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.)"
"Don't let the format fool you -- this is sophisticated stuff. [Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change] draws on science from the latest IPCC report and explains technologies and policies that can make a positive difference -- all kidding aside."
"[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."
"The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change is a 'must-read' for its accessible, balanced, and non-judgmental approach to an extremely thorny issue."
Midwest Book Review
"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
"[This book] skillfully mixes the key facts of climate change with the playful and insightful juxtapositions that the comic form allows. Science communicators take notice. And if you’re looking for a gift for that family member who’s still a climate skeptic, this may be it."
"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
The Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series developed as a joint effort of a number of departments, out of discussions initiated in 1995 by faculty members and graduate students with common interests in the many facets of environmental issues. The Lecture Series is designed to bring a variety of distinguished speakers to the University of Connecticut to speak on various aspects of nature and the environment. Yoram Bauman, author of Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change and climate tax activist, will give a talk entitled "Comedy, Economics, and Climate Change" on March 3, 2016.
More details here.
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
With the end of COP 21 and the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, it’s not just countries that are thinking about how to reduce emissions—individuals are reflecting on how their habits and actions impact climate change as well.
Island Press authors shared what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprints and, in some cases, what more they could be doing. Check out their answers and share your own carbon cutbacks—or vices—in the comments.
Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Country:
Very much like the Paris Climate Accord itself, ecological sustainability is a process, not a destination. Which, I'll admit, is a squirrely way of saying that I'm doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint. I ride my bike. I take mass transit. Most days my car never leaves the spot in front of our home. Most importantly, I have sworn off beef because of cattle production's disproportionate climate impact. The (grass-fed, humane) burger still has a siren song, but I ignore it.
Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City:
I drive a hybrid, ride light rail to the airport and don’t bother to turn on the heat in my house (which is possible in Phoenix). My greatest carbon sin is my wood burning fireplace. I don’t use it when there’s a “no burn” day, but otherwise, I have a kind of primordial attraction to building a fire.
John Cleveland, co-author of Connecting to Change the World:
We just installed a 12 KW solar array on our home in New Hampshire. At the same time, we electrified our heating system with Mitsubishi heat pumps. So our home is now net positive from both an electricity and heating point of view. We made the solar array large enough to also power an electric car, but are waiting for the new models that will have more range before we install the electric car charger. The array and heat pumps have great economics. The payback period is 8-years and after that we get free heat and electricity for the remainder of the system life — probably another 20+ years. Great idea for retirement budgets!
Dan Fagin, author of Toms River:
Besides voting for climate-conscious candidates, the most important thing we can do as individuals is fly less, so I try to take the train where possible. I wish it were a better option.
Darrin Nordahl, author of Public Produce:
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, and how we produce food in this country is responsible for much of those emissions. From agriculture, to the fossil fuels needed to produce bags and boxes for pre-packaged food, to the burning of gas and oil to transport both fresh produce and pre-packaged food, I have discovered I can reduce my carbon footprint with a simple change in my diet. For one, I avoid processed food of any sort. I also grow a good portion of my vegetables and herbs and, thankfully, local parks with publicly accessible fruit trees provide a modicum of fresh fruit for my family. We also eat less meat than we used to and our bodies (and our planet) are healthier because of it.
Yoram Bauman, author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change:
I try to put on warm slippers or other extra layers around the house in order to not have to heat the house so much, but I still like to take long hot showers. (Maybe those two things are connected).
Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities:
I try to pay attention to my daily habits that make up a lot of my carbon footprint. So I bike to work, or take mass transit. That gets rid of the carbon footprint of driving. I also try to only moderately heat or cool my home, so I’m not burning a lot of energy doing that. The biggest component of my carbon footprint that I haven’t managed to cut is for travel. I have to travel once or twice a month for my job, and unless it is a trip in the Northeast (when I can just use Amtrak!), I am stuck travelling. The carbon footprint of all that air travel is huge. I try to do virtual meetings, rather than travel whenever I can, but there still seems to be a big premium people place on meeting folks face to face.
Emily Monosson, author of Unnatural Selection:
We keep our heat really low in the winter (ask our teenage daughter, it's way too cold for her here!) and I hang my clothes on the line in the summer. Because it’s so cold, I love taking really hot long showers. I should also hang my clothes in the winter too, and ditch the dryer.
Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley, co-authors of Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs:
We both live in a town-house in the central part of a city – on opposite sides of the continent: one in Philadelphia the other in Vancouver. Our neighborhoods have 100% walk scores. We each own one car, but don’t need to drive it very much - most of the time we can go where they need to on foot. We wrote our book using email and Dropbox. What they still need to work on is using less air travel in the future.
Jan Gehl, author of Cities for People:
I live in Denmark where 33% of the energy is delivered by windmills. A gradual increase will happen in the coming years. As in most other countries in the developed world, too much meat is on the daily diet. That is absolutely not favorable for the carbon footprint. It sounds like more salad is called for in the future!
Suzanne Shaw, co-author of Cooler Smarter:
Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living provides a roadmap for consumers to cut their carbon footprint 20 percent (or more). My approach to lowering my carbon footprint has gone hand in hand with saving money through sensible upgrades. Soon after I purchase my 125-year-old house I added insulation, weather stripping and a programmable thermostat. When I needed a new furnace, I swapped a dirty oil furnace to a cleaner, high-efficiency natural gas model. And now have LED bulbs in every fixture in the house, Energy Star appliances throughout, and power strips at my entertainment and computer areas. This summer, I finally installed solar panels through a 25-year lease (zero out-of-pocket expense). In the month of September, I had zero emissions from electricity use. Living in the city, I am fortunate to have access to public transportation and biking, which keeps our household driving to a minimum.
Peter Fox-Penner, author of Smart Power Anniversary Edition:
I’m reducing my footprint by trying to eat vegan, taking Metro rather than taxis or Ubers, and avoiding excess packaging. Right now I travel too much, especially by air. P.S. Later this year I’ll publish my carbon footprint on the website of the new Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy. Watch for it!
Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars:
Our family has a (small) car but I cycle pretty much all of the time. My kids cycle to school (some days) and my wife cycles to work (sometimes). It’s useful to have the car for some journeys, long ones mostly, but having a family fleet of bikes means we don’t need a second car. Reducing one’s carbon footprint can be doing less of something not necessarily giving up something completely. If everybody reduced their car mileage (and increased their active travel mileage) that would be good for the planet and personally: win/win.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.
We asked our authors: In today's age of slacktivism, has Earth Day become meaningless as a way to make impactful environmental change? Check out what they had to say below.
Travis Beck, author of Principles of Ecological Landscape Design
April 22nd, Earth Day, is also National Jelly Bean Day. How should one celebrate National Jelly Bean Day? The internet suggests guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, making jelly bean jewelry, or, simply, eating lots of jelly beans. The internet also suggests a number of ways to celebrate Earth Day in my immediate area. They include an Earth Day Celebration, an Earth concert, an Earth Day cleanup, a film screening, a moonlight hike, a 5k run/walk, an Earth Day festival, and an Earth Day fair. Or, if you’ve been invited to United Nations headquarters on that day, you could sign a global climate agreement.
All of this—the jelly beans, the festivals, and the signing ceremony—falls under the heading of marketing. The Earth needs good marketing. It’s too easy to ignore the pervasive, perplexing, and long term environmental issues we face in the rush of everyday life. Those recent video spots from Conservation International with Julia Roberts as the voice of Mother Nature, etc. are impactful, but a bit grim. Why not go on a moonlight hike instead, take in a film, wander a fair, or think about your nation’s CO2 emissions? And while you’re at it, enjoy a few jelly beans. Green ones.
John Pastor, author of What Should a Clever Moose Eat?
We have holidays to celebrate the planting of trees, the harvest, the four key points that define the Earth’s orbit (the solstices and the equinoxes), so why not a holiday to celebrate the whole Earth? And so we do, Earth Day, April 22. When Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970, he hoped to promote environmental activism and demonstrations, especially on campuses. Today, some campuses still have demonstrations against environmental degradation, but these are not as large as they once were. But I am encouraged by the growth of many environmental and nature organizations since the first Earth Day, such as the Xerces Society for the conservation of rare insects, WildOnes for the establishment of native plant gardens, and many others. Demonstrations on Earth Day may not be as common, but people seem to be putting their energy into actively doing something for and learning about nature and the environment. Nonetheless, the idea of Earth Day as a day to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet home is still worthwhile. So celebrate Earth Day: if it makes you feel good, find and join a local environmental or nature organization in your area.
