Book Review: The Climate Action Handbook

A Visual Guide To 100 Climate Solutions For Everyone

Author: Dr. Heidi Roop, PhD


High on my list of Christmas gifts to friends and family this year is The Climate Action Handbook, authored by Dr. Heidi Roop, PhD.  It is a comprehensive, up-to-date (published in 2023) and easily accessible read for climate activists at all levels.

“… it’s the only book I’ve found quite like it, and in my opinion it’s worth a read either from front to back or by flipping to any page for information or inspiration.”

The book’s introduction provides digestible explanations of greenhouse gases, the scale of the problem, the inequities of climate change and why climate action is so important.  

I liked both the supportive approach of the book, which respects the reader’s intelligence, and its practicality, recognizing that we range in our capacities for integrating climate actions into our lives. 

Not intended to be an in-depth analysis of the climate crisis, the book primarily focuses on action, both personal and collective.  Actions are grouped into 10 categories, among them Energy Production and Transportation, Travel and Work, Shopping and Consumer Choices, Actions around the Home, Education, and Climate Information.

For each action, the background and context address not only carbon implications, but effects related to health, economic disparity and environmental justice.  For example, when discussing the familiar issue of reducing our use of plastics, Roop reminds us that burning plastics — still the fate of much plastic waste — often occurs near low income communities who are then subject to chemical exposure and reduced air quality.   

Each climate crisis topic is chock full of information and underpinned with solid facts and data reinforced by illustrations — something especially appreciated by those of us who tend to learn by visual cues. 

For example, Action #42: diapers, cloth or disposable?  The author provides the number of disposable  vs cloth diapers used (in the US), the associated kilograms of carbon dioxide from production to transportation, and the cubic meters of water used.  Action #48: keeping our devices longer and disposing of them properly. The author notes the calculated annual CO2 emissions from manufacture and use of smartphones: 

“The amount of waste reproduced in the EU from manufacturing new electronics was five times greater than the amount of e-waste created by consumers disposing of old devices. . . . Globally, 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste were created in 2019 with an estimated $57 billion of reusable, high-value materials like gold, copper and platinum being tossed or burned as a result of poor practices by consumers and corporations.”

On a personal level, we should keep our devices longer and dispose of them properly. On a bigger scale, we need to advocate for policies to increase recycling of electronics and for companies to convert data centres to run on renewable energy. 

In her section on Starting and Sustaining Your Climate Action Journey, Dr. Roop emphasizes the importance of individual efforts, community engagement and political actions, both large and small. 

To remain committed and to contribute over the long term, we should focus on our strengths and passions. And beware of the politics.

Under Education and Climate Information, she cautions us to be aware of the politics of climate change, of corporate ‘anti-climate’ campaigns and greenwashing. With the abundance of mis- and dis-information out there, we need to be savvy consumers of climate information. 

She points out the intergenerational inequality of climate change and how children will experience many more climate-related disasters than their grandparents. We need to act for children, and we need to talk to them about climate change. We need to engage schools, while advocating for climate-friendly infrastructure, including buses.   

I’ve tried here to give readers a taste of what The Climate Handbook offers. The book provides much, much more.  No, it’s not perfect, and it’s not a panacea. It leaves you motivated to continue confidently down the climate action road. I find the information and data helps me to feel like I’m on solid ground in pursuing a particular personal path of action and when engaging in conversations with friends, family or community leaders. 

And, like any good academic, she provides source Notes to help readers pursue topics further.  

The author: Heidi Roop, PhD, Director of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, and Assistant Professor of Climate Science.  Published by Sasquatch Books, a trademark of Penguin Books, it can be ordered through your favourite book store.  ISBN 9781632174147.

Sharon Hill is a resident of Peterborough, involved with For Our Grandchildren and Peterborough Field Naturalists. She is committed to pursuing a sustainable climate future through personal changes and community action. She is especially aware that it is the future of our youth that we are fighting for. 

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