Classic Readings


McKibben, Bill, The End of Nature, updated 25th anniversary edition (Random House, 2014).

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s classic book Silent Spring exposed the dangers of the pesticide DDT, questioned man’s uncritical faith in technology, and laid the foundation for the environmental movement.  In 1989, McKibben’s equally seminal book posited that nature has ceased to exist as independent force, and that humans now dominate nature, by polluting the atmosphere and heating it through emission of greenhouse gases.  McKibben stated unequivocally that there was global warming, well before most scientists were prepared to make such a claim in public.  He went on to found the worldwide climate action movement,

Bill McKibben’s website is here.  It has links to his articles, lecture videos, and books.


Hansen, James,  Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity (Bloomsbury USA 2009, 2011)

Storms.  That is the one word that will best characterize 21st-century climate, as policymakers continue along their well-trodden path of much talk without a fundamental change of direction. "Our grandchildren are in for a rough ride” writes James Hansen, perhaps the most honored American climate scientist.  This book has a little of everything, mixed together.  Climate science, not watered down; Hansen’s personal experiences and combat with Big Oil and politicians; his dire predictions for the future.

Considering that predictions he made thirty years ago have turned out to be quite accurate, one should take his warnings seriously.

James Hansen was director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences for over 30 years.  After he retired, he founded a Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University.  See the link on his website.

Dr. Hansen is an enthusiastic supporter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and sits on our board of advisors.

Oreskes, Naomi & Conway, ErikMerchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) 

The book describes how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. In seven compelling chapters addressing tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, global warming, and DDT, Oreskes and Conway roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how the ideology of free market fundamentalism, aided by a too-compliant media, has skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

Here are a lecture by Prof. Oreskes about Merchants of Doubt and a biography on the website of the Harvard Department of the History of Science.


Kolbert, ElizabethField Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. (Bloomsbury, 2006, 2015)

An expanded and updated version of Kolbert’s New Yorker series on climate change.  It is a very accessible look at the science and politics of climate change and its current and potential impacts.  The last sentence of the book explains the word Catastrophe in the title: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing”.

Elizabeth Kolbert talks about her book here.  Her more recent book, The Sixth Extinction, is listed under the topic of “Doom”.