Everything you need to know about carbon pricing explained in cartoon

BY Yoram Bauman  May 30, 2014 at 12:33 PM EST

Editor’s Note: Who would have thought that dismal science could ever be comedic? The annual economics convention, where four years ago Making Sen$e caught up with Yoram Bauman, a self-proclaimed stand-up economist, isn’t above a little humor. (Catch more of Bauman’s routine.)

Bauman has expanded his comedic approach to other mediums now, too. With Grady Klein, he’s the author of “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics,” and now, “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.” We’ll let Bauman, who’s been kind enough to share one of his favorite chapters here, tell you why cartoons are an important and relevant way to communicate environmental economics.

Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


One of my goals in life as an environmental economist is to harness market forces to fight climate change. And I like to find innovative ways to communicate that message: hence the stand-up economist gig, which started as a hobby and is now my full-time occupation.

Another innovative communication approach is cartooning, and I’m delighted to share with you a chapter from my new book, “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change,” co-authored with and illustrated by Grady Klein. Grady and I also wrote the two-volume “Cartoon Introduction to Economics,” and both of those books touched on climate issues a bit. The new book provides an expanded treatment of climate science and policy using the same engaging cartoon format. (For more on our collaborative artistic process, see our Island Press Field Note that follows a page from idea to printed page.)

Cartooning has a bit of a bad reputation here in the U.S. in that people think it’s “just for kids” silliness. But in fact, cartooning is a terrific way to convey information, and my books with Grady are based on the idea that something can be fun and intellectual at the same time. That’s also true of my stand-up comedy career, and both the comedy and the books involve boiling down complicated topics and making them accessible to high school and college students and the general public.

Other countries like Japan and France have a greater degree of respect for cartoon books — the 12 foreign translations of “Cartoon Econ” are outselling the English-language version — but if you’d like to judge for yourself then take a look at our chapter below on carbon pricing.

“Carbon pricing” is an umbrella term that includes both carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems. They’re both ways to put a price on carbon — in other words, ways to harness market forces to reduce carbon emissions. They’ve both been in the news a lot lately, but there’s still a great deal of confusion about how they work and how they differ from each other and from more traditional regulatory approaches like fuel-economy standards. So, with that introduction, here’s chapter 14 from “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change”:

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