Climate bookshelf 2023 | Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

2023 was a banner year for the publication of interesting climate-related books.  Some excellent books for Xmas stockings, providing scientific insights, policy sanity and optimism for the 21st century.

Climate Etc. authors

First up is four books that have been ‘mid-wifed’ in some way by Climate Etc., by authors that are very familiar to the Denizens of Climate Etc.  These books have been discussed previously here, but this is a reminder if you haven’t already bought/read them.  Links to recent reviews/interviews are provided.

Climate Uncertainty and Risk – Rethinking Our Response, by Judith Curry

I assume my book needs no summary for this audience, I provide links to some reviews that I found insightful.

Climate Uncertainty and Risk is more than a book. Curry has produced a single-author counter to the IPCC that offers a radical alternative to the UN paradigm of climate change that could well serve as a manual for a future Republican administration.―Rupert Darwall, RealClear Energy

The real import of Curry’s book is her analysis of the forms of science and economics that are rallied to support extreme policy actions.  She brings hope that climate peace is possible. – Terence Corcoran, Financial Post.  This one  is entertaining, jointly reviews my book and Michael Mann’s book.

While focused on climate, the book is also a thoughtful and significant contribution on uncertainty and risk in general. It makes valuable contributions on topics such as the interface between science and politics, how we handle disagreements within science, and how scientists communicate with governments and the public. The book addresses how to think about different types of uncertainty, the role of computer simulation models, and the use (and abuse) of scenarios, and how to respond to risk. The analytical framing is scientific. The synthesis of many parts into a coherent whole is impressive. All is in the context of climate, but the thinking, the writing, and the masterful sweep of the work is such that any business person, professional, academic, politician, or official should have no trouble drawing insights and lessons for a range of other fields. Do not be surprised if this book comes to be recognised as one of the most important contributions to this field. – Stephen Wilson, IPA Review

Solving the Climate Puzzle: The Sun’s Surprising Role, by Javier Vinos

Comments on the book:

Javier Vinós has produced a masterful summary of observational facts about Earth’s climate and the theories that have been proposed to explain them. I know of no other book that presents so many detailed and interesting facts about Earth’s climate. This is a long book but well worth reading for the excellent figures alone. Its extensive references to original papers are a valuable resource. –
Dr. William Happer, Physicist. Professor Emeritus, Princeton University. Former director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science

Vinós’ journey towards identifying meridional heat transport as the driver of climate change represents the process of science at its best. “Solving the Climate Puzzle” will change the way you think about climate change. – Dr. Judith Curry, Geophysical scientist. Professor Emerita, Georgia Institute of Technology. President, Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN)

The unique achievement of Dr. Vinós in this book is his ability to tell the complex scientific stories as simply as possible and no less. He has assembled in this powerful new book a lot of fresh scientific insights and understanding that are second to none, so congratulation for all of you that are willing to study it. – Dr. Willie Soon, Astrophysicist and Geoscientist. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences (CERES)

Here is a good interview with Tom Nelson.

The Grip of Culture: The Social Psychology of Climate Catastrophism, by Andy West

Some recent reviews:

A cultural analysis, of the kind set out in The Grip of Culture, can explain the suicidal course taken by Western societies. Its message, that the true threat to our civilisation comes, not from the weather or the climate, but from the culture of catastrophism that has weaponised those issues is profoundly disturbing. Those of us who are fond of living in a free and rational society need to understand what we are facing, and soon.- Andrew Montford, Daily Sceptic

Culture explains the power and prevalence of the [climate catastrophe] narrative, the political and societal responses to it and the apparent willingness of many people to incur immense cost to avert a supposed existential threat, without proof of either its existence or our ability to alter its impact. In a new book The Grip of Culture: the Social Psychology of Climate Change Catastrophism, Andy A. West provides an academic analysis of the phenomenon. Its lessons have particular relevance to Canada’s climate obsession.- Joe Oliver, Financial Post

A free pdf of the book is available.

Doubt and Certainty in Climate Science, by Alan Longhurst

Text from my review of the book:

This is a remarkable book, a tour de force.  There are fresh insights in each chapter, borne of Longhurst’s objective analysis of the data and the literature.  The papers he cites are from Nature, Science, PNAS, Journal of Climate and other mainstream, high impact journals.  I doubt that John Cook’s activist abstract classifiers would classify many if any of these papers as ‘skeptical’.  However, each of these papers provides a critical link in Longhurst’s reasoning that produces conclusions that do not agree with the ‘consensus.’

