The Best Books On Climate Change

The Met Office defines climate change as ‘a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns and average temperatures’. One of the reasons to put together a reading list of the best books on climate change is that worryingly, there are still some who are not convinced that climate change is a real thing. Evidence provided by the likes of NASA, includes; global temperature rising, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rises, extreme weather events and ocean acidification as clear signs of climate change. Whenever there is doubt, it’s important to pursue more knowledge, and in this case – that means reading the best books on climate change. I am by no means an expert in climate change, so it was important to handpick some of the world’s leading experts to help me compile this list of the best books on climate change.  Before we discover the best books on climate change, we must first meet that panel of experts…

Jeff BennettJeffrey Bennett

Jeffrey Bennett holds a B.A. in Biophysics from the University of California at San Diego and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado. He specializes in mathematics and science education, writing for and speaking to audiences ranging from elementary school children to college faculty. He served two years as a Visiting Senior Scientist at NASA Headquarters and is the author of A Global Warming Primer.

Kim Nicholas - best books on climate changeKim Nicholas

Kim Nicholas is an Associate Professor of Sustainability Science at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Lund, Sweden. Her research includes investigating the connections between people, land, and climate. Her goal is to understand how to leave a living planet for future generations. Kim holds a BSc and PhD from Stanford University and MSc degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UC Davis.

Andrew Dessler - best books on climate changeAndrew Dessler

Andrew Dessler is a climate scientist. During the last year of the Clinton Administration, he served as a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has authored two books on climate change: The science and politics of global climate change and Introduction to modern climate change. In 2012, he received the AGU’s Ascent Award from the atmospheric sciences section.

Peter Kalmus - best books on climate changePeter Kalmus

Dr. Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (speaking here on his own behalf). His research interests include low clouds, tornadoes, and ecological forecasting in a warming world. He is the recipient of NASA’s Early Career Achievement medal and the author of the award-winning book Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.

Now, let’s discover the best books on climate change…

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

Andrew Dessler:

If you want to know how the climate debate got where it is, you should read this book.  It describes how the techniques used to cast doubt on climate science were pioneered by the tobacco industry to cast doubt on science connecting smoking with cancer.  It’s been used with great effectiveness over the last few decades to mislead people into thinking that we’re not sure about climate change.  In the end, this is an infuriating but important book.

The Future Library by Katie Paterson

Kim Nicholas:

I’ll never read my favorite book on climate change. I’ll be dead when it’s finally printed on paper made from a thousand towering Norwegian spruce trees, which are currently tiny saplings planted outside Oslo. Since 2014, a new author each year is contributing one of 100 unpublished manuscripts, which will all be printed as an anthology in 2114 by the Future Library.  Contributors I’ve read and loved previously include Margaret Atwood and Han Kang.

The Future Library anthology is my favorite climate book because it makes me think about the carbon legacy that humanity is currently writing in the bodies of trees and corals, and even in the geologic record.  We who happen to be alive in 2018 are writing history for so many for such a long time to come. The Future Library pushes us to write a better story.

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution by Peter Kalmus

Peter Kalmus:

People genuinely seem to find my book useful, inspiring, and energizing, so I’ve cheekily decided to include it here. I began writing it as I switched from astrophysics to climate science, which gave me a unique motivation and ability to present a clear overview of the science behind climate breakdown. But it’s not even primarily about the science: it’s about how each of us can respond to the terrifying reality that our planet is getting hotter with all our being-ness, which is the only kind of response I feel makes sense when faced with something so existentially overwhelming.

The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weart

Jeffrey Bennett:

This outstanding book details the more than 150-year history of how we’ve learned what we now know about the greenhouse effect and how human emissions of greenhouse gases have led to the current global warming. With clear, nontechnical language, The Discovery of Global Warming explains why the science is uncontroversial, even if politics sometimes intervenes in discussions of the seriousness of the problem and its potential solutions. A must-read for anyone who wants to engage in debates about the topic.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

best books on climate change - New York 2140Kim Nicholas:

To me, this book is about people learning to live with, rather than fight against, nature and each other. It’s set long after catastrophic sea-level rise drowns much of New York because people waited too long to stop burning fossil fuels. The story made me grieve the places and lives that have already been and will be lost to climate change during my lifetime. At the same time, it struck me that future generations will not mourn the same losses, because they will be born into a shifted baseline where that loss was already in their past.

