The Best Climate Book Yet

Well the Copenhagen talks are upon us, and expectations are being played down for what can be accomplished. Even more notable is recent data that shows public enthusiasm on global warming has cooled significantly, indicating that the skeptics are right about one thing: much of the recent attention has been driven by media hype, not by informed concern. That doesn’t change our obligation to learn or to act on what we know. Whatever policies we enact on climate change will need to be sustained for decades, if not centuries, and will have to endure many changes of ruling political parties, so it is worth continuing to work on a public consensus. So why not start with some Christmas reading?!

What’s the best book for Christians who want to learn about climate change? It isn’t the book written by the Nobel-prize winning author who appeared in the Academy-Award winning movie a few years back. After all, that author, though smart, was not a climate scientist, and because he was a polarizing political figure, he didn’t appeal to most Christians who don’t share his political views.

It also isn’t the massive tome, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing , by evangelical scientist and world-renowned climate expert Sir John Houghton. It’s very good, VERY complete, very thoughtful–it really lives up to its name. But it is quite an investment, not just of time but of money. If you’re looking for Climate Science 101, this isn’t it. (I think of how my kids sometimes ask my wife questions about environmental science. She’ll answer them, and then ask “but why didn’t you ask your father that question?” To which they reply, “Well, Mom, we didn’t want to know that much about it.”)

No, the book you should read this Christmas, and buy for your skeptical friends and family, is written by an evangelical husband-wife team–climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and pastor/teacher Andrew Farley. A Climate for Change–Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions is a great resource for connecting with conservatives (like me) who are skeptical about the science (as I was for the first ten years of environmental teaching and research). It’s readable, understandable, scientifically accurate and theologically sound.

It’s also a good refresher course on the science and impacts of climate change, replete with great illustrations and ideas for communicating what we know and what we don’t know. It is obvious that the authors have spent many, many hours patiently and winsomely explaining these concepts to interested but skeptical audiences.

Things that I noted immediately–the science and theology behind creation care, as they presented it, do not require a commitment to an old earth or to theistic evolution. They tackle that issue head on. Moreover, they build a strong case for why creation care should be a priority even for those who believe (like many of us) that the Earth will one day pass away, to be replaced by a New Heaven and New Earth.

Together, Hayhoe and Farley walk through the basics of what any citizen should know about God’s creation and the climate system. They don’t drift into politics; they instead concentrate on informing us about what we need to know BEFORE we get into policy considerations.

You can order it now on Amazon: A Climate for Change–Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions by Katharine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley. I’m a curmudgeon who doesn’t like most climate books, but this one I recommend to everyone I meet.

Other resources:
To those who want a more in-depth “guidebook” to global warming science, I recommend the Rough Guide to Climate Change. Be sure to get the second edition, since it contains information from the last IPCC assessment in 2007.

Of course, climate science has continued to unfold since the last IPCC summary of the science nearly three years ago, and many of the predictions have proven to be outpaced by the rate of change on the ground. For a summary of recent science, look at the Copenhagen Diagnosis, written by leading climate researchers, which also corrects some of the enduring misconceptions about climate change science.

The website for the book A Climate for Change is pretty cool too. You can follow Katharine Hayhoe on Twitter and get great up-to-date analysis of breaking climate news.

Rusty Pritchard thinks climate change is happening and that people are causing part of it, but his views are his own and not those of his parent organization, Flourish. Flourish believes every Christian should be caring for creation, no matter where they come down on the climate issue.

2 thoughts on “The Best Climate Book Yet

  1. Great post, as usual. Just wondering if you’ll be blogging your thots & concerns (spin-free, of course) about the recent revelations from the University of East Anglia? Is it a tempest in a teapot that doesn’t affect anything from a substantive standpoint or is it cause for genuine concern as far as climatological data/conclusions goes?

    • Larry–I should write something about “Climate Gate”. Lord knows I’ve been reading enough about it. It’s not a tempest in a teapot. Climate has been so politicized for so long, and climate scientists so fed up with the politicization, that they start behaving in unscientific ways. But as far as I can tell no conclusion about the robust climate science is threatened by these revelations. But there needs to be much more transparency in the conduct of science, it now appears. What do you think?

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