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This curated reading list provides an overview and introduction to themes and debates central to The Five Thousand Pound Life. Content is grouped by topic to complement and expand upon the ideas covered in our public events and digital releases. While many titles link to freely accessible online content, we include additional resources at the end of each section, listing books and subscription content for exploring in more depth.

ARC_5KL_square_white_crop190This list purposely includes a range of material from brief newspaper articles, to in-depth scientific papers, to narrative journalism and full-length non-fiction books, to be of use to a diverse readership and allow multiple entry points to engage with the project. While the list is by no means comprehensive, pieces were carefully chosen to introduce the reader to various perspectives and arguments concerning the complex nature of the climate change problem, how we understand it, and how we respond to it.

Emphasis is placed on articles published within the last three years, although texts such as Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) are included due to their fundamental influence on the environmental movement.

Topic Areas:

Science, Energy, Ethics, Economics, Policy, Strategy & Activism, Media & Communication, and Envisioning.

See also: Digital Resources.


Understanding the evidence-based consensus on human-caused climate change is fundamental to how we think, talk, and act on climate science. The readings on this topic include the first detailed affirmation of the greenhouse gas effect (1896) as well as recent milestones, such as the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere surpassing 400 parts per million (ppm). Until the industrial revolution, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 over the past 800,000 years fluctuated between extremes of 180 ppm and 280 ppm.

By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past
Justin Gillis in The New York Times
Published October 9, 2013



Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis
Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Approved September 27, 2013
Final version released November 11, 2013



Carbon Dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Published May 10, 2013



Climate Science: A sensitive matter
The Economist
Published March 30, 2013



Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C warmer world must be avoided
Prepared by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics
Published by the World Bank in November, 2012



Carbon is Forever
Mason Inman in Nature
Published November 20, 2008



Target Atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?
James Hansen et. al. in The Open Atmospheric Science Journal
Published 2008



On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground
Svante Arrhenius in The Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science
Published April 1896



Additional Resources—Science:

Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future
by Vivien Gornitz. Columbia University Press, March 2013

Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature
by Vaclav Smil. MIT Press, December 2012

Two Degrees: The Built Environment and Our Changing Climate
by Alasdair McGregor, Cole Roberts, and Fiona Cousins. Routledge, October 2012


With global energy consumption rising alongside population and economic development, it is clear that energy demand will be a critical issue in coming decades.[1]

The connections between energy, emissions, and economy are vital to discussions of security and sustainability. Fossil fuels, renewables, and nuclear energy all have different technologies and infrastructure needed to support their generation and distribution. They also have local and global environmental consequences, and unique economic policies that incentivize and regulate their use.

The true cost of burning fossil fuels is obstructed in two ways: fossil fuel subsidies and a failure to incorporate the environmental costs of fossil fuels into real pricing.[2] Some suggest removing subsidies and incorporating the externalities of fossil fuels; in essence “leveling the playing field” in an effort to scale up clean energy in a competitive marketplace. Others encourage long-term investment in clean energy technologies to bring down the price of renewables to compete with fossil fuels. In addition, a debate over the safety and viability of widespread nuclear energy continues to escalate, with the release of a letter from prominent climate scientists promoting it despite the challenges of waste storage and security of nuclear material.[3] With so many options, and interconnections, we must detail not only what a future energy portfolio should look like, but also how we will make the successful transition to get there.

A Star in a Bottle
Raffi Khatchadourian in The New Yorker
Published March 3, 2014



Fossil Fuel Divestment Statement
Drew Faust
Released October 3, 2013



Your iPhone Uses More Energy Than Your Refrigerator
Tim Worstall in Forbes
Published August 17, 2013

Jim Hansen Presses the Climate Case for Nuclear Energy
Andrew Revkin in The New York Times
Published July 23, 2013



The Amazing Energy Race
Thomas Friedman in The New York Times
Published July 2, 2013



International Energy Outlook 2013
US Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Published July 2013



A New Way To Do Nuclear

Gareth Cook in The New Yorker
Published June 13, 2013



Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight
Mark Jacobson et al. in Energy Policy
Published June 2013



