Doomed Planet

Shooting Santa to Save the World

smoking gunA top scientist of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Jean Jouzel, is lauding a comic publication which has the heroine gunning down three Santa Clauses in a supermarket with a military assault rifle. The realistically-drawn massacre in Climate Changed by Philippe Squarzoni (Abrams, New York 2014) is meant to symbolise the need to reduce consumerism and CO2 emissions.

The book was written a year before the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall massacre in September, 2013, in which gunmen killed or wounded 240 people in the name of Islam. But the fictional massacre in the cause of reducing CO2 emissions is retained in this year’s English translation.

The book, 480 pages and 1.2kg, is in the ‘graphic novel’ genre, now a serious literary form. The book won the Jury Prize at the Lyon Graphic Novel Festival in 2012. (A graphic novel, Maus, by New Yorker cartoonist Art Spigelman,  won a Pulitzer in 1992).

In the massacre sequence, Camille, the  beautiful partner of the comic’s hero, Squarzoni himself, arrives at the “Nuclear Power Christmas Market” with what looks like a Belgian FN assault rifle slung over her shoulder.

The next frame (below) shows her in the supermarket aisle amid shopping trolleys, lifting the sights to her face.

santa must die1

The caption reads: “Today, choice about energy issues has been stolen from the people. The decisions are all in the hands of politicians or big multinationals. Economic motivations prevail over environmental needs.”

Frame three (below) shows she is sighting on three men in Santa costumes, one holding bottles of Coca-Cola, and another taking a gift-wrapped parcel from a shelf. The caption: “We produce more so we can consume more.”


Next frames,  she opens fire and the Santas scream in death agonies as bullets rip into their bodies, with blood spattering. She continues firing as they start collapsing to the ground, while a stream of  ejected shellcases tumble in the foreground and Cokes and Christmas parcels fly  in the air. One Santa lifts his right hand as if to shield himself.

Their suits are riddled with bullets and gore continues to spout. The bland caption for this bloody mayhem reads: “On the demand side, it’s up to individuals, households, and local communities to evaluate their own needs themselves, with an eye to conservation.”

The final frame shows shows Camille and author Squarzoni standing over the corpse of one Santa, Camille still training her rifle on him. The caption reads: “Making conservation a positive factor in the future would require a huge change in political direction.”

Their couple’s massacre is not followed by any repercussions as the book goes on to lament the Copenhagen summit failure and excoriate “climate deniers”, who are drawn as dung beetles pushing a ball of excreta with their hind legs.

The IPCC’s Jouzel has been

  • A vice-chair of the IPCC’s prestigious Working Group 1 (“The Physical Science Basis”) since 2008.
  • A drafting author, WG1 Summary for Policy-Makers of the 5th IPCC report
  • Review editor, sea level chapter, 5th report.
  • Bureau member, WG1, 4th report, 2007.
  • A drafting author, Summary for Policy-Makers, WG1 4th report.
  • Lead author, WG1, 4th report
  • Review editor, Paleoclimate chapter, 4th report.
  • French expert delegate to the IPCC 2nd and 3rd reports.

On the book’s back cover,   Jouzel writes,

“What a marvellous way to convey the knowledge accumulated by our scientific community … I am truly admiring of Philippe Squarzoni’s great scholarship on all facets of the climate problem…An extremely well-documented work – which is, of course, essential for the perception of the message that it delivers. But its principal merit is, in fact, in the quality of the narrative and the art.”

Earlier, the book’s Santa figures personify fossil-fuel use and smoke British American Tobacco cigarettes.

Author  Squarzoni damns sceptics as “relying on scientists who worked for the tobacco industry in the 1980s to put the science in doubt.” This theme is similarly promoted by Naomi Oreskes in her 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, now being made into a Hollywood film by Sony as something of a sequel to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

I googled for IPCC climate scientists who have taken  benefits from Big Tobacco. Who should  turn up after five minutes but Squarzoni’s guru, Jean Jouzel himself,  a recipient of a 1992 climatology prize from  the Philip Morris tobacco corporation.

It gets better, or worse. Squarzoni’s second-ranked advisory source is Herve Le Treut, a coordinating lead author in the 5th IPCC report. It’s taxing my schoolboy French, but under his “Prix et distinctions”, one notices, “Prix Philip Morris (1992)”.  Merde, alors!

Nature complained in April, 2001, that the German arm of Philip Morris had been awarding annual research prizes since 1983 without controversy: Around 100 researchers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have received the Philip Morris prize…,” it noted. “This year’s winners, announced last week, each take home around US$100,000.”

