11 Books That Illuminated the Challenges of Climate Change for Me.

Fernando Lelo Larrea
5 min readSep 3, 2023

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught” — Baba Dioum

For the last twelve months, I’ve focused all my efforts on refocusing my career toward contributing to solving the largest challenge our generation has faced: Climate Change.

My journey of educating myself through this intricate terrain has been guided by the wisdom of authors, scientists, and visionaries who’ve unraveled the threads of climate change through the power of the written word.

The intersection of literature and climate change is where narratives of scientific truths, personal awakenings, and the societal imperative to change converge. These books offer more than just knowledge; they serve as mirrors to reflect on our actions, windows to envision a sustainable future, and bridges to connect the diverse voices that contribute to the global dialogue on climate change.

In this carefully curated list, I share “11 Books That Illuminate the Challenges of Climate Change.” These volumes, which I’ve read in the last twelve months, have allowed me to dive deep into the multifaceted facets of climate change, from its scientific foundations to its profound emotional impact on individuals and communities. Whether you’re a passionate environmentalist, an investor, a concerned global citizen, or simply someone seeking to fathom our swiftly changing world, these books are more than recommended readings — they are essential companions on your quest for understanding. They illuminate the urgency of our environmental crisis and inspire us to be responsible custodians of our planet’s fragile ecosystems. Each one has added a unique layer to my understanding of climate change, collectively empowering me to better grasp the past, address the present, and contribute to a sustainable future for generations yet to come.

  1. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates | A good place to start; a clear, non-technical, schematic approach to the broad scope of the problem and what needs to be done, from a voice that is heard and influences decision-makers.
  2. Speed & Scale — An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now, by John Doerr | Following the line of his previous book, Measure what Matters, this is a practical manual, full of OKRs and a 10-step plan, from an authoritarian voice in the venture capital world.
  3. Hothouse Earth — An Inhabitant’s Guide, by Bill McGuire | was my entry point into the science behind climate change, with an alarming, no sugar-coating description of what lays ahead.
  4. This Changes Everything — Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein | Already a classic, this provocative book makes the link between the challenge ahead and our economic system. A little too extreme to my political views, it nevertheless helps empathize with large movements that are really changing the dialogue for the better.
  5. Net Zero, by Dieter Helm | A measured, balanced view of how we stop causing climate change by adopting a net zero strategy of reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon absorption. It is a hugely influential rational look at why the past 30 years' efforts failed and why and how the next 30 years can succeed.
  6. The Climate Book, edited by Greta Thunberg | A complete list can’t leave behind this book, where Greta levers her enormous influence to gather scientific authorities from the full spectrum to contribute to a large puzzle of problems. More for consultation than a cover-to-end reading.
  7. How the World Really Works, by Vaclav Smil | I felt I needed to read some contrarian forces, and who better than Professor Smil’s vast erudition and skepticism? Not precisely a book on climate, he just describes how things are produced and what it really takes to stop using fossil fuels, which seems really hard given our current economic system.
  8. The Parrot and the Igloo — Climate and the Science of Denial, by David Lipsky | Still going through this one, but I love its style, fast pace, and approach. We have known about climate change for more than a century. How did the issue get so politicized? How did we create doubts when the evidence was so compelling? How to argue with deniers even today? Read it.
  9. On Time and Water, by Andri Snær Magnason | The book I enjoyed the most on this list. A truly poetic reflection on climate change (and so much more) from an author I want to read more of. His reflection on our direct influence in people through a 250-year span still accompanies me in my daily thoughts.
  10. Not Too Late, edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lulunatabua | Another wonderful read, as everything from Rebecca Solnit. After reading about the business, science, politics, and economics of climate action, I needed to read about the people on the front line, the brave activists who are raising their voices, protesting, and making sure we don’t lose track.
  11. The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson | Last but not least, a novel. The most effective tool for change is storytelling, and literature can do this better than all the charts, data, and facts. Recommended by President Obama when it first came out, it has aged well since it came out three years ago. Hard to go through it and not want to take action immediately.

I am only getting started in my understanding of this enormous challenge and my potential contribution to its solving, both as an individual, as an investor, and as a member of my community. I will continue sharing new discoveries and learnings, in the hope that more people understand that we need all the talent available to achieve this indispensable goal.

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Fernando Lelo Larrea

Venture Capital Investor. Entrepreneurship. Economics. Seeking Innovation & Impact.