I am reminded  of this quote by Galileo: “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”  The value of an independent assessment of this broad range of topics, by a scientist who does not have a dog in this fight, is extremely high.  Very, very few climate scientists have personally dug as deeply as Longhurst over such a broad range of climate science topics.  This reminds us that the broad range of complex issues surrounding detection and attribution of climate change are outside the scope of what most climate scientists consider, and one can only infer that their support for the consensus conclusions is based on second-order belief regarding many topics outside of their personal expertise and research experience.


A number of climate science books were published in 2023, starting off with some interesting science then concluding with climate alarmism.  In this genre is Michael Mann’s Our Fragile Moment, which looks like the 4th edition of Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.  These two books caught my eye (haven’t read them yet).

The Blue Machine: How the Ocean Shapes Our World, by Helen Czerski.

From the book description:

All of Earth’s oceans, from the equator to the poles, are a single engine powered by sunlight, driving huge flows of energy, water, life, and raw materials. In The Blue Machine, physicist and oceanographer Helen Czerski illustrates the mechanisms behind this defining feature of our planet, voyaging from the depths of the ocean floor to tropical coral reefs, estuaries that feed into shallow coastal seas, and Arctic ice floes.

Through stories of history, culture, and animals, she explains how water temperature, salinity, gravity, and the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates all interact in a complex dance, supporting life at the smallest scale―plankton―and the largest―giant sea turtles, whales, humankind. From the ancient Polynesians who navigated the Pacific by reading the waves, to permanent residents of the deep such as the Greenland shark that can live for hundreds of years, she introduces the messengers, passengers, and voyagers that rely on interlinked systems of vast currents, invisible ocean walls, and underwater waterfalls.

Most important, however, Czerski reveals that while the ocean engine has sustained us for thousands of years, today it is faced with urgent threats. By understanding how the ocean works, and its essential role in our global system, we can learn how to protect our blue machine. Timely, elegant, and passionately argued, The Blue Machine presents a fresh perspective on what it means to be a citizen of an ocean planet.

Elemental: How Five Elements Changed Earth’s Past and Will Shape Our Future, by Stephen Porder

From the book description:

It is rare for life to change Earth, yet three organisms have profoundly transformed our planet over the long course of its history. Elemental reveals how microbes, plants, and people used the fundamental building blocks of life to alter the climate, and with it, the trajectory of life on Earth in the past, present, and future.

Taking readers from the deep geologic past to our current era of human dominance, Stephen Porder focuses on five of life’s essential elements—hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. He describes how single-celled cyanobacteria and plants harnessed them to wildly proliferate across the oceans and the land, only to eventually precipitate environmental catastrophes. He then brings us to the present, and shows how these elements underpin the success of human civilization, and how their mismanagement threatens similarly catastrophic unintended consequences. But, Porder argues, if we can learn from our world-changing predecessors, we can construct a more sustainable future.

Blending conversational storytelling with the latest science, Porder takes us deep into the Amazon, across fresh lava flows in Hawaii, and to the cornfields of the American Midwest to illuminate a potential path to sustainability, informed by the constraints imposed by life’s essential elements and the four-billion-year history of life on Earth.


Predicting Our Climate Future, by David Stainforth

IMO, David Stainforth is the world’s deepest thinker on climate modelling.  I referenced many of his papers in my book Climate Uncertainty and Risk.   From the book description:

This book is about how climate science works and why you should absolutely trust some of its conclusions and absolutely distrust others. Climate change raises new, foundational challenges in science. It requires us to question what we know and how we know it. The subject is important for society but the science is young and history tells us that scientists can get things wrong before they get them right. How, then, can we judge what information is reliable and what is open to question?

Stainforth goes to the heart of the climate change problem to answer this question. He describes the fundamental characteristics of climate change and shows how they undermine the application of traditional research methods, demanding new approaches to both scientific and societal questions. He argues for a rethinking of how we go about the study of climate change in the physical sciences, the social sciences, economics, and policy. The subject requires nothing less than a restructuring of
academic research to enable integration of expertise across diverse disciplines and perspectives.

An effective global response to climate change relies on us agreeing about the underlying, foundational, scientific knowledge. Our universities and research institutes fail to provide the necessary clarity – they fail to separate the robust from the questionable – because they do not acknowledge the peculiar and unique challenges of climate prediction. Furthermore, the widespread availability of computer simulations often leads to research becoming divorced from understanding, something that risks undermining the relevance of research conclusions.

This book takes the reader on a journey through the maths of complexity, the physics of climate, philosophical questions regarding the origins and robustness of knowledge, and the use of natural science in the economics and policy of climate change.

