The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
7 x 10
Climate change is no laughing matter-but maybe it should be. The topic is so critical that everyone, from students to policy-makers to voters, needs a quick and easy guide to the basics. The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change entertains as it educates, delivering a unique and enjoyable presentation of mind-blowing facts and critical concepts.
"Stand-up economist" Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein have created the funniest overview of climate science, predictions, and policy that you’ll ever read. You’ll giggle, but you’ll also learn-about everything from Milankovitch cycles to carbon taxes.
If those subjects sound daunting, consider that Bauman and Klein have already written two enormously successful cartoon guides to economics, making this notoriously dismal science accessible to countless readers. Bauman has a PhD in economics and has taught at both the high school and college level, but he now makes a living performing at comedy clubs, universities, and conferences, sharing the stage with personalities as diverse as Robin Williams and Paul Krugman.
The authors know how to get a laugh-and they know their facts. This cartoon introduction is based on the latest report from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and integrates Bauman’s expertise on economics and policy.
If economics can be funny, then climate science can be a riot. Sociologists have argued that we don’t address global warming because it’s too big and frightening to get our heads around. The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change takes the intimidation and gloom out of one of the most complex and hotly debated challenges of our time.
References available at http://standupeconomist.com/cartoon-climate/
"Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein find a way to make climate change humorous and comprehensible in this visuals-driven book."
Los Angeles Times
"Illustrated with deceptively simple black-and-white art that masterfully supports the text, this book provides a skillful tour of the issues that face our developing world and it serves as a model of how educational works of this sort should be crafted."
"An often amusing graphic primer about an issue the authors recognize as apocalyptically serious."
"It's like An Inconvenient Truth meets Peanuts! (Not really, but that's somehow a very pleasant idea.)"
"There is a lot to like about this graphic book"
Earth Island Journal
"[The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change is] not only a fun read to educate yourself or your crazy uncle about climate science basics, it's also full of practical information presented in simple but elegant illustrations and comic strips."
"Everybody should pick up a copy, it does look pretty interesting."
AOL's The Street
"So if you've sort of had it with graphs and numbers about climate change, you'll enjoy this irreverent new take on the future of our planet."
"[The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change] is a story, rather than just a textbook...suitable for teachers to use as a well-written and comprehensive introduction to an understanding of the climate system and climate change...a good read for anyone interested in the basics of climate change science but not wanting to tackle a more traditional textbook."
Reports of the National Center for Science Education
"I know we're trashing the planet, but do we have to add to our misery by reading gloom and doom books about it? The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change offers another way: learn some serious science, evaluate strategies for change, and have a good laugh in the process."
Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff
"Are you curious about the science and economics of global warming? You can find many dull books on the subject. A better bet is The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, which tickles and teaches at the same time. Who says that sophistication is only in equations?"
William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University
"Climate is no laughing matter — but it beats crying. Maybe this is the secret passage into people's hearts and minds."
James E. Hansen, former Director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, author of Storms of My Grandchildren
"Fresh! Cheeky! Accurate and inspiring! An accessible, friendly, and fun explanation of climate change – free of politics, free of jargon, and fresh with insights. Cartoons you can believe in!"
Jane Lubchenco, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology, Oregon State University
"Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman are a national treasure. The economics of climate policy has never been more accessible."
Kevin Hassett, Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
"The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change will tickle your fancy while expanding your mind. Highly recommended."
Martin Weitzman, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
"Rarely do you read books that attempt to deal with the world's biggest problems and present the information in a way that the average public can absorb it. Bravo to Yoram Bauman and Grady Klein, and thank you on behalf of everyone who is deeply concerned about this issue."
Mark Reynolds, Executive Director, Citizens Climate Lobby
"The... jokiness is subsumed by this publication's obvious educational credentials, manifested in its diligent thoroughness (200 pages) and excellent glossary of terms."
PART I. Observations
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. A Brief History of Planet Earth
Chapter 3. The Ice Ages
Chapter 4. Carbon Dioxide
Chapter 5. Energy
Chapter 6. Climate Science
PART II. Predictions
Chapter 7. Global Warming
Chapter 8. H20
Chapter 9. Life on Earth
Chapter 10. Beyond 2100
Chapter 11. Uncertainty
PART III. Actions
Chapter 12. The Tragedy of the Commons
Chapter 13. Techno-Fix
Chapter 14. Putting a Price on Carbon
Chapter 15. Beyond Fossil Fuels
Chapter 16. The Challenge
This is a working document, so additions or edits are welcome! Also note that occasional Wikipedia references are for topics that can be found in many introductory textbooks.These references are also aavailable at http://standupeconomist.com/cartoon-climate/
Chapter 1: Introduction (pages 3-14)
Page 4, “Story #1 is about economic growth”: An interesting read here is Bill Gates’s take-down of the myth that “poor countries are doomed to stay poor”.
