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Want to take action on climate change? These books can help. » Yale Climate Connections

At the beginning of a new year, commentators of all sorts invite us to look back at the year just finished and forward to the year ahead. This year, on the matter of climate change, the annual exercise has special importance.

2022 was filled with the sort of natural disasters we have come to expect but whose severity still surprises us: the devastating floods in Nigeria and Pakistan, vicious tropical cyclones like Hurricane Ian, and scorching heat waves in the United States, Europe, India, and China.

But 2022 was also noteworthy for long-hoped-for successes — like the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, known as the IRA, in the United States and the new if still tentative commitment by the international community to address the losses and damages climate change is already inflicting on developing countries. 2022 set the stage for significant action on climate change.

A set stage, however, still requires actors. The opportunities created by these developments, the Inflation Reduction Act in particular, will not seize themselves. U.S. residents concerned about climate change must persuade their churches, school boards, workplaces, city councils, and state legislatures to access and use the funds provided by the IRA* to reduce their carbon footprints.

To help our readers meet these challenges, Yale Climate Connections has assembled a special collection of books and reports on climate action. Each offers practical advice for individuals who want to persuade their communities to act on climate change. Some of these titles have appeared in previous bookshelves; others are newly discovered or recently published. The collection includes titles aimed at different age groups: adults, college students, young adults, and children. Many also offer inspiring personal stories of climate activism.

So if you want to up your game on climate change this year, resolve to read one of these books.

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

*Note: The White House has created its own guidebook for the Inflation Reduction Act, a detailed but accessible explanation of what’s in the bill and of the procedures for accessing the funds it allocates. The guidebook can be downloaded, free of charge, here.

Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action, by Susan B. Inches (North Atlantic Books 2022, 368 pages, $19.95 paperback)

What can ordinary citizens really do about climate change? A lot! Written by environmental policy expert Susan B. Inches, Advocating for the Environmentis an empowering guide to help you enact environmental change. Part I explains how we must learn to think differently. It discusses storytelling, empathy, worldviews, and how effective communication can help us collaborate with others. Part II of the book is all about action: how to use power for good, work with decision-makers, organize events, manage a coalition, communicate with the public, and work with the media. The book also includes case studies and templates to deepen learning. Teachers, students, and community activists will find useful ideas and strategies on every page. 

Lead for the Planet: Five Practices for Confronting Climate Change, by Rae Andre (University of Toronto Press 2020, 272 pages, $29.95)

With so much evidence in the news, it’s hard to believe that we’ve had to spend so much time convincing each other that climate change is real. Lead for the Planet shifts the focus to how we are going to organize to solve the twin issues of climate change and energy evolution. Building on her experience as an organizational psychologist, Rae André outlines five practices that successful climate leaders will need to adopt, from getting out the truth about the state of the planet, to identifying the risks and interests of key stakeholders, to implementing change within and between organizations and sectors on a global scale. Lead for the Planet is a guide for the kind of leadership that is necessary to create a clean energy future for the generations to come.

Climate Courage: How Tackling Climate Change Can Build Community, Transform the Economy, and Bridge the Political Divide in America, by Andreas Karelas (Beacon Press 2020, 248 pages, $17.00 paperback)

Andreas Karelas has a message we don’t often hear: We have all the tools we need to solve the climate crisis and doing so will improve our lives, our economy, and our society. But to engage people in the climate fight, we need stories that are empowering, inclusive, and solutions-oriented. Karelas digs into the latest data on the rapidly falling costs and increased efficiencies of clean energy technologies compared to fossil fuels, looks at the rate of job creation in the clean energy sector, and introduces the reader to the inspiring work of climate heroes on both sides of the aisle—from mayors and governors to activists, businesses, and faith communities. Climate Courage shows us how we can create a sustainable economy that works for everyone.

Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon, Resilient Communities by Michael R. Boswell, Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale (Island Press 2019, 384 pages, $35.00 paperback)

Climate Action Planning is designed to help planners, municipal staff and officials, citizens and others working at local levels to develop and implement plans to mitigate a community’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase the resilience of communities against climate change impacts. This fully revised and expanded edition goes well beyond climate action plans to examine the mix of policy and planning instruments available to every community. New examples of implemented projects highlight what has worked and the challenges that remain. The new chapter vulnerability assessment will help communities identify their greatest risks and opportunities. A comprehensive look at the art, science, and practice, Climate Action Planning should be the first stop for local governments interested in addressing climate change.

Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle: Why Individual Climate Action Matters More Than Ever by Lloyd Alter (New Society Publishers 2021,176 pages, $19.95 paperback)

The international scientific consensus is that we have less than a decade to drastically slash our collective carbon emissions to keep global heating to 1.5 degrees and avert catastrophe. This means that many of us have to cut our individual carbon footprints by over 80% by 2030. But where to start? Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle draws on Lloyd Alter’s own efforts to track his daily carbon emissions—from take-out food, bikes and cars, and internet usage, to the invisible carbon embedded in everything we own. Grounded in meticulous research and yet accessible to all, Alter’s book describes a journey toward a life of quality over quantity, and sufficiency over efficiency. Only by following such a path can we save our planetary home.

