Thursday 20 August marks two years since the first school strike for climate change – later coined Youth Strike for Climate – which all began when teenage activist Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish parliament and attracted an international media presence by demanding immediate action on the climate emergency.
What followed was the mobilisation of an unprecedented number of students, which created a movement and sent a clear message to governments across the globe that we deserve action, with 200 events taking place in the UK alone and 1.9 million young people taking part.
Since then, the climate emergency has been in the news more than ever. We've continued to see natural disasters – from floods in Jakarta to wildfires in Australia, and record-breaking temperatures in Antarctica.
Over the past two years, politicians and industry leaders have faced urgent calls to combat the spiralling greenhouse gas emissions, and on 28 November 2019, the European parliament declared a "climate and environmental emergency" in Europe and across the globe.
As the situation becomes more pressing, the rise in concern among individuals is growing – with a recent survey showing that 85 per cent of Britons are concerned about the climate emergency, with the majority (52 per cent) being very concerned.
With so much new information constantly filling our news feeds, it can be difficult to keep track of the climate emergency, but books can offer a clearer, wider view of the crisis at hand.
Books are the foundation of so much of our knowledge and understanding, and non-fiction reads, in particular, inspires conversations, encourage open-mindedness, and provide hard-hitting evidence and facts.
As such, we've rounded up the titles that will arm you with the essential knowledge you need to know about the climate crisis – this will, in turn, help you to feel more empowered to make a change.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘What We Know About Climate Change’ by Kerry Emanuel, published by MIT Press: £12.99, Amazon
If you’re after a book on the climate crisis, but don’t know where to start, this is a great entry-level read. Emmanuel sounds the alarm in a measured and scientific way, providing a concise explanation about what we know and understand about the climate emergency, as well as how we can turn the tide. The pages include digestible facts rather than panicked rhetoric, but the information is troubling nonetheless. A must-read.
'Global Planet Authority: How we're about to save the biosphere' by Angus Forbes, published by LID Publishing: £8.99, Waterstones
Former city banker turned environmentalist Angus Forbes makes a compelling argument for global taxation and regulation to fight environmental degradation and the climate crisis – a case which is backed up with stats, facts, and figures. Advocating for global governance, Forbes argues that this is the solution we need to fight the climate emergency.
'The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis' by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, published by Bonnier Publishing: £10.59, Blackwell's
Written by Christian Figueres, former UN executive secretary for climate change and Tom Rivett-Carnax, senior political strategist for the Paris agreement – this book explains how we must approach the climate crisis, as well as the need for urgent action. Empowering in its practical approach, while also remaining optimistic, the duo explore how there is still a chance for us to gain back control of the situation and how the long-term effects of climate change are manageable. A compelling read that offers hope as well as urgency.
'Why Women Will Save the Planet', by Friends of the Earth and C40, published by Zed Books Ltd: £9.19, WHSmith
A collaboration between C40 Cities, a non-profit organisation that helps cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change, and Friends of the Earth, an environmental campaigning organisation, Why Women Will Save the Planet is a collection of essays authored by pioneering city mayors and key figures in the environmental and feminist movements, such as Baronness Lola Young. Exploring a range of topics, such as economics, education and climate refugees, this acts as an empowering call to protect the planet.
'The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History' by Elizabeth Kolbert, published by Bloomsbury Published Plc: £8.86, Wordery
Five mass extinctions have taken place in the last billion years. Through combining field reporting from the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, and even her own garden, Kolbert uncovers the picture of the sixth; an extinction that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 per cent of all species on Earth within this century. Through accessible prose, The Sixth Extinction reveals the hard truth about rising sea levels, deforestation, and the dispersion of disease-carrying species. It compels the reader to rethink what it means to be human.
‘Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet’ by Jeanette Winter, published by Beach Lane Books: £9.56, Blackwell’s
If you’re looking for a book that will inspire the climate activists of the future, this is it. With lovely artwork and simple language, this picture book, aimed at children aged between three and eight, uses Greta Thunberg's inspiring story to help young people understand the climate emergency, as well as empower them with a sense of what they can do to help.
For more environmentally-focused reads, look to our review of the best plastic-free living books that will help you reduce your single-use plastic consumption, and our round-up of fast fashion books that tell the truth about the textiles industry