Climate Books 2008

RealClimate has spared me the task of compiling a list — and of deciding whether to put my book on it. I reprint their post (sans pics) below. Feel free to identify any omissions, such as NYT Bestseller The Green Collar Economy and, of course (!), Everything you could possibly want to know about carbon (aka The Carbon Age) , and, of course (!!), Hot, Flat, and Crowded:

As is usual, we have a brief round-up of books we have found interesting or noteworthy this year. While we mainly focus on new books, we include a couple of new editions of older books…

The prize for the most optimistic title this year goes to Wally Broecker, for “Fixing Climate” (written mainly by Robert Kunzig). This is a book written in a particular style – a number of recent advances in relevant paleo-climate (abrupt changes, mega-droughts, etc.) are examined through the lens of a single scientist and their one key measurement or observation. This makes for a good narrative, but without wishing to take anything away from the great science discussed or the individual insights, it’s only a partial picture of how these interesting ideas actually took root and got validated by the wider community. The climate fix the book ends up backing is a scheme for the air capture of CO2 (discussed here, and more recently here). The technology is fascinating, but at over a couple of hundred $/per ton CO2, the economics are a long way from being viable. But read about it for yourselves.

Also dwelling on paleo-climate is Chris Turney’s Ice, Mud and Blood. Eric reviewed this for Nature, noting that “Turney is by no means the first to try to articulate the point that paleoclimatology has lessons for our future. Richard Alley’s The Two-Mile Time Machine and Mark Bowen’s Thin Ice, to name just two, have made the same basic arguments. But Turney’s book is the most up to date, and I would certainly recommend it to colleagues, who will enjoy it and may well learn something new, as I did.”

Finally, it is definitely worth paying attention to books that may have been out for a while, or in a new edition. We were particularly impressed with Richard Somerville’s award-winning introduction to understanding environmental change “The Forgiving Air” which has just been re-issued.

Another notable paperback this year was from Joe Romm (of His “Hell and High Water” is mostly focused on policy solutions. As is a new book by Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks “Apollo’s Fire“. Congressman Inslee has been known to pass by RealClimate now and again. It does worry us a bit that the very first chapter refers to our friend and colleague Cecelia Bitz — a noted sea ice expert at the University of Washington — as ‘Carol’, and we hope that this is not indicative of the fact-checking care in the book. It looks to be an interesting contribution to the discussion of U.S. climate policy and it is especially timely to have a serious book on solutions to the problems in the Middle East, climate change, and the economy, all rolled into one. We look forward to reading this more closely.

And of course, we are far too modest to mention our own humble offerings….

Feel free to suggest other interesting titles in the comments.

13 Responses to Climate Books 2008

  1. Linda S says:

    I’ve just started reading “The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience” by Rob Hopkins and I am hugely impressed. The first couple of chapters explain in a clear and concise manner how the two challenges of global warming and peak oil make change inevitable, and why it is imperative to address the issues together instead of separately. The rest of the book lays out a strategy for ‘energy descent’ which combines the best of the past with the best of today to create an inspiring vision of what tomorrow could be.

  2. Brendan says:

    Do you have things to add to the list?

  3. Paul K says:

    Someone has taken your book title. HELL AND HIGH WATER by Alastair McIntosh was recently published in Scotland. It is subtitled Climate Change, Hope & the Human Condition.

  4. steve h says:

    For those who wish for more contemplation in their readings, try Ehrenfeld’s “Sustainability by Design.” Definitely my top book of the year. Granted, the first part of the book is damned depressing in its bleakness, but it is a necessary task to tear down any notion that our current organizational structure can support any semblance of sustainability.

  5. Eric Roston says:

    An end-of-the-year (and awkwardly self-conscious) thanks to Joe for this recommendation from July:

  6. David B. Benson says:

    Two books by Harrison Brown (from about 50 years ago)

    “The Challenge of Man’s Future”

    “The Next Hundred Years”

    Some solid points in each book.

  7. Baerbel W. says:

    I’d like to suggest adding “Hot, Flat and Crowded” from Thomas L. Friedman to the list. I’m not yet completely done reading the book but it already managed to connect some dots for me like how our addiction to fossil fuels helps a lot of autocratic countries “get away with what they are doing”. Those arguments alone should be enough reason to set us on a path utilising renewable energy whereever possible.

  8. Joe says:

    Yes, Baerbel. Duh! I added Friedman back to the post itself.

    And Eric, same for you!

    My apologies!

  9. Dana says:

    I’m really enjoying Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet”. Monbiot’s “Heat” was also excellent, but I don’t know if it’s a 2008 book.

  10. Dorothy says:

    “Climate Wars, by Canadian Gwynne Dyer should be on everyone’s list. It reads like science fiction, but of course it’s not. It’s a “let’s not let this happen” kind of book.

    Product Description from
    From one of the world’s great geopolitical analysts, a terrifying glimpse of the none-too-distant future, when climate change will force the world’s powers into a desperate struggle for advantage and even survival.

    Dwindling resources. Massive population shifts. Natural disasters. Spreading epidemics. Drought. Rising sea levels. Plummeting agricultural yields. Crashing economies. Political extremism. These are some of the expected consequences of runaway climate change in the decades ahead, and any of them could tip the world towards conflict. Prescient, unflinching, and based on exhaustive research and interviews, Climate Wars promises to be one of the most important books of the coming years.

    About the Author
    Gwynne Dyer has served in the Canadian, British and American navies. He holds a Ph.D. in war studies from the University of London, has taught at Sandhurst and served on the Board of Governors of Canada’s Royal Military College. Dyer writes a syndicated column that appears in more than 175 newspapers around the world.

  11. Michele M. says:

    I agree with Barbara. “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” is one of the most comprehensive and digestible overviews on energy, climate, politics, and the direction we must take as a nation. I would include it as mandatory reading for all educators and students.

  12. sparky says:

    “Terrestrial Energy” by Tucker

    “Big Coal” by Goodell

    “Prescription for the Planet” by Blees

    “Fossil Fools” by Shuster

    “Cape Wind” by Williams

    “Plan B 3.0” by Brown

    Conclusion? Efficiency improvements across the board. Smart grid. Then nuclear for baseload electricity … pull our heads out of the 1970s sands and get on with it. Reprocess the spent fuel, do the R and D for liquid flouride thorium reactors (LFTRs). Peak it with wind and solar. Convert the light transport sector over to electric drivetrains.

  13. Tom Walker says:

    Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster by Peter Victor.

    ‘Overcoming our addiction to economic growth is one of the most important challenges for the 21st century. Peter Victor’s masterful summary of the history and fallacies of this particularly pervasive and increasingly dangerous addiction will be a great help in getting over it. A sustainable and desirable future requires clearly differentiating between “bigger” and “better” and a recognition that in the overdeveloped West these two have parted ways. Peter Victor’s book will help us slow down by design, not disaster, and understand how that slowing down will in fact increase our quality of life.’

    Robert Costanza, University of Vermont, US

    ‘At last, Managing without Growth, a book that puts economics in its proper place within the real world and points the direction we must go in confronting the ecological crisis of the planet. As an economist, environmental studies professor Peter Victor is eminently qualified for the task. He examines some of our most fundamental assumptions and beliefs about the market, pricing, free trade and growth, prosperity and happiness that too often preclude a serious consideration of the environment and economy. His book couldn’t be a more timely and important analysis of the destructive consequences of aspiring to endless growth and downloading the costs onto nature itself. He makes a powerful case for the need to work deliberately towards a steady state economy where the real world of the biosphere should set the limits to our activity. Victor’s book should be the basis for our discussion of these critical issues today.’

    David Suzuki, scientist, broadcaster and activist