Carbon News - Intelligence for the carbon market

The Lorax is Rod Carr's pick for best climate change related fiction book of all time

Friday 24 Dec 21 12:00pm

The Lorax by Dr Seuss is Climate Change Commission chair Rod Carr's choice for the best fiction book relating to climate change in the inaugural Carbon News Climate Change Summer Reading list.

Dr Carr chose the Dr Seuss classic when asked for nominate four works for our summer reading list.

Carbon News sent out emails to dozens of people with an interest in climate change asking them for their picks for the  best climate change-related fiction and nonfiction works of 2021, and the best climate-change related fiction and nonfiction of all time.

Carr limited himself to just two of those categories, choosing The Lorax as his favourite work of fiction, and, possibly a little immodestly, the Climate Change Commission's landmark
Inaia tonu nei: a low emissions future for Aotearoa for best work of nonfiction in 2021.

Fiction 2021

Some of the nominations were first published in 2020, and some aren't strictly nonfiction or even books. The name of the person/s who nominated the book are in brackets). A few of the respondents provided comments on their nominations.


The Ministry for the Future

by Kim Stanley Robinson

(James Shaw - climate change minister and Ralph Chapman - associate professor Victoria University.) 



by The Weather Station.

(David Hall – lecturer AUT.)


I haven’t read any fiction in the last couple of years – it’s hard enough to keep up with what I need to keep up with. I turn to music for my downtime. Climate change hasn’t often been a theme for song-writers, but The Weather Station’s new album turns singer Tamara Lindemann’s newfound climate awareness into a suite of captivating songs. Like Weyes Blood’s 2019 album Titanic Rising, ecological disruption is a background theme, not an overt issue. These aren’t clumsy protest songs. Rather, the climate crisis is interwoven with, and blurs into, personal crises. And that’s true to real experience.


The New Wilderness

by Diane Cook

(Jade Kake – writer and architect)


She's A Killer

By Kirsten McDougal

(NZ readers who have kept at the top of the charts for weeks.)


Project Hail Mary 

by Andy Weir

(Matt Burgess – NZ Initiative senior economist)


False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet

By Bjorn Lomberg

(Ralph Sims – Professor emeritus and former IPCC author.)

This one was not written as fiction but given the author claims to be a “sceptical environmentalist” (title of an earlier book) it reads like it is!

Nonfiction 2021

Finding the Mother Tree

by Suzanne Simard

(Becky Lloyd – CEO Toitu)


The Calendar – The 5000 Year Struggle to Align the Clock

by David Ewing Duncan

(James Shaw – climate change minister.)


Inaia tonu nei : a low emissions future for Aotearoa

Climate Change Commission

(Rod Carr - Climate Change Commission chair)


Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World

by Simon Winchester

(Jade Kake – writer and architect)

Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World

by Jason Hickel

(Ralph Chapman – VUW director of Environmental Studies.)

The Winning of the Carbon War: Power and Politics on the Front Lines of Climate and Clean Energy

By Jeremy Leggett

(Ralph Sims – emeritus professor and former IPCC author.)

The New Economics of Innovation and Transition: Evaluating Opportunities and Risks

(David Hall - AUT senior lecturer.)

Books have generally been beyond my capacity this year, because of Covid-related disruptions, plus the acceleration of climate change policy. I’ve mostly read reports, but this is often where the freshest thinking is, rough cuts of research that is trundling slowly through peer review. The Economics of Energy Innovation and System Transition programme involves many of the world’s best climate economists. The New Economics report sets out a new direction for economics, which takes a step back from the idealised models that once dominated climate policy, and pivots toward complexity science, systems thinking and empirical insights from how energy transitions actually occur in the real world. Vital stuff.


A life on our planet

By David Attenborough 

(Kirsten Corson – co-founder exec director Zilch)

Reality Blind

By Nate Hagens and DJ White.

(Nathan Surendran – transition engineering consultant. Also nominated by Mike Joy - VUW fresh water ecologist.)

A very broad ranging look at Climate Change as one of the Limits, or 'Planetary Boundaries' that we are facing. It covers energy, psychology, ecology, amongst many other  topics! It's available in a free electronic version (online reading version or PDF), and there's also a 3 hour talk he gave traversing some of the material from the book.


Evolving Ourselves 

By Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans

(Barry Coates – Mindful Money CEO)

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t, and Why it Matters

by Steven E Koonin.

(Oliver Hartwich – NZ Initiative executive director.)



by Matthew Evans.

(EU Delegation to New Zealand)

David Cameron: For the Record

David Cameron was able to effectively re-position the British Conservative Party to be the UK’s leading party on climate issues.