The editorial reviews on this book at the amazon site are well worth reading, from an  impressive list of academic scientists.

Escape From Model Land: How Mathematical Models Can Lead Us Astray and What We Can Do About It, by Erika Thompson

This is a very thought provoking book, and Thompson’s ideas influenced Chapters 8 and 9 of my book Climate Uncertainty and Risk.  I posted a previous blog post on her journal article that spawned this book.  From the book description:

Why mathematical models are so often wrong, and how we can make better decisions by accepting their limits. Whether we are worried about the spread of COVID-19 or making a corporate budget, we depend on mathematical models to help us understand the world around us every day. But models aren’t a mirror of reality. In fact, they are fantasies, where everything works out perfectly, every time. And relying on them too heavily can hurt us.

In Escape from Model Land, statistician Erica Thompson illuminates the hidden dangers of models. She demonstrates how models reflect the biases, perspectives, and expectations of their creators. Thompson shows us why understanding the limits of models is vital to using them well. A deeper meditation on the role of mathematics, this is an essential book for helping us avoid either confusing the map with the territory or throwing away the map completely, instead pointing to more nuanced ways to Escape from Model Land.

Natural Resources

Fossil Future: Why Global Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal and Natural Gas — Not Less, by Alex Epstein

From the book description:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels draws on the latest data and new insights to challenge everything you thought you knew about the future of energy. For over a decade, philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein has predicted that any negative impacts of fossil fuel use on our climate will be outweighed by the unique benefits of fossil fuels to human flourishing–including their unrivaled ability to provide low-cost, reliable energy to billions of people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.

What does the future hold? In Fossil Future, Epstein, applying his distinctive “human flourishing framework” to the latest evidence, comes to the shocking conclusion that the benefits of fossil fuels will continue to far outweigh their side effects—including climate impacts—for generations to come. The path to global human flourishing, Epstein argues, is a combination of using more fossil fuels, getting better at “climate mastery,” and establishing “energy freedom” policies that allow nuclear and other truly promising alternatives to reach their full long-term potential.

Today’s pervasive claims of imminent climate catastrophe and imminent renewable energy dominance, Epstein shows, are based on what he calls the “anti-impact framework”—a set of faulty methods, false assumptions, and anti-human values that have caused the media’s designated experts to make wildly wrong predictions about fossil fuels, climate, and renewables for the last fifty years. Deeply researched and wide-ranging, this book will cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about the future of our energy use, our environment, and our climate.

Not the End of the World: How We Can Be The First Generation To Build a Sustainable Planet, by Hannah Ritchie

This book won’t be published until Jan 2024.  But I follow Hannah Ritchie on twitter and substack, I expect this to be an outstanding book from what I have seen so far.  From the book description:

This “eye-opening and essential” book (Bill Gates) will transform how you see our biggest environmental problems—and explains how we can solve them. It’s become common to tell kids that they’re going to die from climate change. We are constantly bombarded by doomsday headlines that tell us the soil won’t be able to support crops, fish will vanish from our oceans, and that we should reconsider having children.

But in this bold, radically hopeful book, data scientist Hannah Ritchie argues that if we zoom out, a very different picture emerges. In fact, the data shows we’ve made so much progress on these problems that we could be on track to achieve true sustainability for the first time in human history. 

Packed with the latest research, practical guidance, and enlightening graphics, this book will make you rethink almost everything you’ve been told about the environment. Not the End of the World will give you the tools to understand our current crisis and make lifestyle changes that actually have an impact. Hannah cuts through the noise by outlining what works, what doesn’t, and what we urgently need to focus on so we can leave a sustainable planet for future generations.

These problems are big. But they are solvable. We are not doomed. We can build a better future for everyone. Let’s turn that opportunity into reality.

Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet, by Marian Tupy and Gabe Pooley

From the book description:

“For centuries, the ivory towers of academia have echoed this sentiment of multitudinous ends and limited means. In this supremely contrarian book, Tupy and Pooley overturn the tables in the temple of conventional thinking. They deploy rigorous and original data and analysis to proclaim a gospel of abundance. Economics―and ultimately, politics―will be enduringly transformed.” ―George Gilder, author of Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy

Generations of people have been taught that population growth makes resources scarcer. But is that true? After analyzing the prices of hundreds of commodities, goods, and services spanning two centuries, Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley found that resources became moreabundant as the population grew. That was especially true when they looked at “time prices,” which represent the length of time that people must work to buy something.

