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Climate One: The Carbon Bubble

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’ on May 12, 2015.

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The Carbon BubbleAs supply grows and demand decreases, oil prices are dropping by the barrel. Are we truly in a “carbon bubble”? What can we do to protect our investments?

Kurt Billick, Chief Investment Officer, Bocage Capital
Anthony Hobley, CEO, Carbon Tracker Initiative
Anne Simpson, Director of Global Governance, CalPERS

Climate One -
Dr. Sylvia Earle: One Big Ocean

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’ on May 27, 2015.

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Photo: Courtesy of climate-one.org

Photo: Courtesy of climate-one.org

When Dr. Sylvia Earle, dubbed “Her Deepness” by the New York Times, began her undersea career in the 1960’s, female scientists were regarded as a novelty. In 1970 she joined Tektite II, an all-female research team living 50 feet below the sea surface in the Virgin Islands for weeks on end. A film clip from the era referred to Earle’s team of aquanauts, quaintly, as “the world’s first real-life mermaids.”

“I wasn’t trying to knock down barriers,” Earle remembers. “I responded to a notice that was on the bulletin board when I was at Harvard…it just didn’t say that women need not apply.” So while space travel and moonwalking was, seemingly, the province of men only, women were welcome in the world of undersea exploration.

Dr. Earle was visiting The Commonwealth Club to share the view from deep below the ocean, “the blue heart of the planet,” as she has called it. It’s a world where she seems to feel just as much at home as the rest of us do on land.

“The ocean is where most of the action is,” Earle maintains. “It’s not just where most of the water is, it’s where most of life on earth is. It’s where the greatest diversity of life is.”

Earle, who has led more than 100 undersea expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater, traces her lifetime passion for science back to a childhood inquisitiveness that has never left her. Now nearing eighty, her current title is National Geographic Explorer in Residence, but “I think all kids start out as explorers,” she says. “I think even all of you, whoever you are or wherever you are, you don’t lose that part of being a kid, asking questions: who, what, why, where, when, how?

“That’s what explorers do. That’s what scientists do.”

Although the ocean may look much the same as it did sixty years ago, much has changed under the surface, Earle says.

“In that time, on the order of 90% of many of the big fish have been extracted from the sea,” she explained. Changes brought on by global warming, overfishing and pollution have taken their toll on the undersea environment. Coral reefs and kelp forests have been reduced by half, compromising the diets and habitats of the creatures who live there.

“The decline is heartbreaking.”

Asked how climate change is affecting the ocean, Earle turned the question around. “What impact is the ocean having on climate?” she countered. “Because climate is driven by the ocean.

“The ocean is earth’s great thermal regulator,” Earle explained. “It holds heat, releases it slowly, holds cold, releases it gradually…the ocean governs climate, governs the weather.”

So as the health of our oceans go, so goes the health of our planet.

“It’s important to recognize that earth has always been changing every day, every minute,” says Earle. “But the changes, generally, are gradual…what we’re witnessing now is accelerated warming. We’re accelerating the change of chemistry of the ocean with the acidification that has happened in the past.”

Even the fish on our dinner plate has an environmental cost, says Earle. “We think of fish as free. We have an accounting base of zero when they’re swimming around in the ocean, and that’s false accounting. We have to face up to the cost of what we consume really is when you put nature on the balance sheet.”

Dr. Earle urged those who are concerned about climate change and its effects to exercise their own youthful curiosity. “Become science literate, be science savvy,” she urged. “Do what you do as a kid – ask questions, demand evidence, don’t just take stuff for granted.” And then, she says, raise your voices, take action. “Let’s see what we can do, now that we know.”

After winning a TED prize in 2009, Earle established Mission Blue, an initiative to establish marine protected areas (or “Hope Spots,” as she calls them) around the globe.

And she had nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm for the youngest members of the audience, many of whom came armed with questions. “What was your favorite part about the ocean?” asked a girl named Cassidy.

“I love the fact that the ocean is alive…that there’s life in the ocean, and it’s endless,” Earle told her. “There is so much out there yet to be seen that everyone can be an explorer. And even though you’ve been to the ocean a thousand times, and I have, you never know what you’re going to find the next time!”

For a high school student who said she aspires to a career in marine biology, Dr. Earle had some important advice: “Go get wet!” she laughed.

“Choose something that you really love and become as good as you can. Follow your heart…and don’t let people say you can’t do it because you’re a girl!”

Related Links:

Mission Blue

Sylvia Earle TED Talk

Oceana: Protecting the World’s Oceans

The Blue Carbon Project

The Tektite Documentary Trailer

Climate One Climate Cognition

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 12, 2015.

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A sociologist, a linguist and an economist walked into the Commonwealth Club, and…it sounds like the first line of a joke, but it was actually the start of a wide-ranging discussion of the sociological, psychological and economic underpinnings of climate awareness – and denial.

In her book “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life,” sociologist Kari Norgaard profiled a rural community in Norway during an unusually warm winter. Ice fishing and the ski industry were both negatively impacted, yet its citizens did nothing collectively to respond to an economic disaster that was clearly the result of global warming. Norgaard finds this sense of denial paralleled in other well-off, well-educated Western nations, including the United States.

“It’s the most serious, very complex problem,” Norgaard says about climate change. “It’s threatening to our fossil fuel based economy, it’s threatening to our political systems…it’s threatening to our sense of the future, meaning, cultural norms, so many different things.” And yet it appears we as a society have failed to develop any meaningful response.

It was during one of her classes at the University of Oregon that Norgaard got the inspiration to explore the way society has responded to climate change. She observed the way some students reacted emotionally to a disturbing film, while others remained impassive. “It got me thinking about how it is that we receive and process really disturbing information, and the idea that in fact when information is really disturbing, one of our reactions can be to shut down.”

Linguistics professor George Lakoff believes that for each of us, our own personal world view gets in the way. For many, this leads to climate denial. “When you have facts that come in that won’t fit the way that you understand the world, then the way you understand the world is not gonna change. The facts will be either ignored, ridiculed or attacked…it’s like it’s not even a fact.”

Surprisingly, “people were actually more concerned about global warming in 1989, twenty-five years ago, than they are today,” says Per Espen Stoknes, an economist and psychologist. Since then, he says, the scientific narrative has put distance between us and climate change, dulling our sense of urgency. “It’s distant in time, distant in space and then distant in social impact. It’s always impacting somebody else that I don’t know …and we know that empathy is decreasing with increasing social distance.”

Perhaps distance leads to denial. But no matter the reason, Norgaard sees a problem more serious than that: climate awareness combined with inaction. “The fact that people who do get it, who do see what’s happening and believe it, are not mobilizing to a greater extent. I think that is by far the more serious problem.”

“We do need a political leadership,” she continues, “but we also need discourses about how we can be citizens and enact that caring, responsibility towards each other and the kinds of things that all of us can do to move our society forward.”

There are those who don’t believe that individual action matters. And in Stoknes’ view, they’re right. “Individual actions will never solve the climate problem, that’s what I’m saying as a psychologist,” he asserts. “However, it does have huge social ripple effects.” By acting as individuals, and getting acknowledgment from others, he says, we reinforce the idea of effecting change as a social norm. “So it does have a social, cultural effect, even if individual action will never solve the climate problem itself.”

Taking the conversation public is one way to move the needle, says Norgaard. “We need to have discourses about what it means in our place, how the things that we are seeing are about climate change…all of these different ways that we can make climate change visible in public space: letters to the editor, all of these kinds of things matter. Just talking about it in simple conversation helps to make it real, which is part of how the democratic process needs to work.”

For those who have a hard time framing that conversation, Stoknes suggests several approaches. One topic that hits home for nearly everyone is health. “Health of people, your family, your children, the community and also health of the forests or the health of the water system,” he adds. “That really makes it feel personal, near, urgent and here.” Ethical and economic issues also push buttons and prick up ears. Pope Francis himself has spoken out against the moral perils of global warming. And while climate change and the disasters it spawns mean billions of dollars lost, there is also opportunity around the corner for those who would dive into the new energy economy.

“Health, risk, morals and opportunities, these are the ways to speak about the climate,” Stoknes concludes. “So please join us!”

Host: Greg Dalton

Guests:George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, UC Berkeley; Author, Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (Chelsea Green, 2004);
Kari Norgaard, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Oregon; author of Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life (MIT Press, 2011);
Per Espen Stoknes, Economist; Psychologist; Author, What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming (Chelsea Green, 2015)

Related links:

Kari Norgaard: Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life

Per Espen Stoknes: What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming

George Lakoff: Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Climate One: Hacking the Climate

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 8, 2015.

