Three unmissable summer reads on climate change

More than 120 5-foot world globes are on display in Chicago to urge everyone to "take action against global warming" [Image: John LeGear]

Climate change – more aptly described as climate collapse – is still happening, and still probably the greatest threat humanity has yet faced. What better way to spend your summer, then, than reading up on this topic of such vast importance?

It’s not all doom and gloom – the anthropogenic causes of climate change are so intrinsically embedded in our socio-economic structure that, as Naomi Klein argues in her superb new book, confronting the bases of environmental destruction presents an unparalleled opportunity to transform our society.

Weaning ourselves off coal, oil and gas, and breaking the power of the oligopolistic fossil fuel industry, could be the springboard for a new, more equitable organisation of society. To learn about the environment is thus to learn, not only about the supporting infrastructure of life on Earth, but to learn about the roots of Homo sapiens’ current economic and social order.

Who said climate change was dry?

 

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

Naomi Klein

[Image: Andres Musta]

[Image: Andres Musta]

Naomi Klein wrote what was described by the New York Times as the “bible” of the alter-globalisation movement of the early 2000s, No Logo. Today, there isn’t a climate activist who hasn’t heard of This Changes Everything.

An inspiring vision of an intersectional movement of workers, students, the indigenous, and others, all united under a climate banner

Explicitly linking climate change to her political project, she zeros in on the fact that the Left – for real this time – have the crushing weight of a scientific consensus in their arsenal of arguments.

Progressives are best placed to understand the causes of the climate crisis, she argues, and can offer up solutions that tackle the roots of our malaise, rather than dogmatically reinforcing them.

Across this 500-page behemoth, she creates an inspiring vision of an intersectional movement of workers, students, the indigenous, and others, all united under a climate banner.

 

The Burning Question

Mike Berners-Lee & Duncan Clarke

Their book couldn’t have come at a better time

Two UK energy experts set out to offer a 250-page answer to what they consider the most urgent dilemma facing our economic structure: given that as much as 80 percent of our coal, oil and gas must stay in the ground, how do we reverse the 150 year old, relentlessly exponential increase in worldwide BernersLeefossil fuel extraction?

They recognise two central insights. Firstly, that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain untouched if we are to avoid two degrees warming, the internationally recognised upper-limit for catastrophic climate change. Secondly, that every time we invent new ways to extract energy from natural resources, we increase total energy supply rather than replacing old forms of energy use.

A call for a global civil society mobilisation to stop the problem at the source

Thus, increasing efficiency at the energy demand end, and increasing the supply of renewable energy, won’t stop us hurling over the precipice. At its core, the book is a call for a global civil society mobilisation to stop the problem at the source, by keeping fossil fuels in the ground. With this call now the subject of a worldwide environmental movement, and the title of a Guardian campaign, their book couldn’t have come at a better time.

 

Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning

George Monbiot

Monbiot is a relentless writer and campaigner. He marshals the facts, understands the nuances, Monbiotestablishes the solutions and writes in a zippy prose that will have you steaming through this book in a week or two.

Commitment to the evidence is unparalleled in the journalistic world

At a talk in the Guardian offices last week, I heard him lament the fact that throughout the entire book he didn’t write a single sentence on keeping fossil fuels in the ground. There is no better testament to the collective mental discipline we are subject to than the fact that as recently as 2007 one of Britain’s most critical, outspoken environmental writers couldn’t even see the blindingly obvious – that to stop climate change, we need to stop extracting CO2-emitting natural resources.

Slightly outdated, it nonetheless remains a vital empirical work on the demand end of transitioning to carbon neutrality. Packed with enough footnotes to fill an entire issue of Science, his commitment to the evidence is unparalleled in the journalistic world.

 

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