Even if not identical, the Philip Morris Prizes that went to Jouzel and Le Treut clearly had a family connection to the US$100,000 Philip Morris Prizes offered in the German context.

Jouzel blurbs about the comic book, “Great scholarship on all facets of the climate problem…a true feast”. The book  extensively features Jouzel as a talking head and wise dispenser of IPCC scientific platitudes. He is described on the front and back covers and in the source-list as sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize — which is flat-out wrong as the IPCC itself in late 2012 banned members from making such claims:

“The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.” Pulp the book, publisher.

The book’s narrative is how Squarzoni educates himself about climate by interviewing nine experts, who broadly compete to push catastrophism. Three are IPCC sorts. Another three, for some reason, are all eco-economists associated at a high level with a French group called ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens).   To only select three economists of that ilk is bizarre. Another of the artist’s talking heads is an eco-journalist with Le Monde, the author of European best-seller  How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth.  The eighth source is a French nuclear industry scientist (France gets three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear). The ninth source is a corker, Helene Gassin, who ran Greenpeace Energy campaigns in France for eight years. In 2001 her activists scaled the Exxon Mobil building in Paris during rush hour, and Gassin announced, “Greenpeace is going to give warnings in the entire world to companies who support this [anti-Kyoto] decision.”

The book contains almost 100 pages of talking-head advice from these impartial sources. Unusually for a comic, the book has a comprehensive index so that its, ahem, “science” can be easily looked up, e.g. “ice melting, acceleration of, 113, 200-203”.

Under “climate change, denial of, 414-19” we discover that the Melting-Himalaya-Glaciers howler in IPCC 2007 was “the only [error] in the 3000 page report” (the truth: nine errors on that single page alone!) and that it came from a mere typo,  the year “2035” for the glaciers all to melt, instead of “2350”.

IPCC chief Pachauri and UN boss Ban Ki-Moon hardly called in the auditors (the InterAcademy Council) on the basis of one typo in its 3000-page report.

This reality was this: The IPCC took the year 2035 correctly, but unwisely, from a popular Indian science magazine which had done the inverting of 2350 to 2035, and invented and garbled its own material. The IPCC also pretended its source was a WWF report (also garbled) and not the magazine. The IPPC page and its genesis were a mockery of science and scientific rigor.

The porkies in Climate Changed follow thick and fast. The IAC, the author claims, “concluded that the work methods were solid and the conclusions of the IPCC were correct.” In fact the IAC concluded there were significant shortcomings in every major step of the IPCC process. (p13). It also said at the outset that the report “does not examine climate change science or the validity of its representation in the assessment reports.”

We also discover that Climategate’s famous ‘trick’ email of Phil Jones was just a method of splicing proxy and real temperature data “to make the results more accurate”.  In fact, the infampous ‘trick’s’ purpose was to conceal that the proxy series was worthless.

Climategate, Squarzoni concludes, was a smear campaign, “just a series of trumped-up scandals, slander and false accusations.”  He scoffs at a supposed internet myth that global warming stopped in 1998, and says it arose by comparing a hot year 1998 with a cool one in 2008. (The IPCC people now acknowledge the 15-18 year halt and are arguing about what’s caused it).

Among these 480 pages one finds every example of green zealot mythology. I’ll cite just one: the magical ‘climate refugees’. The index helpfully takes one to page 239, where it is stated that 250 million people could be victims of coastal flooding and 60 million could migrate from arid zones by 2020 (hey, we’re nearly there!). The cartoon frame shows a line of climate refugees trudging forward with bundles on their backs.

A boatload of people departs from a tropical island: “From the Maldives to Kiribati to the Carteret Islands, people are already fleeing the rising sea level” [no they’re not, Maldives is building long-term tourist infrastructure]. “It is estimated that there are already 25 to 50 million eco-refugees fleeing from drought, hurricanes [huh?], floods…and their migration is accelerating,” the comic insists. The frame shows an Arab-looking climate refugee sheltering under an umbrella from global warming.

What seems like 150 pages of frames are authorial self-indulgence, showing Squarzoni himself agonizing over his personal task to save the planet. He gets offered a trip to Laos for an artist’s residency, but this will add to jet-trail pollution. After soul-tearing deliberation across many pages, he rejects the trip. The epiphany of Saint Squarzoni is marred by his incidental jet-setting here and there, including sight-seeing to New York.

Being the product of French intellectuals, perhaps the book’s conclusion  — that Western democracies must be  transformed into a Greens’ playground — is no surprise. The French, it must be remembered, also regard Jerry Lewis as a comedic genius..