Yoram Bauman, author of Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
Earth Day is a way of connecting like-minded people who care about sustainability, and hopefully (as with the Yes on 732 carbon tax campaign I’m part of in Washington State) those connections lead to more and deeper types of involvement!
Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”- a hackneyed quotation, but a true one. Yes, the kinds of minimal individual actions sometimes promoted for Earth Day don’t add up to much themselves. Given the magnitude of the challenge of climate change, for instance, biking to work one day a week is a pretty minor step toward reducing my carbon footprint. Similarly, avoiding food waste in my home is only a teeny step toward reducing global agricultural production. These kind of good first steps have some value on their own, but their real value is getting people to be educated and committed to an issue. For a small subset of people, these kind of first steps lead to bigger, more significant steps. Or they may lead to political support for broader legal or policy changes that do have a meaningful environmental impact. So, instead of criticizing the “slacktivists”, tell them what other steps they should take next, if they want to prove greater dedication to the environmental cause.
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.
Around the world, renewable energy is making headlines: last May, clean energy supplied almost all of Germany’s power demand for one day, while Portugal ran entirely on renewable energy for 107 hours straight. We asked some of our authors how these accomplishments will affect the way other countries think about renewable energy, and what this means for the US. Check out what they had to say below.
Renewables are already being taken seriously by the marketplace, but ultimately it’s a matter of economics: fossil fuels don’t pay their true cost—including the costs associated with emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants—and so it’s not a level playing field. A carbon tax (like the Yeson732.org carbon tax effort I’m part of that will be on the ballot in Washington State in November) would help internalize those external costs and give a boost to renewables and conservation. It’s still going to be a long time before the USA operates entirely on renewables for a day or more—it’s a big country and we’ve got a lot of coal and natural-gas power plants—but the sooner we start moving in that direction the better!
-Yoram Bauman, author The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
It is great to see these milestones achieved, but I think even more important climate policy and achievements are now starting to be seen on the horizon. There is a new wave of policymaking focused on 80 percent or even complete decarbonization of energy by 2050, travelling far beyond the 2030 date in most official goals and plans, including the U.S. Clean Power Plan. While the 2050 works are in their early stages, and most are closer to visioning exercises than actionable plans, this is the next phase of planning and operations for no-carbon energy. Thirty-five years is a very long time to plan forward, but it is within the life span of many large energy technologies and nearly all of the buildings that are in existence today. Every year we move towards 2050 we lock in more of the system that will be in place, or already retired, by that year, so it’s really the right time to start working on this. Almost makes you want to start singing that old Fleetwood Mac song, the theme of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. Google it, you twenty-somethings.
-Peter Fox-Penner, author Smart Power Anniversary Edition
Many press reports said Portugal and Germany were getting all their energy from renewables during these short periods of abundant wind and sunlight. But it’s important to remember that we’re really talking only about electricity, which currently represents about 20 percent of global final energy usage. The other 80 percent of energy usage occurs mostly in transportation, agriculture, industrial processes, and in heating buildings, and currently requires liquid, gaseous, and solid hydrocarbon fuels. We have a big challenge ahead of us in electrifying those areas of energy usage. Continue reading Richard's full post here.
-Richard Heinberg, co-author Our Renewable Future
Yoram Bauman, co-author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change and “the world’s first and only stand-up economist,” performs regularly at colleges and corporate events, sharing the stage with everyone from Robin Williams to Paul Krugman. He has appeared in Time Magazine and on PBS and NPR, and his previous collaboration with Grady Klein resulted in the two-volume Cartoon Introduction to Economics.
Richard Heinberg is Senior Fellow-in-Residence of Post Carbon Institute and is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost educators on the need to transition away from fossil fuels. He is the author of twelve books, including seminal works on society’s sustainability crisis, The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies and The End of Growth: Adapting the Our New Economic Reality.
In honor of the first presidential debate tonight beteween Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we asked Island Press authors: "If you were advisor to the president, what would your top priority be and why?" Check out their answers, in their own words, below.
I'd urge the President to act on every possible opportunity to reduce the influence of money in the political process, because until that happens it will be increasingly difficult to make progress on anything else.
