Bill McKibben, climate justice activist and founder of, professor of environmental studies, best-selling author, and journalist, needs little introduction. He has made enormous contributions to the public awareness of the need to prevent climate emergency. And he continues to promote important developments in the struggle, including Extinction Rebellion and the global September 20 climate strike.

In the thirty years between his widely read The End of Nature and the launch of his new book Falter, this year, the planet’s ecological fate has veered toward the worst-case scenario. Faced with climate emergency now, we urgently need books that convey our dire environmental circumstances and contribute to a political understanding that serves as a guide to action. McKibben’s Falter lives up to the first criteria, but fails badly on the second.

Falter excels in its account of ecological collapse. It is rooted in climate science, and powerfully recounts the multiple ways that greenhouse gases are forever altering and destabilizing the planet.

Rising extreme temperatures will place 1.5 billion people in areas at high risk of temperature and humidity combinations that humans can’t survive for more than a few hours. Rapidly changing climate conditions threaten to radically disrupt the plant, insect, and soil ecologies that make agriculture possible. Ninety-three percent of the heat is collecting in the water, and ocean acidity has already increased by 30 percent due to CO2 emissions. Further increases risk the total collapse of ocean ecosystems. The International Organization for Migration estimates there will be up to two-hundred million climate refugees by 2050, or maybe even up to the high estimate of one billion. […]