely in natural settings—as well as in the pages of many books. When I was a teenager I moved with my family to Jasper National Park, where I hiked and climbed and started writing my first stories. On one winter climb in a frozen ravine, I lost my footing and slid down an ice slope into a natural well. This became the seed of my first novel, Icefields. Living in a protected “wilderness” also helped me understand how precious and fragile the natural world is. I have published several novels and a collection of short fiction. I teach creative writing at the University of Alberta and live in a place with lots of trees. 


I wrote...

Icefields

By Thomas Wharton,

Book cover of Icefields

What is my book about?

Icefields is an award-winning historical novel set in the Canadian Rockies in the early 20th century, when the remote Jasper area was first being opened up to tourism and modern development. When an Irish doctor falls into a crevasse on an expedition, a journey begins for him that alters his understanding of the natural world and draws him into the stories of the people who live here. The novel has just been re-released in a new Landmark edition, with an afterword and an interview with the author.

The End of Ice

By Dahr Jamail,

Book cover of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption

Dahr Jamail’s End of Ice threads his life experiences as a prized reporter, mountaineer, and climate activist, sharing personal human stories and experiences that reveal the difficult, cold, and hard evidence showing us that our cryosphere is irreversibly changing before our eyes. His easy-to-read prose, supported by well-researched and irrefutable science, gives us a unique introspection into the Anthropocene, chronicling the profound changes we are witnessing to Mother Nature and the demise of our frozen resources. I was enthralled by Jamail’s reflections on the end of ice.


Who am I?

Jorge Daniel Taillant is a cryoactivist, a term he coined to describe someone that works to protect the cryosphere, ie. the Earth’s frozen environment. Founder of a globally prized non-profit protecting human rights and promoting environmental justice he helped get the world’s first glacier law passed in South America. He now devotes 100% of his time to tackling climate change in an emergency effort to slow global warming … and to protect glaciers.


I wrote...

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

By Jorge Daniel Taillant,

Book cover of Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

What is my book about?

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers is about our changing climate and about glacier vulnerability. It’s a dive into the cryosphere and how melting glaciers in remote areas of the planet will drastically change our lives. I connect the dots between climate change and the drastic impacts of glacier melt on our global ecosystems, including sea-level rise, intense heat from decreased reflectivity, glacier tsunamis from crumbling ice, ocean and atmospheric disruptions due to massive glacier freshwater infusions into our oceans, melting permafrost that can unleash an unlivable Hot House Earth environment, and invisible glaciers residing deep under the Earth that you have probably never heard of, but that will survive our visible surface glaciers once they’ve melted away.

My purpose of writing Meltdown was to draw attention to the predicament of glacier vulnerability and to awaken society to glacier demise if we do not stop climate change soon. 

The Long Thaw

By David Archer,

Book cover of The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate

As a climate activist and lover of glaciers and glaciation, I took a special interest in David Archer’s book, The Long Thaw. Archer takes us in and out of ice ages, explaining with surprisingly understandable prose just how ice ages are formed, their predictable cycles, why they’re important, and how with current climate change trends and impacts, we just may have missed the onramp to the next one. That could put us into a Hothouse Earth scenario not seen since the times of the dinosaurs. Archer masterfully brings science to the layperson. If we think that the year 2100 is a marker in the sand for climate change, think again. Archer reveals that the chilling (or heating) reality of climate change just might be forever. 


Who am I?

Jorge Daniel Taillant is a cryoactivist, a term he coined to describe someone that works to protect the cryosphere, ie. the Earth’s frozen environment. Founder of a globally prized non-profit protecting human rights and promoting environmental justice he helped get the world’s first glacier law passed in South America. He now devotes 100% of his time to tackling climate change in an emergency effort to slow global warming … and to protect glaciers.


I wrote...

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

By Jorge Daniel Taillant,

Book cover of Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers

What is my book about?

Meltdown: The Earth Without Glaciers is about our changing climate and about glacier vulnerability. It’s a dive into the cryosphere and how melting glaciers in remote areas of the planet will drastically change our lives. I connect the dots between climate change and the drastic impacts of glacier melt on our global ecosystems, including sea-level rise, intense heat from decreased reflectivity, glacier tsunamis from crumbling ice, ocean and atmospheric disruptions due to massive glacier freshwater infusions into our oceans, melting permafrost that can unleash an unlivable Hot House Earth environment, and invisible glaciers residing deep under the Earth that you have probably never heard of, but that will survive our visible surface glaciers once they’ve melted away.

My purpose of writing Meltdown was to draw attention to the predicament of glacier vulnerability and to awaken society to glacier demise if we do not stop climate change soon. 

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