-Dan Fagin, Toms River
Maintaining and extending the collaborative relationship with the Republic of Mexico over the shared waters of the Colorado River should be a sustained priority. The 2012 agreement known as "Minute 319", signed in 2012, included important water sharing provisions and for the first time allowed water to be returned to the desiccated Colorado River for the environment and the communities of Mexico. The deal was an important milestone, but it was only a temporary agreement. We need permanent solutions to the overuse of the Colorado River, and sustaining our partnership with Mexico is a critical piece.
-John Fleck, Water is for Fighting Over
1) Ending farm subsidies and other protection/promotion of food crops.
2) Embracing GMO neutrality.
3) Ending federal support for state unpasteurized (raw) milk bans.
4) Reining in the FDA.
5) Ending the federal ban on sales of locally slaughtered meat.
6) Ending federal policies that promote food waste.
7) Improving food safety and choice by requiring good outcomes, rather than mandating specific processes.
8) Ending the federal ban on distilling spirits at home.
9) Deregulating the cultivation of hemp.
-Baylen Linnekin, Biting the Hands that Feed Us
For more elaboration on these bullets, see Linnekin’s full article on Reason.
My advice to a presidential candidate would be to recall the words of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “The good thing about science is that its true whether or not you believe in it.” Natural forces are at work that will have adverse consequences, many of which are diametrically opposed to our national interests. Global climate change, the spread of vector borne diseases, and the rampant overuse of nonrenewable and renewable resources are just three such forces currently in play. The decisions that you make during your tenure will be pivotal relative to the health and well-being of our citizens, as well as the citizens of the world. Recognize the fact that you are governing, just as Lincoln did, during a period of history that will resonate for centuries to come. Make wise environmental decisions even if they are not necessarily politically advantageous. Our futures depend upon it.
-Alan Kolok, Modern Poisons
“I would urge the President to take strong action to pass climate change legislation in Congress. The form that climate change legislation would take would depend on the politics, but it is imperative that the U.S. begins to lead the world to action on climate change. Climate change isn’t even my own professional issue of focus (I would love to talk to the President about how to make our cities more resilient, green, and livable), but it seems to me clearly the crisis issue. Every major scientific study that is coming out is pointing toward serious consequences of climate change, happening now. Rather than thinking about climate change that will impact my kids’ lives, I am realizing it will deeply impact my own as well.”
-Rob McDonald, Conservation for Cities
If I had a chance to sit face-to-face with the winning candidate, my advice would be something like: Think about the welfare of our grandchildren when you make decisions on energy and environmental issues. Consider not just the short-term impacts but the long-term consequences of sea-level rise, extreme weather events, droughts, and loss of agricultural land. Set an example for reducing carbon emissions based on energy efficiency and renewable energy that can serve as a model for developing countries. Listen to our climate scientists and heed their warnings. Trust their advice on global warming in the same way you trust the advice of your physician with regard to your personal health.
-Charles Eley, Design Professional’s Guide to Zero Net Energy Buildings
I would push for the next President to try again (yes, again!) to work on bipartisan climate action, perhaps with a revenue-neutral carbon tax like the Initiative 732 campaign that I’m a part of in Washington State. We’re proud to have endorsements from three Republicans in the state legislature as well as from a bunch of Democrats. The short-sighted opposition from some left-wing groups (including some mainstream “environmental” groups) highlights the risk of making climate change a partisan wedge issue for electing Democrats instead of an existential issue for all Americans. We need to try harder to build a big tent for lasting climate action, and that’s one one reason I’m so fond of the quote at the end of this NYT story (about the failed attempt by enviros to win control of the Washington State legislature for the Democrats in Nov 2014): “The most important thing is to normalize this issue [climate change] with Republicans,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic strategist. “Anything that makes it more partisan makes it less likely that there will be legislation, until such time as Democrats take over the world. Which according to my watch, will not be happening anytime soon.”
