In the science and nature section of your local bookstore, if you still have a local bookstore, there are plenty of good books about climate change.
The best-known options of the past few years includes scientists’ takes on the science and the battles over the science, like Jim Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren and Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, and detailed takes on the groups that sought to cast doubt on the scientific consensus, including James Hoggan’s no-holds-barred The Climate Cover-up” (with Richard Littlemore) and Merchants of Doubts from Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.
If a friend or member of your family is looking to dive deeper into the history of our relationship with the climate, and how that might influence thinking about climate change today, here are a few suggestions. They may not be in the local store, but they can all be found via online retailers:
Why we disagree about climate change (Mike Hulme)
In this fascinating book, Hulme looks beyond the science, to the cultural, historical and political dimensions of climate change. He proposes that climate change has become a vessel for expressing people’s views of the world they want. In one of my favourite sections, he discusses the gap between what many people expect from climate science, and what it can actually deliver.
The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization (Brian Fagan)
Fagan, an anthropologist, has written several great books about climate and past societies. In The Long Summer, he covers the small changes in climate that have occurred during the Holocene, the period of relatively stability since the last ice age, and the effect those changes may have had on early civilizations. Though not strictly about climate change, these carefully documented stories from the past gives a sense of how a complex, developed society can be vulnerable to subtle shifts on climate.
Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control (James Fleming)
If your friends or family are enthused, frightened or just plain intrigued by geoengineering, Fleming’s Fixing the Sky, is the book to buy. It goes well into the past to trace all the ways, many funny, many disturbing, people have tried to intentionally alter weather and climate, from clearing forests, to seeding clouds, to the latest geoengineering proposals. Along the way, you’ll meet some of the many colorful shysters who tried to make a living creating rain for farmers.
The Weather in the Imagination (Lucian Boia)
In the vein of Hulme’s Why we disagree about climate change, Bioa’s book looks at the ways in which people have used the weather and climate to explain societal patterns and behaviour in the past. He touches on the ugly history of racial determinism, perceived role of climate in societal changes, and the notions of catastrophe. The ideas are fascinating, though the author’s view not to “take sides in the current debates about climate” is troubling, as it suggests the existence of legitimate scientific doubt about the role of humans in modern climate change.
Feel free to add your own book suggestions in the comments!