The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change (Nov 2014 draft of entire book)


Download the 5th draft (Nov 2013): Note that Chapters 1-7 are close to being locked-in except for text changes, but of course we're always happy to correct errors and consider alternatives; Chapters 8-11 (and especially 12-16) are in much rougher shape and have greater potential for structural change. Having said that, here's the 15-meg 2-to-a-page version . (Looking at 2 pages at a time is not standard for most books, but it's important for cartoon books. If you want the 30-meg 1-to-a-page PDF then here's a self-extracting 1-to-a-page PDF .rar file, with thanks to Dieu Thuy Nguyen.) Also FYI here's a first draft of the page notes.) If you have trouble downloading, try right-clicking and then choosing Save Target As... Also, here's a printer warning: If you’re going to print these pages, note that some of them have a lot of black coloring, so you might use up a lot of toner. Also note that some of the comments are in light-colored text that might be hard to read on a print-out. (Ditto!). Overall I’d recommend trying to look at this online so that you can zoom in and out as needed.

Our requests: We'll be responding to comments on a rolling basis, so there's no definite timeline, but if you can provide feedback by December 31 that would be ideal. For the record, this draft is just that (a draft) and so may well contain errors and is not intended for public consumption. If you have any questions, I'm at yoram@standupeconomist.com.

Your feedback: Click on the individual chapters below to provide feedback on those chapters; general comments about the whole book---for example, we'd like to know what you think about the storyline and narrative flow for Part One, and about the titles for the three Parts---can go at the bottom of this page. (Click the "Edit" button at the top-right to make edits and the "Save" button to save.) You are also welcome to provide comments via email or (if you're really old school) via hard copy. However you do it... thank you!! PS. If you can put your initials next to your comments, that would be great because then we can drop you a line if we have any follow-up questions. Also, you can respond to others' comments, but please don't edit or delete others' comments.

Part 1: Observations (74 pages including intro/outro)


Ch01 Introduction (2013.11: Preliminary art, some final art, 12 pages)
Ch02 A brief history of Planet Earth (2013.11: Preliminary art, some final art, 12 pages)
Ch03 The ice ages (2013.11: Preliminary art, some final art, 12 pages)
Ch04 Carbon dioxide (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch05 Energy (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch06 (Climate) Science (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)


Part 2: Predictions (58 pages, including intro/outro)


Ch07 Global warming (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch08 H20 (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch09 Life on Earth (2013.11: Preliminary art, 10 pages)
Ch10 Beyond 2100 (2013.11: Preliminary art, 10 pages)
Ch11 Uncertainty (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)


Part 3: Action (60 pages, including intro/outro)

Ch12 The tragedy of the commons (2013.11: Preliminary art, 10 pages)
Ch13 Techno-fix (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch14 Putting a price on carbon (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch15 Beyond fossil fuels (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)
Ch16 The challenge (2013.11: Preliminary art, 12 pages)

Glossary (coming later)



General comments about the whole book here!


  • YB: Put your initials and general comments in the bullet list below... thanks! (Just click the "edit" button at the top-right of the page to enter edit mode, and the "Save" button to save your comments. And please note that these comments should be for the whole book; please put comments on specific chapters on the wiki pages for those chapter... or I'll move them to the relevant pages after you post them :)
  • AS: not sure where draft-wide comments go, but wanted to say this is really looking great. The first half is much improved and reading clear and looking sharp. Chapters 8-11 are excellent (though I argue for some changes on those pages). My only serious critique would be that I think you should finish with a stronger ending. What that is, is up to you. But right now it feels a bit like it peters off, whereas I think the last chapter should present the choices in the strongest terms and ask people to think about what they choose. But that aside, excellent work here, guys. This is going to be an important book for helping people understand what's going on. Well done!

  • YB: I'd like to hear thoughts about the Part titles. Would something like Science / Impacts / Policy be better than Observations / Predictions / Action ? ALSO DL: Overall I like what you have so far. I actually do like the titles Science and Impact better for the first two sections, but I think sticking to Action is better for the 3rd section. Unless you're only going to focus on policy changes, in which case policy would be better. I'm not sure what you're planning on putting in "The Challenge" section, but something you may considering dropping a sentence or two about is the ethics/morality of climate change? Just a thought, that has been emphasized A LOT in all of my POE classes so it could be worth mentioning.
  • [YB: Mostly settled.] StressedChef: Overall structure looks ok, but a question on substructure of Part 3. How do these chapters line up against the usual categories of adaptation, mitigation and geoengineering? It looks like the main focus is on mitigation - very important, but we'll have a fair amount of locked in warming to adapt to and if mitigation is slow enough we may start to think more seriously about geoengineering as a stopgap. Does 'techno fixes' address geo? does BAU address adaptation? Will start looking at pdfs next. Excited about your project! ALSO Later: ok have read through all of Part 1, and overall I like it. I thought of various issues raised by sceptics and responses, but introducing those would ruin the flow of the basic ideas. I do suggest a list of resources at the back as well as the glossary, including Skeptical Science.com as well as the IPCC docs etc. [YB: Structure of Part 3 should now be clear, and IMHO it's a decent mix of adaptation, mitigation, and geoengineering. As for the list of resources... I'm not sure we'll want to do this, but it's worth considering.]
  • [YB: Settled.] TT: Have I missed something or are you strongly focussing on mitigation in this book rather than looking at adaptation too? There might be a cartoon in e.g. planning adaptation using the adaptation pathways approach (e.g. the work of Haasnoot at Deltares in the Netherlands). Or in real options appraisal in the uncertainty chapter... [YB: Well, Chapter 13-15 focus on mitigation; but adaptation comes up in Chapter 9 and also in Chapter 12, so I think it's pretty even.]
  • MT: Would be worth noting just how stable climate has been for the last 10,000 years. Remarkably stable, during which time most civilization has evolved.


