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Our leading candidates for an election-year reading list » Yale Climate Connections


2024 will be a yearlong stress test for democracy.

And not just in the United States. Over 80 countries will hold major elections this year. 

Hanging in the balance will be action on climate change — at all levels: local, state, regional, national, and international.

To prepare you for the decisive months ahead, we’ve assembled an election-year reading list of books and reports that connect the changing climate with recent developments in public opinion, social psychology, news and social media, political parties, and environmental (mis)perceptions.

As the contributors to Democracy in a Hotter Time point out, climate change would pose a formidable challenge even to a well-designed and smoothly functioning polity. It could easily break flawed systems. 

Cracks in the U.S. system are enumerated in two recent surveys of public opinion by Democracy Fund and Public Religion Research Institute, which show that many Americans now buy into misinformation about who won the 2020 election and whether Jan. 6 was a violent insurrection. 

As explained in the two books by Danagal Goldthwaite Young and Paul Thagard, social psychology provides part of the explanation for our susceptibility to misinformation. But as Kathryn Cramer Brownell points out, historic changes to the news media and their relationships with America’s two political parties are also factors. 

Stuart Stevens recounts how Republican leaders and conservative commentators claim they are forced to follow the MAGA voters they repeatedly misled during the Trump years. Alternatively, John B. Judis and Ruy Texeira try to explain why core constituencies are, in their view, abandoning the Democratic Party. One early 2024 survey, for example, showed Trump leading Biden with Hispanics and young voters and gaining with Black voters. 

Both parties are often oblivious to the “Ground Truths” that shape the lives of Black, Indigenous, people of color, and/or the working poor, Chad Raphael and Martha Matsuoka argue. Republicans, however, have well-practiced tactics for promoting and profiting from their anger and resentment. 

Climate change adds another set of emotions, perceptions, and distortions to the volatile election-year mix. Paul Bogard presents several takes on “solastalgia,” the pain and longing we feel when the natural world, as we knew it, passes away. By contrast, data analyst Hannah Ritchie has assembled a compelling set of facts in support of an optimistic vision of the future. And Climate Action Against Disinformation reminds us that bad-faith actors are ever ready to twist emotions and facts in order to Deny, Deceive, Delay

In the coming year, these books and reports imply, we too will be stress-tested.   

As always, the descriptions of the books and reports are adapted from the copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. 

Democracy in a hotter time book cover

Democracy in a Hotter Time: Climate Change and Democratic Transformation, edited by David W. Orr (The MIT Press 2023, 296 pages, $24.95 paperback)

Democracy in a Hotter Time calls for reforming democratic institutions as a prerequisite for avoiding climate chaos and adapting governance to how Earth works as a physical system. To survive in the “long emergency” ahead, we must strengthen democratic institutions, making them assets rather than liabilities. Few books have taken a systems view of the effects of a rapidly destabilizing climate on our laws and governance. The thoughtful and incisive essays in this volume cover subjects from constitutional reform to participatory urban design; together, they aim to invigorate the conversation about the future in ways that will improve the effectiveness of institutions and lay the foundation for a more durable and just democracy.

Democracy hypocrisy book cover

Democracy Hypocrisy: Examining America’s Fragile Democratic Convictions by Joe Goldman et al (Democracy Fund 2024, 43 pages, free download)

The Views of the Electorate Research Survey is a longitudinal survey that Democracy Fund has conducted in partnership with YouGov since December 2016. This report includes survey data from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6, 2022. Key Findings: (1) More than 80 percent of Americans claim to support democracy. (2) But support for democratic norms softens considerably when they conflict with partisanship. (3) The portion of the public who are consistently authoritarian is relatively small (8 percent) — but growing. (4) In contrast to an overwhelming and consistent rejection of political violence across four survey waves, the violent events of Jan. 6, 2021, were viewed favorably by Republicans. Almost half (46%) described these events as acts of patriotism.

