You don't have to be a scientist to understand climate change.  There are a number of great websites and books that can provide a simple introduction to the subject, and you will find some of those mentioned here.

Better understanding the causes, effects, mitigation strategies, and policy options around climate change can lead you into a fascinating world of astronomy, atmospheric physics, biology, forestry, chemistry, watershed management, geology, economics, and political science, to name a few. Who knows? Climate change may help you find your (next) career! 

Good reading!

Recent Recommendations from Members

The Future of Conservation in America, A Chart for Rough Waters

Gary Machlis & Jonathan Jarvis

85 pages

This is a turbulent time for the conservation of America’s natural and cultural heritage. From the current assaults on environmental protection to the threats of climate change, biodiversity loss, and disparity of environmental justice, the challenges facing the conservation movement are both immediate and long term. In this time of uncertainty, we need a clear and compelling guide for the future of conservation in America, a declaration to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders. This is that guide—what the authors describe as “a chart for rough water.”

Recommended by Ed Beshore

The Carbon Code, How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero

Brett Favoro

Our world is getting hotter, and it’s our fault. Our addiction to fossil fuels is destroying not only our ancient planet, but our modern civilization. How can we protect our fragile ecosystems while preserving our way of life? How can we respond to climate change deniers who mock the fact that environmental activists use fossil fuels? In short, how can your average concerned citizen live a normal life in a carbon-based economy without being justifiably called a hypocrite? In The Carbon Code, conservation biologist Brett Favaro answers these thorny questions, offering simple strategies to help you reduce your carbon footprint―without abandoning common sense.

Recommended by Evan Wise


Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History 

Matthieu Auzanneau

In this sweeping, unabashed history of oil, Matthieu Auzanneau takes a fresh, thought-provoking look at the way oil interests have commandeered politics and economies, changed cultures, disrupted power balances across the globe, and spawned wars. He upends commonly held assumptions about key political and financial events of the past 150 years, and he sheds light on what our oil-constrained and eventually post-oil future might look like.

Recommended by Steven Lesh

Orbits and Ice Ages: The History of Climate

Dann Britt

Climate change has become a major political issue, but few understand how climate has changed in the past and the forces that drive climate. Most people don't know that fifty million years ago there were breadfruit trees and crocodiles on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, or that 18,000 years ago there was a mile-thick glacier on Manhattan and a continuous belt of winter sea ice extending south to Cape Hatteras. The History of Climate provides context of our current climate debate and fundamental insight how the climate works. View it here.

Recommended by Mark Day


Booklist prepared by the staff of the Pima County Public Library

The Basics of Climate Change

The Britannica Guide to Climate Change (Running Press 2009) Climate Change is one of the most controversial subjects of our age. While scientists have been observing radical changes in the earth's ecosystem, politicians and activists argue the causes and possible outcomes. The Britannica Guide to Climate Change will explore the evidence surrounding hot topics like the Kyoto Agreement, the environmental damage to the ice caps, Gaia, green architecture, and the impact of green policies—including energy-saving light bulbs, carbon foot printing, and recycling. This book is an unbiased, comprehensive, and accessible guide to the symptoms, debates, and solutions to this key issue.

*Flannery, Tim. The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005) An accessible and comprehensive look at the history, current status, and future impacts of climate change.

*Hansen, James. Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. (Bloomsbury, 2009) A distinguished climate scientist provides a candid and personal look at the risks of climate change and what needs to be done to avoid its worst effects.

*Hertsgaard, Mark. Hot: Living through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. (Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, 2012) A journalist and father looks at the implications of climate change over the next fifty years and what they will mean for his daughter and the rest of the world.

*Lynas, Mark. Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. (National Geographic Society, 2008) Lynas outlines what to expect degree by degree in a warming world based on the 5.8 degree Celsius rise in the Earth’s average temperature predicted by the end of this century.

Mann, Michael and Kump, Lee. Dire Predictions, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change (2015) Explore global warming with graphics, illustrations, and charts that separate climate change fact from fiction, presenting the truth about global warming in a way that's both accurate and easy to understand. Respected climate scientists Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump address important questions about global warming and climate change, diving into the information documented by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and breaking it down into clear graphics that explain complex climate questions in simple illustrations that present the truth of the global warming problem clearly.

*McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. (Random House, 1989) This oldie but goodie is the book that introduced many of us to the idea that we are affecting the atmosphere to ill effect.

Elizabeth Rush, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. (2018) We live in a time of unprecedented hurricanes and catastrophic weather events, a time when it is increasingly clear that climate change is neither imagined nor distant―and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways. In this highly original work of lyrical reportage, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. 

Walker, Gabrielle. An Ocean of Air: Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere (Mariner 2008). We don’t just live in the air; we live because of it. It’s the most miraculous substance on earth, responsible for our food, our weather, our water, and our ability to hear. In this exuberant book, gifted science writer Gabrielle Walker peels back the layers of our atmosphere with the stories of the people who uncovered its secrets.

Walker, Gabrielle. Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 15, 2013) Antarctica is the most alien place on the planet, the only part of the earth where humans could never survive unaided. Gabrielle Walker weaves all the significant threads of life on the vast ice sheet into an intricate tapestry, illuminating what it really feels like to be there and why it draws so many different kinds of people. With her we witness cutting-edge science experiments, visit the South Pole, lodge with American, Italian, and French researchers, drive snowdozers, drill ice cores, and listen for the message Antarctica is sending us about our future in an age of global warming.

Climate Change and the Southwest

*de Buys, William. A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest. (Oxford University Press, 2011) deBuys describes what the future of the American Southwest faces as as its climate warms up and dries out.

Some More Advanced Readings

Alley, Richard, The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future - Updated Edition (Princeton Science Library, 2014) Science of ice cores, plus how the author lived in Greenland

Archer, David, Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast (2011) Textbook for a course for non-science majors at the University of Chicago that focuses on a single problem: assessing the risk of human-caused climate change. The course website is at

Hansen, Robert. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change. (American Meteorological Society, 2014) An encyclopedic look at climate change covering the symptoms and science of, controversies and politics of, and solutions for the world-wide problem.

Gettelman, Andrew & Rood, Richard, Demystifying Climate Models: A Users Guide to Earth System Models (Earth Systems Data and Models) (2016)  Ricky Rood is one of the Wunderground bloggers.  It explains, in depth, climate science and climate models, using many figures and drawings and a few graphs, but no equations.  The book does require time and attention, however.

*Kintisch, Eli. Hack the Planet: Science’s Best Hope-or Worst Nightmare-for Averting Climate Catastrophe. (Turner Publishing Company, 2010) A look at the possibilities and limitations of geoengineering schemes for countering the effects of climate change.

Rahmstorf, Stefan and Richardson, Katherine. Our Threatened Oceans (Sustainability Project, 2009) Not only does “Our Threatened Oceans” by Stefan Rahmstof and Katherine Richardson offer a compelling technical argument and explanation of the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans, but it does so in a comprehensible and readable way. The purpose of this book is to explore human interactions with the ocean and the life within, by describing documented and potential impacts on various components of the ocean system. The authors believe that only through better understanding the relationships between human activities and the system will it be possible to develop “best practices” concerning human interaction with the ocean.

Policy and Politics

Hsu, Shi-Ling. The Case for a Carbon Tax, Getting Past Our Hang-ups to Effective Climate Policy. (Island Press, 2011) There's a simple, straightforward way to cut carbon emissions and prevent the most disastrous effects of climate change-and we're rejecting it because of irrational political fears. A great book for those who like to get into policy and economics.

*Klein, Naomi. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. (Simon and Schuster,2014) Klein uses climate change as a prism for looking at the ways capitalism is incompatible with the health of natural systems.  She calls for a restructuring of the global economy.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. Field 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.  The book is a very accessible look at the science and politics of climate change and its current and potential impacts.

*Mann, Charles C. The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. (Knopf, 2018) This look at the philosophical differences between those who believe technology will save mankind and those who believe mankind must live within natural limits contains an excellent chapter on the history of the science behind climate change studies.

*Miller, Todd. Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security. (City Lights Books, 2017) Miller discusses how climate change is creating environmental changes that are leading to increased migration and the resulting political hostility caused by the large movement of people.

*Parenti, Christian. Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. (Nation Books, 2011) A look at how climate change-caused extreme weather is leading to unrest and violence in many parts of the world.

