Cli-Fi: The Net Zero Sub-Genre

From Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

Two exciting new books in climate fiction (Cli-fi), with net zero themes.

You may recall two early posts at CE on Cli-fi [link] [link]; these posts helped popularize the term.  Almost exactly 10 years since my initial post, Cli-fi has come a long way, with a full-blown Wikipedia page.  Some recent lists of prominent Cli-fi books:

Penguin-Random House

Book Riot


The trigger for this particular post is several weeks ago, the authors of two new books emailed me with copies of their books.  What struck me in particular is that these two books are each based on a theme of net zero emissions.  In effect, they define a new sub-genre of Cli-fi: net zero fiction that deals with how the rapid elimination of fossil fuels has become deeply problematic.  Both books feature skeptical scientists intent on making a difference against overwhelming odds.   The moral of these stories is that rapid transition to net zero emissions will do far more harm than CO2 emissions themselves.

This topic couldn’t be more timely.

Winter Gamesby Daniel Church

Daniel Church is a nom de plume, I don’t know his real name, but it is obvious that he has spent a lot of time in academia and is knowledgeable about geology/geophysics. 

From the summary on

“Daniel Church’s thriller is firmly in the tradition of Michael Crichton. Winter Games introduces readers to a passionate band of scientists sacrificing themselves to save millions of helpless human beings whose lives are threatened by cold. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that one PR guru is behind many of the public’s misperceptions of climate and, thus, much suffering. The question is whether he is too powerful to be defeated.”

In terms of the plot and setting: It is 2027, and desperate climate scientists are videoing themselves dying in rooms kept at Earth’s average temperature—59 degrees Fahrenheit (with some wind generated by a fan)—in an effort to communicate some simple facts about science, and protect the vulnerable from the ravages of fuel poverty. The climactic scene, at NASA GISS in New York City (with a cameo appearance of Tom’s Restaurant of Seinfeld fame), is surprising and shocking.

I was invited to write a blurb for the book: “Provocative and timely, Winter Games gives life to the threats of fuel poverty and cold in thrilling fashion.” 

The book is superbly written, a literary albeit fast-paced thriller.  Church clearly knows what he is talking about in terms of the relevant science.  An exceptionally well-crafted book.  This is a fairly short read, I predict that you will read it in one sitting and not put it down until finished.

Note: this book currently available only in paperback; electronic version is forthcoming

Poorly Zeroed: A Net Zero Travestyby John M. Cape

John Cape is a graduate of the Stanford Business School and the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a registered professional engineer and energy consultant.


“Seeking to decarbonize rapidly, the United States rushed to abandon fossil fuels with predictable consequences. It’s 2032, and some climate skeptics attempt to disclose that there was little justification for Net Zero Policies. The government doesn’t want its citizens to learn that their life-altering sacrifices were unwarranted. Inattentive to more menacing climate risks, wealthy elites shepherd what’s left of the country toward a primitive future where humanity will be ill-prepared to avoid extinction. Is there another way? Can our hero and his friends find it in time?”

Notes from the author:

“Rifle sights can generally be adjusted to enable them to hit what they are aimed at. When correctly set for a particular user, that weapon is zeroed. Something that is poorly zeroed and addressed properly will miss the target. Now, if the target is to make us poor. Then a well-adjusted weapon hitting what it’s aimed at could also be considered poorly zeroed.” 

“This book is grounded in hard science and speculates how far things could go if current trends continue.  Think of it as an energy version of A Modest Proposal. This novel is not masquerading as something indistinguishable from the real world. We don’t want the events described herein to ever happen, and the fact that they are already well underway should be a good wakeup that it’s gone far enough. If not, read this book and put yourself in the moccasins of these characters dealing with troubling changes.”

This book is slightly longer,  it does include graphs and references. Two climate skeptics meet at a climate science boot camp and share their insights on climate science, IPCC misbehavior, and Net Zero Policy consequences while falling in love. Meanwhile, a progressive family with relatives visiting from China compares notes and works together to stay alive and survive the ordeals. All struggle to get by without much transportation or backup power.  The book is less about refuting climate science than coming to terms with those controlling the narrative. 

JC reflections

I find it exciting to see the emergence of the net zero genre in fiction.  A dystopian future in the near term associated with dismantling of our power infrastructure seems to be unfolding in Europe now; looking ahead 5-10 years and we could be in a really bad place that makes the impacts of increasing CO2 seem trivial.

Two excellent books to read during the winter solstice doldrums or while traveling over the holidays.  Not to mention a great last minute Xmas gift.

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Rud Istvan
December 19, 2022 2:42 pm

Great to see Judith still on her game. ‘the new cli-fi genre net zero’.
An honest Net Zero is impossible. A dishonest net zero is claimed possible somewhen. (NIF and UK’s wood chip fired DRAX are examples.)

