At the UN climate conference in Copenhagen this December, talk will turn to scientific, political and economic issues with a global reach and a long history — not easy to pick up from the daily news. We asked select experts on climate change what books we should be reading ahead of the big event.
Here’s a peek at some well-informed desks, bookshelves and bedside tables. Read the full roundup here – and join in our pre-Copenhagen book club by commenting below.
When your last work led to an Oscar and Nobel Prize, anticipation is high on the sequel. And Al Gore’s new book delivers, says Joe Romm, the voice of Climate Progress at the Centre for American Progress. Gore’s Our Choice collects the most effective climate change solutions that policymakers could put in place now.
Tony Juniper, the campaigner and onetime director of Friends of the Earth, picks out Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees (also a favorite of the Royal Society). The book vividly paints the changes expected as the world warms – revealing the practical implications of compromises we could see at Copenhagen.
A lively new book by an ex-oilman and geologist tells some of the insider history behind the UN talks – an eyewitness account of shifting views on climate change within the oil industry. Lord Ron Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell, says Brian Lovell’s Challenged by Carbon is an instant tonic for ‘climate change fatigue’.
Roger Pielke, Jr., a University of Colorado science-policy expert, argues that climate negotiators are failing to learn from history. He recommends the 1998 book Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott, which recites a litany of failed attempts at centralized planning.
Oliver Tickell’s climate policy proposal Kyoto2 is just the thing a truly intelligent species would come up with, according to Mark Lynas, environmentalist and Six Degrees author. But it’s nothing like what’s on the table for December.
Can we ‘solve the climate crisis’? In Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia asserts that “climate change is not ‘a problem’ waiting for ‘a solution’” but rather is an idea whose shape can differ completely depending on one’s political and cultural biases. New York Times reporter and Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin recommends the book and sketches out its implications for Copenhagen.
In turn, Mike Hulme points to a book that looks beyond the usual dichotomy of climate change ‘believers’ and ‘sceptics’ to find a more fundamental split in thinking. John Foster’s The Sustainability Mirage explores some crucial social and psychological realities of climate change that you won’t be hearing much about during the conference.
Another good read when you want to lift your head from the trenches, the new book Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand takes an overview of environmental issues in the twenty-first century. Former Nature editor (and sun-eater) Oliver Morton dubs it a lucid big picture put together with experience, wisdom and optimism.
Could you call yourself ready for Copenhagen without taking a look at the IPCC report? Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says their 2007 Synthesis Report – a sum-up of the masses of policy-relevant research reviewed by the three working groups – has perhaps been the panel’s most effective report thus far in creating awareness across every section of society.
Here are the book reviews in full. What do you think – are these the right reads to get ready for the conference? What others should be on the list?
Image: © iStockphoto / Pertunisas