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Imagine Superman flying through the clouds, spraying a mist that reflects the sun’s rays and cools the earth.  Sounds like science fiction – but scientists are indeed studying this and other ways to alter the atmosphere and fight global warming.  Whether you call it geoengineering, comic book fantasy or “hacking the sky,” the idea is getting serious consideration.

Stanford geoengineering expert Ken Caldeira first heard the concept broached during a climate summit in 1998, by astrophysicist Lowell Wood. “His idea was to offset the effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations by reflecting some of the sun’s warming rays back to space,” Caldeira remembers.  “And I thought that this would make no sense and wouldn’t work…And we came back and did some computer model simulations using climate models. It turned out, much to our surprise, that it worked quite well!”

Jane Long co-chairs the Task Force on Geoengineering at the Bipartisan Policy Center. She explains that the panel was formed at the request of the US government, “because they wanted to hear from scientists about whether or not this was a good idea…and lo and behold, it wasn’t just scientists actually. We had people that were diplomats.  We had political scientists.  We had ethicists on this panel.” The unanimous conclusion, she reports, was “that we needed to start looking into this technology.”

Physicist Armand Neukermans is part of a team that has been exploring what he calls “marine cloud brightening,” based on an idea by atmospheric scientist John Latham.

Adding water droplets to clouds makes them brighter, Neukermans explains, enabling them to reflect more light. “The idea is that if you would help by a natural means to bring more droplets in there, nuclei as they call it, they will become droplets too. The clouds will lighten…this is a relatively simple idea that basically uses the clouds like a mirror.”

It sounds clever enough. But even if it does work, could there be unexpected complications?  What are the technical, moral and political implications of tinkering with Mother Nature?

Albert Lin, professor of law at UC Davis, says the idea is definitely controversial “because it’s talking about potentially trying to affect, influence the climate at this very broad scale, akin to perhaps you could say playing God. And the question is, of course, who would do this?”

The question of who would control the technology – and be responsible for its consequences – should be made by the international community as a whole, says Lin.  But the controversial aspect may be one reason that spray-painting the sky remains in the experimental stage.  Are researchers waiting for a “social license” in order to move ahead?

According to Long, it all comes down to funding. “I think there’s quite a few people who are ready to do small scale, very low risk experiments that are looking at actually how the chemistry and the physics actually occurs,” she says.  “They’re ready to go, but there’s no money.  It’s the government that is holding back on the social license.”

Private funding could save the day — Bill Gates has reportedly expressed interest in putting money towards the geoengineering of climate solutions.  But, Long cautions, it’s important to keep such research in the public eye.

“Because as we move from very, very small-scale research with literally no physical risks associated with it,” to larger-scale operations, “say over 1,000 kilometers or something like that, 1000 miles — you wouldn’t want that kind of research to be done unless it was publicly available, publicly governed and was totally transparent to the public about what was being done and why it was being done.”

Some see a risk that this technology, like nuclear power, could be turned against us if it falls into the wrong hands. “There are some parallels with nuclear technology,” Lin agrees. “You could see some of the technology that’s being developed here potentially being used in a military way, or at least in a way to disadvantage one’s neighbors whom one disagrees with.”

And while the potential hazards to our atmosphere might give pause to some, others might argue that our very presence on earth is already affecting the planet. “We all changed the climate a little bit today in our activities, but we did it unintentionally,” says Long.

“But the fact is that we are entering a time in the earth’s history where we can’t avoid that intentionality.  We know now that we’re changing the climate. And so the idea of thinking about this…may bring us to a place where we actually do a better job of that intention, of managing this planet.”

“I think there’s often an assumption that deployment of these technologies will be widely unpopular,” says Caldeira. “But if you’re in Phoenix and it’s getting to be 120 degrees and there is no rain, and somebody spraying some seawater off of Los Angeles can make you have cooler weather and moister weather,” there’s many who would welcome it.

“We don’t really know how bad climate change will get,” Caldeira continues. “But if it really does turn out to be catastrophic, there could be real demand to do something quickly.”

On the question of morality, Long is adamant. “I think it’s immoral not to do it,” she asserts. “I think we have to take responsibility for the earth, because that’s where we all live and because that’s where our children and their children are going to live.  And so the need to learn how to take responsibility is paramount in our survival.

“Are we doomed?  We’re not doomed — if we take responsibility.”

