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Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Whether you’re an eco-activist or not, it’s impossible to ignore the debate that has followed the most recent international climate report and a devastating slew of natural disasters.

Global warming should be a reality, not a controversy. If average global temperatures exceed just half a degree, the risk for major natural disasters will significantly increase.

If you want to understand the real facts behind the figures, put your energy into reading these five powerful books that promote awareness about climate change.

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush

This poetic report about how rising sea levels are affecting American shorelines is compelling, relevant and accessible. The reality is that coastlines are disappearing and salt is causing devastation to essential habitats and those who live alongside them. Rush doesn’t just share her own personal discovery of the urgency of climate change, but interviews the experts and gives voices to the survivors of ravaged coastal communities all over the country. 

The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change, Charles Wohlforth

This fascinating text about climate change as it is seen in Northern Alaska is packed full of science that, while not oversimplified, is accessible and stimulating. In the far North, these issues and fears are no longer an abstract idea, but a reality that has drastically altered daily life. Wohlforth follows both a traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party as they race to shore near Barrow and a team of scientists on a quest to understand the snow. These different but intertwined groups must work out how best to survive while navigating the issue that is now bearing down upon us all.

The City Where We Once Lived, Eric Barnes

If you’re working up the courage to embrace hard-hitting non-fiction texts, Barnes’ dystopian novel will still pack a pretty loaded punch when it comes to the issue of climate change. In a near (and foreseeable) future, climate change has caused the crumbling North End of an unknown city to be abandoned by all but the scavengers, who are attempting to bury their memories of what was lost. Like the topic it discusses, this haunting story is purposefully an exhausting and depressing read, but it is also a rewarding one; one that forces you to look sharply at yourself and at humanity. 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Amitav Ghosh

In his first major work of non-fiction, acclaimed Indian novelist Ghosh asks: “Are we deranged?” Certainly, we seem unable to grasp the sheer threat of climate change, and even more incapable of preventing it thus far. This literary text moves the conversation away from science and towards culture, politics and ethics, begging the reader to recognize the problem in being so unwilling to protect the future of life on Earth. The eerie relevance of this narrative realises the critical need to think about the unthinkable.

Below Freezing: Elegy for the Melting Planet, Donald Anderson

This ‘collage’ of ‘scientific fact, newspaper reports and excerpts from novels, short stories, nonfiction, history, creative nonfiction and poetry’, is both absorbing and informative. Anderson tackles the beauty and dangers of the cold, as well as the alarming rate at which our planet is warming in a meditated way that feels as serene as the conditions it explores.

Further reading: 12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN

Climate Change

12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN

A landmark report published on Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that dramatic measures must be taken to keep global warming temperatures at a maximum of 1.5C within 12 years.

If global warming temperatures exceed just half a degree, the risk for major natural disasters such as floods, droughts and extreme heat will significantly increase. Maintaining 1.5C is essential in preventing the extinction of coral reefs, and will ease pressure on an already buckling Arctic, say researchers.

The world currently sits at 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. The IPCC sates that, with an increase in hurricanes in the Carolinas, flooding and record drought in South Africa’s Cape Town, global warming is already a very real threat. The study says that maintaining the 1.5C target will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts said, “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now.

“This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

The report was commissioned by policymakers at the Paris Climate talks in 2016. The Paris Climate Agreement is an important agreement between member countries of the UNFCCC to combat climate change. Since then, however, president Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw the US from the Accord while Jair Bolsonaro—presidential candidate in Brazil—has pledged to follow suit, worryingly widening the gap between politics and science.

What’s next for climate change?

If global warming temperatures reach even 2C, the IPCC suggests that the global sea level will rise by approximately four inches, potentially exposing 10 million people to the risk of flooding.

Kaisa Kosonen at Greenpeace said, “We are already in the danger zone at one degree of warming.

“Both poles are melting at an accelerated rate; ancient trees that have been there for hundreds of years are suddenly dying; and the summer we’ve just experienced—basically, the whole world was on fire.”

Member of the IPCC, professor Jim Skea, said of the urgency of combatting climate change that, “They [world governments] really need to start work immediately. The report is clear that if governments just fulfil the pledges they made in the Paris agreement for 2030, it is not good enough.”

Further reading: Climate Change Fears as Arctic temperature Rises

Arctic Temperature Rise

Climate Change Fears as Arctic Temperature Rises

The Arctic experienced record warmth this month after a major heatwave. It is yet to be determined as a freak occurrence, yet climate experts warn that the Arctic temperature rise is unprecedented.

The primary concern among scientists is that global warming is damaging and eroding the polar vortex—winds that insulate the north pole.

“This is an anomaly among anomalies,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It is far enough outside the historical range that it is worrying—it is a suggestion that there are further surprises in store as we continue to poke the angry beast that is our climate.

“The Arctic has always been regarded as a bellwether because of the vicious circle that amplify human—caused warming in that particular region. And it is sending out a clear warning.”

Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute said “Spikes in temperature are part of the normal weather patterns—what is unusual about this event is that it has persisted for so long and that it has been so warm.

“Going back to the late 1950s at least we have never seen such high temperatures in the high Arctic.”

While it is normal for temperatures to fluctuate in the Arctic north as a result of the strength or weakness of the polar vortex that works to deflect warm air to keep the region cool, the recent heat peaks that the area has been experiencing have been lasting longer and longer.

Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, said “In 50 years of Arctic reconstructions, the current warming event is both the most intense and one of the longest-lived warming events ever observed during winter.”