By 2023, a Changed World in Energy
Clifford Krauss in The New York Times
Published April 24, 2013



The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment
Bill McKibben
Published February 22, 2013



90 By 50: NYC can reduce its carbon footprint 90% by 2050
Urban Green Council
Published February 2013



Power, Pollution and the Internet
James Glanz in The New York Times
Published September 22, 2012



Think Again: The American Energy Boom
Michael Levi in Foreign Policy
Published July / August 2012



There’s Still Hope for the Planet
David Leonhardt in The New York Times
Published July 21, 2012



100 Percent Renewable? One Danish Island Experiments with Clean Power
David Biello in Scientific American
Published January 19, 2010



Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use (Executive Summary)
The National Academy of Sciences
Prepublication Copy, 2009



Additional Resources ⎯ Energy:
The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance
by Jeremy Leggett. Routledge, 2014

Petrochemical America
by Richard Misrach and Kate Orff. Aperture, 2012

The Crisis in Energy Policy
by John Deutch. Harvard University Press, October 2011

The End of Energy: The Unmaking of America’s Environment, Security, and Independence
by Michael Graetz. MIT Press, March 2011


“Today we face the possibility that the global environment may be destroyed, yet no one will be responsible. This is a new problem.” [4]

—Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy, and Affiliated Professor of Law at NYU

Climate change can be described as the ultimate tragedy of the commons, a situation in which the long-term good of the group is sacrificed as individual entities—whether persons, corporations, or nations—seek short-term self-interest. Some countries have contributed vastly more to climate change than others; older generations have been poor stewards of the planet during decades of GHG emissions while younger generations must adapt to a problem they did little to cause. With conflicting interpretations of justice in both space and time, and widespread support required for substantive action, what is the way forward?

This section includes Melissa Lane’s Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us About Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living. Lane presented a talk on “Sustainable Citizenship” in October 2013 as part of The Five Thousand Pound Life. Also included is Stephen Gardiner’s A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change. Gardiner presented this work in December 2013.

Who’s to Blame for Climate Change?
Kasia Cieplak-Mayr Von Baldegg in The Atlantic
Published August 12, 2013



Fairness and Climate Change
Peter Singer & Teng Fei in Project Syndicate
Published April 11, 2013



Ancient Advice for Today’s Sustainability Leaders
Gregory Unruh in Forbes
Published October 2, 2012



It All Turns on Affection
Wendell Berry, Jefferson Lecture
Delivered April 23, 2012



Additional Resources—Ethics:

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed—and What It Means for Our Future
by Dale Jamieson. Oxford University Press, April 2014

An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns
by Bruno Latour. Harvard University Press, August 2013

Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us About Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living
By Melissa Lane. Princeton University Press, October 2011

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change
by Stephen Gardiner. Oxford University Press, May 2011

Climate Ethics: Essential Readings
Edited by Stephen Gardiner, Simon Caney, Dale Jamieson, and Henry Shue; Oxford University Press, July 2010

The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities
Edited by Stephen R. Kellert and James Gustave Speth; by The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2009


This section presents a variety of analyses and positions on how economic structures should and do mediate human and natural resources. Economics is not tangential to the issue of climate change, but fundamental to it, and has been used to evaluate the relative costs of mitigation and adaptation, as in the Stern Review, included below.

Some advocate for continued economic growth, seeing investment opportunities in renewable energy and sustainable technologies as sectors that must expand. For many, economic growth is seen as an imperative to eradicate global poverty and promote sustainable development. For others, perpetual growth is seen as incompatible with the ecological limits of the planet, with the human consumption of resources outpacing the ability of the planet to regenerate them. In this view, economic degrowth is needed to align our consumption with available resources, after which a steady-state economy will emphasize the growth of non-material goods, while suspending growth of material goods.

This discussion is lined with ethical positions on how we assign and measure value, and inequalities in production and consumption of resources. As a nested issue within this debate, many have noted the inadequacies of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the prime indicator of economic health. Some have demonstrated that, despite GDP growth, there have been concurrent declines in human and ecological wellbeing, calling into question the value of GDP. Attempts are made through alternate metrics to use social and environmental indicators to create a more comprehensive measure of wellbeing.