(Scott Simpson – National Party climate change spokesperson.)

Fiction all time


by Kim Stanley Robinson

(James Shaw – climate change minister.)

The Lorax

by Dr.Seuss. 

(Rod Carr – Climate Change Commission chair.)

Brave new world

Aldous Huxley

(Mike Joy - VUW freshwater ecologist).


By Ben Elton

(Ralph Sims emeritus professor former IPCC author)

Future Home of the Living God

by Louise Erdrich

(Jade Kake – writer and architect)

Gun Island

by Amitav Ghosh

(Ralph Chapman – VUW economist)

The Road

By Cormac McArthy

(Nigel Brunel – Jarden head of Commodities.)

The Wall

by John Lanchester

(Phil Jones, Sustainable Business Network programme manager – climate.)

 This was a Booker long lister. It's a bleak dystopian tale set in a climate change ravaged future. A good central concept - the inhabitants of an island (thinly veiled Britain) are conscripted to serve as border patrol on 'the wall' which circles the island. They protect against attacks from desperate 'others' who seek sanctuary.  The penalty for failing to stop incursions is to be cast out in the sea and become an 'other'. Not the most subtle or well-written novel I've read (a bit surprised with the Booker nomination), but quite compelling all the same.


The Drought

By J.G. Ballard

(David Hall – AUT senior lecturer.)

There are other books by Ballard that I found more unsettling – the premise of The Wind from Nowhere really got under my skin. But The Drought is where all the elements of his apocalypse fiction really come together: the ambivalent narrator, the grounded female characters, the maverick leaders who emerge in crisis and pioneer new ways of living. It is an unsettling lesson that, even in the midst of a climate disaster, some people will find meaning and purpose, some will even flourish, but not necessarily in ways we will recognise as admirable or desirable.


by Samuel Alexander

(Nathan Surendran – transition engineering consultant )

The Overstory

by Richard Powers

(Becky Lloyd – CEO Toitu)

Nonfiction all time

Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

edited by Paul Hawken.

(James Shaw – climate change minister.)

Climate Change and Common Sense: Essays in Honour of Tom Schelling (Nigel Brunel – Jarden head of Commodities.)

Blip; humanity’s 300 year self-terminating experiment with industrialism

by Christopher O. Clugston and Mildred Santiago-Vélez

(Mike Joy – Victoria University freshwater ecologist.)

Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning

by George Monbiot

A well written and researched book outlining how we could tackle climate change with existing technologies. Remarkably, his target was 90% reduction by 2030, a much more radical goal than the radical goal we now face (50% by 2030). Of course, we now have 15 less years to make the reduction.  Plus, global emissions have gone up significantly since 2006, by about 20%. 

(Phil Jones, Sustainable Business Network programme manager – climate.)

Climate Change: Hope in Hell 

By Jonathan Porritt

(Barry Coates – Mindful Money CEO and Becky Lloyd – CEO Toitu )

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation

by Paul Hawkens

(Rachel Brown Sustainable Business Network – founder CEO)

How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts

By Candis Callison

(David Hall – AUT senior lecturer.)

I loved this book, which came out the year I finished my doctoral thesis, and said much better what I was trying to say. Working from an anthropological perspective, Callison captures the essence of climate politics, that we’ll need diverse narratives to create a society-wide commitment to climate action. Callison takes a Wittgensteinian approach to understanding how particular communities come to make sense of an issue like climate change, including science journalists, climate scientists, American evangelicals, Indigenous leaders, and advocates for corporate social responsibility. It teaches the lesson that we need to create space for others to make sense of climate change in their own way, using their own values and framings, even when that doesn’t gel with the progressive sensibilities of many climate activists.  



The Future We Choose

By Christiana Figueres  -

(Kirsten Corson – co-founder exec director Zilch)

The Uninhabitable Earth

by David Wallace-Wells

(Ralph Chapman – Victoria University.)

Global Warming – the Complete Briefing (5th edition 2018)

By Sir John Houghton

I had an input into the first edition in 2009 when I was based at the IEA.

(Ralph Sims – emeritus professor former IPCC author)

Na Kua'aina: Living Hawaiian Culture

by Davianna Pômaika'i McGregor

(Jade Kake – writer architect)

Surviving the Future. Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy

by David Fleming.

(Nathan Surendran – transition engineering consultant)

A  broad ranging book placing Climate Change and it's impacts on our civilisation within a systems perspective on markets, ethics, science, culture, art, history and growth.




by Yuval Noah Harari.

(EU Delegation to New Zealand)


Story copyright © Carbon News 2021


Latest in Books, Music and Films

Your IP address: