Global Warming in Pictures: ‘The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change’
I just read The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, which I’m about to highly recommend to you and anyone you have ever known. I’ll even tease you with pretty previews of the book’s pages, below. But first, let me start with an admission: Environmentalists have a reputation for lacking in the humor department.
This stereotype is unfortunate. My colleagues here at Greenpeace and most of my own crunchy friends are genuinely witty people with good senses of humor. Good enough to make me laugh soy-milk out of my nose once I’m alerted to the kale that was stuck in my teeth all day. And websites like Grist have done a great job bringing some LOL’s to the WTF’s inherent in environmental reporting.
But our subject matter can be overwhelming in scope: global climate disruption, deforestation, human rights violations abound, freshwater depletion, ocean acidification... sorry, I just stopped listening to myself to avoid the temptation to hide in bed forever.
Much like environmentalists, today’s economists don’t typically earn a popular reputation for being especially funny. But Dr. Yoram Bauman, the “Stand Up Economist,” has a flair for humor in face of serious problems that he’s solving with well-established economic tools and analyses. Through the quirky cartoon illustrations of Grady Klein, Dr. Bauman has cranked out a series of light-hearted guides to microeconomics, macroeconomics and now… The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.
This graphic book takes readers on a eyeball-friendly journey through our Earth’s history, the tumultuous evolution of its climate system, explanations of key science supporting our understanding of climate change, and specific economic solutions that Dr. Bauman say we’ll need to employ to insure ourselves from potentially catastrophic global warming. You’ll also learn why our climate is like a compost pile, the types of one-liner jokes told by single-cell organisms and why human’s aren’t so great at cleaning up dog poop in public spaces (hint: Garrett Hardin).
Not only is it entertaining, it’s packed full of facts, presented as cartoons and peppered with a few transparently-unrealistic zingers. You can read it in an afternoon, and so could your kid, or your grandparent. And thanks to the illustrations and simple analogies, I’d bet they will retain more of the information.
Here’s a rundown of why I liked the book, with a few minor critiques at the end.
Real Climate Science, Trans-disciplinary Presentation:
Core to this book’s utility is its accurate portrayal of science. Dr. Bauman’s work cites the most contemporary data from scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Data Center. When graphs and exact scientific models are used, Bauman and Klein attribute the work right there on the page, so you can check the source yourself. This is the coolest climate context since SkepticalScience.com. #GeekingRightNow.
Grady Klein’s simple illustrations help cut through wonky concepts from a wide rage of scientific and professional fields–chemistry, biology, geology, atmospheric physics, evolution and hydrology, to name a few illustrated in this book. By gradually unraveling some of these core concepts and then synthesizing them, the reader gets a fast-tracked breakdown of decades of scientific breakthroughs and predictions for our future climate.
Solutions = Reducing Emissions = Reducing Fossil Fuel Use
There’s no getting around this, after Bauman presents the science of anthropogenic climate change as understood by today’s experts. Evidence of humanity’s use of dirty fossil fuels is the proven link to the unnatural variability we’re now seeing in our climate. Bauman doesn’t beat around the bush: if we want to avoid runaway climate change, we’ll need incentives to phase out the coal, oil and gas that cause global warming, perhaps by first ending the billions of dollars in annual subsidies taxpayers surrender to these dirty, outdated industries.
Environmental Justice, Economic Justice, Wealth Disparity
Bauman doesn’t turn a blind eye to the vast differences of economic privilege between developed and developing countries. He explicitly states that poorer countries are less responsible for the global warming we have already experienced, and says it’s understandable that developing countries have an expectation of reaching the level of comfort that today’s most privileged countries have. This is crucial for countries like the U.S. to honor, as we [don't] cooperate with other countries on global climate agreements–the only chance we have at addressing a global problem. Bauman reminds us that we’ve done this before, such as the Montreal Protocol’s success in addressing the Ozone hole crisis.
Personal Responsibility is Contextualized
Bauman doesn’t let the individual off the hook. He recognizes that solutions need to be implemented by people as individuals (recycling, eating less meat, driving and flying less), but doesn’t pretend that taming some simple consumer habits will save our climate. Broader solutions are needed to internalized the external costs of climate change. Polluters can’t continue to pollute for free, and fossil fuel prices need to reflect the full costs that they current impose on society in terms of affecting our health, air, water and climate. This means that clean energy and energy efficiency would be cheaper than fossil fuels if we simply accounted for some of today’s most obvious market failures.
Deforestation, Overfishing & Ocean Acidification, Coal Pollution, Clean Energy…
Greenpeace isn’t citied or alluded to in this book in any way, but Dr. Bauman sure talks about a lot of our priority campaigns, like our work to stop deforestation in the Amazon and Indonesia, our work to end overfishing, to phase out coal plants in implement clean energy solutions… even Bauman’s one mention of nuclear power as “clean” is strictly from “a climate perspective,” avoiding the nuclear lobby’s characterization dangerous and expensive nukes as some magical panacea to climate change. Since Greenpeace’s globally-integrated work on climate, forests, oceans, pollution and human well-being is best when implemented holistically, it’s nice to see Dr. Bauman connect these dots.
Bauman and Klein’s book was made possible through the support of 309 donors on Kickstarter–the free market of thought has spoken!
