Prince Charles – who once called climate change sceptics “the headless chicken brigade” – has written a book designed to explain the science to adults in simple words and pictures.
Charles has joined with two leading environmental campaigners to produce The Ladybird Book on Climate Change, to be published later this month.
Ladybird produced an iconic series of books for children in the 1960s and 1970s. The series has recently been revived with new spoof guides in the same style.
The Ladybird Books for Grown-ups, offering a take on everything from hipsters to mindfulness, hangovers to grandparenting, has sold more than 3 million copies since 2015.
The next series will involve experts explaining complex subjects in simple form.
Charles’ 48-page hardback is co-authored by Tony Juniper, former executive director of Friends of the Earth, and Cambridge University-based polar scientist Emily Shuckburgh.
The idea is said to have come to Charles when he was invited to address the UN conference on climate change in Paris in 2015. Speaking with experts on the subject of global warming, he discussed the lack of a basic guide to the complex subject.
Penguin was approached last year and the publisher was enthusiastic.
The approach came at the right time. “It was a coincidence, where we were thinking about a new series for adults after the huge success of the spoof books, but this time wanted some factual books by experts on science, history and arts subjects,” Penguin publishing director Rowland White said. “So the call and the idea from Clarence House was the catalyst for the new series.”
“His Royal Highness, Emily and I had to work very hard to make sure that each word did its job, while at the same time working with the pictures to deliver the points we needed to make.
“I hope we’ve managed to paint a vivid picture, and like those iconic titles from the 60s and 70s, created a title that will stand the test of time,” Juniper said.
Perhaps mindful of the prince’s passionate views on the subject, Penguin Books took the precaution of having the book “extensively peer-reviewed by figures within the environmental community”.
After the prince and his co-authors produced their first draft, Penguin turned to David Warrilow, chairman of the climate science special interest group at the Royal Meteorological Society, and a team of seven other climate specialists to go through the 5000-word manuscript before publication.
The final version was agreed in August, at a meeting at Balmoral.
The books feature illustrations in the old-fashioned style of the original Ladybird titles. The cover of Climate Change shows the East Sussex town of Uckfield, replicating a photograph of devatasting flooding there in October 2000.
Penguin said the series offers a bite-sized understanding of a challenging subject and that all the books in the new series have been written by leading lights in their fields, and provide informed expert opinions.
More authors, including historian Suzannah Lipscomb, space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock and classical music critic Fiona Maddocks, have been signed up to write for the new series.
Charles has himself been the subject of a Ladybird book, published in 1981, on the occasion of his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer.
He previously co-authored a book with Juniper and Ian Skelly called Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World. He also wrote a children’s book, The Old Man of Lochnagar.
Asked how the book might be received in the academic community, Dr Phillip Williamson of the University of East Anglia’s school of environmental sciences said: “There’s the obvious danger that this won’t be taken seriously.
“But if the style is right and the information is correct and understandable, the new Ladybird book with royal authorship could be just what is needed to get the message across that everyone needs to take action on climate change.”