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Photo: Hachette Book Group

A recent novel illustrates the likely consequences of climate change in the decades to come, and offers hope that better technology and politics might help us save the future.

Why it matters: Perhaps no subject as important as climate change has also proven so difficult to effectively and accurately dramatize. "The Ministry for the Future" is the one novel I've read that captures the consequences of warming while offering a realistic blueprint for how we can stop it.

How it works: Written by the prolific author Kim Stanley Robinson, "Ministry" centers around a UN agency created in the near-future that is meant to represent the interests of generations not yet born, the generations that have the most at stake on climate change.

  • The inciting incident is a horrific heat wave in India, where temperatures and humidity rise so high that human beings can't survive. As a result, millions of people die in a single sweep, kicking off a desperate last-chance effort to slow warming that unfolds over hundreds of pages and a few dozen years in the novel.
  • Like much of what Robinson describes, such a catastrophic event is all too possible in the years to come.

Details: Robinson is what's known as a "hard sci-fi" writer, one who engrosses himself in the minute, realistic details of everything from blockchain to geoengineering to ice sheet dynamics.

  • But he has a playful touch as well, narrating short chapters from the perspective of inanimate forces, like a carbon molecule or the global market.
  • Beyond science, "Ministry" illustrates the knotty political and financial problems that bar the way to effective climate action — and shows how we might solve them.

The bottom line: If you don't trust my take, just listen to President Obama.

Go deeper

VC investments into climate change technology reach record high

Expand chart
Data: PitchBook; Chart: Axios Visuals

Venture capital investment into technologies aimed at combating climate change reached a record high in 2020, according to PitchBook, a private-market data firm.

Why it matters: Clean-energy technologies must increase substantially to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years. It’s also notable that the pandemic didn’t dampen the trend.

Senate Democrats join Biden to pivot Build Back Better strategy

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A growing number of Senate Democrats are urging their colleagues to begin paring back the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better agenda to salvage what they can, abandoning hopes of the transformational to achieve the possible.

Why it matters: Democrats are desperate to notch a win. President Biden's popularity is sagging in the polls, the pandemic is raging and the party's record of passing crucial legislation has been muddled. Biden himself conceded during his news conference Wednesday that passing the parts was more likely than getting the whole.

Scoop: White House eyes vaccine mandate for migrants

A migrant receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Mexico before continuing to the U.S. border. Photo: Luis Barron/Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The White House is considering requiring migrants aged 5 and older to receive a coronavirus vaccination as a condition for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to await court hearings, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has been offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people in immigration detention centers or shelters but hasn't yet offered it to other migrants who've crossed the border — much less required it.