Page 4, the invisible hand: The “invisible hand” idea is that individual self-interest can (“as if led by an invisible hand”) lead to economic growth and otherwise promote the common good. The metaphor comes from The Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith, who was a Scottish philosopher and “the father of modern economics”. For more on this see our Cartoon Econ books, especially Volume One: Microeconomics.
Page 5, world population: See the amazing chart in “U.N. Forecasts 10.1 Billion People by Century’s End” (NY Times, May 3 2011). Note that the UN has released a new World Population Prospects. The “medium variant” shows population rising from 7 billion in 2010 to 8 billion in 2025, 9 billion in 2040, 10 billion in 2065, and 10.9 billion and still rising (albeit very slowly) in 2100.
Page 5, “a world of 2-6 billion”: This refers to an article by demographer Wolfgang Lutz, “Towards a world of 2–6 billion well-educated and therefore healthy and wealthy people” (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 2009).
Page 9, “alien planet”: This is an allusion to Harvard economist Marty Weitzman: “Societies and ecosystems whose average temperature has changed in the course of a century or so by ?T > 6°C (for U.S. readers: ?6°C ˜ ?11°F) are located in the terra incognita of what any honest economic modeler would have to admit is a planet Earth reconfigured as science fiction, since such high temperatures have not existed for some tens of millions of years.” From Martin L Weitzman, “A Review of The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change“, Journal of Economic Literature 45:703-724 (2007).
Page 9, “wicked problem”: Believe it or not, “wicked problem” is a technical term. So is “super wicked problem”!
Page 12, “Seattle in July”: Thanks to Washington State’s Assistant State Climatologist Karin Bumbaco for helping out here; the temperature range given is based on the mean Seattle Sandpoint July temperature +/- one standard deviation over the period of record. On flowers blooming earlier, see Observed Changes in Phenology Across the United States – Pacific Northwest: “Across the Northwestern and interior Western U.S. time of first bloom for lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica and L. korolkowii) showed a trend toward earlier flowering (average advances of 7.5 days for lilac and 10 for honeysuckle) over an almost 40-year period.”
Page 12, “climate is like your personality, weather is like your mood”: There are other, similar comparisons, e.g., “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get” and “Climate tells you what clothes to buy, weather tells you what clothes to wear.” I’m not sure where the personality/mood comparison comes from, but I first came across it in a 2013 TEDx Atlanta talk by Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, on “Slaying the ‘Zombies’ of Climate Science”.
Chapter 2: A brief history of Planet Earth (pages 15-26)
A good general reference for this chapter is David Catling’s Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction (2014). Professor Catling also recommends these two books: Ruddiman’s Earth’s Climate: Past and Future (2nd ed., 2008) and (a bit more technical than Ruddiman’s) Kump, Kasting, and Crane’s The Earth System (3rd ed., 2009).
Page 15, “first the Earth cooled”: The line comes from the 1982 disaster spoof movie Airplane II: The Sequel:
Steve McCroskey: Jacobs, I want to know absolutely everything that’s happened up till now.
Jacobs: Well, let’s see. First the Earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes…
The sequel received mediocre reviews, but the original movie from 1980, called Airplane!, is regarded as surely one of the funniest movies of all time. (And don’t call me Shirley!)
Page 17, photosynthesis: More here. Note that not all photosynthesis is done by green things; for example there’s brown algae, such as kelp, red algae, etc.
Page 18, carbon cycle: See AR5 WG1 Figure 6.1 (IPCC 2014). Older figures include this NASA graph, this more complicated figure from AR4 WG1 Figure 7.3 (IPCC 2007), and this from NOAA.
Page 18, “mostly water and carbon”: By mass, the human body is about 53% water and 18% carbon. (We assume cows are similar.) Water seems to make up 50% or more of total plant weight, and in terms of dry-weight (i.e., besides the water) plants are about 50% carbon.