Rethinking How to Split the Costs of Carbon
Eduardo Porter in The New York Times
Published December 24, 2013



Counting the Cost of Fixing the Future
Eduardo Porter in The New York Times
Published September 10, 2013



The Blip
Benjamin Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine
Published July 21, 2013



Climate Change and Poverty Have Not Gone Away
Joseph Stiglitz in The Guardian
Published January 7, 2013



The Happy Planet Index: 2012 Report
the new economics foundation (nef)
Published June 2012



It’s Worse Than You Think: Halftime Between Two Lost Decades
Jack Goldstone in The Atlantic
Published June 7, 2012



Beyond GDP: New Measures For a New Economy
Lew Daly and Stephen Posner for Dēmos
Published January 26, 2012



Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair
Published May 2011



Oil Spill May End Up Lifting GDP Slightly
Luca Di Leo in The Wall Street Journal
Published June 15, 2010



The Greenness of Cities: Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Urban Development
Edward Glaeser and Matthew Kahn, NBER Working Paper No. 14238
Published August 2008



A Green New Deal
the new economics foundation (nef)
Published July 2008



Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change (Executive Summary)
Preserved in the UK National Archives
Published January 2007



Additional Resources—Economics:

Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming
by McKenzie Funk. Penguin Press, January 2014

The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World
by William Nordhaus. Yale University Press, October 2013

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
by Michael Sandel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 2013

America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
by James Gustave Speth. Yale University Press, September 2012

How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life
by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. Other Press, June 2012

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability
by Paul Hawken. Harper Business, October 2010



Scaling up action to match the global problem of climate change requires coordinated policies within the United States as well as internationally. This section includes the draft decision from the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which is the first policy guidance to limit global average surface temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This figure of two degrees has been widely adopted as the level of acceptable risk and is the basis for most calculations of our CO2 emissions limits over the next decades. Also included is President Obama’s June 2013 policy statement, which circumvents congressional paralysis for executive action to reduce carbon emissions via the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The application for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline has become a pivotal issue in the policy debate, with activist organizations such as rallying around this issue as a litmus test of political commitment to act on climate change. The reality of the case is extremely complex, as detailed in the State Department’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the EPA’s subsequent rebuttal, both included below.

Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Released September 20, 2013



Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction
Jane Mayer in The New Yorker
Published July 1, 2013



The President’s Climate Action Plan
Executive Office of the President
Released June 2013



Department of State’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline (Executive Summary)
United States Department of State
Released March 1, 2013



Comment Letter on the Department of State’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Drafted April 22, 2013



Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Adopted December 11, 1997



Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Adopted December 8, 2012



Copenhagen Accord. Draft decision -/CP.15
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Released December 18, 2009




While there are many different approaches to mobilizing environmental change, several in particular stand out in relation to each other, appealing to various constituencies. The modern environmental movement is well represented—many would say led—by Bill McKibben. In efforts to build the critical mass needed in a democracy to instigate political change, McKibben has seized several issues—namely the Keystone XL Pipeline and fossil fuel divestment—to rally supporters and focus the efforts of his fellow activists. McKibben used data gathered in Carbon Tracker’s influential report “Unburnable Carbon” to underpin his landmark Rolling Stone article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

While McKibben searches for ways to make issues vivid by focusing on a single executive action (Keystone XL pipeline approval) or number (a limit of 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide), Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute have confronted the mainstream environmental movement and what they consider to be its lack of success in generating real action on climate change. Their 2004 essay “The Death of Environmentalism” took the movement to task, claiming that “modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live.” They have been staunchly pro-nuclear in the energy debate and pro-economic growth, showing a clear departure from traditional “dark green” environmentalists.

Others such as Naomi Klein and Jack Harich focus on capitalism and corporate greed as the systemic issues that underlie environmental degradation. While pursuing different styles of communication, both move as far “upstream” from the environmental problem as possible, focusing on the capitalist profit motive as a primary driver of climate change. In this view, the production of green technologies is at best an inadequate patch to the problem, complicit with a fundamentally flawed economic system.

