An award-winning cartoonist and the world’s only stand-up economist have teamed up on a new edition of their funny, informative book about the climate crisis
Books about how and why we need to save the planet abound. Some are aimed at children, while others are for adults. A growing number explore the complicated issue of intersectional environmentalism (how injustices against the Earth intersect with and exacerbate injustices against specific groups of people). One thing these eco-minded books have in common is that they tend to be serious and sombre. After all, such a grave topic can only be covered in a no-nonsense fashion, right?
Wrong—at least according to Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman. In 2014, the pair’s illustrated guide to global warming was published. Last month, the eco-minded duo released an updated version of their fun, genre-busting book: The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, Revised Edition (Island Press). It includes new artwork and updated data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Crammed with jokes, puns, one-liners and quirky black-and-white cartoons, this creative book makes it easy to understand scientific concepts such as what oxygenic photosynthesis is and where carbon-based fossil fuels come from. Polar bears talk about evolution to their cubs. People in different yoga poses explain the carbon cycle. A man holding a spinning globe while balancing on roller skates helps to demonstrate Milankovitch Cycles, which predict ice ages by analyzing how the Earth’s tilt changes over thousands of years. Single-celled organisms crack increasingly corny jokes (“What do you call a single-celled organism floating in a primordial sea? Bob. What do you call a single-celled organism smeared on the wall? Art.”).Bauman and Klein employ easy-to-grasp comparisons and metaphors to explain complex and sometimes frightening ideas, such as using cakes to show the disastrous effects that increased fossil fuel consumption could have on the planet by the year 2100. They also acknowledge that the very idea of anthropogenic climate change is a controversial topic, despite the overwhelming evidence that human activity, growth and development have led to the climate crisis.
Though the book covers thoroughly depressing topics such as rising sea levels and mass extinctions, its optimism shines through, especially when discussing how humans still might develop clean energy that is cheaper than coal, oil or natural gas. Bauman and Klein discuss the economics of climate change, including how carbon taxes work. A glossary at the back makes the book especially useful for students.
Tackling complex (and, all too often, dry) topics in an entertaining way is a specialty for Bauman and Klein. The pair have collaborated on titles such as The Cartoon Introduction to Economics and The Cartoon Introduction to Calculus. Klein is a cartoonist, animator and creator of a series of graphic novels, while Bauman is touted as the world’s first—and only—stand-up economist. Bauman, who has a PhD in economics, takes part in climate activism such as the Clean the Darn Air campaign, and he regularly performs his comedy act at colleges and corporate events.
The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change, Revised Edition is pretty much guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll ever have reading about the climate catastrophe, and it may even spur you to take action.