Page 19-21, ozone:Ozone exists in the atmosphere at two levels, both as the ozone layer (aka “stratospheric ozone” or “good ozone”), which occurs naturally in the layer of the upper atmosphere called the stratosphere, and as ground-level ozone (aka “troposheric ozone” or “bad ozone”), which contributes to smog and is mostly produced by cars and other human activities. More here on the ozone hole, which refers to the depletion of “good ozone” from the ozone layer.
Page 22, Snowball Earth and tropical North Pole: See more here about the Snowball Earth hypothesis. As for a tropical North Pole, see the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) about 55 million years ago; see also “Studies Portray Tropical Arctic in Distant Past” (NY Times, June 1 2006).
Page 23, Carboniferous Period: See here, plus lots of other cool articles and images from the BBC, National Geographic, and the University of California Museum of Paleontology.
Page 24, continental drift: See this 2012 NPR story. Continental drift (and fingernails) grow at about 1 inch per year.
Page 24, “species either died off or slowly evolved into the forms they have today”: Professor Catling (see above) notes that almost all of them (99%-ish) died off.
Page 25, glacial periods and ice ages: According to some technical definitions, Earth has been in an “ice age” since the ice sheets of Antarctica formed 2.6 million years ago. In common usage, however—and in the language of the IPCC—“ice age” refers to periods (such as 20,000 years ago) when there were extensive Northern hemisphere glaciers; we’ll discuss this more in the next chapter!
Page 26, “human beings appeared in Africa”: See anatomically modern humans.
Page 26, “I wonder what caused the ice ages?”: Evidence came from scratches in rocks (called glacial striations, which can be found, e.g., in what is now New York City’s Central Park; see “The Very Cold Case of the Glacier”, NY Times, Sept 14 2005) and glacial erratics, including those identified by Charles Darwin and Louis Agassiz.
Chapter 3: The ice ages (pages 27-38)
Page 28, “there must have been ice ages”: See for example the studies of Louis Agassiz. A good book is Imbrie and Imbrie, Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery (1986); the elder Imbrie was a co-author of the famous 1976 paper in Science called “Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages”. Another good book is Richard Alley’s The Two-Mile Time Machine (2000).
Page 29, “ice cores”: Scientists can determine a tremendous amount of information from ice cores by studying the air bubbles trapped in them and the chemical composition of the ice itself (e.g., the prevalence of different isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen). The temperature graph we use comes from AR5 WG1 Figure 5.3 (IPCC 2014). See also Rahmstorf et al., 2004, “Cosmic Rays, Carbon Dioxide, and Climate”, Eos 85(4), based on Petit et al., 1999, “Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica”, Nature 399: 429-436.
Page 30-31, Milankovitch: More on Milutin Milankovitch and the Milankovitch cycles. We focus on the cycle that’s easiest to understand, the 41,000 year cycle in the tilt of the earth. There are also cycles that affect the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit (the extent to which the orbit is circular versus elliptical) and the Earth’s precession (which related to the the fact that the earth wobbles like a top, meaning that in 3200 years a different star will be the “North star”). There is a common misconception that it is the Earth-Sun distance (i.e., eccentricity) that causes winters and summers, but this is actually a minor factor; if it was the major factor then both hemispheres would experience winter at the same time and summer at the same time. In fact the major cause of winters and summers is tilt, which is one reason we focus on it in the book.
Page 32, “like a pacemaker”: The reference is to the famous research paper that provided definitive evidence that Milankovitch was right: Hays et al., 1976, “Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages”, Science 194: 1121-1132.
Page 34-37, “imagine we’re in Canada”: The Milankovitch theory actually focuses on whether Northern Hemisphere summers are strong or weak. Winters don’t matter so much because it’s always cold enough for snow in Canada and Siberia, and the Southern Hemisphere doesn’t matter so much because most of the Earth’s land mass is in the north. (See Chapter 4.)
Page 38, “Mother Nature is gearing up for another ice age”: See AR5 WG1 Chapter 5 (IPCC 2014, page 387): “Climate models simulate no glacial inception during the next 50,000 years if CO2 concentrations remain
above 300 ppm.” See also AR4 WG1 Chapter 6 (IPCC 2007): “It is virtually certain that global temperatures during coming centuries will not be significantly influenced by a natural orbitally induced cooling. It is very unlikely that the Earth would naturally enter another ice age for at least 30 kyr [i.e., 30,000 years].” This is roughly in line with the last sentence of the famous paper cited above, Hays et al., 1976: “…the long-term trend over the next 20,000 years is toward extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation and cooler climate.” The “20,000 years” part was conveniently overlooked in a climate-skeptic column by George Will (“Cooler Heads Needed on Warming”, April 2, 2006) that argued that scientists in the 1970s were warning of “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” Not only did Will overlook the 20,000 years angle, he also ignores the caveat that Hays et al. added: “Such forecasts… apply only to the natural component of future climatic trends—–and not to such anthropogenic effects as those due to the burning of fossil fuels.”
