Earth’s Uncertain Future | Collection Development: Climate Change, June 1, 2015


Climate change entered scientific discourse during the 1980s as scientists in a variety of fields, such as climatology and oceanography, started to document a rapid rise in greenhouse gases and a corresponding increase in global temperatures. Owing to the nature of these respective disciplines, most of this early research was published in scientific journals. The scientists’ claims were quickly challenged as critics alleged that greenhouse gases had little to do with any warming that might be occurring globally. Furthermore, critics maintained, if the temperatures were in fact rising, then human beings would merely adapt to whatever changes occurred.

Increasing public awareness

The burgeoning interdisciplinary scientific research on climate change spread to the public consciousness during the 1990s. One key event that helped bridge the divide was the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the United Nations in 1988. The panel became a clearinghouse of information on climate change worldwide. Among its many impacts was to alter the nature of the global warming conversation. Critics of climate change were no longer debating whether differences were in fact occurring but were instead questioning the degree to which humans were responsible. Within the United States, it had also become a political issue as politicians, most notably among them former Tennessee senator Al Gore, began writing best-selling books on the topic. The efforts of Gore and the IPCC were recognized in 2007 when they shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

The recognition that former vice president Gore received for his initiatives sparked a climate change publishing boom that continues to escalate. In such disparate disciplines as architecture, biology, and urban design, one can find numerous publications that address the crisis that is under way.

Unfortunately, much cutting-edge research related to climate change remains confined to scholarly journals, which tend to be extremely expensive and accessible only to a narrow and highly specialized audience. The tendency to publish in scholarly venues is also evident in the books selected for this article as many are published by academic presses, although it should be noted that a conscious effort was made to avoid works that are inaccessible to lay readers. Readers will also notice a preponderance of recent works; since scientific advances require up-to-date materials, it is important that library shelves be stocked with newer items. A few classics stand the test of time, of course, and are listed below, too.

Starred (redstar) titles are essential for all collections.

John Burch is Dean of Library Services and Professor at Campbellsville University, KY. He is coeditor of The Encyclopedia of Water Politics and Policy in the United States (Congressional Quarterly, 2011) and the author of Water Rights and the Environment in the United States (Greenwood, Jul. 2015). An LJ reviewer since 1997, he was named a 2014 LJ Reviewer of the Year


Funk, McKenzie. Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming. Penguin. 2014. 320p. photos. index. ISBN 9781594204012. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698151567.

While others debate whether the climate is changing, entrepreneurs worldwide are already seizing economic advantages to prosper from global warming. Funk explores, for example, how an Israeli company provides technology to create snow in the Austrian and German Alps. Also examined is the rush to acquire rich farmland in the Sudan and other countries by investors who hope to corner the market on farm products as once fertile areas suffer desertification from rising temperatures. Funk’s is a somewhat mercenary viewpoint presented in an engaging and humorous text.

redstarHenson, Robert. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change. American Meteorological Soc. 2014. 416p. illus. index. ISBN 9781935704737. pap. $30.

Written by a meteorologist, this work introduces much of the content of the scientific reports on climate change produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in language that is easily accessible to lay readers. The text is supplemented by color photographs, illustrations, and sidebars. The author also commendably treats the views of climate skeptics respectfully by acknowledging their arguments and explaining why some of their views do have merit.

ljx150601webcoldev4redstarJamieson, Dale. Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed—and What It Means for Our Future. Oxford Univ. 2014. 288p. illus. biblio. index. ISBN 9780199337668. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199337682.

Jamieson begins with the assumption that climate change is upon us and it is too late to reverse its effects, especially since the emission of greenhouse gases continues to grow unabated worldwide despite numerous international agreements. He challenges readers to consider how future humans will adapt to the climate extremes being created now. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 5/2/14)

Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. S. & S. 2014. 576p. notes. index. ISBN 9781451697384. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451697407.

Prominent journalist and activist Klein calls for grassroots groups worldwide to enact the changes required to stem the carbon emissions that are leading to climate change. She passionately argues that “the people” need to lead on environmental issues; governments, corporations, and even major environmental groups will not do what’s necessary because they are protecting their conjoined political and economic interests.

McCalman, Iain. The Reef: A Passionate History; The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change. Farrar. 2014. 352p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374248192. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374711702.

The author explores the history of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s environmental treasures. Although it was believed that the establishment of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1976 would protect the resource indefinitely, climate change is increasingly threatening the area’s future. (LJ 3/15/14)

Marshall, George. Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change. Bloomsbury USA. 2014. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781620401330. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781620401347.

Marshall endeavors to understand why skeptics fail to grasp the science of climate change. Examining psychological research, he argues that people are naturally inclined to protect their immediate economic interests over what they perceive to be a vague, long-term threat. By illustrating how the mind works, Marshall offers strategies that can be used to sway the opinions of climate change skeptics, especially those in the policy­making arena.

Nash, Stephen. Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests. Univ. of Virginia. 2014. 224p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813936581. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780813936598.

Written by an environmental journalist, this engaging work examines the subtle effects of climate change on Virginia’s diverse environs today. It also explores how the intensification of global warming will transform the state’s coasts and forests and negatively impact the quality of life in urban and rural areas.

Primack, Richard B. Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods. Univ. of Chicago. 2014. 264p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226682686. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780226062211.

Using Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden; or, Life in the Woods as his source for environmental data from the mid-19th century, Primack details how climate change has affected Massachusetts’s Walden Pond and its environs in just 160 years. (LJ 3/15/14)

Sobel, Adam. Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future. Harper Wave. 2014. 336p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062304766. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062304780.

Sobel, an atmospheric scientist and professor at Columbia University, documents Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the shoreline of New Jersey and New York in 2012. He presents information on the development of the storm itself, contrasting it with how hurricanes have historically developed to identify how climate change may be influencing the weather systems’ growth today. What it all portends is examined, too, as overall heating of water helps future hurricanes morph into even stronger storms. (LJ 11/1/14)

ljx150601webcoldev5redstarSze, Julie. Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis. Univ. of California. 2015. maps. notes. bibliog. index. 248p. ISBN 9780520262485. $65; ebk. ISBN 9780520959828.

Sze examines China’s efforts to construct an ecocity that prioritized environmental concerns over economic development. It is a sobering study considering that China, the largest emitter of greenhouses gases in the world, discovered that the scattered construction of green buildings, communities, etc., could not be accomplished on a scale sufficient to ameliorate climate change.


redstarDiamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed. Viking. 2004. 592p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780670033379. $29.95.

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Diamond examines how and why societies created by groups such as the Anasazi, Maya, and Vikings failed in environmentally challenging locales due to leaders’ poor decision-making and the overconsumption of available resources. Rather than suggesting that doom is imminent, he optimistically portrays societies in Iceland and Japan that also occupied harsh environs but made timely and wise environmental and political choices that allowed them to thrive. (LJ 6/1/05)

redstarFagan, Brian. The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels. Bloomsbury USA. 2013. 288p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781608196920. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781608196951.

Beginning with the Ice Age, Fagan explores how the fluctuation in sea levels over time has impacted societies in such places as Bangladesh, Japan, and the Mediterranean. Past events set the context ljx150601webcoldev7for the current rise in sea levels as ice sheets melt and what that foreshadows as populations are forced to migrate when the land they previously occupied disappears underwater. (LJ 4/15/13)

Ingram, B. Lynn & Frances Malamud-Roam. The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climate Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow. Univ. of California. 2013. 289p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520268555. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780520954809.

Paleoclimatologists Ingram and Malamud-Roam explore the climate changes that have occurred in the West over the last 20 millennia in order to predict what the future holds in a region that is heavily populated but has a finite amount of water. Particularly disconcerting are the accounts of numerous mega-droughts, lasting centuries, that have plagued California into the present day.

redstarJouzel, Jean & others. The White Planet: The Evolution and Future of Our Frozen World. Princeton Univ. 2013. 316p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780691144993. $29.95; ebk ISBN 9781400844692.

Produced through the research of glaciologists and climatologists, this work examines the history of climate change by studying ice from sources such as ice sheets and glaciers. By contrasting the history documented in the ice with the melting that is occurring around the world, the scientists are able to provide an enlightening view of climate change as it happens. (LJ 5/1/13)

redstarParker, Geoffrey. Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. Yale Univ. 2013. 904p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300153231. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780300189193.

Through the prism of the 17th century, which included the Little Ice Age, Parker explores how climate change initiated food shortages, rampant disease, and warfare in such disparate locales as Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. His cautionary tale warns that while climate change results in great turmoil, the situation does not turn catastrophic unless governments prove unable to respond effectively to the challenges faced by the general populace. (LJ 6/15/13)

redstarStone, Brian, Jr. The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live. Cambridge Univ. 2012. 206p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781107602588. pap. $34.99; ebk. ISBN 9781139366182.

This work focuses on the effect that large urban areas have on the climate around them, such as significantly raising local temperatures and altering local precipitation patterns. By exploring forms of global warming other than greenhouse gases, this work ­creates a model for future regional studies.


Climate Change: Lines of Evidence. National Research Council.

Produced by the National Research Council, this seven-chapter video uses research conducted by the National Academies to demonstrate systematically how climate scientists have concluded that human activities are leading to global climate change.

redstarAn Inconvenient Truth. color. 97 min. Al Gore, dist. by Paramount Home Entertainment. 2006. DVD UPC 883929311323. $5.97. Closed-captioned. Rated: PG.

The release of former United States Vice President Al Gore’s film on the “settled science” of climate change was a watershed moment in the environmental movement. Its influence was such that it earned him an Academy Award and also significantly contributed to him jointly receiving the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The film became controversial as some of Gore’s scientific claims proved dubious at best.


Virtual Water App. Available for iTunes and as a poster print. dist. by Raureif GmbH.

As global warming affects the globe, access to fresh water will become a major problem for all the world’s peoples. This tool allows users to examine their water footprint, so that they may consider changes to undertake in the future.


Climate Action
Learn how the European Union is working to mitigate the impact of climate change in Europe.

Global Warming
This resource from the Cato Institute represents the views of skeptics who argue that the threat posed by global warming has been sensationalized and not thoroughly vetted scientifically.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Operating under the auspices of the United Nations, the IPCC evaluates and shares scientific information for use by policymakers at all levels of government and other interested parties.

The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator;
This tool allows users to estimate how many greenhouse gases they individually, or collectively with their households, generate over the course of a year.

UN and Climate Change

A valuable resource that highlights, at the micro level, how climate change is affecting lives worldwide. Also included is information on how the UN is working with member countries to forge agreements to reduce the human-made causes of global warming.

United States Global Change Research Program;
Produced by 13 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this is the official U.S. government source on climate change. Among its offerings is the text of the Third National Climate Assessment.

Working Together for the Environment and the Economy;
The successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, this site from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is a nonpartisan source for valuable information on climate change and how it is impacting the energy needs of people around the world.

The Developing Schedule



To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Barbara Genco four to six months before issue dates listed above (email:

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