Science Book a Day Interviews Yoram Bauman


Special thanks to Yoram Bauman for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change

Yoram Bauman, “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 is the co-author of the Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change and the two-volume Cartoon Introduction to Economics. He is also the organizer of the humor session at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association. – Adapted from Yoram’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change?

Well, my coauthor Grady Klein and I previously worked on two successful and fun Cartoon Economics books (one about micro, one about macro) so we were looking for another project to work on. And this was an obvious choice because I am an environmental economist who focuses on climate change and carbon pricing.

#2 – How did your crowd-funding of the book work? Why did you choose that avenue to fund your book?

Our previous publisher didn’t think there would be a sufficient market for a cartoon book about climate change, so we were lucky enough to get an expression of interest from Island Press, a non-profit publisher that focuses on environmental topics. But the advance they were able to offer us wasn’t enough to cover the 18 months that it takes us to write one of these books, so we started a campaign on Kickstarter, starring Grady’s adorable 10-year-old son Liam, and thanks to many generous people we were able to fund the book!

#3 – How did you and Grady go about designing this book. It looks like it is rich with drawings, facts and humour. How did you manage to fit it all in?

You can actually see a sample of the creative process on the Island Press blog. Basically we invest a lot of time and effort into each page, and if we’re successful then over the course of many iterations the page evolves into something terrific that packs a lot of accessible content (and hopefully some jokes too!) into a small space. We also put drafts of the book online and requested feedback from climate folks we know and from fans on my economics comedy list, and at the very end of the book we asked for another round of expert review in the hopes of getting all the facts right. (There’s also a set of page notes with details and sources.)

#4 – What kind of reaction have you received about the book? From kids? From adults? From climate deniers?

We’ve gotten a number of very positive reviews from climate scientists and from the press; here are some examples. With adults (at least in America) we have the usual struggle that people think that “cartoon books are just for kids”, but the ones who open the book are pleasantly surprised; and kids of course find it very accessible. Regarding deniers, well, I did have one fellow I was hoping to get feedback from on a draft of the book, but he took offense at the page of the book that draws a parallel between the history of smoking and the history of climate science. (We were trying to convey that the level of certainty in the scientific community about both issues gradually increased over time, but he seemed to think we were smearing scientists who aren’t convinced of the link between greenhouse gases and global warming.) Ultimately I think the book handles that quite fairly: we compare climate science with detective work and say that the vast majority of scientists are convinced that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming but that some are not convinced.

The one person I’m still hoping get a response from is Judith Curry, an atmospheric sciences professor on the “not convinced” part of the spectrum. On her blog she writes a lot about communications issues and uncertainty and I would love to know what she thinks about the book, but so far she’s been silent. As a result the “skeptic” response so far has been a complaint from an economics professor that the book spends too much time on climate science!

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books?

I’m devoting a lot of time and effort to a campaign for a revenue-neutral carbon tax in Washington State similar to the world-leading policy next door in British Columbia. And next year Grady and I will start working on our next project, a cartoon book about calculus! (I was a math major as an undergrad, so I have a fondness for the subject.) And sometime I’d love to come out to Australia on comedy tour. I’ve never been, but I’ve been reading lots about your (rather unfortunate) adventure with carbon taxes. Hopefully Washington State can move the ball forward!

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