The Parrot and the Igloo: Climate and the Science of Denial (Paperback)
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Named a Best Book of the Year in The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, Chicago Tribune, and EcoLit Books
A USA Today Must-Read Summer Book
"David Lipsky spins top-flight climate literature into cliffhanger entertainment." —Zoë Schlanger, New York Times Book Review
The New York Times best-selling author explores how “anti-science” became so virulent in American life—through a history of climate denial and its consequences.
In 1956, the New York Times prophesied that once global warming really kicked in, we could see parrots in the Antarctic. In 2010, when science deniers had control of the climate story, Senator James Inhofe and his family built an igloo on the Washington Mall and plunked a sign on top: AL GORE'S NEW HOME: HONK IF YOU LOVE CLIMATE CHANGE. In The Parrot and the Igloo, best-selling author David Lipsky tells the astonishing story of how we moved from one extreme (the correct one) to the other.
With narrative sweep and a superb eye for character, Lipsky unfolds the dramatic narrative of the long, strange march of climate science. The story begins with a tale of three inventors—Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla—who made our technological world, not knowing what they had set into motion. Then there are the scientists who sounded the alarm once they identified carbon dioxide as the culprit of our warming planet. And we meet the hucksters, zealots, and crackpots who lied about that science and misled the public in ever more outrageous ways. Lipsky masterfully traces the evolution of climate denial, exposing how it grew out of early efforts to build a network of untruth about products like aspirin and cigarettes.
Featuring an indelible cast of heroes and villains, mavericks and swindlers, The Parrot and the Igloo delivers a real-life tragicomedy—one that captures the extraordinary dance of science, money, and the American character.
About the Author
David Lipsky is a recipient of the National Magazine Award and the GLAAD Media Award. His books Absolutely American and Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself were New York Times bestsellers. He teaches at New York University and lives in New York City.
Brilliant.… With investigational skill and elegant writing, David Lipsky proves that the Washington DC climate deniers are charlatans, buffoons, and anti-science greedheads. Every page crackles with truth and wisdom. Highly recommended!
— Douglas Brinkley
An achievement—it’s an amazing read.
— Chris Jansing, MSNBC
— Rolling Stone
This is not a book lacking in ambition. Lipsky wants to tell the whole, sprawling, messy tale of climate change: how modern technology made it all happen, how scientists figured it out, and how a network of hustlers and hucksters distracted the public from the threat before our eyes. In the end he pulls it off, delivering a propulsive read that has the snap of a screenplay. Lipsky’s a major talent.… It’s the velvety texture of well-tailored prose that makes this book a climate must-read…Lipsky marries a novelist’s stylishness to a journalist’s rigor to create a cinematic refashioning of the climate change story…My only quibble with this fantastic book [is] that it ends too soon.
— Jason Mark - Sierra
David Lipsky’s topic in The Parrot and the Igloo—his preoccupation, his obsession—is climate change. On page after page, in chapter after chapter, he sets out how the warming world came to know, and actually has known for decades, that the planet is on fire, that the implications are dire, that the timetable to fight climate change is finite.… An excellent, approachable primer on the science of global warming [and] a dizzying account of how long we have known so much about an issue that means so much.
— David Shribman - Boston Globe
One of the best books I’ve read in a decade.… This is an extraordinary work…The book is so important, I want so many people to read it. Not just because it’s important, but because it’s so damned entertaining. Because this book is written with love. With love for the reader, with love for humanity, with a huge understanding gaze, a huge nod to the fact that we are in this together.… I promise you this book is worth it. David Lipsky has delivered on the promise of his brilliance in this book.
— Brian Koppelman - Moment
Lipsky, award-winning author of books about West Point and a road trip with David Foster Wallace, brings his wide-angle lens to bear on global warming in The Parrot and the Igloo. It’s about not just the science of climate change but also the self-interested deniers constantly working to undermine it—‘more research is needed’ is a central strategy—and inflicting long-term damage in the process. Lipsky strives to make the book as readable as possible [and] his deep research and outrage continually shine through.
— Stuart Miller - Los Angeles Times
There may be no such thing as a definitive look at the climate crisis, but Lipsky tries to cover what ‘a reasonably well-informed person might have been expected to know.’ …Lipsky masterfully recounts it with tempered outrage and a winking, wry wit.
— Eric Roston - Bloomberg News
The best nonfiction book I’ve read in decades. And the best book of its kind I’ve ever read.
— Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author of Half a Life
A comprehensive history of climate denialism.
— ABC News
[A] history of the idea that human actions are warming the world to cataclysmic effect.… The awareness of human-induced warming dawns in 1896 and resurfaces periodically throughout the twentieth century—in 1956, the Times imagined an Arctic so hot that it was home to tropical birds, a landscape that gives Lipsky’s book its title.… A consensus finally arrives with the release of the fourth I.P.C.C. assessment, in 2007, but this triumph becomes an anticlimax when governments prove unwilling to regulate fossil fuels.
— The New Yorker
An important book that will leave your head shaking.
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review
It is a book that should be read by just about everyone.… Sure, many of us have been angry about the collective failure to act on the facts of climate change for years, even for decades, but in The Parrot and the Igloo Lipsky lays bare the inner workings of the long-running countercurrent to common sense. Here a talented writer has painstakingly brought together facts, timelines, and personalities to portray a greater whole. And he has done so in a way that can only leave readers seething, wrathful, and ready for action.