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Rud Istvan
December 20, 2022 5:49 pm

I suppose that the stories mentioned in the head article must be contending in some way with the seeming arbitrariness of what constitutes a ‘removal of carbon’ release for the sake of calculating anyone’s ‘net zero’ status?

For instance, wood chip burning for power could be classed as either positive (bad) emissions or negative (good) emissions, depending on whether you think that burning trees for power is bad or good?

Say, how about this: say that you think of wood powered electric generation as ‘biomass’ power, therefore a ‘good’ emission. Now, someone with a different mindset, not wanting to burn wood like this, comes along, shuts down your nice power station, then restarts it, using natural gas for fuel instead!

At this point, biomass enthusiasts in their dismay, declare the power station “doubleplusungood”, taking their cue from the deliberately thought destroying lingo of George Orwell’s fictional “Newspeak”.

I know I’m being satirical, but I’m also genuinely confused about how it is that the current pushers of Net Zero seem to think that their new fangled term has any real meaning?

Pat from Kerbob
December 19, 2022 4:57 pm

I’d send this to Trudeau, but of course he doesn’t read.
Such a clown.

Expect to start seeing movies about energy transitions gone bad.

There was a good/bad movie a few years back about geoengineering gone bad and turning earth into iceball

Since many people get all their “science” from movies, maybe this is the only way

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
December 19, 2022 5:01 pm

It was called “The Colony”

You can see disinformation on the IMDb page where it says humanity is forced into underground bunkers by climate change when in fact it was failed geoengineering that did it.

Liars lie and then become climate alarmists

John M. Cape - Author of Poorly Zeroed
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
December 20, 2022 6:29 am

Snowpiercer (2013) IMDb is another one.

Sam Capricci
December 19, 2022 6:16 pm

The moral of these stories is that rapid transition to net zero emissions will do far more harm than CO2 emissions themselves.

I guess if you believe CO2 is harming the planet.

Joe Shaw
Reply to  Sam Capricci
December 20, 2022 12:48 pm

If you don’t believe CO2 is harming the planet the then transition to net zero will do infinitely more damage.

December 19, 2022 8:21 pm

Around 2014/15 I had an idea for a story, it was a Fortunately/Unfortunately theme. It started out with a climate researcher in the arctic listening to President Clinton speak and being interrupted as a massive break in methane clathrate in the arctic which releases massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Putin claims responsibility for planting explosives to release the methane to demonstrate low climate sensitivity. The methane in the atmosphere triggers an epigenetic response in methanotrophs, causing them to produce offspring that aerosolize and produce clouds, torrential down pours, and cooling, but also vindicating Putin’s expectations of low climate sensitivity to radiative forcing. After the flooding subsides, the methanotoph enhanced nitrogen fixation and renewed zeal for fossil fuels lead to golden age for agriculture as the future continues to unfold in unexpected ways.

Last edited 3 months ago by aaron
Erik Magnuson
December 19, 2022 10:06 pm

The first Cli-Fi I came across was YV88 (written ca 1977) about Yosemite Valley after the world turned to green technology. One technology in the book was something that looks like the “World Wide Web”, while the rest came across as overly optimistic projections of solar and wind energy.

December 20, 2022 2:30 am

The Cli-fi Wikipedia page don’t work??

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  SteveG
December 20, 2022 4:23 am
John M. Cape - Author of Poorly Zeroed
Reply to  SteveG
December 20, 2022 6:31 am

Note the first line disclaimer on that website – Not to be confused by climate change denial.

I wonder if they would even list Poorly Zeroed or Winter Games?

Last edited 3 months ago by John M. Cape - Author of Poorly Zeroed
Tom Abbott
December 20, 2022 5:50 am

Science Fiction was SO good when I was a kid! The first science fiction book I read got me hooked. I couldn’t put it down, and when I finished it, I immediately started reading it again. I couldn’t get enough!

I really haven’t had the time or inclination to delve into science fiction lately but these two books sound interesting as much for the politics, as for the science fiction: Like the science fiction of thinking windmills and solar can power society.

Maybe these books are a sign of another crack in the Net Zero delusion. Let’s hope so because Net Zero is a brewing disaster for millions of people.

John M. Cape - Author of Poorly Zeroed
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 20, 2022 6:38 am

Would welcome your thoughts on Poorly Zeroed. You can use the email on the copyright page to reach me.

Joe Shaw
December 20, 2022 12:45 pm

It is a pretty old theme. Fallen Angels by Niven, Pournelle, and Flynn came out in 1991. The folly of environmental extremism was a key plot line.

Interestingly the book was bullish on beamed power from space – which is being pummeled in a parallel threat on WUWT.

December 21, 2022 11:18 am

Google “winter games daniel church” gives… pages about the book. Some church stuff, and another book by Daniel Church. DuckDuckGo returns the first three hits at Amazon.

Google censorship anyone?

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