Host: Greg Dalton

Guests: Ken Caldeira, Atmospheric Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University;
Albert Lin, Professor, UC Davis School of Law;
Jane Long, Co-chair, Task Force on Geoengineering, Bipartisan Policy Center;
Armand Neukermans, Physicist and Inventor

Related Links:

National Academy of Sciences Report: Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth

Bipartison Policy Center Task Force on Geoengineering

SF Gate: Looking to Sky to Fight Climate Change

Policy Report: Start research on climate engineering

Climate One: Hank Paulson – Dealing with China

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on April 28, 2015.

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2015-05-17 Hank Paulson: Dealing with China

Hank Paulson believes that climate change is the biggest risk we face, and not just because of the environment. “It’s the biggest economic risk we face,” says the former treasury secretary and co-chair of the Risky Business Project.

But unlike the financial crisis of 2008, he warns, the government won’t be able to bail us out of global warming at the last minute. “We tend to deal with issues nationally when there’s an immediate crisis, rather than a longer-term issue,” Paulson points out. “And the terrible thing about climate change risk is that carbon emissions, essentially for all practical purposes stay up there forever, so it’s accumulative. The longer you wait here, the more costly and the more difficult it’s going to be to avoid the worst outcomes.”

Climate change was just one of the topics Paulson touched on while visiting The Commonwealth Club to talk about his new book, “Dealing with China.” The title is apt — as chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Paulson spent much of the 1990’s doing just that. It was a time of great economic and political reform for the country, and Paulson was allowed rare access on his many visits. He brought the Climate One audience up to date on a wide range of issues, from China’s economy and government leadership to its evolving stances on human rights, the environment and US-China relations.

“I believe that this is the most important bilateral relationship we have in the world,” says Paulson. Despite – or perhaps, because of – the fact that China is becoming our biggest competitor, Paulson believes that working together is the only way to solve the world’s problems.

“So we’re partnering with them in some things and competing in others,” he continues. One issue both countries have publicly agreed on is the need to address climate change. “There, it’s impossible to avoid the worst outcomes if major developing countries, and particularly China, the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, aren’t taking the necessary actions. And they, more than any other of the developing nations, understand the problem and are committed.”

China’s leaders, says Paulson, are focused on air pollution big time. But can China hope to reduce its carbon footprint while struggling to lift the majority of its citizens out of poverty? In other words, is it possible to balance economic growth with environmental responsibility?

“I have always believed that the two go together,” Paulson asserts. “No growth is going to be sustainable, no prosperity is going to be sustainable, if we don’t have a clean, healthy environment. And unless you have a certain amount of economic success, it’s going to be hard to have the ability to do the things you need to do.

“So these are the opposite sides of the same coin, rather than being in conflict.”

Paulson predicts that urban growth, and its attendant environmental hazards, will be a major issue for China, as millions of rural poor flock to its cities. “This country produces and consumes half of the cement, half of the steel, half of the coal — half of all new buildings on earth go up in China. And the urbanization model they have right now doesn’t work, they know it. They built cities for cars, not people.”

The Beijing arm of the Paulson Institute is helping to address some of those issues, by partnering with China’s cities to introduce more sustainable and energy efficient building practices.

But it’s not just a one-way street – there’s plenty that we can learn from the Chinese as well, Paulson notes. “I would cite one in particular: these leaders are very, very pragmatic. They look everywhere in the world for the best practices and then they look to implement them. And…they’re very candid about their problems.

He recalls a conversation in which one Chinese mayor cited his admiration for Reagonomics, to Paulson’s surprise. “I thought, I can’t imagine a US mayor being aware of what the Chinese problems were — and having some views on how to fix them. That’s to me the biggest positive – a practical, pragmatic leadership that recognizes that they’ve got problems, and is going to look everywhere and move to solve them.”

Recognizing their country’s challenges and addressing them head-on has led to visible improvement in the lives of China’s citizens, says Paulson. He has even seen progress in the politically charged area of human rights.

“I view economic issues, I view environmental issues, there’s a whole set of issues that are human rights issues,” he told the audience. “And you have to acknowledge that in the time I’ve been going to China, the living conditions, the lifestyles, the basic rights that the Chinese have, in terms of traveling internally, externally, have just improved dramatically.”

There was one aspect of ‘dealing with China’ that teetotaler Paulson never embraced – the drinking of maotai, a notoriously potent Chinese liquor. How did he sidestep the social pressure to imbibe with his hosts?