Faithful Resilience: Building Spiritual, Physical, and Social Climate Resilience by Avery Davis Lamb (Creation Justice Ministries 2022, 29 pages, free download available with registration)

Faithful Resilience is an indispensable tool for integrating teaching and action on climate resilience into your congregation.  This 6-part guide will equip you with theological reflections for sermons or bible study, questions for reflection or conversation, action steps for your church, and examples of churches who are building resilience in their community. The series features six parts: (1) The Land We Inhabit, (2) The Fierce Urgency of Now, (3) Resilience and Restoration, (4) Climate Migration, (5) Building Resilience, and (6): Resilient Worship.

A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New Africa Voice to the Climate Crisis, by Vanessa Nakate (Mariner Books 2021, 240 pages, $22.00)

In January 2020, while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Vanessa Nakate was cropped out of a photo of five young climate activists; the other four activists were all white. The incident highlighted the message Nakate has been delivering all along: those who have been omitted from the climate discussion and are now demanding to be heard. In A Bigger Picture, Nakate shares her story as a young Ugandan woman who sees that her community bears disproportionate consequences from the climate crisis. Tracing her journey from a shy girl in Kampala to a leader on the world stage, her book is a rousing manifesto and a poignant memoir; it presents a vision for the climate movement based on resilience, sustainability, and equity. 

Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It, by Jamie Margolin, Foreword by Greta Thunberg (Hachette 2020, 272 pages, $16.99 paperback)

The 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests. March for Our Lives, and School Strike for Climate. What do all these social justice movements have in common? They were led by passionate, informed, engaged young people. Jamie Margolin has been organizing and protesting since she was 14 years old. Now the co-leader of a global climate action movement, she knows better than most how powerful a young person can be. In Youth to Power, Jamie presents the essential guide to changemaking, with advice on writing and pitching op-eds, organizing successful events and peaceful protests, time management as a student activist, utilizing social and traditional media to spread messages, and sustaining long-term intersectional activism.

This Book Will Save the Planet: A Climate-Justice Primer for Activists and Changemakers by Dany Sigwalt with illustrations by Aurelia Durand (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2022. 160 pages, $15.99 paperback)

Our planet is in crisis. The ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, wildfires are raging … and those most affected by global warming are marginalized communities across the globe. But all is not lost – there’s still time for each and every one of us to make a difference. Through the lens of intersectionality, author Dany Sigwalt and illustrator Aurélia Durand lay out the framework for how we can come together to fight climate change, and how we can work to put people over profit. A vibrant study of one of humanity’s most significant threats, This Book Will Save the Planet explains the core principles of climate justice, shows how solidarity and mutual aid can change the world, and encourages readers to use their privilege to stand up for other people.

This book provides the tools we need to save the planet we all live on.

A Kid’s Guide to Saving the Planet: It’s Not Hopeless and We’re Not Helpless, by Paul Douglas with illustrations by Chelen Ecija (Beaming Books 2022, 112 pages, $22.99)

We have every reason to be concerned about our planet, our only home. New inventions and technologies will help, but cleaning up the planet — saving the world — will require all of us to pay attention and take action. What can you do to help? Plenty! Despite what you may hear on the news, the situation isn’t hopeless, and we aren’t helpless. In this inspiring, informative book, nationally recognized meteorologist Paul Douglas clearly and thoughtfully presents the daunting problems of climate change. And he offers realistic solutions (including some that are already working!) and actions that kids can participate in now. It’s imperative that we all step up and become part of the solution by engaging in new, smarter ways of living.

Climate Action: What Happened and What We Can Do by Seymour Simon (Harper Collins 2021, 48 pages, $8.99 paperback)

Everyone is affected by climate change. Reading Climate Action: What Happened and What We Can Do is the perfect introduction not only to the dramatic effects of climate change but to the solutions. Learn how our behavior and actions have led us to this point, hear from kids around the world dealing with extreme storms, wildfires, and sea level rise, and discover what scientists, youth activists, and ordinary citizens are doing to protect their communities. Divided into eight sections for easy browsing and with over 50 photographs, captions, charts, and graphs, this nonfiction book is an excellent choice to share in the classroom and for homeschooling for kids ages 6 and up.  Seymour Simon’s books are regularly honored by the National Science Teaching Association. This one also includes a glossary, an author’s note, and an index.

Climate Action: The Future Is in Our Hands by Georgina Steven with illustrations by Katie Rewse (Penguin Random House / 360 Degrees 2021, 64 pages, $24.99)

Our planet needs us. And we need our planet. Learn about how climate change is affecting our world, explore the impact that humans have on the planet, and read about innovative ideas for tackling climate breakdown. In this book about climate change, we share the facts. But we also share hope. Learn about the causes of climate change and how it is affecting our world. Explore the human impact and what it means to have a carbon footprint. Read about innovative ideas for tackling climate breakdown. Be inspired by the positive stories from young people effecting change all around the globe. Get tips on the things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and discover many different ways to take action. Our planet needs us. And we need our planet.

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