We’ve known that burning fossil fuels was dangerously heating up the atmosphere for decades. And yet, we’ve done very little to save ourselves from climate disruption.
It’s no longer a problem for future generations or for low-lying places slipping under rising seas like Bangladesh or tiny atolls in the Pacific.
Dangerous heating is killing people now and those people are our neighbors and fellow Americans. Wildfires and droughts in California, a heatwave in Seattle and Portland, flooding parking decks and collapsing condo buildings in Miami, and a power outage in Texas — all made worse by weird weather from a disrupted climate.
The best time to act was 40 years ago. That’s when the federal government, the general public and even oil companies themselves knew beyond a reasonable doubt that climate heating was veering out of control, that humans were overwhelmingly the cause, and that burning fossil fuels was suicidal.
And yet, we did almost nothing. Fortunately, the second best time to act is today.
With the election of President Biden, the U.S. may finally start to wake up and succeed in taking serious action to avert the threat before it’s too late. Or, Republicans in the Senate may succeed at blocking and watering down anything serious from the administration until they can take back control in Washington. And then they can put climate progress back not merely into Park, but actually into Reverse.
If that happens, will it mean game-over for the climate? Scientists warn that we must cut our climate pollution in half by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of atmospheric heating. That’s a huge goal. To reach it, we will need transformative change in the economy.
It won’t be enough to tinker around the edges. No, we don’t need to abolish capitalism. Business has shown that they’re ready to start building clean energy. What we do need to do is abolish oil. Fossil fuel companies have been blocking a clean economy for decades. We need to get them out of the way. And we don’t have much time.
Lots of books on the climate have been published in the last few years, and the pace has been picking up. The books below are all new and they all put the challenge in perspective. It’s a serious one. Yet, it’s not hopeless, and the books below also offer realistic and optimistic solutions both in terms of technology (which has been ready to go for years) and politics (more important right now).
You’ll see a couple of surprises on the list below, which I’ve posted at a new service for readers called Shepherd, an alternative to Goodreads.
- The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet by Michael Mann. Fossil fuel companies are making war on the rest of us. In the “old” climate war they straight up denied climate science. Today, they’ve changed their tune, and claim both to accept that the world is heating and that they’re a big cause. They say they want to be part of the solution. But there’s a catch.
- Winning the Green New Deal: Why We Must, How We Can, edited by Guido Girgenti and Varshini Prakash. A powerful book of short essays by badass leaders of the youth-led Sunrise Movement and their allies, both old and young who will pull aside the illusions of today’s politics and cut through to the only answer strong enough to work — The Green New Deal.
- On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein. Her latest book on climate is more urgent but yet more hopeful too. Of the essays reprinted here, one of them is worth the price of the whole book: Klein’s take down of the doomerism of Nathaniel Rich’s much ballyhooed book Losing Earth.
- Stop Saving the Planet!: An Environmentalist Manifesto by Jenny Price. A great beach, or bathroom book, with one-page chapters, lots of fun lists, and plenty of humor. All to reach a new audience with a serious point: you can’t save the earth from your kitchen, and no amount of recycling or Prius driving or other individual virtuous actions will ever be enough to save the climate. Instead, you need to cooperate with other people to do things that really make a difference. Start with voting.
- All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change by Michael Klare. Here’s one for our more conservative friends who respect the U.S. military and listen to the opinion of the Pentagon. And national security experts say that climate disruption will make wars worse in the future, as it already has in places like Syria. For my friends on the left, this book will surprise you. You’ll find you have more in common with generals and admirals than you thought.
Get the details by reading the full list at the Shepherd website.