“I had a ‘designated drinker,’” he laughs. “I’ve never tasted maotai, and I’m glad I haven’t!”

Host: Greg Dalton

Guest: Henry Paulson, Former United States Secretary of the Treasury and author of “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower” (Twelve, 2015)

Related Links:

The Paulson Institute

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change

NY Times: The Coming Climate Crash

Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower

Climate One: The Future of Coal and Powering the Economy

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on April 22, 2015.

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Since the late 18th century, when it emerged as a source of heating and, later, steam power, coal has brought untold benefits to mankind. Even today, coal generates almost 45 percent of the world’s power. But now, the coal industry is at a crossroads, faced with pressure from environmental groups, public health and safety concerns and dwindling support from congress. Churches, universities and other large institutions have publicly divested from coal company stocks, threatening their toehold on Wall Street. With coal painted as the black-hatted villain of carbon emissions, it’s easy to forget how essential it was to fueling prosperity during America’s industrial age.

“Cheap energy certainly is one of the ways that we lift people out of poverty,” says Frank Wolak, a Stanford economist. Wolak points out that between 1870 and 1915, the increased consumption of coal in the United States directly correlates with an increase in GDP. “If you fast-forward to 100 years later, you look at China, you see exactly the same pattern, which is a rapid increase in coal consumption and a rapid increase in GDP in China,” he adds. “It does deliver essentially rapid economic growth, simply because it’s a very cheap source of energy.”

But as we’ve seen over the past 100 years, coal production also delivers greenhouse gases, lung disease and environmental devastation. It’s clear that it’s time to wean ourselves, and our planet, off of coal.

Bruce Nilles heads the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign to stop coal production and exportation. “We have 13,000 people a year dying prematurely from relying on an old, dirty, inefficient fuel source,” he told the Climate One audience. “Today, the choice is between clean, affordable electricity, like wind and solar, which is actually developing and providing more jobs today than in the coal mining sector. So our job ahead of us is overcoming the political barriers that the coal industry has put on our political process to make this transition as fast as possible, so that we don’t have to trade-off providing electricity and people’s health.”

But even as Americans are pushing for cleaner energy, demand for coal has been growing in other parts of the world, particularly China and India. One survival strategy for the industry could be for coal producers to cut their losses here, and focus on shipping their product overseas to power growing nations. But that solution will come back to haunt us, warns Nilles.

“We sit on top of 25% of all the coal in the world,” he says. “We know that if we burn that, our planet is toast. So we have a simple responsibility. Do we allow that to get mined at enormous cost to us? Shipped through our communities with a lot of coal dust along the way, and then ship it overseas so that we have the situation today where coal being burned in China is polluting us here in California?…it makes absolutely no sense for us to be thinking about shipping coal overseas and hurting ourselves, hurting the planet, and obviously contributing to air pollution in China as well.”

Frank Wolak vehemently disagrees, warning that if we ban exports, China will just get its coal from somewhere else. Instead, he believes, what the U.S. should do is put a price on carbon. “If you price carbon, you will certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you prevent coal exports, you’ll do nothing to stop greenhouse gas emissions globally.

“I mean, simply jawboning and saying, ‘you can’t export’ is not going to change the fact that all the coal is going to get consumed. And there’s many other countries in the world willing to sell China the coal.”

The good news is that China may already be curtailing its coal dependence, as author Richard Martin points out. “In fact, China’s coal consumption was flat last year, after growing at a high percentage rate for decades,” he says. “And there’s a report [that came out] last year called Peak Coal in China, saying that actually the use of coal in China could peak by 2020 or so.”

Martin is the author of “Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet.” Martin traveled from the Appalachias to rural China to interview those involved in the coal industry, from workers to coal barons, and those affected by its production. Martin reports seeing a shift in attitude, away from coal and towards renewables — even in coal-dependent communities such as Craig, Colorado. That town recently built a solar garden, he says, “that is literally in the smokestack of the big 20-mile coal plant, right there in the middle of Craig.”

Any discussion of the demise of coal leads, inevitably, to the issue of jobs. In researching his book, Martin talked with families of miners who go back generations. “Certainly, the miners are angry, the miners are defensive. They see this livelihood that has supported them for generations evaporating, and they don’t know what they’re going to do.”