Does the Shoe Fit? Real Versus Imagined Ecological Footprints
Linus Blomqvist, et. al. in PLoS Biology
Published November 5, 2013



How Science is Telling Us All to Revolt
Naomi Klein in New Statesman
Published October 29, 2013



The Next Frontier
Jeffrey Sachs in The Economist
Published September 21, 2013



After the Storm: Climate Change and Public Works
Nancy Levinson in Places
Published January 21, 2013



What is the Anthropocene and Are We in it?
Joseph Stromberg in Smithsonian
Published January 2013



Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets
Carbon Tracker and The Grantham Research Institute, LSE
Published 2013



New Technologies Preceded Regulations in Saving Ozone
Roger Pielke Jr.
Published November 12, 2012



Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math
Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone
Published July 19, 2012



The Climate Fixers: Is there a technological solution to global warming?
Michael Specter in The New Yorker
Published May 14, 2012



Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care for Our Technologies as We Do Our Children
Bruno Latour in The Breakthrough Journal
Published 2012



Capitalism vs. the Climate
Naomi Klein in The Nation
Published November 9, 2011



The Long Death of Environmentalism
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
Published February 25, 2011



Playing it Forward: Path Dependency, Progressive Incrementalism, and the “Super Wicked” Problem of Global Climate Change
Kelly Levin et al. in IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Published June 2010



The Hartwell Paper: A new direction for climate policy after the crash of 2009
The Institute for Science, Innovation, and Society at the University of Oxford, with the Mackinder Programme for the Study of Long Wave Events at the London School of Economics & Political Science
Published May 2010



Change Resistance as the Crux of the Environmental Sustainability Problem
Jack Harich in System Dynamics Review
Published January 14, 2010



The Flawed Logic of the Cap-and-Trade Debate
Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger in Yale Environment 360
Published May 19, 2009



Putting a Price on Carbon: An Emissions Cap Or a Tax?
Yale Environment 360
Published May 7, 2009



The Emerging Climate Consensus: Global Warming Policy in a Post-Environmental World
Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger
Published Spring 2009



A Road Map for Natural Capitalism
Amory B. Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken in Harvard Business Review
Published July 2007



The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
Published 2004



The Hannover Principles: Design for sustainability
William McDonough and Partners
Published 1992



Additional Resources—Strategy & Activism:

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
by George Packer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2013

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance
by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. North Point Press, April 2013

State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?
by The Worldwatch Institute. Island Press, April 2013

Themes of Scarcity
by Jon Goodbun, Jeremy Till and Deljana Iossifova. Architectural Design, July 2012

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years
by Jorgen Randers. Chelsea Green Publishing, May 2012

Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living
by The Union of Concerned Scientists. Island Press, April 2012

Experimental Green Strategies: Redefining Ecological Design Research
Edited by Terri Peters. Architectural Design, November/December 2011

The Agile City: Building Well-Being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change
by James Russell. Island Press, May 2011

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
by Bill McKibben. St. Martin’s, March 2011

The Global Deal: Climate change and the Creation of a New Era of Progress and Prosperity
by Nicholas Stern. PublicAffairs, April 2009

World at Risk
by Ulrich Beck. Polity, December 2008

In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World
by John Thackara. MIT Press, March 2005

Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences Into Democracy
by Bruno Latour. Harvard University Press, April 2004

Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking the Way We Make Things
by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. North Point Press, April 2002

The End of Nature
by Bill McKibben. Random House, June 2006
First published in 1989

The Limits to Growth
by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William Behrens III.
New American Library, 1972

Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson. Houghton Mifflin, September 1962


The relative level of attention given to climate change in the media, not to mention the various ways in which media discusses and frames the issue, strongly impact public understanding and awareness. Here we include several reports from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication that analyze data on the ways in which global warming is perceived in the United States and how those perceptions have changed over time. Other articles, such as Andrew Revkin’s “Other Voices: Can Climate Science Communication Matter?” question how cultural values shape our understanding of climate change—a phenomenon explained by Anthony Leiserowitz in the opening event of The Five Thousand Pound Life.