-Yoram Bauman, Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
I would urge the President to reassert cross-departmental efforts such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to further empower local governments and constituents to meet ongoing challenges of urban development, because those challenges of land use, transportation, affordability will not be entirely met by private market solutions. I would also advise that the new administration investigate further centralizing resources relevant to urban areas, and evaluate (as was once proposed by Richard Florida) a new cabinet-level position focused on cities and rapidly urbanizing areas. Finally, I would suggest to the President that the federal government should lead by example by illustrating methods to elevate civic dialogue, including program development and funding to encourage individuals to obtain firsthand knowledge of the cities around them through careful observation and input into urban political and regulatory processes.
-Charles Wolfe, Seeing the Better City
Challenging as this will be even to try, much less accomplish, the next President should work to return a spirit of compromise and cooperation to the American political conversation. On the current course, no real progress toward environmental or social sustainability is possible. The impacts of climate change and demographic pressure are now becoming obvious to people of all political persuasions. Growing awareness may eventually offer room for fresh policy ideas: a carbon tax with proceeds turned into dividends and a universal basic income for all citizens, access for all to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services, and humane and sustainable migration law.
-Robert Engelman, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want
As much as climate change will affect the United States, we likely have the capacity to adapt more effectively than most other countries—at least in terms of human welfare. At the same time, US demand for foreign goods and services is not going away; I, for one, don’t care what you say about the damn environment—I’m having my morning cup of tea or coffee come hell or high water (the latter an increasingly distinct possibility). If my personal recalcitrance is at all reflective of our national attitude, we nonetheless ought to be striving for a broadly-defined international stance that fully and coherently accounts for climate change. Specifically, in a world where the actions of our friends and our enemies will be increasingly defined by surging resource constraints (as well as “releases”—think Arctic oil…), our next President should focus on integrating foreign aid, fair trade, free trade, and military/security policy in a way that anticipates the incoming tsunami of threats—and opportunities—posed by climate chaos.
-Charles Chester, Climate and Conservation
In general terms, I believe the wealth of the nation lies in two areas: natural resources and human resources. As a matter of national defense priority, these areas require policy attention at the national level. Attending to these issues requires commitment and collaboration among all political, ethnic, religious and socio-economic affiliations—it is time for the adults to take charge. In particular, it will be necessary to harness their combined strengths in a public and private partnership initiative. An outline of my top priorities topics includes the following:
Natural Resources/Climate Change:
-Michael Murphy, Landscape Architecture Theory, Second Edition
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read Glenn Beck’s recent commentary in the New York Times. “The only way for our society to work is for each of us to respect the views of others, and even try to understand and empathize with one another,” he wrote. He took the words right out of my mouth. And so, Glenn and I urge the next President to do exactly that, reach across the aisle, connect with the great diversity of people and views in this country, and with respect and empathy seek to understand.
-Lucy Moore, Common Ground on Hostile Turf
Given the evident impact of rampant development pressures and climate change on our nation’s wildlife populations and diverse ecosystems, I urge the next President to endorse and promote a strong federal leadership role in collaborative landscape-scale planning efforts among federal, state, tribal, and private landowners in order to ensure our natural heritage is conserved for present and future generations.
-Robert Keiter, To Conserve Unimpaired
Dear Future POTUS,
The U.S. must be consumed with the urgent goal of retooling the energy infrastructure of our country and the world. Cooperatively mobilizing with other nations, our government—we, the people—must immediately, using all just and complementary means at our disposal—e.g., directives, incentives, and disincentives—close down fossil fuel operations and facilitate replacing coal, oil, and gas dependencies with cradle-to-cradle manufacture and ecologically and socially sensitive installation of ready, climate-responsible technologies, including locally scaled wind turbines, geothermal plants, and solar panels.
No less urgently, as a globally-responsible facilitator, the U.S.—members of all administrative branches together with the citizenry who have chosen them—must, with forthright honesty and transparency, support a matured narrative of progress that is alluring across political spectrums. This story must redefine power to integrate economic prosperity with other commonly held values—such as equality, justice, democratic liberty, and skillful love for land that interpenetrates with human health and flourishing. It must recall people to ourselves and each other not as mere individual consumers, but as diverse, empowered, capably caring members—across generations—of families, neighborhoods, and of the whole ecosphere of interdependencies—bedrock to sunlight—the source of Earth’s life.
Julianne Lutz Warren, Plain member of the U.S. and Earth, and author of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition
Katharine Sucher is the Publicity & Marketing Assistant at Island Press.