Climate Change and Our Future

5 Great Books on Climate Change Selected by Choice Reviewer Malcolm Cleaveland

There is virtually no debate within the climate community that humans are changing the planet’s climate through the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. If global temperatures are allowed to increase more than 3.6°F (2°C), it is feared that there may be dire consequences. Effects are currently being experienced: accelerating sea level rise because of melting ice caps and mountain glaciers, oceanic acidification, lengthened fire seasons resulting in catastrophic wildfires, killer heat waves, unprecedented flooding, water scarcity, and disruption of terrestrial and marine ecosystems with accelerating loss of biodiversity. The culprits include burning fossil fuels and destroying aspects that take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere—e.g., forests and coral reefs. The following books address this problem from different perspectives, show the consequences of inaction, and explore the reasons for US inaction in the face of a threat to our future.

Experimenting On a Small Planet: A History of Scientific Discoveries, a Future of Climate Change and Global Warming, by William W. Hay. 2nd ed. Springer, 2016. 
This book, written by a geologist and paleoclimatologist, thoroughly explores the science of climate change through history to the present. At over 800 pages, this is a lengthy work, but does not go into the measures required to avoid the worst consequences—these are obvious: stop emitting greenhouse gases and enhance the forests that sequester them.

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Bloomsbury Press, 2010. 
The authors explore the corporate disinformation campaigns designed to maximize profits no matter how much damage is inflicted on the Earth and a confused and manipulated public. Some unscrupulous scientists are furthering the corporate agenda because of ideology or greed.

The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney. Revised and updated. Basic Books, 2006. 
Alone among national conservative parties, the US Republican Party does not accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, perhaps because the fossil fuel industry profoundly influences the politicians. This book concentrates on the anti-science activities of the George W. Bush administration, but the Republican establishment continues to support the suppression, distortion, and rejection of the science which ought to guide policy.

Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. Basic Books, 2009.
The mass media and political establishment have ignored and devalued science and its role in policy making, and the public has been manipulated by unreliable, often wholly untruthful social media. As a result (in part), of scientists not engaging with the public and public misunderstanding of scientific issues, America is falling behind other nations, relinquishing its leadership role.

Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, by Mike Hulme. Cambridge University Press, 2009. 
There are many reasons people do not comprehend the gravity of climate change, including ignorance, greed, cognitive dissonance, and failure to value the future. These human shortcomings are leading us into a chaotic and uncertain future.

About the author:

Malcolm Cleaveland; Professor Emeritus of Geosciences; Geography; Dept. of Geosciences, U. of Arkansas at Fayetteville;