Is It Too Late to Prepare for Climate Change?
Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker
Published November 5, 2013



Is Al Jazeera America Going to Change the Way Networks Cover Climate Change?
Thomas Stackpole in Mother Jones
Published August 22, 2013



Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind: April 2013
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Published April 2013



Americans’ Actions to Limit Global Warming: April 2013
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Published April 2013



Other Voices: Can Climate Science Communication Matter?
Andrew Revkin in The New York Times
Published January 29, 2013



Global Warming’s Six Americas in September 2012
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication
Published September 2012



We’re All Climate-Change Idiots
Beth Gardiner in The New York Times
Published July 21, 2012



20 Years Later, Andy Revkin Responds to Groundbreaking Global Warming Story
Melissa Lafsky interviews Andrew Revkin in Discover
Published June 23, 2008



Special Report: Endless Summer—Living With the Greenhouse Effect
Andrew Revkin in Discover
Originally published 1988; Republished June 23, 2008



Additional Resources—Media & Communication:

Climate Change in the Media: Reporting Risk and Uncertainty
by James Painter. IB Tauris, August 2013

Visualizing Climate Change: A Guide to Visual Communication of Climate Change and Developing Local Solutions
by Stephen Sheppard. Routledge, March 2012

Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity
by Mike Hulme. Cambridge University Press, May 2009

Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
by Elizabeth Kolbert. Bloomsbury, March 2006


“We are underinvesting in trying to develop a common vision of a future that is really worth having, the kind of future we would like to leave to our grandchildren. We need to do a lot more of that envisioning.” [5]

—James Gustave Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Dēmos

This section responds to Gus Speth’s challenge to envision a prosperous future, and to encourage productive discussion on how that future should look and how to get there. It also includes his article “A Vision of America the Possible” from Solutions Journal. The design study that concludes The Five Thousand Pound Life will call on interdisciplinary teams to propose new frameworks for living and communicate how they will work in the context of climate change.

The Future We Really Want
Robert Costanza et. al. in Solutions
Published October 2013



Game On: The Basis for Hope in a Time of Despair
Paul Raskin in Solutions
Published August 2013



Life After the Exit Ramp
Stan Cox in Solutions
Published July 2013



The New New York: 2050
Barbara Stewart in Solutions
Published May 2013



A Vision of America the Possible
Gus Speth in Solutions
Published April 2013



It’s Alive! Can You Imagine the Urban Building of the Future?
Arup Foresight
Published January 2013



A Future History of the Environment
Les Kuzyk in Solutions
Published December 2012



Additional Resources—Envisioning:

The World We Made
by Jonathon Porritt. Phaidon, October 2013

Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs
by Eric Sanderson. Abrams, June 2013

Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities That Can Save the Planet
by Alex Steffen. Self-published, November 2012

I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet
by Mark Martin. Verso, October 2011

Digital Resources

Academy for Systemic Change

The Breakthrough Institute

Carbon Footprint Calculator

Center for Ecoliteracy

Global Carbon Atlas

Grist, “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic”

The Guardian, “Everything you need to know about climate change”

Institute for New Economic Thinking

MIT Greenhouse Gas Emissions Simulator

NASA Earth Observatory

The National Academies, “What You Need To Know About Energy”

new economics foundation

Rocky Mountain Institute

RSA Animate


UN Global Compact, Business Partnership Hub, Climate and Energy


Worldwatch Institute

World Bank Data, Climate Change

World Resources Institute

Yale Environment 360

[1] According to International Energy Outlook 2013, world energy consumption will grow by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040.

[2] For more information on energy subsidies, see the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook.

[3] See article in The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog.

[4] As quoted in “Is No One Responsible for Global Environmental Tragedy? Climate Change as a Challenge to Our Ethical Concepts” by Stephen Gardiner. Downloadable here.

[5] As stated in his interview with University of California Television on February 4, 2013, available for viewing online [Quote: 37:55—38:11].