The old cliché in environmental studies that “everything is connected” is very true in climate science. Observe the lives of bark beetles, whose reproductive cycles speed up in hot, dry weather, initiating a global-warming disaster for large areas of forest. A few wrinkles in the ecosystem are all it takes to generate a plague that turns green pine forest to rust red. One of the best accounts of such infestations is Hillary Rosner’s 2015 article for National Geographic, “The Bug That’s Eating the Woods.”
James E. Hansen, one of the nation’s best-known climate scientists and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been a pioneer in this field for decades. In 1981, he and his colleagues were the first to frame climate change in a scientific context with the essay “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” which appeared in Science. Hansen has long been very good at interpreting the quickly changing world of climate science for broad audiences, exemplified by his 2010 book Storms of My Grandchildren. He also engages in civil disobedience when the occasion calls, such as picketing the Keystone XL Pipeline in front of the White House or being arrested while protesting mountaintop coal mining, which involves blowing the tops off mountains and strip mining the inside. His 2004 article for Scientific American, “Defusing the Global Warming Time Bomb,” has become a seminal text for understanding the present impact of climate change. Eli Kintisch’s 2013 essay “Hansen’s Retirement from NASA Spurs Look at His Legacy” is useful for readers to comprehend the impact of Hansen’s work.
Several scientists analyze present-day events in newspaper op-eds and capture well the broad picture in books. Establishing both the economic and scientific context of climate change, noted journalist Naomi Klein’s 2014 book This Changes Everything is an important resource.