Dumb Question Dept: What Should I Read to Understand Global Warming?

Jimmybund says "It's hard for a thoughtful person to trust anyone when everyone on the left argues that there is a scientific consensus on the issue and everyone on the right claims the exact opposite! How do we sift through all the politics and bias to uncover the truth? "

It really isn't a left and right split anymore; many Democrats from coal states are among the worst deniers and delayers, and even Rupert Murdoch has bought into climate change. Joseph Romm says that there was a concerted and effective campaign to convince Americans that the science was not proven, but even Frank Luntz, who masterminded it, has been converted. Mostly there is nobody left on the denier side but the oil companies and their PR flacks now. There are lots of delayers still, who don't know how the world will live without coal or SUVs or monster homes, but they are worried. So what to read? The Weather Makers. From our review: It is comprehensible and easy to understand. One can relate to every example- It is all dealt out in a way that you leave knowing so much more than you did when you started yet one is not ready to stick their head in the oven. It is not a negative book, it lays out the problem and many of the proposed solutions but does not write us off. He is sensible and makes one focus on priorities. Flannery scares you to death but does not lose hope; We are impressed and inspired." Perhaps the best written and most level-headed of the bunch.

Heat by George Monbiot. Controversial and dire. Monbiot says we have to reduce our carbon emissions by 90%, fast, which more than just about anyone else is talking about , and requires immediate and radical change of our lifestyles. From Sami's review: "Monbiot believes that campaigning for self-enforced abstinence is a waste of time: "Why bother installing an energy-efficient lightbulb when a man in Lanarkshire boasts of attaching 1.2 million Christmas lights to his house?" Regulation, he argues, is the only way to achieve the level of reduction that is necessary. He claims that many environmentalists, including himself, are hypocrites. He cites examples of friends who campaign against climate change, yet holiday in the Pacific, or work to protect biodiversity, yet serve tuna to their guests. The kinds of changes that are needed, according to Monbiot, can only be achieved with constraints that "apply to everyone, rather than to everyone else Manmade global warming cannot be restrained unless we persuade government to force us to change the way we live."

Hell and High Water by Joseph Romm, who was an energy official in the Clinton government; if you want to understand the American politics behind the politics and bias, this is the book to read. From our review: "The first half of the book lays out the science of global warming and the dangers that await if we do not deal with it, an explanation that is both comprehensive and comprehensible. Few will be doubters after reading that.

The second half explains the politics. First, the deniers: He describes how there was a concerted and effective campaign to convince Americans that the science is not proven, that its all just natural cycles and there needs to be more research. He explains how the deniers operate, in my favourite line in the book from conservative strategist Frank Luntz: "There is a simple rule, you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again and again and again and again and about the time you are absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time." Not our favourite of the bunch but probably the best place for an American reader to start.

Books are not the most up-to-date sources of information; you might also look at ::Realclimate.org for the latest science, Joseph Romm's ::Climateprogress.org for the politics and a particularly American point of view; ::Desmogblog.com for the PR spin cycle; They also have a great page with links explaining that ::the science is clear.

Tags: Dumb Questions

Best of TreeHugger 2014

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK