Climate Books for Changemakers

One of the most common questions from students just getting into the climate movement is where to start. Although the climate crisis can often feel overwhelming, there are a wealth of resources – both famous and less well-known – to help make sense of both the science and solutions. Here are a few of the best books – in no particular order – to raise ambitions, not the sea level.

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1. Drawdown

Drawdown is perhaps one of the most in-depth analyses of climate solutions ever created. From alternative cement to carbon-free air travel, Drawdown: The Book and its accompanying solutions guide are a distillation of some of the biggest and boldest ideas from around the world. Importantly, Drawdown has also emphasized the societal impacts of climate change, and highlights the importance of empowering Indigenous people, women, and frontline communities.

2. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Although The Sixth Extinction doesn’t focus solely on climate change, it paints a powerful picture of how our relationship with the natural world has fallen out of balance. Written long before COVID-19, Sixth Extinction predicted the rise of zoonotic diseases in its descriptions of chytrid fungus, which devastated amphibians across the world. Despite being a darling of biology professors, Sixth Extinction is also more adventure novel than textbook, tracing its subjects across centuries and continents.

3. Values at Work

Edited by law professor Daniel Esty and building on his previous books Green to Gold and A Better Planet, this book presents a fascinating window into the fast-changing world of climate risk in finance. Although securities law is seldom portrayed as a page turner, Values at Work is a compelling and very readable look at a field that will, almost certainly, reshape the world in coming years. (Disclaimer: I helped with final edits on this book as one of Professor’s Esty’s research assistants.)

4. Our Choice

Our Choice is essentially Al Gore’s famous slideshow in book form. Visually stunning and packed with fun tidbits, this book is a nice introduction to both clean energy and the clear impacts of climate change on our world today. Although one of the older books on this list – meaning some of its statistics may be slightly out of date – Our Choice is still a classic.

5. Live Sustainably Now

From kayaking across a river to get to work to committing to community solar, Live Sustainably Now is a compelling plea for individual action on climate. Although not achievable for everyone, this book is an inspiring look at radical action to reduce your own carbon footprint.

6. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

An anthology of Greta’s speeches, this is basically a book form of the GIFs we’ve all seen on Twitter. Reading Greta’s full speeches is also an intriguing window into the philosophies and passion of the global youth climate movement, in a more complete way than a single soundbite.

7. Global Climate Change and U.S. Law

As (I promise) the last book on this list written by a law professor, Global Climate Change and U.S. Law is a digestible look at how and why the U.S. has fallen short on climate policy at the federal level. For those seeking a deeper understanding of what climate NGOs are pushing for and why, this book is an incredible overview of several decades of legal battles, both in and out of the courtroom.

8. Climate Change from the Streets

Climate Change from the Streets is a powerful introduction to the environmental justice movement, which is increasingly a driving force behind climate action both in America and internationally. From the grassroots to the global, this book shows the deep human costs of climate inaction.

9. All We Can Save

Drawing on one of Drawdown’s top climate solutions – empowering women and girls – All We Can Save is an inspiring anthology of stories from women climate leaders from all over the world. Featuring excerpts from Alexandria Villasenor and many others, All We Can Save is both a timely and profound look at the oft overlooked role of women in the climate movement.

10. The Legacy of Ibo Landing

As residents of the Sea Islands in the coastal American South, the Gullah/Geechee Nation are arguably one of the most climate-vulnerable cultures in the world. This book is a moving introduction to what makes the Gullah/Geechee so unique, and why their story is so foundational to American history. I had the honor of meeting Queen Quet at a climate summit, and in addition to learning more about the Gullah/Geechee Nation through her work, you can also support their fight against climate change and other threats through the Gullah/Geechee Land Legacy Fund.