— Bill Streever - E: The Environmental Magazine
Humor accompanies horrific truths in this vital look at the rise of climate change denial. With dry wit and novelistic flair, National Magazine Award winner Lipsky chronicles how harnessing electricity changed the world.… [R]evelatory.… [S]obering and incisive. Buoyed by thorough historical research, this is a first-rate entry.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
It can be hard, sometimes, to keep in mind the distinction between weather—what’s it doing outside today?— and climate: What do statistical models suggest it’s likely to be doing decades from now? That confusion plays into the hands of oil companies and others who have long used pleasant days (weather) to downplay the threat of global warming (climate), as if a diseased patient can’t feel perfectly good some of the time. So David Lipsky’s new book, The Parrot and the Igloo, is a useful corrective; all the more so since Lipsky is a journalist rather than a climate scientist, whose aim is to gather the known facts about climate change and denialism into a compelling narrative that’s easy to grasp.
— Gregory Cowles - New York Times
David Lipsky tells the story of how climate-change denial went mainstream.… Lipsky makes thinking about the planet’s impending doom not just palatable but entertaining.
— Jensen Davis - Air Mail
Award-winning author Lipsky takes the reader on a journey through the evolution of climate change denial.… [T]his can be considered the historical record to date.
I’ve got to thank bestselling author David Lipsky for pulling off a nifty trick in his latest book—making me laugh while reading about the potential end of human life on this planet.… The Parrot and the Igloo gives readers the confidence that we can get through this treatise on such a somber subject as climate change.… [T]here’s so much more to this book than a focus on the hideous history of climate-change denialism and the vile people who still traffic in it today.… Lipsky connects all the dashes and dots [and] makes it easier to understand.… [A]s fascinating as the destination of denialism is, the author’s stops along the way are equally enthralling.
— Christopher Lancette - Washington Independent Review of Books
Enticing and eminently readable.… An offbeat history of climate science and politics.
— Michael Svoboda - Yale Climate Connections
A National Magazine Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author, Lipsky explains how antiscience sentiment became so strong in the United States by focusing on climate change denial. He lays bare the science of climate change, understood decades ago, then shows how fake news about products like aspirin created the tools for denier ideas to take hold.
— Library Journal
Well-researched and captivatingly written, it’s a must-read.
— Sandy Dominy - Prime Women
Lipsky offers a history of climate science?and with it, climate denial?starring a large cast of swindlers, zealots, politicians and hucksters to get to the heart of virulent anti-science ideologies in America.
— Barbara VanDenburgh - USA Today
[An] unflinching look at this vital topic.… It’s a whirlwind tour, and Lipsky pulls it off.… The beauty of this book is that it could expose a new audience to the crimes committed in the name of continued profit; so many climate books are preach to the choir.
— John Schwartz - Undark
Deep and detailed.… Lipsky’s energetic, often irreverent narrative makes it all intensely readable, although infuriating.… The Parrot and the Igloo arrives in a world on fire and perhaps, just perhaps, finally waking up to its peril.
— Steve Donoghue - Open Letters Review
What is the lure of anti-science rhetoric and climate change denial? That’s the question at the heart of David Lipsky’s The Parrot and the Igloo.… Lipsky profiles not only the experts who sounded the alarm on the climate crisis but also those who lied about the science and misled the public. The book explores themes of ecological disinformation and greed through the stories of an incredible cast of characters.
— Toronto Life
Climate change and climate denial…have shared the stage in a gripping tragicomic drama for nearly four decades. In The Parrot and the Igloo David Lipsky brings that drama irresistibly to life in a narrative guaranteed to have readers alternately laughing at the headlong rush of human stupidity and cupidity and screaming helplessly into the void…Lipsky’s dizzying no-brakes account of the progression to climate consensus—and of the dogged deniers-for-hire who have attacked it with relentless, reckless abandon—proves engaging and enraging in equal measure.… Ingeniou[s] and hilariou[s].
— Steve Nathans-Kelly - New York Journal of Books
A story of facts versus falsehoods and the climate-change deniers who have benefitted from both the hired guns and playbook of Big Tobacco. These are the folks who still pit themselves against the scientists who reveal the unyielding truths of melting glaciers, warming temperatures, and catastrophic weather events, including wildfires. In a painstakingly researched yet witty text, Lipsky bags the culprits.
David Lipsky’s The Parrot and the Igloo is so playful and sharp—one of my favorites of the year.
— Jeva Lange - Heatmap
A huge accomplishment.
— Matt Bucher - Concavity Show
Where can a person living on a melting planet turn—at least before the spaceship fleet is ready—for enlightenment? I’d start, and finish, with David Lipsky’s brilliant epic The Parrot and the Igloo, which I devoured in a single, feverish, page-turning sitting, a perspective-altering dream, a story told in language as sharp and clear as the spring air we knew before all the carbon was released.… You will stare out the same windows when you’ve finished, but nothing will look the same.
— Rich Cohen, New York Times best-selling author of Sweet and Low and Monsters
Exposing climate science deniers took its toll on Lipsky.… ‘There’s something about reading people who are lying that makes you suspicious and argumentative company.’ You’ll have a similar reaction reading Lipsky’s book. In selling their souls for fame and fortune, deniers have sowed doubt, eroded trust in science and cost us time we don't have in the fight to keep our only home from baking, burning and flooding.
— Jay Robb - Hamilton Spectator