Websites Climate Science and Climate Risk: A Primer, Dr. Kerry A. Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A highly readable, 16-page primer written by a meterologist and climate scientist who has speciaized in the study of hurricanes. Highly recommended. Project Drawdown gathers and facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

climatecentral.orgClimate Central surveys and conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings. Their scientists publish and their journalists report on climate science, energy, sea level rise, wildfires, drought, and related topics. Climate Central is not an advocacy organization. Climate Central is a qualified 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. InsideClimate News is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan news organization that covers clean energy, carbon energy, nuclear energy and environmental science—plus the territory in between where law, policy and public opinion are shaped. They are staffed by professional journalists, many of whom bring decades of experience from leading media organizations in the nation, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, ProPublica, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News and Frontline.They have earned national recognition for their work including the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Post Carbon Institute. Founded in 2003, Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to lead the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world by providing individuals and communities with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated ecological, economic, energy, and equity crises of the 21st century.

https://www.ncdc.noaa.govNational Centers for Environmental InformationThe demand for high-value environmental data and information has dramatically increased in recent years. To improve our ability to meet that demand, NOAA’s former three data centers—the National Climatic Data Center, the National Geophysical Data Center, and the National Oceanographic Data Center, which includes the National Coastal Data Development Center—have merged into the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Since 1999, the Water – Use It Wisely conservation campaign has made smart water use fun, easy and practical for everyone. This campaign is all about giving voice to water – your voice. No matter where you need to get the water word out – business, home, classroom or municipality – we've developed a variety of ways to use WUIW as a tool to help spread your own unique water conservation message. This national analysis identifies when hundreds of US coastal communities will face chronic inundation and possible retreat as sea levels rise. It also includes information about the number of homes at risk, which draws from the companion analysis, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018). Also, check out the Union of Concerned Scientists website at NASA is one of the few government agencies that has not been directed to remove the term "climate change" from its public websites. Perhaps it is because of the preponderance of data, explanations, and multimedia resources that exist here. You can spend days exploring this excellent site.

http://envirolaws.orgThe USC Schwarzenegger Institute and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators have partnered to create this online resource that will help state legislators throughout America learn from their colleagues in other states. We hope to assist legislators who are interested in advancing smart environmental policies by sharing best practices and actual legislation that is working successfully in a number of states already. Reports and analysis from 13 government agencies on the status of climate change. This is the site where you can obtain copies of the National Climate Assessments from 2017, and previous years. A comprehensive website with materials for the public, educators, and researchers. Another treasure trove of information. A hypertext history from the American Institue of Physics descibing how scientists came to (partly) understand what people are doing to cause climate change.

http://www.realclimate.orgRealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is mostly restricted to scientific topics and will only rarely get involved in any political or economic implications of the science. All posts are signed by the author(s), except ‘group’ posts which are collective efforts from the whole team. This is a moderated forum. New York Time special section on climate-related news. Updated frequently. Repeated use may require a subscription. Studies the psychological, cultural and political factors that shape public opinion and behavior, using surveys, experiments, interviews, statistical models, maps and participatory GIS, among other methods. They also conduct studies at the global, national, and local scales. Major projects include Climate Change in the American Mind, The Yale Climate Opinion Maps, and International Attitudes & Behavior. They also publish Yale Climate Connections - an online climate news service and national radio broadcast. Climate Interactive creates interactive, scientifically rigorous tools that help people see connections, play out scenarios, and see what works to address the biggest challenges we face. Based on a long tradition of system dynamics modeling out of MIT that explores the interplay between social and planetary systems, their simulations cover a range of topics, from climate change and clean energy to disaster risk reduction and resilience. C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which was founded in 1998, and is widely recognized as an influential and pragmatic voice on climate issues. They consistently rank among the world’s leading environmental policy think tanks in the University of Pennsylvania Global Go To Think Tank Index. C2ES also was named the 2016 top U.S. energy and environment think tank by Prospect magazine for their work on the Paris Agreement.

https://www.carbonbrief.orgCarbon Brief is a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy. They specialise in clear, data-driven articles and graphics to help improve the understanding of climate change, both in terms of the science and the policy response. They publish a wide range of content, including science explainers, interviews, analysis and factchecks, as well as daily and weekly email summaries of newspaper and online coverage. The Climate Impact Lab is a unique collaboration of 30 climate scientists, economists, computational experts, researchers, analysts, and students from some of the nation’s leading research institutions. This 10 minute video describes the legal background behind modern greenhouse gas emission standards in the United States. It reviews the Supreme Court 2007 decision to regulate greenhouse gases as polluntants, and describes how modern CAFE standards for automobile gas consumption work. A nice footnoted overview of where we stood in 2016.