On the specific motivations of those who broke into the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, see “President Trump Is Call Us to Fight” by Joan Donovan et al (Technology and Social Change Project & Shorenstein Center 2022, 37 pages, free download). 

Threats to American Democracy book cover

Threats to American Democracy Ahead of an Unprecedented Election: Findings from 2023 American Values Survey by Melissa Deckman et al (Public Religion Research Institute 2023, 74 pages, free download)

The 14th Annual American Values survey, conducted by PRRI in partnership with Brookings, examines Americans’ attitudes about the leading candidates for president, potential support for third-party candidates, and the issues that define these partisan and cultural fault lines. The survey illuminates Americans’ concerns about the overall direction of the country, the state of the economy, immigration, public education, gender/LGBTQ issues, social connectedness, and the health of our democracy. Among the findings: Republicans who have favorable views of Trump (41%) are nearly three times as likely as Republicans who have unfavorable views of Trump (16%) to agree that true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country.

Video of an October 2023 Brookings Institution event that reviewed and discussed this report can be viewed here.

Cover image of Wrong

Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation by Dannagal Goldthwaite Young (Johns Hopkins University Press 2023, 312 pages, $29.95) 

Why are so many of us wrong about so much? From COVID-19 to climate change to the results of elections, millions of Americans believe things that are simply not true — and act based on these misperceptions. In “Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation,” Dannagal Goldthwaite Young offers a comprehensive model that illustrates how political leaders and media organizations capitalize on our social and cultural identities to separate, enrage, and — ultimately — mobilize us. By understanding the dynamics that encourage identity distillation, Wrong explains how to reverse this dangerous trend and strengthen American democracy in the process.

Falsehoods Fly book cover

Falsehoods Fly: Why Misinformation Spreads and How to Stop It by Paul Thagard (Columbia University Press 2024, 376 pages, $25.00 paperback)

Misinformation is one of the twenty-first century’s greatest challenges. In Falsehoods Fly, a leading cognitive scientist and philosopher offers a new framework for recognizing and countering misleading claims by exploring the ways that information works — and breaks down. Paul Thagard examines the dangers of misinformation on COVID-19, climate change, conspiracy theories, inequality, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Bringing together empirical findings about the psychological and social mechanisms that drive cognitive errors with philosophical accounts of critical thinking, Thagard develops an innovative theory of how we gain information and provides practical, concrete strategies to stop the creation and spread of misinformation.

See also Truth, Trust, and Hope: Proceedings of the 2023 Nobel Prize Summit by Franklin Carrero-Martinez et al (National Academies Press 2023, 127 pages, free download w/ registration)

24/7 Politics: Cable Television and the Fragmentation of America from Watergate to Fox News by Kathryn Cramer Brownell (Princeton University Press 2023, 424 pages, $35.00) 

24/7 Politics book cover

In this timely and provocative book, Kathryn Cramer Brownell argues that cable television itself is not to blame for today’s rampant polarization and scandal politics — the intentional restructuring of television as a political institution is. She describes how cable innovations — from C-SPAN coverage of congressional debates in the 1980s to MTV’s foray into presidential politics in the 1990s — took on network broadcasting using market forces, giving rise to a more decentralized media world. Brownell shows how cable became an unstoppable medium for political communication that prioritized cult followings and loyalty to individual brands, fundamentally reshaped party politics, and, in the process, sowed the seeds of democratic upheaval.

For the recent history of Fox News in particular, see Brian Stelter’s Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump and the Battle for American Democracy (Simon & Schuster 2023, 384 pages, $30.00) 

The conspiracy to end america book cover

Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy by Stuart Stevens (Hachette Books / Twelve 2023, 240 pages, $30.00) 

Today’s Republican Party is not a “normal” political party in the American tradition. It has become an autocratic movement masquerading as a political party. Formerly a successful Republican strategist, Stuart Stevens argues that whenever a democracy slides into autocracy, there are five critical elements at work: financiers, propagandists, party support, legal theories to legitimize, and shock troops. The Conspiracy to End America examines each of these driving forces on the Right and makes clear how they are working in concert to end our democracy as we know it. Stevens’ new book is a blinking red distress call about the dark intentions lurking within his old party and a rallying cry to beat back this perilous threat and save the Republic.  