Chapter 4: Carbon dioxide (pages 39-50)
Page 40, “what we call air”: The composition of the air is given here or here or in any atmospheric chemistry textbook. The fact that air is 78% nitrogen is celebrated every April on Nitrogen Day at my alma mater, Reed College (in Portland, Oregon).
Page 40, “molecules of CO2 in every breath you take”: We assume 1 x 10^22 gas molecules in each breath. (See also here for an interesting twist, but note that it assumes 2 x 10^22 gas molecules in each breath.) As noted, air is 21% oxygen and about 400 parts per million CO2, i.e., 0.04% CO2, so 0.04% of 1 x 10^22 is 4 x 10^18. Also note that the percentages we list are actually for dry air; water vapor content ranges from 0-3%, with the atmosphere-wide concentration averaging around 1%.
Page 41, Keeling: Lots more at the Scripps CO2 webpage, including his biography and the first published Keeling curve, from 1960. Note that measuring was (and still is!) done on Mauna Loa in Hawaii because 13,000 feet elevation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a good place to sample air without having to worry about the effects of local factories or cars. Visit this website for the latest Keeling Curve data as well as historical data.
Page 44, “1ppm equals about 2 billion extra tons of carbon or almost 8 billion extra tons of CO2?:Oak Ridge National Lab says that 1ppm is 2.13 billion tons of carbon, and since 1 ton of C equals 3.67 tons of CO2 that’s 7.82 billion tons of CO2. (As noted in the glossary, carbon has an atomic mass of 12 and oxygen has an atomic mass of 16, so CO2 has a molecular mass of 12+32=44; that’s why 1 ton of C equals 44/12=3.67 tons of CO2.) Note that scientists split between talking about C and CO2, so it’s important to keep track of which one is being used. Economists tend to talk about “carbon taxes” being levied per ton of CO2, but occasionally you will see taxes per ton of C, in which case keep in mind that a tax of $x per ton CO2 is 3.67 times more than a tax of $x per ton C, i.e., a tax of $1.00 per ton CO2 is equivalent to a tax of $3.67 per ton C.
Page 46, CO2 emissions: See my CO2 spreadsheet, with sources and additional details from AR5 WG1 Figure 6.8 (IPCC 2014). In particular, fossil fuel emissions are from CDIAC at Oak Ridge National Labs. (Note that IPCC and CDIAC data are in million metric tonnes of C; multiply by 3.67 to get million tons of CO2.) For gallons of petroleum every second, EIA estimates 87.5m barrels per day; note that there are 42 gallons in a barrel. On forest covering 1/3rd of the Earth’s land surface, see FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010.
Page 47, carbon cycle: As on page 18, see AR5 WG1 Figure 6.1 (IPCC 2014). Older figures include this NASA graph, this more complicated figure from AR4 WG1 Figure 7.3 (IPCC 2007), and this from NOAA.
Page 48, ice cores: As in Chapter 3, the graphs come from AR5 WG1 Figure 5.3 (IPCC 2014). See also Rahmstorf et al., 2004, “Cosmic Rays, Carbon Dioxide, and Climate”, Eos 85(4), based on Petit et al., 1999, “Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica”, Nature 399: 429-436.
Chapter 5: Energy (pages 51-62)
Page 52, “global average temperature”: See the entry in the AR5 WGI Glossary (IPCC 2014) for “energy budget” for current global average temperature of 15 °C.
Page 54, “picture the sun as a basketball”: At one point in time there was a picture on Wikipedia, but apparently no more; fortunately, we can do the math ourselves: A basketball has a circumference of about 0.755m, so divide by 3.14 (pi) to get a diameter of about 0.24m. The sun has a diameter of about 1.4 x 10^9m, so to turn it into a basketball you divide by 5.8 x 10^9. The Earth has a diameter of about 1.3 x 10^7m, so divide by 5.8 x 10^9 to get about 0.002m, i.e., about 2mm. The Earth-sun distance is about 1.5 x 10^11m, so divide by 5.8 x 10^9 to get about 26m, which is about the length of an NBA court.
