Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through The Science is an absolutely terrifying book that absolutely everyone should have to read. Presented in a graphic novel format, it uses a combination of images and written facts to convey the truly awful situation in which we have found ourselves in regards to our climate.
The book is told through the frame story of the author discovering facts about climate change that he then passes on to the reader. His struggle in finding a reasonable way to individually impact climate change is at the heart of the novel. As he discovers more, he uses images of esteemed climate scientists, particularly members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These experts relay facts to us directly, emphasizing their level of scholarship and the seriousness of the information they present. They focused quite a lot on the exorbitantly high carbon levels we emit as a planet every year, and how this could seriously affect our planet. In fact, there is no way to change warming in the next twenty years. Only drastic changes now can make a real effect and stop us from rising the temperature over 3.9 degrees over what we have now. This threshold of 3.9 degrees is the turning point past which our planet will be thrown into turmoil. In order to reduce worldwide emissions to a level at which this threshold will not be crossed, we would all have to live at a standard of living equal to that of a malnourished person. This, combined with the problems of governmental processes that prevent important legislation from being passed, ensures that the situation is near hopeless. Government officials are too focused on being well liked, and people are too used to a high standard of living, to consider real change that could benefit the earth.
Throughout the novel, the author struggles with the question of what he can do to stop climate change. At the beginning, he sneers at those who drive SUVs and other large, energy consuming cars, while he takes energy consuming trips around the world. As he uncovers the facts, he slowly reconsiders. When he learns that a transatlantic flight can emit over 1,100 kg of carbon, he forgoes a free trip to Laos. He gives up worldwide trips to comic conventions at which he could have shared his work. However, the dilemma central to the novel is that one person cannot possibly impact climate change in any significant way. The tragedy of these missed opportunities is that, while they were good intentioned, they mean nothing if no one else will step up and help reduce their emissions as well. This is hard, due to the way our culture has evolved. The rich take what they can only because they can, and the lower classes are pushed to emulate the rich. Therefore, at any opportunity, we are driven toward extravagance, which leads to incredibly high carbon emissions. As Squarzoni says, “Quite justifiably, people say, ‘I’m not reducing my consumption, skipping my vacation to the Antilles, if I keep seeing the man at the top heading off to his friends’ yachts on their helicopters’” (432). This disregard extends so far that people actively deny the science in order to justify their extravagant lifestyles. An article from the independent says, “Only half of Americans believe climate change is mostly man-made, whereas a whopping 87 per cent of scientists say it is” (A). This disparity clearly displays the depth of our indifference to this problem. This is especially true for politicians, who pander to voters with these beliefs. An article from the Huffington Post says, “But, last week, the U.S. Senate decided to vote on whether climate change was real and, if so, whether that was due, in part, to human activity. (Spoiler alert: turns out that, according to the scientists in the Senate, climate change is real — but barely — and humans do not contribute to that change)” (B). In addition to this, Congress introduced bills limiting the EPAs power to control air pollution. This step backward seems unfathomable considering the science.
Squarzoni’s novel answers the question of why we do little to solve climate change—the problem seems far off. Even though climate change is making the glaciers of Greenland melt, causing the land to rise, and this is documentable today (C), it is hard to see this change in our everyday lives. One cold day in winter hits, and people immediately think, “If global warming is real, how is it so cold today?” No one wants to investigate the science or care about a problem that does not seem to affect daily life.
Another factor in this indifference is the terrifying concept of giving up wealth to solve the problem. It seems unfathomable that we should have to give up our standard of living for the greater good. However, Christopher Hayes of The Nation reminds us that we’ve done it before. In regards to the Civil War, he says of the Confederates, “The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out” (D). At the end of the war, we as a nation forced people to give up what they believed was their personal property in the name of freedom. They did it, however begrudgingly, and we are so much better for it. While it would be extremely difficult, it would be possible to reduce our emissions by giving up some material possessions as a planet. However, today’s consumer culture almost ensures that no one will seriously consider this idea.
The lack of interest in ending climate change is incredibly dangerous. Between the ignorance towards accepted science, blatant denial, and just complete lack of sense of importance ascribed to this issue, serious climate change seems inevitable. Squarzoni’s book conveys this hopelessness, but also a sense of urgency. He communicates a hope that more attention will be brought to the issue. Even though politicians don’t care, if enough individuals do, change can happen. Hopefully the accessible but educational format of Squarzoni’s book will help disseminate this important information and inspire change, however small it may be.