Where have all the democrats gone? book cover

Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes by John B. Judis and Ruy Texeira (Henry Holt & Co. 2023, 336 pages, $28.99) 

The Democratic and Republican parties have both lost sight of the people at the center of the American electorate, leading to polarization and paralysis. In ”Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira reveal the tectonic changes shaping the country’s current political landscape that both pundits and political scientists have missed. The Democratic Party, once the preserve of small towns as well as big cities and of the industrial working class and the newly immigrated, has abandoned and even actively alienated many of these voters. In their new book, Judis and Teixeira reveal the transformation of American politics and provide a razor-sharp critique of where the Democrats have gone awry and how they can avoid political disaster in the days ahead.

Ground truths book cover

Ground Truths: Community Engaged Research for Environmental Justice, edited by Chad Raphael and Martha Matsuoka (University of California Press 2024, 480 pages, $34.95 paperback / free ebook)

Ground Truths shows how community-engaged research makes unique contributions to environmental justice for Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income communities by centering local knowledge, building truth from the ground up, producing actionable data that can influence decisions, and transforming researchers’ relationships to communities for equity and mutual benefit. The book offers a critical synthesis of relevant research in many fields, outlines the main steps in conducting community-engaged research, and suggests ways to overcome institutional barriers to such work. The topics treated include public health, urban planning, conservation law and policy, community economic development, and food justice and sovereignty.

Solastalgia book cover

Solastalgia: An Anthology of Emotion in a Disappearing World, edited by Paul Bogard (University of Virginia Press 2023, 188 pages, $24.95 paperback)

As climate change and other environmental degradations become more evident, experts predict that an increasing number of people will suffer emotional and psychological distress as a result. In the pages of Solastalgia, they will find a source of companionship, inspiration, and advice. The concept of solastalgia comes from the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, who describes it as the pain and longing we feel as we realize the world immediately around us is changing. This powerful anthology brings together thirty-four writers — educators, journalists, poets, and scientists — to share their emotions in the face of environmental crisis. They share their solastalgia, their beloved places, their vulnerability, their stories, their vision of what we can create. 

Not the End of the World book cover

Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet by Hannah Ritchie (Little Brown Spark 2023, 352 pages, $30.00)

We are constantly bombarded by doomsday headlines. But in this bold, radically hopeful book, data scientist Hannah Ritchie argues that if we zoom out, a very different picture emerges. In fact, the data shows we’ve made so much progress on these problems that we could be on track to achieve true sustainability for the first time in human history. ”Not the End of the World” will give you the tools to understand our current crisis and make lifestyle changes that actually have an impact. Hannah cuts through the noise by outlining what works, what doesn’t, and what we urgently need to focus on so we can leave a sustainable planet for future generations. Our problems are solvable; we can build a better future for everyone. Let’s make that opportunity a reality.

Deny, deceive, delay book cover

Deny, Deceive, Delay (Vol. 3): Climate Information Integrity Ahead of COP28 by Research Staff (Climate Action Against Disinformation 2023, 49 pages, free download)

This report, the third in a series by CAAD partners, offers a window into three distinct ecosystems engaged in climate mis- and disinformation: the fossil fuel lobby, state-affiliated actors, and those profiting from the ‘outrage economy’ online. Released on the eve of COP28, this report illustrates the networks, narratives, and tactics used in these ecosystems. In the curated environments of social media, freedom of speech must be distinct from freedom of reach; companies should optimize their products for safety. We must remove the incentives for spreading false, misleading and divisive content. And for that to happen, we must first recognize the threat of mis- and disinformation for what it is: a barrier to cohesion, to action, and to a livable future for all.





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