  • [YB: Settled.] YB: I'd also like to know what you all think about the narrative arc. Does it make sense as a story? Would it be better to rearrange the chapters, e.g., put the energy chapter (Ch 5) and/or the scientific method chapter (Ch 6) up front? (Note that this is much easier said than done, but I'd still like to hear feedback on this :) [YB: Settled because it's now too late for most narrative changes.]
  • [YB: Settled.] JA: Its not clear to me who your intended audience is. The "Die Hard Deniers" I know who are not necessarily stupid, just relentlessly conservative to a point of blindness -- such as a Jewish family I know consisting of a doctor and a medical scientist -- will simply tune out after your opening statement that these things *might* be true. To them admitting to climate change would be becoming Democratic, which would (in their minds) be dooming Israel into the hands of the Palestinians -- much easier emotionally just to deny this climate change crap. If your audience is junior and high schoolers, maybe you can keep the deniers engaged, under the ruler of the science teacher, to read through to the end. Who is your audience? Who are you trying to convince -- who can be convinced? Pick your audience, and write to them. If one plots "Believer" vs. "Deniers" on a left-right scale, then I suggest you are painting a picture that lies to the right of Jorgen Rander "2052". I suggest you should be painting a picture more to the left on the scale, falling between the picture painted in "2052" and the strongly "left" picture painted by Bill McKibben "Eaarth." Or you paint both pictures -- either we are going to have a "2052" "soft crash" like Randers paints, or a "Eaarth" "hard crash" like McKibben paints.The attempt to reduce CO2 emissions needs I believe to be recognized as a humanitarian effort to reduce the pain and suffering of our children and grandchildren, in the US, and around the world [and younger people like you -- I am an old fart]. Certainly the first to die are poor people in hot dry places -- they are already dying of lack of food and water. So Denial also is an aspect of racism. [YB: I suppose the audience is the family next door, but I'm hoping that folks who feel strongly on most sides of the issue will feel like they're respectfully represented.]
  • [YB: Settled.] RGK: (1) Climate change has potential benefits. (2) Most "threat" discussions ignore the proven adaptability of human beings. (3) Most suggestions for things to do about the "problem" understate or ignore costs. Even the Waxman-Markey bill, which would have done tremendous damage to the economy, would have lowered temperatures by something on the order of a tenth or two tenths of a degree over 50-100 years, and that only if the models were right (which I believe they aren't.) It's a MASSIVE cost for little or no gain. http://www.nationalreview.com/node/182039. (4) Alarmists talk about the Precautionary Principle as a reason to "do something." But they ignore the costs of doing something and assume they know the benefits of doing something. (5) My understanding is that even most alarmist models don't posit uniform change around the globe, nor equal change throughout the year. So if it's thought to be, for example, mostly northern hemisphere and/or mostly during winter, that's different than everywhere all the time and has different implications. (6) Not one model used by the UN can account for the lack of warming over the past 15 years. (7) The models assume positive feedback, which is just as likely (or more likely) to be false as true, and if so it makes every UN model wrong. (8) If the climate always changes, it is not proven that even if human impact is substantial (which I doubt), it makes what is happening "worse" or "more of a threat" than what would happen without us. It's just the environmental left (which I say is motivated more by hatred of people than love of planet) which assumes that anything caused by people must be bad. (9) Not sure where this fits in, but it's interesting: http://hfr.lternet.edu/sites/harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/files/publications/pdfs/Trumbore_Science_1996.pdf. (10) When you get to the section on sea ice, it is worth noting that the so far for 2013, the Arctic sea ice extent has tended to be around or over the average for the past decade: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm And maybe more importantly, even though everyone wants to talk about Arctic or Greenland ice, the Antarctic holds 90% of the world's ice and 70% of the world's fresh water: http://www.nsf.gov/about/history/nsf0050/arctic/seaice.htm And at least in terms of average extent it has been increasing by about 1% per decade, even according to the alarmists at NASA: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/sea_ice_south.php No doubt that extent alone doesn't measure every interesting aspect of the sea ice discussion, since the increase and decrease is not uniform around the continent or around the world. Still, I wonder how many people know what a small percentage of the planet's sea ice is in the Arctic and Greenland. After all the alarmists never give those numbers. (11) I think your project and your approach are interesting. But I think some of your presentation is far more biased than you could then in good conscience suggest is a truly scientific approach, or even an approach which one would expect from a PhD economist. [YB: I think specific comments would be more useful than a lot of the general/random statements here. But note for example that adaptability is discussed in a very similar vein to your suggestion #2 on p6 of Chapter 9.]
  • [YB: Settled.] MO [self-edited by MO on Oct. 12, 2013]: The issue is action - I've written and researched extensively on what action needs to happen - and I think it may be worth reviewing or incorporating in your own way - since I don't see much coherent material out there except perhaps for a few excerpts from Andy Revkin. In summary, my conclusions are (1) Policy must be matched by citizen voter agreement. (2) The voters are HIGHLY confused. Many do not understand what a fossil fuel is. (3) Solutions - if we're going to be ditch the tangled risk assessments and cut to the core - mean zero fossil fuel emissions from the electric grid and transport, ASAP. (4) Climate answers are ready now that would be good for the economy and our health while also making our energy system more robust. Renewable energy. (See the papers of Mark Jacobs (powering world with wind, solar, hydro). Also, see this article I wrote on pumped hydro power storage:http://www.fairfaxclimatewatch.com/blog/2013/07/is-pumped-storage-hydro-power-the-answer-to-storing-wind-and-solar.html ...And this just in the news on solar thermal (the kind with molten salt):

