Review: Fiction About Climate Change

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

After much ire and debate last year the KS3 geography programme of study was changed to include the words ‘climate’ and ‘change,’ though not, to the consternation of many, the phrase ‘climate change.’ Fortunately, that hasn’t stopped many young-adult authors from exploring this hot topic. The four books below present a chilling, or rather, sizzling vision of a globally warmed world and offer great cross curricular opportunities for teachers of English, geography and citizenship.

The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd

The Carbon Diaries 2015 Climate ChangeSaci Lloyd’s The Carbon Diaries 2015 is the journal of 16-year-old Laura Brown, a smart and hapless sixth-former on the front line of the government’s fight to lower carbon emissions. When carbon rationing begins her family’s comfortable if caustic existence begins to unravel and London becomes a dark and dangerous place.

Lloyd’s witty and sarcastic tale is not as bleak and violent as many of the dystopian futurist novels so popular among young readers nowadays. In fact, global warming sometimes takes a backseat to the usual teenage trials of failed love, fractious family, fragile friendships and big dreams. For geography teachers there is lots of weather-related havoc and urban planning catastrophes, while citizenship teachers will enjoy asking their students if they would be willing to drastically reduce their CO2 emissions for the sake of the planet. Craziest of all in this pessimistic vision of the future, Britain has joined the euro…

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Exodus Climate ChangeIn Julie Bertagna’s Exodus, as in The Carbon Diaries, a sharp and kind-hearted teenage girl narrates the story of well-meaning islanders who are slow to grasp the urgent danger to their doomed world, but there the similarities end. Where The Carbon Diaries unleashes extreme weather, Exodus is built around a more stealthy effect of global warming — rising sea levels.

Bright-eyed Mara and the other inhabitants of Wing Island have done nothing to bring about the catastrophe that threatens their homeland. The prophetic teenager’s warnings at first fall on deaf ears, but soon she finds herself spearheading an exodus. (Yes, there is a slight biblical tinge to the story, though even Moses would struggle to part seas this swollen with melted ice caps.)

Exodus is about the little people, distant communities bearing the brunt of nature’s wrath. How exactly do seas rise? What’s the big deal if the polar ice caps melt? Do we in the west have any obligations to ‘climate refugees’? All urgent questions, and all present in Exodus.

Four Dedrees More by Malcolm Rose

Four Degrees More Climate ChangeFew people now deny that the earth is warming, but there is some debate about just how much hotter the planet can get before things really unravel. Like many people, 16-year-old Leyton Curry thinks it’s four degrees Celsius. Better known as The Cooler, he’s the protagonist of Malcolm Rose’s Four Degrees More.

After the rising North Sea destroys his bedroom, Leyton vows revenge on the energy-hungry world, desperate to prevent mankind crossing that critical temperature tipping point. But are his acts of eco-sabotage heroism or terrorism? That’s the big ethical dilemma of Rose’s short and stern story. As Leyton prepares for his most daring act of disobedience the line between right and wrong becomes harder to discern.

Aimed at 13-15 year olds, Four Degrees More touches on important matters of geography, ethics and civic duty, all in a book that could comfortably be covered in less than a week.

The Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd

The Carbon Diaries 2017 Climate ChangeThings certainly hot up in our fourth and final novel, The Carbon Diaries 2017. Saci Lloyd’s sequel to her successful 2015 diary (see above), this latest adventure sees Laura Brown and her leaner, greener family still coping with carbon rationing and an ever-warming world.

As is traditional in sequels, Lloyd shifts the action to a more exotic locale while building on popular themes and characters from part one. Thus, Laura and her band, the dirty angels (spelt lower case, because nothing says conformist like capital letters), head to France for a make-or-break tour. Perhaps drawing on the heatwave that really did hit France in summer 2004, Lloyd ups the temperature as Laura and her bandmates struggle for recognition and water on le continent. Meanwhile, ordinary Britons (like Laura’s parents) are turning to pigs and potatoes to stay fed. For those who can’t afford these new luxuries the only answer is terrorism.

The Carbon Diaries 2017 asks more bleak questions of human solidarity. Perfect for a warm (or scorching) summer’s day…

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