Admittedly I’m exceedingly pleased with this book and I have few critical comments, but here they are.
First, as someone who is wary of the public relations war waged against climate scientists by fossil fuel companies and their hydra-like shills, the first few pages of the book made me uncomfortable. Bauman tries to play umpire with climate change deniers by saying things like “Maybe it’s an existential threat… maybe it’s only a minor threat.”
However, I’m only concerned as far as this can be spun by the industry-funded contrarians who will never, ever recognize the reality of climate change science as long as they’re paid not to. Bauman’s commentary is honest and devoid of PR’s Jedi mind tricks. For everyday people who aren’t aware of the state of climate science today, thanks to certain popular radio and TV personalities, Bauman’s approach could indeed help break through ideological predispositions and tour people through the facts.
Second, the book isn’t too clear on the role of nuclear power and carbon-capture and storage in terms of climate change mitigation. Greenpeace’s fresh Energy [R]evolution report maps a path to a clean energy future that doesn’t involve either of these expensive shams. While Bauman doesn’t necessarily advocate for either technology, the topics are introduced without being explored too deeply, which could leave the impression that they are solutions to be taken for granted. They aren’t.
Finally, for the sake of reflecting the proportions of our global population, there could have been more female cartoon characters. Admittedly, they’re all pretty androgenous, but especially since historic characters Milutin Milanković and Charles David Keeling are profiled as breaking ground in studying the Earth’s climate, there felt a lack of womankind’s prominence.
The Power of Humor
Through his love of humor, Dr. Bauman’s career is largely dedicated to promoting economic solutions to the global problem of climate change, primarily through his advocacy of market-based solutions like carbon taxes. This is apparent in Bauman and Klein’s newest work, where British Columbia’s carbon tax is specifically cited as a current model for market-based climate change mitigation. Bauman himself helped BC design its carbon tax, for any skeptics wondering if his work begins and ends with cartoons.
Dr. Bauman’s take on climate change is refreshing from the perspective of a Greenpeace researcher used to tracking climate change deniers (a term he likely wouldn’t wield). Ignoring the handful of scientists and economists who have made the unfortunate decision to block solutions to global warming, Dr. Bauman employs his economic expertise in forward-thinking conversations we need to have as a society that is expending the scarce resources it depends on.
A New Tool to Reach People, Teach People
Dire problems shut people down. So does the intangible. We all have enough issues to deal with on our own without the world’s problems being dropped onto our shoulders.
Luckily, Yoram Bauman demonstrates both the patience and the favorable attitude necessary to educate people about ways we can approach these problems with the best information we have available. Grady Klein’s artwork broadens the appeal to people across the gaps of age, wealth and other distinctions that too often leave people out of the conversation.
For parents, educators, students, or anyone with extra time or sheer curiosity, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change. Yoram Bauman’s book serves as a cost-effective shortcut on the latest climate science and the most basic economic approaches to find solutions.
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.
By Betsy Mason
For decades, climate scientist David Keith of Harvard University has been trying to get people to take his research seriously. He's a pioneer in the field of geoengineering, which aims to combat climate change through a range of technological fixes. Over the years, ideas have included sprinkling iron in the ocean to stimulate plankton to suck up more carbon from the atmosphere or capturing carbon straight out of the air.
Solar geoengineering would involve injecting reflective aerosols from high-altitude planes into the layer of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, which stretches between 10 to 50 kilometers (6 to 31 miles) above Earth's surface. The idea is that the aerosol particles would reflect a small amount of sunlight away from the planet, reducing the amount of heat trapped by greenhouse gases and mitigating some of the effects of climate change.
The planned Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment will send a balloon carrying scientific instruments in a gondola into the stratosphere. The instruments will release a small amount of material — likely ice or mineral dust — to form a kilometer-long plume of aerosol particles (left). Modified airboat propellers will allow the gondola to maneuver above the plume (middle) and lower instruments into the plume to take repeated measurements of how the particles spread through the stratosphere (right). ADAPTED FROM J.A. DYKEMA ET AL / PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY A 2014
David Keith envisions using multiple approaches to combat climate change. The red line shows how the impacts of climate change would worsen with a business-as-usual scenario of unabated burning of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emissions. Aggressively cutting emissions bends that curve, and removing carbon from the atmosphere offers further cuts, but there are still consequences from the already high levels of carbon dioxide. In this scenario, solar geoengineering would lessen the impact from existing atmospheric carbon dioxide, effectively carving the top off the curve.<p>Some people think we should use it only as a get-out-of-jail card in an emergency. Some people think we should use it to quickly try to get back to a preindustrial climate. I'm arguing we use solar geoengineering to cut the top off the curve by gradually starting it and gradually ending it.</p><p><strong>Do you feel optimistic about the chances that solar geoengineering will happen and can make a difference in the climate crisis?</strong></p><p>I'm not all that optimistic right now because we seem to be so much further away from an international environment that's going to allow sensible policy. And that's not just in the US. It's a whole bunch of European countries with more populist regimes. It's Brazil. It's the more authoritarian India and China. It's a more nationalistic world, right? It's a little hard to see a global, coordinated effort in the near term. But I hope those things will change.</p>
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