Crisis: "Say it like it is" - Greta Thunberg's big climate book

The devastating flood disaster in the Ahr Valley.

Crisis: "Say it like it is" - Greta Thunberg's big climate book

The devastating flood disaster in the Ahr Valley. The heat wave in Pakistan, which was followed by much more deadly floods. Wildfires killing koalas in Australia and people elsewhere. While we like to dream away in dramatic, fictional stories in books, series and films, the greatest dramas are happening in reality.

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe, a pandemic seems over and yet it isn't, Europe is at war and many more people suddenly have to look for ways to pay their next electricity bill. "The world has a fever," writes Greta Thunberg. And that brings us to the topic.

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With the active support of leading experts from around the world, the 19-year-old climate activist from Sweden has written a book that paints a holistic picture of the prevailing climate crisis. "The Climate Book", the sober title of the 500-page tome published on Thursday, is a large reference work that leaves you stunned, but also confident - but above all it first of all explains, describes and classifies what is going on . Thunberg also wants to show the connections between the destruction of nature and the emergence of pandemics or climate change with the aforementioned floods from Ahrweiler.

The mass of facts that she has collected for this can easily overwhelm you. But once started, a look at the book is highly worthwhile. It is not only about a topic that should concern everyone, but also about a very exciting one. Thunberg demands that it is about "the greatest story in the world" that has to be told everywhere. "We have an unimaginably great opportunity to live in the most pivotal moment in human history. It's time we told this story and maybe even change its ending."

Now Thunberg has a unique story behind it. In late summer 2018, the then 15-year-old sat alone in front of the Reichstag in Stockholm to demand more climate protection from Swedish politicians. A year later, the young Swede was a world figure who had created a global climate movement and met Obama, Merkel and DiCaprio. She became the young conscience of a humanity between abundance and shame to fly, between Western inertia and the daily struggle against climate change in poorer regions of the world.

experts report

After the Greta hype of 2019 and 2020, things have calmed down a bit. Among other things, Thunberg used this to work with leading climate experts on the implementation of this book. Because even if the name of the 19-year-old graces the title, it is a joint production of dozens of experts. Thunberg always speaks up, but leaves the lion's share of the space to the experts who report from their respective fields.

The whole thing is built with precision: First come the basics of how the climate works. "In order to solve this problem, we must first understand it," says Thunberg. Armed with this knowledge, one learns how humans are changing the planet and the consequences - from disease and air pollution to conflict and the economic costs.

What follows is what has (not) been done about the climate crisis and what urgently needs to be done. Thunberg concludes with concrete proposals for action and the conclusion that hope must first be earned through action. But the realization remains: "As individuals we can do a lot, but this crisis is not something that one person can handle alone."

"The Climate Book" is purely a fact book. At the same time, it actually has everything a good thriller needs: There is a story that, once understood, immediately captivates. There are villains like powerful oil companies and autocrats, heroes and anti-heroes - that's us - as well as courageous helpers in the fight for a happy ending as uncertain as in the best Dan Brown thriller.

Understanding the crisis holistically

The only hurdle for the reader: he must first work out how to understand this story. Battle through charts and master terms like "Cloud Feedback", "Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation" and "Ice Albedo Feedback Effect". World-class researchers such as Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) lend a helping hand by packaging complex content as generally as possible. Even without much prior knowledge, the climate crisis can be understood holistically.

Thunberg and her colleagues have thus created a foundation of knowledge that leaves no doubt as to how urgent it is to stand up for the climate better today than tomorrow. Ultimately, she wants to present facts and "say it like it is," as she writes. This sober approach is what makes the book so strong: Instead of sheer alarmism, which critics often accuse her of, she relies on facts, clear words and classification.

The only question that remains is whether Thunberg will succeed in overcoming a classic problem in climate literature: Because while climate friends devour such books with gusto, those who have not shown any interest in the topic first have to be convinced of such tomes.

However, after more than four years at the forefront of climate change, Thunberg is used to headwinds. And the warnings of a feverish earth have long been mixed with something akin to optimism, for example when the environmental epidemiologist Ana M. Vicedo-Cabrera writes: "It's not too late to create a more resilient, more sustainable and fairer world for the next generation create." A first step on this path is to understand the climate crisis - and this reference book is the perfect place to start. "The Climate Book" can therefore be required reading in schools - but not only there, but basically in every living room and beyond.

- Greta Thunberg: The climate book, S. Fischer Verlage, Frankfurt am Main, 512 pages, 36.00 euros, ISBN 978-3-10-397189-7.

publisher of the book

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