The First Climate Book That Is Not About Climate Change

The Times podcast: Our Masters of Disasters know it’s windy on the sea; a new wave of flooding threatens to sweep over America. It came to a climax this weekend in Louisiana, where hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee houses that had been washed away. How do we prevent such things? From the editor-at-large of TIME magazine.

From the editor-at-large of TIME magazine.

For The Times:

What made you decide to write this book?

I was going to write a book about climate change, but then I got an email from a Yale environmental professor named Michael Oppenheimer. He asked, “Would you like to write about the science? Or would you like to write more about us?”

I had always thought we had it pretty good. We had the world’s leading climate scientists. They were spending five years working on climate change in a basement in Cambridge. But then President Obama had to decide what kind of relationship he wanted to have with these scientists. And they came out, and they said, “This is not what we are doing.”

But he said, “No, you do it the way you want, but if you want to make it a political book, that’s fine.” And he was very proud of this book. And the first thing he said to me was, “Well, I have to congratulate you.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “I know you thought this was an issue that was going to be settled long ago. Well, you can do better.”

The first thing was to tell the story of his family, because that’s what had been missing. And then he was a climate scientist. And then he was in the Obama climate advisory board. And then he became director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which had the best record of any climate agency. And finally he became president.

This is the first climate book where there are no villains in it whatsoever. And he has admitted that he was very, very wrong.

But you know what? We are facing an epidemic of extreme weather and heat waves, and that’s not what we had in mind when we decided to do this book.

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