There’s a lot of buzz going around about climate change. The Arctic is melting. Sea levels are rising. It’s not looking great, if we’re honest. In a time where we should be taking action, we’re still sitting on our hands and arguing if any of this really *is* a problem. (By the way, yes, it is, at least for humanity.)
Most frustratingly, climate change has become insanely politicized here in the United States. There’s a large portion of people who run around touting things like, “Climate change is a natural phenomenon that occurs on the planet all the time. There’s nothing we can do, anyway, so why bother?”
What do you say to those people? One quick, cute, and well-written solution is to have them read 50 Climate Questions: A Blizzard of Blistering Facts, by Peter Christie.
Indeed, there really are 50 questions, but don’t mistake this book for a dry run through of heaps of climate data. They’re not pointed questions about climate so much as they’re just silly, fun ways to introduce the information that will follow. In a nutshell, it’s a book for younger readers that accurately explains our current climate conundrum in comparison to historical data.
Climate Questions is divided into six chapters with 8-10 questions related to a specific topic. At first glance things are seemingly unrelated and wacky, but everything becomes clear and cohesive as you read along. You’ll find some extras, too, like informational blurbs about current scientific or anthropological data, as well as hands-on experiments to try at home, jokes, and activities to enjoy.
Christie does a great job at connecting the funny questions in each chapter and excels in providing examples of natural climate change occurrences that most of us probably never think much about. He looks at animal diversity, ancient civilizations, wars, and even the arts through the climate change lens, and then thoroughly explains the importance climate played for the time period or event.
It’s getting hot in here
That said, Christie links just about everything you learned in middle school history class to natural climate change and irregularities. I admit that at one point I became slightly concerned about this take; everything is so focused on the natural changes that I worried it might actually end up being a climate denial book.
It isn’t. The entire final chapter and conclusion discuss human-caused climate change. Once you get there, you understand this was deliberate, and serves a purpose. Yes, the first five chapters do build up and affirm many of the talking points for “naturally warming Earthers” and climate deniers, but the final chapter drops like a bomb and blows apart the whole misconception.
It opens with an important question — why is climate change a big deal if it’s always changed? This provides the jumping off point to understanding how we know that humans are causing our current warming trend, and what types of things we’re doing that contribute to the issue. Christie uses this chapter to dive into what we’re facing if we do nothing, as well as what we can do to counter the damage being done.
The information in 50 Climate Questions is generally fun and is well based in science. It even comes with a selected bibliography, an index, and further reading section at the end — but there’s just so dang much to take in. Luckily, the illustrations by Ross Kinnaird make this book a hoot and work harmoniously with the text to deliver content in a fresh and relatable way.
The artwork is both charming and colorful, and every piece is hilariously (sometimes cheekily) content relevant, which helps with information recall. Most importantly, though, the illustrations bring a sense of humor when things get heavy, frustrating, or, on a few occasions, a bit sluggish.
Taking a chill pill
While this book was written for a younger audience, it’s suitable for anyone roughly aged 12 and up, mostly due to the many geographical locations and historical contexts. It would be beneficial for the reader to have some knowledge about the world and major events. It’s chock full of fun facts and successfully explores how climate change impacted human (and animal) events that we don’t normally think about.
From wars and disease to exploration and art, some of the information is actually kind of surprising. It’s helpful to see how much our life on earth has been affected by climate change in the past and the fragility of our own survival in extreme climate events. It’s also helpful to grasp an idea of where we are heading and to learn some small tips that can help lower our own carbon footprint.
What I love, besides the adorable illustrations and the excellent content, is that it presses urgency without the sinking feeling of impending doom or total annihilation. 50 Climate Questions would be an excellent resource for young people fighting climate denial, or simply those who want to understand more about the precarious relationship with have with our planet. Above all, what I love about this book is that it offers a glimmer of hope to a world on fire.