Despite inhabiting one of the worst futures I can imagine, I found this book often inspiring, and strangely, the most hopeful climate fiction I’ve read. In this drowned city there were surprising opportunities I never would have imagined; the characters were creative, selfish, kind, ethical, and manipulative as they adapted to new realities.

Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume 1

Jeffrey Bennett:

It may seem strange to recommend a U.S. government document, but this 400-page report is easy to read and beautifully illustrated and is, in my opinion, the best summary of the latest global warming data that you will find anywhere. The organization and writing are clear enough that it can be read straight through like any nonfiction book, while it is also easily searchable if you are looking for specific data.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Peter Kalmus:

This book is not so much about directly grappling with climate change; but indirectly, it may just be the best “climate book” ever written. And perhaps it’s this indirectness that makes it so powerful. Braiding Sweetgrass teaches us how to listen to the natural world, and causes us to feel why that Earthy wisdom is so needed right now. If climate breakdown is primarily a failure of imagination, as I feel it is, this book goes a long way toward imagining humanity’s new way of being on this Earth — which is informed by some very old ways.

storms of my grandchildrenStorms Of My Grandchildren by James Hansen

Jeffrey Bennett:

James Hansen is one of the world’s leading climate scientists, perhaps best known to the public for his Congressional testimony in 1988 in which he declared that a clear signal of human-caused global warming had already been detected and warned that global warming would cause more severe consequences if it were allowed to continue unabated. With little action having been achieved since that testimony, it is well worth reading Hansen’s own book about how much worse the problems have become, how he fears for the future of his grandchildren and all of humanity, and how he believes we can nevertheless still address and solve the problem.

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Andrew Dessler:

My opinion is that people aren’t as concerned about climate change as they should be because they lack the imagination to understand just how bad a changing climate could be.  This novel helps bridge that gap by painting a picture of a hellish world where climate change has dried out the U.S. Southwest, creating waves of refugees trying to reach places with rainfall.  It’s not a world that I think any of us would want to live in and one that we should make considerable efforts to avoid.

A Global Warming Primer by Jeffrey Bennett

Jeffrey Bennett:

With apologies for recommending my own books… A Global Warming Primer is my book aimed at anyone with questions about the science, consequences, or economics/solutions of global warming. The book is written largely in Q&A format, with both basic and more detailed answers to common questions about the topic.  It is short (about 100 pages), illustrated in full color, and inexpensive; indeed, a web version is also posted freely at

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

switch - best books on climate changeKim Nicholas:

I got fired up reading this book. The future of a good life on planet Earth depends on people alive today cutting carbon pollution in half in the next decade and aiming for zero fossil fuels within a few decades. This book made me feel that this big hairy audacious goal is possible to achieve, by harnessing the creativity and energy of ordinary people and by speaking to both their brains and their hearts. The writing is engaging and relatable. The emphasis on finding “bright spots” where the needed transformations are already happening, and figuring out how to expand them, is extremely helpful. Another big lesson was focusing on the moves that matter. (For individuals not in poverty to cut their current climate pollution fast, the highest impact actions are going meat, flight, and car-free. Cutting current levels in half can be a good place to start).

Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh

Peter Kalmus:

The great Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh realizes that we ultimately cannot mitigate our ecological predicament with more technology or by buying more stuff, no matter how “green.” Instead, we will need to fundamentally change the way we relate to ourselves, to each other, and to our life-giving planet. In Love Letter to the Earth, he teaches us that “anyone who cultivates love and offers a lot of happiness to others is a bodhisattva” and reveals Earth as “the most beautiful bodhisattva of all.”  With his uniquely compassionate voice, he calls us home, reminding us that the bodhisattva we’re all searching for is right under our feet.

The Wizard Who Saved The World by Jeffrey Bennett

Jeffrey Bennett:

The Wizard Who Saved the World is a children’s book that uses an inspirational story to engage kids in the topic of global warming. A young boy named Diego dreams of being a wizard so he can make the world a better place and stop the problems of global warming. When he realizes that he can’t really perform magic, Diego begins to think of ways he can actually help save the world by considering many potential careers and what it would take to achieve them. At the end of this beautifully illustrated book, he is so inspired that when he sees his reflection in a mirror, it appears that he has become a wizard after all.

What do you think are the best books on climate change? Let us know which books you’d nominate as the best books on climate change, in the comments below! If you enjoyed reading this, you should check out The Most Important Economics Books.