Science Cartoon Contest!

The Union of Concerned Scientists is running a science cartoon contest* (mostly political cartoons, really), and would love you to vote. Here’s one:

cartoon from the Union of Concerned Scientists 2008 contest

There’s a group of twelve of them on display. Go and look and vote for your favourite! While you’re there, visit the rest of their site and learn all about the excellent things they do.)



*Thanks Tristan!

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11 Responses to Science Cartoon Contest!

  1. Metal says:

    The cartoons make it seem like scientists are perfect truth-seekers whose only motivation is to find the facts and in this task they are only obstructed by politicians.
    In truth a lot of scientists are politicians themselves and the business of finding facts is really just a side-business for them. Their main agenda is to advance themselves at all costs – write papers that are hot (who speaks for the truth?), do their best to appear smarter than they actually are, to get the job and to get the applause.
    I have seen scientists who run away from facts (yes, the man on the horse can be the scientist himself), if only it gives their theories the chance to shine for one more day.

  2. Clifford says:

    Yes… scientists can be flawed human beings too. All true. However, I don’t see how this fact really runs counter to the cartoons.


  3. nigel says:

    ‘An unprecedented level of political interference threatens the integrity of government science. Because policy makers depend on impartial research to make informed decisions, we are mobilizing scientists and citizens alike to push for reforms that will protect our health, safety, and environment.’ – Union of Concerned Scientists at

    The twelve short-listed cartoons are as much a reflection on American Government science policies as on the crazy perception of it by the Union of Concerned Scientists, e.g. political interference in science is not justified, but scientific interference in politics is somehow justified (‘… mobilizing scientists and citizens alike to push for reforms that will protect our…’).

    Any union is a political party, in that the members share a set of beliefs and the control of the union is a political-type vote by members, not an argument based on facts. Taking the global warming theme to the cartoons, we know that there is statistically an increase in both CO_2 levels and global mean temperature, that these rises appear to correlate, and that increased temperature increases incidence of hurricanes (generated over warm water by convection) and other severe weather, ice shelf collapse and a rise in sea levels which causes a greater risk of flooding.

    The politics comes into science when trying to decide what to do about these facts. Are they really bigger problems than the other problems in the world, like poverty, hunger and disease? Is it really a solution to cut down on fossil fuels, when they are in limited supply anyway and the oil output is no longer increasing in step with demand anyway (i.e., the reason why oil prices are rising). As the increasing oil demand increases further beyond the oil output rate, prices will escalate a lot further, and people will be forced for economic reasons to cut back on the use of fossil fuels. Such a mechanism may automatically cut down pollution, without political involvement or massive government expenditure.

    These shortlisted cartoons aren’t science, they’re political propaganda. I looked at solutions the Union of Concerned Scientists propose to deal with global warming:

    It is entirely focussed making America’s output of CO_2 smaller, which won’t help stop Russia and China producing more CO_2. It suggests that American politicians invest more in renewable energy. With global warming, the problem is not so much America’s output of CO_2, but the output from Russia and China. In 2004 China alone accounted for 24% of global CO_2 emissions, and it is the world’s largest emitter of CO_2. Sorting out that really big problem requires political diplomacy, not science.

  4. Yvette says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say with one or two exceptions those cartoons really aren’t that good. Not because I’m anti-science, but rather because most really aren’t at all funny.

  5. Clifford says:

    Yvette.. no limbs need be involved. I did not find much to excite me either. I like my political points in such a context to be more cleverly made…. Although worthy messages, these are rather blunt objects. I think that they feel as thought they might each have been one-off illustrations alongside a long editorial piece in a newspaper… in which case they serve their purpose very well. As stand-alone cartoons, they lack a lot of grace. My guess is that they are of the former and not the latter category and so that is why I offered them up anyway… Also, I like it if a few people get more aware of the UCS, and visit their site, whatever the reason.



  6. Clifford says:

    Nigel, with all due respect I think you’re just plain wrong on several counts in your comment above. I’ll pick just one of many. You suggest that addressing problems that can be addressed locally (tackling the contributions of the US to environmental damage) is pointless since others are doing damage too. The attitude of “I’ll clean up my act when other start doing so.” That’s just so short-sighted, and helps contribute to the messes we find ourselves in, from people not cleaning up their own trash in the high street to pollution and environmental damage planet-wide.

    There’s a lot to be said for the US taking a leadership role by its actions. Also, in its actions, we can learn and develop – planet-wide – what the new practices and technologies are that can help address the issue. Those new lessons can then be rolled out to the rest of the world, hot on the heels of the mass-produce gasoline automobile and so forth, which also rolled out from America a century ago.