The author’s cited sources think  Al Gore’s  emission-cutting prescriptions don’t go far enough. One of Squarzoni’s quoted sages, journalist Herve Kempf, chin resting on right fist, intones, “People like Al Gore are very sincere. Their knowledge and concern are real. But all they promise as a solution is “green recovery”; new technology, hybrid cars and so on…” Even Obama is a green wimp: he “stays within the ideology of economic growth, and that will not resolve the problem.”

Squarzoni concludes lugubriously, “At the end of the day, climate skeptics were able to undermine the [Copenhagen] consensus on global warming.”

In technical skill, Squarzoni’s illustrations are first-rate, drawing on cinematic and advertising styles while avoiding formulaic Manga-style visual cliches.  Publisher  Abrams — “The art of books since 1949” —  meant well. Its blurb says of the book: “This groundbreaking work provides a realistic, balanced view of the magnitude of the crisis that An Inconvenient Truth only touched on.” It adds, “Climate Changed is printed on FSC-certified paper from responsibly-managed, environmentally-sound sources.” But Abrams could hardly say no Santas were hurt in production of the book.

UPDATE (it gets worse): Climate Changed New York publisher Abrams has issued a “Teacher’s Guide to Climate Changed for 15-18 year olds. It was written in June, 2014, by  Peter Gutierrez, curriculum developer and graphic novels expert for the US National Council of Teachers of English.

The guide does not discuss whether the supermarket Santa slaughter offers a role model for armed American teenagers. The guide begins:

“Philippe Squarzoni’s  rigorous presentation of the relevant science and thoughtful reflection on the implications for policy, both public and personal, allow teachers to integrate economic, political, and individual responses to the realities of climate change that students will experience in their lifetime.

“The fact that Climate Changed is also a highly expressive work of graphic nonfiction rich in text features, and thoroughly capable of functioning as a primary and secondary source, make it an optimal text for students at various levels …

“For your convenience, this guide is aligned with the Common Core  [US] State Standards (CCSS), specifically the ‘Literacy in Science & Technical Subjects’ strand, and the framework of thematic standards of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).”

In the questions for students, the first is,  “What convincing evidence exists for anthropogenic climate change?”

Students are asked to evaluate “which evidence is most compelling, and why?” On p429, the comic’s captions say:

“Over the last two decades, the world has experienced the hottest years since 1880. The summer melting of the Arctic ice packs happened 40% faster than predicted. Greenland’s glaciers and the Antarctic are also melting so fast that even specialists in these regions are surprised…

“2008: Hottest October Ever Recorded. We’re probably approaching that level of warming, the 3.6 to 5.4 Degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 3 Degrees Centigrade), where the tipping points are. Climate High Alert…that we’re better off not approaching.”

The final frame shows a cauldron boiling under a fire. Next question – somewhat loaded:

“How do the experts represented in the book consider, and refute, evidence for counterarguments?”

 Another question:

“How might the lack of scientific understanding among the general public contribute to unfounded optimism (e.g., climate change will be far in the future—there will be tech solutions by then), often through the manipulation of data (p. 416)?”

That page refers to ‘trumped-up’ Climategate scandals, the skeptics’ ‘smear campaign’ creating public doubt, and skeptics deceiving the public about temperatures halting in 1998. The guide finishes with an essay question:

“ According to the author, how does media coverage of climate change, including its current consequences,hamper the ability of societies to take necessary steps?”

Teachers are then told:

“Answers will vary. Examples include the gradualness/ distribution of climate-related deaths (pp. 250–51) as well as the “shoddy journalism” shown during the so-called “climategate” incident (pp. 418–19)”

The comic’s says on page 250:

“Global warming causing 300,000 deaths per year” including, curiously, in Vietnam. The captions say, with intended irony, “The victims of climate change die slowly, one after another – no drama, no media coverage – scattered over the whole year over the whole planet. If only they had the good sense all to die on the same day, like the victims of the 2004 tsunami, that would catch our attention.”

A few of the questions in the teacher’s guide are reasonable, e.g.

  • “Consider this statement: “The beginning of the end of the world is beginning” (p. 304). Does it belong in a book about science? Does it make the discussion more authentic and/or state clearly what’s at stake in terms of climate change? Does Squarzoni sufficiently prove this point? Why or why not?”


  • “Does writing from the perspective of a French citizen enhance or undermine the author’s critique of the ‘American way of life’? Do you detect any cultural or political biases in the book? Support your opinion with relevant text evidence.”

Tony Thomas blogs at

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