An often amusing graphic primer about an issue the authors recognize as apocalyptically serious.
If alarmism proves polarizing where global warming is concerned, maybe humor can bridge the divide and build a consensus. Such would seem to be the strategy of Bauman, who bills himself as “the world’s first and only standup economist,” and cartoonist Klein; both collaborated on The Cartoon Introduction to Economics (two volumes, 2010 and 2011). The authors admit that there have long been wild fluctuations in climate before there was any ecological concern, that human activity is only part of the issue and that the doomsday scenario that some find inevitable is in fact uncertain. Having established a tone of moderation, invoking scientific method rather than ideology, Bauman and Klein nonetheless reinforce the realities of global warming, fossil fuels and greenhouse gases as potentially catastrophic. “The key fact about business as usual is that it would make [carbon dioxide] emissions explode,” they write, while softening the punch with an analogy involving China and cakes (a guitarist and feedback feature prominently elsewhere). Projecting through the century, “[u]nder business as usual emissions could rise 250%...pushing atmospheric [carbon dioxide] concentrations up near 1000 ppm.” The perspective of “environmental economics” distinguishes this analysis from that of a natural scientist or an environmental ideologue, for the authors insist from the start that economic growth, particularly in Asia and Africa, will be a dominant theme throughout the century (and a positive force) but that the profound environmental impact of all that growth is likely to accelerate climate change, unless the world at large faces the problem and its implication and arrives at consensus that might slow the process.
Though the book’s approach is entertaining, its message is nonetheless urgent.