    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/10/8/solar-energy/big-solar-storage-very-happy-birthday. [Not as important from earlier version:] or the policy will inevitably be inadequate unless a miracle (e.g. fusion power) comes on-line in the next 10 years. (2) So far the citizens are not in sufficient agreement about time-scales of action and consequences, so one good way [but there are many others] to get them there is organization on local levels where individuals from within communities are actively involved. This is the case because: (3) the issue is so large and complex (relative to most public issues that most citizens deal with) that social learning and local social engagement can cohere views while enabling significant local demonstrations and protests to persuade/prod the reluctant/apathetic remainder of the public to come along and get excited. Who doesn't want to grow and enjoy local food in a neighbors yard? Why not take over the lawn/backyard of the widow down the block and plant a garden - with the community caring for it and sharing the yield? 350.org, by the way is the best (only!?) national organization out there for fostering real local community orgnaization. [YB: I think your point #1 is addressed in Part 3, especially the "voters and governments" reference in Chapter 14. Point #2 is... well, I'm not sure what to do with it, or with Point #3. On your Point #4, I suppose the question is what you mean by "climate answers are ready now"; this may or may not run counter to the "main challenge facing renewables is money" content in Chapter 13.]
  • [YB: Settled.] WP: I wonder if a narrative device to allow parenthetical comments would be a small cartoon character such as the political cartoonist Pat Oliphant uses -- see his character in this one. I think about this character like the trusty sidekick in some animated cartoons. The character could be a pedantic bug or just some Oliphantish creature making various comments or interjections. (On page 7, character could add Thomas Friedman's phrase: climate weirding which captures the oddness or increased variabilitlity we are beginning to see.) [YB: This is Grady's call and he seems to prefer our current approach, which is to have an actual character (not a small Oliphant-ish character) saying anything that we think is important enough to say.]
  • [Settled] JK: I think the concept of Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI or EROEI) is very important. The analogy with economic return on investment might make it especially useful to you in this book. It is not very complicated, yet it is rarely included in the discussion. Perhaps you know, EROEI is typically 25X for fossil fuels (I think it was even 100X in the early years of oil exploration?). I.e. 25 times more energy is brought to market than is used in production (exploration, recovery, refining and delivery). As fossil fuel resources are used up, the E-costs of production have been increasing, AND in some cases, the energy content of the reserves is less. (Importantly, the production E-costs are proportional to CO2, so this links to CO2 & climate.) So this is another way the game is changing. Recent petroleum reserves promise much more carbon, lower Energy yields, lower profit margins. Yet the sunken costs of the oil industry makes it seem more viable than it might otherwise be? E.g., the tar sands reserve (Keystone XL) have EROEI on only 2-4X, and this almost certainly drops to 1.0 or less if full life cycle costs to society are included. This argument, in energy balance terms, totally TRUMPS any economic argument. If we spend more ENERGY developing the product than it delivers (NET) to society, it is a bad choice regardless of the cost of oil and any economic argument. (The glaring fact than I am not an economist is showing here, but EROEI near 1.0i is surely an argument for NOT exploiting such reserves. ?? [YB: I'm familiar with this concept but I confess that I don't think much about it, in part because I don't agree with the argument you make at the end, that an EROEI near 1 is somehow bad. The E-in for the tar sands (for example) is I believe mostly natural gas, and the E-out is petroleum, which at least in the USA has a much higher economic value. So you're using a low-value energy source to produce a high-value energy source, and from an economic perspective that seems like a viable idea. Now, the carbon implications are of course different, and we might get to talk about tar sands and other such things in the book. My question here is about whether the climate impact of tar sands oil is really that much worse than that of conventional sources. I'm still doing the background research here, but what I've read suggests that tar sands oil is "only" 10% or so more carbon intensive than conventional sources. If you suspect otherwise then I'd love to know more.]
  • [YB: Settled.] JK: I'd like to REOPEN this, 3 points -- a. The E-in is not mostly gas. Much of the industrial exploration infrastructure uses oil, especially if the tar sands are remote (like Alberta). It is true that getting bitumen out and getting DILBIT to flow in a pipeline uses gas, and maybe heating the pipelines to keep it flowing can be done with gas (more likely electricity? via coal, or other conventional source?). Actually, I don’t know the numbers, so can’t say whether it is “mostly” or not. But substantial petroleum is certainly used for tar sands development. b. The E-out is not necessarily conventional petroleum. I have seen in a reliable source (?! And need to try to document it more convincingly if it be helpful to you) that the refined product from the low-grade tar sands will not be gasoline. The products may include diesel, but critics report that the products are not even going to be sold in the North American market, and are suitable only for export, because of constraints on the refining of the dilbit resource. So, I think your E-in quality << E-out quality argument needs more thought. But, c) The most important issue in this thread for this book IS the climate effect. I think that the main relevance of the EROI argument is precisely the carbon implications. If the E-OUT is 2-4X the E-IN (for tar sands, vs. >10 for other reserves) this should correlate with the carbon emissions. This suggests that the carbon intensiveness is much worse than the +10% you mention. I’ll try to document this. Even if you don’t mention EROI, if the carbon factor is increasingly severe as we exploit hard-to-get non-conventional sources, might you want to make this point in the book? It may seem a second order point, but it may not be based on McKibbon’s math that we have to leave some potential fuel in the ground to have a chance on the climate. ?? [YB: We didn't end up covering the tar sands in the book, so I think we can drop this discussion.... but I'll note that I'm still not convinced of the value of EROEI. Clearly it doesn't make sense to use a gallon of oil to generate a gallon of oil, but if this were the case then the tar sands would not be profitable and so we wouldn't need EROEI. The fact that they are profitable tells me that they're either using low-value energy to produce high-value energy or that the EROEI is not as low as you suggest.]
  • [YB: Settled.] JK: RE your: "if you suspect otherwise, I'd love to hear more". I did come up with new info on this: I checked on the relative GHG emissions for tar sands. Some reports said tar sands emitted 3.5–4.5 TIMES more GHG than conventional fuels, while others said the difference was 10–20%. This large disparity is accounted for by differences in what steps in the production cycle are included in the tally. While “full life cycle” analysis is often a good thing, in this case it is misleading. Most of the GHG emissions from a fuel result in the final stage of burning by the end consumer, and this step is similar for various fuels. Thus, including this large, similar contribution masks any important differences in extraction and refining. Specifically, a research analysis (the same one was cited by a number of groups) calculate that it takes 3X to 4.5X more GHG to extract and refine tar sand bitumen (“well to tank”). When full life cycle is considered (“well to wheel”) the difference drops to 10-20%. Further, the NRDC adds that reductions in the GHG costs for tar sands is achieved by cherry picking the dirtiest of conventional fuels and the lowest emissions of tar sands for the comparison. I found the cited sources from the NRDC summary to be helpful, (http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/keystonexlmyths.pdf , esp. notes 3 & 12), and the same tech report was also cited by other analysts (http://www.pembina.org/oil-sands/os101/climate. The cited ref. is 2005, and there may have been changes in industry practices since then, so these numbers are not necessarily valid today. Yet the energy inputs required in tar sands extraction and transport, even before the pre-treatment that is required before normal refining, are unlikely to change, so the disparity in the extraction and processing phases seems certain to remain much higher than for gas and petroleum, affecting the relative energy costs and carbon emission footprints. Finally, I think this point deserves attention in the book because the growing recovery and processing costs (in energy AND therefore also GHG emissions) for the fuels that the oil industry is being forced to shift to NOW exacerbates the already serious problem. (whew!) [YB: As above, we didn't end up covering the tar sands in the book, so I think we can drop this discussion..]
  • [Settled] JK: I really like the treatment by the high school physics teacher Greg Craven suggesting that a risk analysis perspective is a way for the lay public to deal with this complex issue. He explored the whole complex subject pretty completely in a vast number of YouTube videos. If you don’t know him, start with this one. I haven’t checked on what he’s been up to lately, but thought it might be a good resource for you? [YB: I've sen his video, based on a 2x2 matrix, yes? Unfortunately I'm not all that keen on it: I think the economics is not as easy as he suggests. You need to do some more complicated cost-benefit analysis.]
  • [Settled] LR: If it were my comic, I’d probably have more graphs, more charts, more maps, more caricatures of individuals, but that might not make it any more effective. Your aim is to strip things down to the essentials, and you accomplish that very well. [Settled]
  • [Settled] RP: Your Actions section - you should meet with a climate philosopher (I don't know of anyone that would self declare as one) - but there is a NON-ZERO chance that we have completely underestimated the crash we are in. The notion that we missed the boat for our future, and our glory is all in the p
  • [Settled] RP: Yoram - you are the King of Clear Economic Lessons - so it is totally appropriate that you intersect economics and climate change. The most simple I can reduce it is that "We either work for money, or our money works for us" Either way is OK - but if both are deep into carbon intensive industries - by either labor or investment - then we are promoting a toxic future. If we had true cost accounting then everyone would know the impact of driving a gasoline powered car. (typically emits one pound of CO2 per mile driven) Better is to work for, or invest in, commerce and industries that nurture a future for humans. Clean energy and electric cars. Carbon capitalism is toxic to our future- yet it will not change on it's own - citizens rely on governments to protect the populace. And we ask our citizens to get an education and make decisions. Eventually the market will correct the problem, but the population that will be participating will be shrinking fast. [Settled]

  • PS. If for some reason you want to compare with earlier drafts, here's the 1st draft of Part One in the "standard" 1-to-a-page version, and here's the 2-to-a-page version. And here's the 2nd draft (Part One plus Ch 7) in the "standard" 1-to-a-page version, and here's the 2-to-a-page version. This 2nd draft included the following major changes to Chapter 1 (The July update addresses some language concerns from MT and StressedChef plus small improvements throughout. Probably most interesting is the discussion on p9 with AS, LA, and StressedChef about if and how to change the text indicating that concerns about climate change range from "minor threat" to "existential threat".), Chapter 2 (The July update includes small improvements throughout. Still working on finalizing the timeline and finalizing the ozone hole discussion on p7.), Chapter 3 (The July update includes corrected typos and other small improvements. We also changed "measure" to "estimate" on p3 (an interesting discussion about this) and we're still working on the positive feedback loop analogies and on whether our "simplified" Milankovitch story is over-simplified.), Chapter 4 (The July update includes major changes to pages 6 and 8: following suggestions from MO et al. we've added some material to contrast C with CO2 and added a graph of CO2 emissions over time. Other small improvements throughout. Also a discussion on p7 with Szarka and RGK about whether CO2 graphs need to start at zero... and there's a somewhat odd discussion on p12 with LA, RGK, and GM about the connection between CO2 and temperature: our point is that it's Milankovitch (and not CO2) that drives the ice ages, but some readers didn't get that; maybe we need to rework?), Chapter 5 (Definitely the best improvement in the July update is from JK's note that "night-vision goggles" are often based on light amplification and not on thermal imaging. (A good video comparison is here.) JK also mentions whether we're going to cover the appropriateness of the greenhouse analogy, and we've added something about that. Also StressedChef, GM, and TH are helping in my ongoing battle to improve the line about how hot things are "red hot" and warm things are "infrared hot". Other small improvements throughout, including good grammar suggestions from "me".), and Chapter 6 (The July update makes major changes: following suggestions from GM and VB in particular, we have added a page (p9) on detective work and multiple lines of evidence and a page (p11) on evidence of warming from different sources (satellites, birds, plants, etc.). Page 9 also includes a new frame about how most scientists are convinced that GHGs are warming the planet, with a graphic about the folks who are convinced (various National Academies, IPCC, AAAS, etc) and the folks who are not convinced (NIPCC and another random scientist); my hope is that this is a fair representation of the concerns of RGK and others who emphasize that the science is not settled. Also per RGK, we have made the treatment of global temperatures since the 1970s a bit less bombastic, changing p7 from "we told you so" to "the prediction was 0.2C per decade and the actual was 0.15C per decade... not bad!" RGK and JX were less successful in suggesting changes to the smoking analogy on pp5-6, but we are still open to alternative ideas. Finally, there are still open questions about (1) the use of "theory" versus "hypothesis" at the beginning of the chapter, and (2) whether the chapter conclusion (p12) puts too much emphasis on computer models (per comments from JA, SW, and GM).). And here's the 3rd draft (Parts One and Two) from Aug 2013: Here's the "standard" 1-to-a-page version, and here's the 2-to-a-page version. And here's the 4th draft (Parts One and Two) from Oct 2013: Note that Chapters 1-7 are close to being locked-in except for text changes, but of course we're always happy to correct errors and consider alternatives; Chapters 8-11 are in much rougher shape and have greater potential for structural change. Having said that, here's the "standard" 1-to-a-page version, and here's the 2-to-a-page version .