Page 55, “energy from the Sun”: See this solar radiation spectrum, from Wikipedia.
Page 56, “albedo”: See AR5 WG1 Section 1.2.2 (IPCC 2014, p126): “The fraction of SWR [solar shortwave radiation] reflected back to space by gases and aerosols, clouds and by the Earth’s surface (albedo) is approximately 30%.” For a complete picture of energy in and energy out, see AR5 WG1 Figure 2.11 (IPCC 2014). On a technical note, climate scientists sometimes separate the energy equation into the net solar input (in minus out) and the Earth radiation out, so that reflected solar energy is subtracted from Energy In rather than added to Energy Out; both ways are of course correct.
Page 57, “radiation given off by the earth”: A good graphic is the “Sun and Earth Radiation Spectrum” from here, but note that both axes are using log scales. (That means, for example, that you can’t just look at the areas under the curves to estimate quantities of Energy In and Energy Out.)
Page 57, “thermal imaging equipment”: We originally referenced night-vision goggles, but learned—thanks to commenter JK—that the typical “green image” goggles actually use light amplification rather than thermal imaging. Here’s a super-cool comparison video.
Page 58, “greenhouse gases”: See the entry in the AR5 WGI Glossary (IPCC 2014) or here.
Page 59, “reducing energy out”: Note that all of these are examples of reducing energy out, but they don’t work in exactly the same way, e.g., greenhousesdo not reduce energy out by blocking outgoing longwave radiation. Some folks think the “greenhouse effect” should therefore be renamed (perhaps to the “smudgepot effect”) but IMHO the name is fine as long as you remember that the analogy refers to reducing energy out and not to the specific mechanism by which that reduction takes place. Also note that many people avoid this issue by saying “heat-trapping gases” instead of “greenhouse gases”.
Page 60, “by the 1800s”: See here for more on Fourier, etc. See also this NOAA FAQ on the greenhouse effect: “Without a natural greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would be about zero degrees F (-18°C) instead of its present 57°F (14°C).” (Note that on page 52 we say that the current global average temperature is 15°C, based on the entry in the AR5 WGI Glossary (IPCC 2014) for “energy budget”. Here on page 60, though, the scientists are talking about the global average temperature in the 1800s, not the present day.)
Page 60, Venus: See a planetary sciences textbook, or Wikipedia, which says that Venus “has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is 92 times that of Earth’s. With a mean surface temperature of 735 K (462 °C; 863 °F), Venus is by far the hottest planet in the Solar System.”
Page 62, Arrhenius: See Section V (and in particular Table VIII) of Arrhenius 1896, “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground”, Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Series 5, Volume 41, April 1896, pages 237-276. This concept is now known as equilibrium climate sensitivity, and AR5 WG1 Section TS.5.3 (IPCC 2014, page 81) says that it is “likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C”.
Chapter 6: Science (pages 63-74)
Page 63, scientific method: Lots more on the scientific method and its history.
Page 64, “at very high speeds”: Here’s a nifty reading on GPS and relativity.
Page 68, smoking: See the 1964 report Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee of the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. In particular, page 7 notes that “Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney issued a statement on July 12, 1957, reviewing the matter and declaring that: “The Public Health service feels the weight of the evidence is increasingly pointing in one direction: that excessive smoking is one of the causative factors in lung cancer.”” And page 31 notes that “Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men; the magnitude of the effect of cigarette smoking far outweighs all other factors. The data for women, though less extensive, point in the same direction.” For the 2004 report, see The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General (May 27, 2004). Also note that a more recent Surgeon General report came out in 2014 (The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014) and said that smoking is also linked to diabetes, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, erectile dysfunction, and ectopic pregnancy.
Page 68, global warming: The quotes come from SAR [AR2] WG1 (IPCC 1995), which says that “the balance of evidence suggests [optional: that there is] a discernible human influence on global climate”; from TAR [AR3] WG1 (IPCC 2001), which says that “[t]here is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”; and from AR5 WG1 SPM (IPCC 2014, page 17), which says: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Page 68, smoking and global warming: A book recommended by a colleague (I haven’t read it): Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. M. Conway (2011).
Page 69, 400,000 deaths: