Climate One: Green Asia

20150716 Greening Asia Welcome Slide





(Transcript also available by clicking LISTEN link.)

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’, July 16, 2015.

Industrialize now, clean up later – that’s long been the philosophy behind Asia’s booming economies. Dirty air, foul water, and hellishly overcrowded cities have threatened to choke the region’s impressive prosperity. But the tide is starting to turn. “The dynamic in China is unbelievable,” says Mark Clifford. “Chinese manufacturers are changing the world in solar, in wind, in electric cars”. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate One: Cli-Fi, 2015

This program was recorded February 11, 2015.


Photo: http://climateone.org

Photo: http://climateone.org

Host: Greg Dalton
Guests: Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island Journal; Kim Stanley Robinson, Author, 2312 (Thorndike Press, 2015)

Novelists and filmmakers have been mining the rich world of science for generations. Throughout the last century, science fiction has turned to real-world threats, such as nuclear war and plague, for its post-apocalyptic scenarios. More recently, environmental issues have moved to front and center in the narrative, in films such as Interstellar, Snowpiercer and Wall-E and best-sellers from Margaret Atwood, Nathaniel Rich and Jennifer Egan.

H.G. Wells foreshadowed this trend in his 1895 novel The Time Machine. But while the prospect of a devastated earth in a far distant future probably didn’t inspire many Victorians to recycle, today’s readers can clearly visualize a much more immediate threat. Climate change is more than a plot device – the signs are all around us. Can Cli-Fi help rally the troops in our battle to save the planet?

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate One: Climates and Lawns

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’ in June, 2015.


(Transcript also available by clicking LISTEN link.)


Ellen Hanak, Senior Fellow and Center Director, Public Policy Institute of California;
Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board;
Paul Wenger, President, California Farm Bureau Federation;
Marguerite Young, Director, Ward 3, East Bay Municipal Utility District Board

“Droughts come and go,” began Greg Dalton at a recent Climate One discussion on California’s water wars. “Is this one different, or do we ride it out and then go on with our lives?”

“This is the biggest wake-up call in modern times,” Felicia Marcus of California State Water Resources Control Board responded.  She went on to list the reasons for the severity: a serious reduction in snowpack, millions more humans turning on the tap, increased agricultural demand and endangered species and habitats are creating what amounts to a real-life, slow-motion disaster movie, “on just about every front you can think of.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate One: How We Roll

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’ in June, 2015.


(Transcript also available.)

It might be a stretch to imagine most Americans giving up their beloved Malibus, Mustangs and Broncos. But for those who would just as soon leave the car at home, there are more options than ever. With a growing menu of ala carte wheels to choose from, it’s up to us to decide how we want to roll around our cities. See more.


Related links:


SFMTA: Projects & Planning

SFMTA: Car Sharing Information and Resources

SFGate: Car-Sharing Firms Getting 900 SF Street Parking Spaces

SF Examiner: Report Says SF Taxis Suffering Greatly

The Metropolitan Revolution – Brookings Institution

Study: Fewer young people getting driver’s license

Climate One: William Reilly on the Pope’s Environmental Messege

This program was posted by ‘Climate One’ in June, 2015.


William K. Reilly; Senior Advisor, TPG. Courtesy of http://climateone.org/

William K. Reilly;
Senior Advisor, TPG. Courtesy of http://climateone.org/

Bill Reilly, Senior Advisor at TPG, discusses the Pope’s message in his environmental encyclical. “I think the surprise is that his message is on several planes, it’s on the plane certainly of theology and morality.

It also gets very close to the realm of policy and action. It calls out people who are not accepting climate change and suggest that indifference or excessive belief in the technical solution or just opposition to science is unacceptable on a moral plane,” said Reilly.

Climate One: The Carbon Bubble

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


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.


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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Climate One Climate Cognition

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


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.


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.


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