    It’s the old and powerful wisdom of acting locally while thinking globally, knowing that the one connects to the other.

    Or we can just take your approach and do nothing, which is effectively what you suggest, given the inevitable political deadlock if no-one is willing to make the first sacrifices.

    I know which I pick.

    Actually, it is not really one or the other, as you suggest. We try diplomacy *and* we get on with doing our bit to reduce the mess we produce, all at the same time.

    As for your bit about scientists, as a group, not getting involved in politics (especially at a time when politicians are distorting science to deceive the poorly scientifically-educated general public)… I don’t know where to begin in pointing out just how utterly wrong-headed I think that is.



  7. nige cook says:

    Hi Clifford,

    Thank you for your interesting response and the thought-provoking arguments.

    What science is there that’s been done to prove that the leaders of China will follow American example? Surely if leading-emitter China was really influenced by the American political example, it would be a democracy by now? That may be a bad argument, but I just don’t believe that China’s leaders will cut the throttle on China’s industrial and economic progress by copying American initiatives. There are more effective political ways to encourage China to cut back pollution, such as by setting up trade restrictions unless they build cleaner power plants.

    As for doing nothing about CO_2 emissions, this might not be so stupid as it seems, because the money saved will be immense and the actual impact on warming is trivial:

    “Climatologists estimate that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would, by 2100, avoid only 0.14 degrees C of temperature rise. That means projected man-made greenhouse warming that might have been 3 degrees C by 2100 would instead be 2.86 degrees C.” –

    “Since coming into effect February 16, 2005, the Kyoto Protocol has cost the world about US $500,000,000,000 while the potential temperature saving by the year 2050 so far achieved by Kyoto is 0.005 °C, and yes, that really does represent about $100K per billionth of one degree allegedly “saved.” Guess that means for the bargain price of just $100 trillion we could theoretically lower global mean temperature by about 1 °C.” –

    It looks like a waste of money. That money could either be usefully spent on other projects which will produce a more significant improvement in the world such as fighting poverty and disease harder, or it could be set aside for evacuating and resettling people from areas flooded by the rising sea levels. Maybe that massive amount of money would finance massive construction projects to improve sea walls and building up some of the small islands likely to be flooded by rising sea levels due to global warming?

    America is running out of economic oil so prices are rising and demand will at some point be forced to fall due to the continuing price rises. I don’t think that can be denied. So the long-term (2050 AD) future for America’s use of oil is bleak, regardless of the global warming problem.

    So the expensive things (changing fuels to those that produce less greenhouse gases) which America can do at home to combat global warming will automatically happen anyway due to rising oil prices!

  8. Clifford says:

    I see, so you’re mainly saying that you knew all along that everything would fix itself because of the oil prices suddenly going up, so there was never any need to act locally. Impressive. I guess we’ll just agree to disagree on this one. I’ll stick to my views of the previous comment I made until presented with something much more convincing.



  9. nige cook says:

    The “peak oil” crisis wasn’t discovered by me. So far, oil output has continued to increase year on year despite doomsday prophecy of oil crises since the early 1970s. This is due to the discovery of new reserves and better technology to extract it. But the rate of increase in demand is now higher than the rate of increase in oil supply, causing price rises. It’s been alleged that one of the key motivations behind the Iraq War was to help keep oil prices stable. Five years ago the Saudis were pumping three barrels of sea water into ground to get one barrel of 50% oil mixed with water out of their largest oil fields. As demand continues to increase for oil due to more and more automobiles for a swelling population, supply becomes increasingly stretched and prices rise. At some point a peak rate of global oil supply will be reached, after which oil output will fall. That’s the disaster where the gasoline automobile becomes totally uneconomic and the economy goes into a serious recession, but it’s obvious that price rises will become serious before that point is reached. Oil prices will force people to use efficient public transport, bikes, and legs more instead of cars.

  10. Clifford says:

    I know it was not discovered by you. I think you misunderstood my point, and that I was being somewhat ironic. I just don’t think that this issue, and our choices to make individual or governmental actions to behave responsibly, should all be tied to oil prices. And, crucially, the atmosphere does not care about oil prices. This is wrong-headed.

    I really don’t have any more to say on the matter beyond what I said two comments ago.


  11. nige cook says:

    Hi Clifford,

    Thank you for responding, I see where you’re coming from. Sorry for misunderstanding earlier.