To their surprise, the authors also found that resource abundance increased faster than the population―a relationship that they call “superabundance.” On average, every additional human being created more value than he or she consumed. This relationship between population growth and abundance is deeply counterintuitive, yet it is true.

Why? More people produce more ideas, which lead to more inventions. People then test those inventions in the marketplace to separate the useful from the useless. At the end of that process of discovery, people are left with innovations that overcome shortages, spur economic growth, and raise standards of living.

But large populations are not enough to sustain superabundance―just think of the poverty in China and India before their respective economic reforms. To innovate, people must be allowed to think, speak, publish, associate, and disagree. They must be allowed to save, invest, trade, and profit. In a word, they must be free.

Climate policy and politics

Climate Change Isn’t Everything: Liberating Climate Politics From Alarmism, by Mike Hulme

IMO, Mike Hulme is one of the most important thinkers on climate change, and I referenced many of his papers in my book Climate Uncertainty and Risk.  From the book description:

The changing climate poses serious dangers to human and non-human life alike, though perhaps the most urgent danger is one we hear very little about: the rise of climatism. Too many social, political and ecological problems facing the world today – from the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the management of wildfires – quickly become climatized, explained with reference to ‘a change in the climate’. When complex political and ethical challenges are so narrowly framed, arresting climate change is sold as the supreme political challenge of our time and everything else becomes subservient to this one goal.

In this far-sighted analysis, Mike Hulme reveals how climatism has taken hold in recent years, becoming so pervasive and embedded in public life that it is increasingly hard to resist it without being written off as a climate denier. He confronts this dangerously myopic view that reduces the condition of the world to the fate of global temperature or the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to the detriment of tackling serious issues as varied as poverty, liberty, biodiversity loss, inequality and international diplomacy. We must not live as though climate alone determines our present and our future.

See this very interesting review from the New Atlantis.

Not Zero:  How an Irrational Target Will Impoverish You, Help China and Won’t Save the Planet, by Ross Clark

From the book description:

‘Bravely challenging the Establishment consensus … forensically argued’ – Mail on Sunday

The British government has embarked on an ambitious and legally-binding climate change target: reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero by 2050. The Net Zero policy was subject to almost no parliamentary or public scrutiny, and is universally approved by our political class. But what will its consequences be?

Ross Clark argues that it is a terrible mistake, an impractical hostage to fortune which will have massive downsides. Achieving the target is predicated on the rapid development of technologies that are either non-existent, highly speculative or untested. Clark shows that efforts to achieve the target will inevitably result in a huge hit to living standards, which will clobber the poorest hardest, and gift a massive geopolitical advantage to hostile superpowers such as China and Russia. The unrealistic and rigid timetable it imposes could also result in our committing to technologies which turn out to be ineffective, all while distracting ourselves from the far more important objective of adaptation.

This hard-hitting polemic provides a timely critique of a potentially devastating political consensus which could hobble Britain’s economy, cost billions and not even be effective.

Best Things First: The 12 most efficient solutions for the world’s poorest and our global SDG promises, by Bjorn Lomborg

From the book description:

Now selected as one of the Best Books of 2023 by The Economist.

In this urgent, thought-provoking book, Bjorn Lomborg presents the 12 most efficient solutions for the world’s poorest and our global SDG promises. • If you want to make the world better, Best Things First is the book to read.

World leaders have promised everything to everyone. But they are failing. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are supposed to be delivered by 2030. The goals literally promise everything, like eradicating poverty, hunger and disease; stopping war and climate change, ending corruption, fixing education along with countless other promises. This year, the world is at halftime for its promises, but nowhere near halfway. Together with more than a hundred of the world’s top economists, Bjorn Lomborg has worked for years to identify the world’s best solutions. Based on 12 new, peer-reviewed papers, forthcoming in Cambridge University Press’ Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, this book highlights the world’s best policies.

Some things are difficult to fix, cost a lot, and help little. Other problems we know how to fix, at low cost, with remarkable outcomes. We should do the smart things first.

Governments and philanthropists should focus on these 12 smartest things. Fix tuberculosis, malaria, and chronic disease, tackle malnutrition, improve education, increase trade, implement e-procurement, and secure land tenure. This will improve the world amazingly. The cost is $35 billion a year. The benefits include saving 4.2 million lives each year and generating $1.1 trillion more for the world’s poor.

We can definitely afford it: The cost of $35 billion is equivalent to the increase in annual global spending on cosmetics over the last two years. This is likely the best thing the world can do this decade.

JC note: I look forward to your comments on any of these books that you’ve read, and also other book suggestions.


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