Writing an effective book on climate change is a challenge as diabolicalas it is important. The complexity of the science, economics, and politics is daunting. How to extract the diamonds lurking in the rough of the International Panel on Climate Change reports? How to balance the good cop, dishing out hope, with the bad, lashing the reader with honest accounts of potential catastrophe? If the book should be a hit, how to fend off those hordes of vested interests determined to muddy even the clearest of waters?
Climate Shock’s strategy is not obvious on first picking up the book. Published by Princeton University Press, and authored in part by the highly respected Harvard economist Martin L. Weitzman, one might expect the rattling of a bone-dry academic paper. The subtitle, ‘The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet’, suggests loftier ambitions: it references the great economist John Maynard Keynes’s book The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), which married scholarly insight with sparkling prose. On the other hand, the ferocious red of the cover, with jagged lines carving out the promise to ‘shock’, screams sensationalism. It is more in line with the style of the book’s co-author, Gernot Wagner, who has penned accessible books on climate change like But Will the Planet Notice? (2012). By the end of the preface, it is clear that Wagner’s jocularity has prevailed. It is his road we travel, through the landscape of Weitzman’s research.