To make matters worse, the industry itself is abandoning its workers. Mechanization has resulted in layoffs. And as the market for coal is shrinking, the coal mining industry has eviscerated the unions, leaving workers nowhere to turn for support. “These workers are being laid off with no pensions and no rights, and a lot of healthcare costs,” says Nilles. “We, as a country, owe it — just as we did to the loggers in the Pacific Northwest, the tobacco farmers in the south. We need, as a country, to come together and help Appalachia and the workers make this transition with healthcare and pensions and say, “Coal may have served us well over the last hundred years, but it is time, it is long due and over time, to move on as fast as we possibly can.”

What’s next for the coal industry, and the thousands of workers it employs? Having burned bright for nearly 150 years, is it time to close up the mines, shut down the plants and let renewables fuel the planet’s future?

Host: Greg Dalton

Guests: Richard Martin, Author, Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2015);
Bruce Nilles, Senior Director, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club;
Frank Wolak, Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University;
Brian Yu, Senior Analyst, Citi Research

Related Links:

Sierra Club: Beyond Coal

Peak Coal in China

Universities Price Carbon

Coal Wars: The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet

Climate One: Net Zero: Homes and Waste

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on April 22, 2015.

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Conservation begins at home – literally. And the ultimate in energy conservation, of course, is a home that produces as much energy as it uses. Net Zero homes are designed from the ground up to do just that, from insulation material (New Zealand sheep’s wool is optional!) to light fixtures to rooftop solar panels. But is there a tradeoff to energy efficient home ownership?

For Sven Thesen, Net Zero living doesn’t mean giving up the comforts of home. He recalled his family’s decision to make their dream house a Net Zero house: “My wife’s requirement was it had to be beautiful,” he told the audience at a recent Commonwealth Club gathering, “and so it was beautiful. And then, it has to be functional and comfortable. And let’s see how energy-efficient we can make it.”

Powered by a 5.9 kilowatt photovoltaic system, the Thesen’s house uses roughly a quarter of the energy of the average Palo Alto home – as well as powering a curbside EV charger, available free of charge to anyone who wants to pull up and plug in.

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Climate One: New Food Revolution

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on November 5, 2014.

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One more hungry mouth to feed? Try 9.6 billion — that’s the earth’s projected population by 2050, according to a United Nations report.

Dinner was on the table, figuratively speaking, at a recent Climate One event at The Commonwealth Club. It’s estimated the amount of food needed to feed the planet will double by mid-century, so how will we manage the world’s food supply? Is the solution to simply produce more food?

“In a word, no,” says Jonathan Foley, author of National Geographic’s recent cover story A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World. While food production has reached the equivalent of “drill, baby, drill – let’s just get more stuff,” he continues, “we’re now exhausting the ability of our agricultural system to simply produce more and more and more. We’re going to have to be more thoughtful about the food we actually grow today, and the nutrition and opportunity delivers for people around the world.”

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Climate One: Power Ball: T. Boone Pickens

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on March 24, 2015.

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You might not expect a billionaire to pick up hitchhikers on his plane, but T. Boone Pickens is no ordinary billionaire. The CEO of BP Capital, who made his first billion in the oil business, recently visited the Commonwealth Club for a discussion on the future of the oil industry.

But first, he had a story to share, one that belies his humble Oklahoma roots. The last time he visited the Commonwealth Club, he remembered, he issued a blanket invitation for anyone in the audience to join him on his plane. Ordinarily his offer has no takers. “You aren’t going to find one or two people to go to Amarillo, Texas,” he laughed, “But then this guy raised his hand.” Turns out, it was the son of an acquaintance of Pickens’ whose mother in Amarillo was ill. “I said, “Yeah, come on. Jump in.”

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Climate One: Climate Denial, Education and Politics

This program was recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on December 16th, 2014.

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Do you believe in climate denial? To hear climate scientists tell it, there is a war being waged on science by government opponents and special interests, designed to fuel skepticism and discredit their work in the eyes of the public. Two of them told their stories recently at The Commonwealth Club.

Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory says that being a climate scientist today feels “a little scary.” He’s been targeted by congress and threatened with referral to the Justice Department; threatening emails from strangers have filled his inbox. Michael Mann, a professor of Meteorology at Penn State who has written on the climate wars, tells of having his emails hacked and used out of context to malign him, his colleagues and climate research. “I see that as a direct assault,” he told the audience.
“Not just on us, but our children and grandchildren, who stand the most to lose if we fail to act in time.”

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