Climate Confident

Moving the Climate Dial: Navigating Politics, Science, and Sustainability with Expertise

October 04, 2023 Tom Raftery / Mark Maslin Season 1 Episode 139
Climate Confident
Moving the Climate Dial: Navigating Politics, Science, and Sustainability with Expertise
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Show Notes Transcript

In this week's episode of the Climate Confident podcast I chat with Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth Systems Science from University College London.

πŸ”₯ Key Takeaways:
πŸ“‰ Delving deep into the pressing matter of our global climate, we explored the current trajectory of global warming. With 2.5 to 2.8 degrees warming in sight, the aim is to shift the dial back towards a manageable 1.5 degrees. But how? πŸ€”

🌱 Green Economy & Global Policies:
Mark lends insights into the fragile but progressing shifts in climate policies and economic restructuring towards renewables, an undeniable necessity!

πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ͺ COP28 in UAE:
A sneak peek into the upcoming COP28 in Dubai, where the leadership, despite being deeply rooted in oil and gas, shows an intriguing commitment towards a net zero future. Will they deliver under the global gaze?

🌎 Global Cooperation:
We tackled the herculean task of maintaining the momentum from Glasgow and the challenges met in Egypt, underscoring the vital role of global cooperation and strategic planning in climate diplomacy. 🀝

πŸ‘₯ Your Agency in Climate Action:
Remember, YOU hold power! Mark inspires us all to realize our agency in battling climate change. Be it in your community, workplace, or social circles, your voice can instigate powerful, positive changes!

πŸ’‘ Get Informed:
For those hungry for straightforward facts, Mark’s book πŸ“˜ 'How to Save Our Planet: The Facts’ serves as a practical guide with digestible bullet-points and insights, accessible to all!

πŸ”— Links & Resources:


This episode is a treasure trove of insights, perspectives, and a spark for hope and action in the climate discourse. Don’t miss out - check out the video version! πŸš€

And remember to stay #ClimateConfident!

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Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

Mark Maslin:

About 10 years ago, scientists recognized that humans were becoming a new geological superpower and had so much impact on the planet that we should be naming this, period the Anthropocene, the human period of time. This has, of course, created a lot of discussion about, well, are we in it, when did it start, and, what should we actually do about it?

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Climate Confident podcast. The number one podcast, showcasing best practices in climate emission, reductions and removals. And I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Don't forget to click follow on this podcast in your podcast app of choice, to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi everyone, welcome to episode 139 of the Climate Confident podcast. My name is Tom Raftery and before we kick off today's show I want to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to all of this podcast's amazing supporters. Your support has been instrumental in keeping this show going strong and I am truly grateful for each and every one of you. If you're not already a supporter, I'd like to encourage you to consider joining our community of like minded individuals who are passionate about climate. Supporting the podcast is easy and affordable with options starting as low as just three euros or dollars per month, which is less than the cost of a cup of coffee. And your support will make a huge difference in keeping this podcast going strong. To become a supporter, simply click on the support link in the show notes of this or any episode, or visit tinyurl. com slash climatepod. Now, without further ado, with me on the show today, I have my special guest, Mark. Mark, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Mark Maslin:

Thank you, Tom, for having me on the show. So I am Mark Maslin, I am a professor of Earth Systems Science here at University College London. And you're going to say, what's that? So I study climate change in the past, the present and the future. So everything from early human evolution in East Africa to current climate change and looking at the future climate change and all the politics that's associated with that.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. So, what are we currently calling the current geological era that we're in, Mark? Because I've heard people say we're re we're renaming it.

Mark Maslin:

Okay, so technically we're still in the Holocene, which is the nice warm interglacial for the last 10,000 years, which has been incredibly stable and great for humanity. But about 10 years ago, scientists recognized that humans were becoming a new geological superpower and had so much impact on the planet that we should be naming this, period the Anthropocene, the human period of time. This has, of course, created a lot of discussion about, well, are we in it, when did it start, and, what should we actually do about it? And I'll give you some examples because there's some really good facts and figures to allow people to realize that humanity has had a huge impact on the Earth. So firstly, we moved more soil, mud, and sediment per year than all the natural processes put together. We've created enough concrete in the world to cover the whole surface of the earth, including the oceans, in the layer two millimeters thick. We've cut down three trillion trees. That's half the trees on the planet. We make so much plastic. We make about 300 million tons of plastic per year, which we know ends up in our rivers and into our oceans. One estimate is by 2050, there'll be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than fish. And the thing that really worries me about that is we've now found microplastic in human blood and breast milk. And if that isn't giving you an idea how impactful humans are, the last one I always tell people is the weight of land mammals. So if we take that, 30 percent are humans. Well, there are 8 billion of us, but 67 percent is our cattle and our livestock and our pets. Just 3 percent is the wild animals that we love to sit on the sofa on a Sunday night watching David Attenborough, basically searching them out. 3 percent that is how we have decimated and changed our whole landscape. So we are in the Anthropocene.

Tom Raftery:

To give that some context, those wild mammals are now three percent. What were they before?

Mark Maslin:

So if we go back, say, 10, 000 years ago, at the beginning of this warm interglacial, they would have covered 99.9 percent of the weight of mammals. Yes, there were millions of humans that were spreading out from Africa into Europe, but compared with these huge wild, sort of herds of animals, both in Africa, South America, and across the continents. So yeah, so we've gone from 99.9 percent of all land mammals being wild to, yeah, just 3%.

Tom Raftery:

Wow, wow. So is there, is there widespread acknowledgement now that we are in the Anthropocene or is it still being debated and what's the significance of saying that?

Mark Maslin:

So I think that lots of people are now realising that our impact is beyond climate change and the reason why I like the idea of the Anthropocene is because we have focused on climate change, quite rightly, because it is such a severe challenge and a threat to, global society. But what I think we've forgotten is all the other environmental damage we're doing, like deforestation, removal of biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems. So this idea of the Anthropocene actually encompass that. And the reason why it's important is because it gives us agency. If we say we are in the Anthropocene, it means humans have caused these impacts. And unlike other geological superpowers like movement of the continental plates or a meteorite impact, we can change. So we don't have to continue having a negative impact. We can say, well, we can stop having this impact. We can actually improve things. We can actually repair. If we wanted to, we can reforest vast areas of the planet. We can clean up all our plastic pollution. So I think the interesting thing is, by acknowledging the Anthropocene, it gives us agency and it gives us that empowerment that we can change for the positive. It also philosophically is really, really important. And it's again our fault as scientists. So for the last 500 years, scientists have made people feel really small. Okay, it started off with Galileo and Copernicus suddenly realizing that The sun was the center of the solar system, not the earth, you know, and now we've got cosmologists, you know, going, Hey, we're one of 10 to the power of 23 stars in our galaxy. And there are multiple galaxies. It's like, Oh, okay. Wow. We're really, really small. But then biologists got involved and Darwin came along and said, Oh, you know, that special sort of like plants, animals, man, and I'm sorry, it was man, it was Victorian times, angels, God. No, we're just a slightly smart naked ape, you know, hyper social, but that's about it. So we feel really, as individuals, really small and with lack of power or agency. The Anthropocene says, actually, we control the environmental destiny and the evolutionary destiny of most of the organisms on the planet. And therefore this is the only place we know life exists in the universe. So suddenly we become from nothing, zero, to heroes. Do we now decide to become the custodians of this small blue marble in space, or do we keep trashing our own house

Tom Raftery:

And do we?

Mark Maslin:

So I have to say I am, again, incredibly optimistic because humanity has this ability to innovate and change, and we have technology as our great social tool to make change. And I think that having recognized these issues, we are starting to move in the right direction. We are starting to talk about decarbonization, net zero. 10 years ago, we would never be talking about the whole economic system going to net zero by 2050. Now we are. It's just part of the normal lexicon. We're talking about how do we actually deal with plastics. We're talking about reducing deforestation. Now whether we're doing it fast enough, that's a completely other discussion, but it's on the table. It's, it's what is argued about on social media. This is where the bots and the trolls basically try to actually rip, particularly me, apart. But again, what's interesting is it's in the debate. And you have young people going on the streets, actually protesting saying you have mucked this up. Please fix it before we come into power or at least start it so we can then actually do the rest of it when we get into power. And that's very powerful. We have not had that sort of new generation voice supporting the environment in such a holistic and global way.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. But who, who should take on the, the kind of burden of dealing with the climate crisis? Should it be government? Should it be business? Should it be individual? Should it be all of the above? I mean, I know I do as much as I can. I barely eat any meat. I'm not fully vegetarian, but I barely eat any meat. And I certainly haven't eaten beef in 15 years. I drive an EV. It's a secondhand EV. I power my house with electricity, there's no gas, no oil, no nothing. We have a five kilowatt solar array, you know, that's not going to save the planet by a long shot. So individual actions are great, but I think we can't place the burden on individuals, or maybe I'm wrong, what do you think? Where do you think the burden should lie?

Mark Maslin:

So Tom, I have to say so much respect for all the fantastic things you're doing. And the thing is, if we all did that, can you imagine the message that was sent to government and to industry? So no, I agree with you. So this idea that it's individuals that are responsible for the state of the planet is something that's cooked up by big business, the fossil fuel industry. I mean, a classic line, which is, well, we only produce the petrol because you want to drive cars. We only produce diesel cars because you want diesel cars. You know, we don't have any responsibility. So that is a real interesting myth, particularly driven by the whole neoliberalism. It's all about individualism. We can't have regulation. We can't have big government. We can't have, oh, controls on people's sort of like health. But I think what we need to do is step back. The first thing I'd say is that we should all recognize it's governance. Governance, governance, governance is the key. When you see countries are well run and people are actually so happy and you have these resources being used, utilized for everyone, you then realize that government is critical. And think about it. So governments are able to do amazing things. So they can tax things that are bad. They can put subsidize, uh, subsidies on things that are good. They can regulate. They can also encourage. And I love the fact that a lot of the new, economists coming through, people like Marianna Mazzucato here at UCL, are making it very clear that innovation is driven by governments. So, for example, why were we able to produce vaccinations for COVID within, sort of, uh, 6 to 12 months? The reason being is because governments in the Western world have been funding medical research and innovation since the late 1950s. Okay? All that money had gone in there. Now, if the public had looked each year and gone, how much are you giving to medical research? You know, but they were pre empting all these sort of things. So, governments can be really powerful. And the problem is that what we need is governments to actually step up and realize. So, for example, in the UK, we've just had the announcement that the conservative government has granted a hundred new oil and gas licenses. Now, this is completely against the Climate Change Act that says that UK has to be carbon neutral, by 2050. And research at UCL has shown that if we went at the policies properly, we could be, we could decarbonize by 2045 quite easily. And the interesting thing is they're using this whole thing about, oh, it's about cost and things like that. North Sea gas and oil makes no difference to the price globally. We are in a global market. However, if we produce wind and solar and hydro and geo in the uk, it's ours, we can control the price on it, and therefore we can make sure that the huge burden of the increased price of fossil fuels that's been put on the very poorest people in this country wouldn't happen. So good governance is essential. So government absolutely needs to actually step up and do stuff, but there's also a huge role for business. So business can actually innovate very quickly. You give them incentives whether it happens to be a subsidy whether it happens to be a tax, whether it happens to be regulation and they can switch very very quickly and I've had the great fortune to work with startup companies all the way up to billion dollar companies and seen even the big companies can really change and ratchet up quickly if they have a desire to. And what we're finding is with companies is when they start on this journey to say net zero, it's usually a small group of people that get together over the coffee table or the water cooler and basically turn around and go, I'm feeling really anxious about climate change, my kids have talked to me, you know, this is really bad, what do we do? And they then talk, other people go, I'm so glad, I thought it was just me. And then they start to actually discuss different ways that they can work within the company. I've seen one huge company, international company, turnover of 5 billion in 5 years go from, sorry, what's the environment, to winning triple A rating at the Carbon Disclosure Project, and they will be carbon negative by 2028. And guess what? They have more clients. They have happier staff. They have greater retention. They are able to attract better, people because young people going, yeah, I want to work for a company. I want to earn a lot of money, but I want them to have ethics and morals. They want their cake and eat it good for them. And so therefore you're finding that a lot of companies are struggling going, hang on. We're not able to attract the best talent because we don't have a sustainability agenda. So companies are really, really important. This is why I do a lot of work with them. Because, again, the quicker they move, the quicker things will happen. But, the key is always back to individuals. So I know I said individuals are not important in, like, what we do. But we are. So you have to remember it's individuals in government. Okay. It's the civil servants. It's the politicians that actually start to agitate and say, well, hang on, this is the way we should go. In companies, it's those individuals. And actually I have to say, I'll tell you one story. I can't tell you who it was. It was the kids of the CEO who basically changed the company. Go, go. Okay. So, you know, so these sort of things really matter, but individuals also have other superpowers. What and the main thing is called money, so you have to buy things now of course, we would love to be able to reduce our consumption as much as possible and many of us do but you still have to eat you still have to buy stuff. You still have to go places. You know, you have to get to work. So therefore actually by making positive choices and again try. Are we always going to be 100 percent right? No. Is there going to be greenwashing? Yes. But if we signal, if we always pick the sustainable option, if we always pick the greenest option that we can, even if it may not be perfect, it signals the market. It says we want this. We want you to basically give us products which are safer, cleaner, better for the environment, recyclable, and I think that's really where the power of the individual comes in. Within organizations and also with their, bottom dollar. And I'll give you one example. I was at a brilliant, meeting. And a question, somebody put a hand up and said, I feel really bad. I'm, I'm working for Primark. And I went, yeah. Well, I feel really bad because I'm, I'm working with the enemy. And I went, oh no, no, no. Actually, you are in the best place. If you were something like Stella McCartney, was one of my students used to work for, they're doing all the great things anyway. You know, there's nothing new. If you're in Primark, you're right in the heart. Any little change you make there, has huge consequences. And so again, it's like talking to people going what job should I go in to help the planet? What job should I be in to be sustainable? And it's like any, because every single job matters, and everything we do has to move towards that whole net zero sustainability, if we're going to have any chance of actually making sure the planet is safe and healthy for all of us.

Tom Raftery:

Sure. One individual act that I would add to that, Mark, that I think is hugely important, and it goes back to your point about governance, is the act of voting. I think, personally... And I've said this in the podcast a couple of times, voting for climate candidates is probably the single most important thing we can do to prioritize climate in where we cast our vote. We had a, an election here in Spain just a few weeks ago. The results are still not resolved yet. But what absolutely disappointed me about the campaign was there was almost zero mention of climate by any of the parties in any of the TV debates or in any of their literature. And I was like, seriously? We're in the middle of an ongoing heatwave here for the last couple of months. And the water reservoirs are at about 20 percent of where they would normally be at this time of year. It's not that they're at 20 percent of where they would be on average. They're 20 percent of where they would be in the middle of summer. And it's because, and that's going to have impacts on agricultural output, you know, etc, etc. And there was zero mention, almost. There was one party, who did mention it, who brought it up. And they did quite well in, in the elections. They're called Sumar. They're a new party. But it should have been all over. This is something that politicians should be talking about. And they're not, to a large extent. And, you know, it's, how do we fix that?

Mark Maslin:

So, the first thing is, I really wish, we could make people in democracies realize how lucky they are. Okay, so I work with people like you do all over the world. And they are many of our colleagues who are in countries that you do not get the vote. Okay. And again, the idea that we can sort of like just sort of like dismiss, Oh yeah, I'm not going to vote this year because yeah, never doesn't. No, I mean, democracy and voting. Okay. It's not perfect. But it's the best, least worst option we have at the moment, okay? And so therefore, I think we need somehow to educate people that this is important. Personally, I have to say I love the Australian approach, which is you get fined if you don't vote. I mean, in the UK, I would basically put that in straight away and go. You are citizens of this country. If you have a, you, UK a passport or you are eligible to vote, you vote, otherwise we fine you, you know, it's like step up. And I think that's great. We also saw a couple of years ago in Australia when climate change is put center and actually discussed, it wins seats, wins votes. And there was a huge shift in Australian sort of politics, driven by, and this is really important, women in politics who then empowered the voices of the indigenous and women population. Great. You know, we need more of that. So, I think that's important. I also think that, parties that are naturally, have affinity with in the environment with climate change and things like that are scared to raise their voices. The reason being because they think they're going to lose votes. And the big problem is that we do see many times voters will vote for the party that they think will benefit them and their families. In the short term, and again, I don't know how we educate people to say, Okay, if you happen to be in the bottom 90 percent of earnings, never vote for a right wing party because you're not going to get any richer. And it's it's these weird sort of like dynamics that people have. And so this this I think is an issue. But we have slipped into this really weird, strange world. I don't know if it's like that in Spain, but in the UK, and particularly the US, there are just two worlds going on. There are two completely different narratives, which you can see the same data and the same sort of like, uh, story being played out in two different worlds. One of the great BBC, reporters said, it's like... America is sitting in two different cinemas, watching the same film, but coming out with a different viewpoint. So I don't know how we actually, how we bring those two together. And that seems to be happening in quite a few countries, particularly in Europe and of course North America.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah. Coming back to climate, what kind of solutions can we deploy to try and get us to net zero, to try and get us away from fossil fuels? You know what? What do you see that's out there that gives you hope?

Mark Maslin:

So for me, if we start off with, say, you're government and you want to look at ways to save money, decarbonize, I mean, the first thing is, support the renewables industry as much as possible. In the UK we've had this huge renaissance in offshore wind, supported by proper policies from government. And we're producing huge amounts of energy, and that's fantastic. And we need to export that to lots of other countries to show how it's done. We also then have to think about solar. And the really interesting thing is solar can, create so many opportunities. So, for example, there's a company, Soli in, Holland, which has now developed solar panels particularly for the northern European market. Cause, cause you get so much sun, Tom, you just need normal solar panels. Whereas, we in the UK, in Germany, in Holland, We, we don't get as much sunshine and also we get a bit of cloud, but you can build solar panels that deal with shade. And so they're also doing it in Singapore so that they can check the whole supply chain. And therefore they know that there's no human rights violations or anything like that. And the most interesting thing is not necessarily the solar panels, but the batteries, because the biggest problem that we have when we're producing energy is we produce lots of wind, we produce lots of solar, but we don't use energy necessarily when it is sunny or windy, and therefore we need storage. Again, we use energy, in peaks and troughs all the way through the day. And so the energy companies or the network has to actually work out how do we crank up production, how do we reduce it. But if you suddenly were able to get all the houses and residencies to have batteries, you can then basically as a country go, Okay, we're producing lots of, we're now going to store it in everybody's storage in a distributed way. And then when we really need it, we're going to buy it back. So you can imagine these micro grids that really work very efficiently. We would then need less energy, because we lose about 30 percent of the energy because we can't utilize it at that time, and that includes that fossil fuel energy. So you can imagine all these exciting networks and how you can make everything much more efficient. So I think that's really important. I also think that governments have a real opportunity to say, okay, lots of people are moving to cities. And so the really interesting thing is, yes. We've hit 8 billion people, and we'll peak about 10 billion people by 2050. That's a lot of people, but they're moving to cities. So the really strange thing is the world is becoming a wilder place. It sounds counterintuitive. More people, but less people in the wild. So all those areas that used to have sparse populations, we can now reforest. So there's vast areas that we can plant forests, we can wet wetlands, we can basically make sure the peatlands expand. There's lots of ways that we can actually increase that. And for me, I'm a great fan of this rewilding because when China did it in the 1990s, So, they basically, on the western side of China, were getting to that sort of 1930s dust bowl. Agriculture was exhausting the soil, the farmers were incredibly poor, were basically starting to starve. And the Chinese government said to the scientists, what's gone wrong? They went, well, you cut down all the trees. Plant trees. And we'll be fine. And in, in their wonderful sort of like dictatorial way, they went, Right, you, farmer, plant trees here, here, here. And so they did. And they planted over a hundred million hectares in, western China. You can see the greening from space. And what that did was firstly stabilize the soils. So the soil loss from flash floods, et cetera, stopped. It basically also stabilized the rainfall. Because all the trees were putting moisture back into the atmosphere, and therefore, the rainfall was becoming more consistent. And of course, what happened was, agricultural production rose massively. But what's really interesting, which people don't always pick up on, was this was a social manipulation as well because the Chinese government had a real issue which is the western side of China? Incredibly poor whereas the eastern side as you know rapidly Industrializing massive cities lots of billionaires, you know that was working but the western side wasn't. Not only did they say you will plant trees. They said and you will be paid for it. So it's a way of legitimizing, legitimizing social manipulation by moving money from the east to the west to try and support those farmers at the same time as dealing with the environmental issue. So this whole idea that we can rewild and actually repopulate and increase biodiversity, tick, tick, tick. So governments have all of these wonderful things that they can do. Again, we also know that if you green cities, that increases people's health, well being, helps with mental health illnesses. So there were lots of these win win win that we can do if government were just able to step back and go, oh. The other thing about renewables and doing all of this is, of course, it basically means you have energy security. You can then make sure that the price is actually at the right point. So the most vulnerable people in society can afford to heat their homes in winter and get air conditioning in the summer when they get extreme temperatures which we're going to get into the future. That's just government, sorry, I ranted a bit there, but you know. But there's solutions for businesses and individuals as well, you know that.

Tom Raftery:

Sure, sure, sure, sure, sure. I'm curious, when you mentioned getting a battery into everyone's home, and using those as virtual power plants, if everyone shifted from internal combustion vehicles to EVs, which is going to happen over time anyway, then everyone will have a massive battery just if you think about the Tesla Powerwall battery, which is the best known of the home batteries, that stores about 14 kilowatt hours and my car, which is a Kia Niro, as I said, I bought it second and is 64. So, you know, significantly greater than the Tesla Powerwall in terms of its, of its, storage capacity for energy. If I just used a third of it, then I'm still, I still have more capacity for the house. I still have more capacity for powering the house than I would if I had a Tesla Powerwall battery. You know, and so I guess the point I'm getting to is, yeah, sure, lots of people are going to start having large batteries in their vehicles, that they will be plugging in, so if you make that a two way plug, then we don't need to buy separate batteries for homes.

Mark Maslin:

So, I think the critical thing here is, one, we know that the price of batteries is coming down very, very fast. We know that the technology is increasing to increase the power and reduce the size of batteries. Bit like solar panels. Nobody, ten years ago, no economist, no economist. Even the smartest one predicted the crash in price of solar panels, you know, all the, and again, it's that whole using the market to drive innovation and to depress prices. But the key thing there is, yes, if you've got a battery in your car that you're not using, if you've got a battery in your house that you're not using, if you've got sort of other, systems that can be controlled, what is interesting is you need an AI hub, because the great thing is that if you look at a lot of energy supplies in countries, there are periods where there's too much energy, and they'll actually pay you to take the energy from the grid to try and actually make sure it evens out. But there's also periods of time where they're going to charge you a lot because you know what? It's the World Cup final. It's England versus Germany. Sorry, Spain. and at halftime, everybody's gone to make a cup of tea or get a beer out of the fridge, you know, and there's this classic energy spike, particularly in England and Germany. But the key thing there is, if you have an AI hub controlling your energy in your home, that AI can go, Oh, I'm now going to fill up the batteries when they're paying us to take electricity. So, guess what? I'm getting you some money and I'm filling up, okay? And then, when they're charging you a huge amount, going, yeah, guess what? We'll use the energy from the batteries. So, you can imagine all these homes and blocks of flats having these systems that basically go, okay, we're going to utilize the energy at the most efficient and most cost effective way, which then, of course, when you've got that happening, the energy will start to even out and then energy companies go, Oh, great. We basically now can actually produce energy and it starts to actually all settle down. So again, it's one of those things that technology can really help. It's, for example, your fridge does not have to be cooling all the time. You know, there are times where it can just coast because it's so well insulated. So if you do that, you go, Ooh, now cheap energy, you know, it's so I think, I think we have to be much smarter. Well, actually we don't have to, we just make smart systems to be smart for us. And we can just go, yes, do it. By the way, I'm coming home. Put the heating on. Go! I think that's really important.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah, no, fair point. I've made that point as well. Immersion heaters for water as well when they're well lagged. Same idea as the fridge. You can suck in the energy to heat the water. You know, you don't care when it's hot as long as it's hot when you want it to be hot. And if it's well lagged, that shouldn't be an issue. The The World Cup final example, I used that when I was talking to Siemens back in 2008 when I was talking about smart grids and they corrected me. They said, no, it's not people plugging in the kettle and making the tea at half time that causes a spike in energy, it's people going to the bathroom and flushing the toilet. So, it causes a huge surge in demand for energy because the amount of energy required to push water is enormous, but it, but, but it's actually, it's actually the two things together. It's people going to the toilet and then going and putting on the kettle in reality, which is what causes the surge.

Mark Maslin:

Well, I have seen a wonderful clip for the BBC in, the sort of like energy center for the UK. With all, you know, it looks a bit 1980s with all the big dials, etc. And they're watching the TV. And it was the classic one, which was, it was the Strictly Come Dancing final. And they literally almost with a handle going, okay, ready, ready. Oh, and the winner, right? Crank up more energy, you know? And so, yeah, it was interesting that sort of like, uh, watching TV was a critical point of energy distribution around that, which we don't need to. If you have smart hubs and things like that, and you have every house with batteries and storage and things like that, we don't need that. But I'll come back to what you said about lagging of the sort of like hot water system. One of the British science advisors to the UK government, John Bemmington, he once said to me, I get really frustrated with protesters running onto the runway at Heathrow protesting about flying. He said, Really? I really wish they'd basically run into everybody's house and scream at people, go, Lag your house! Insulate it! He said, this is the biggest issue. I mean, I don't know about how things are in Spain, but in the UK we have a very very poor housing stock. It's very poorly maintained. It is, very sort of like, badly insulated. There, there are schemes to say, Oh, if we, we will give you a bit of a subsidy if you lag your roof, etc. You know, if we literally went round the whole country and lagged all the houses, replaced all the windows that were drafty, put in sort of like heat exchangers which then heated and cooled the house, etc. And did this uniformly across the country. We could save so much energy, make people's lives so much better. I mean, we have people in this country who have chest infections because they're living in houses, that are damp and have mold. I mean, we're the fifth richest country in the world. Why? Why? Why does this happen? And again, it's back to governance.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Speaking of governance, COP 20... Is it 28 is the next one that's coming up? It is 28, yeah. And it's headed by a fossil fuel executive? I mean... Yes. What? What? What's happened? What? Oh dear God.

Mark Maslin:

Okay, so there are a lot of people out there who say What's the point of COP? What is the point of the climate negotiations? They don't seem to do anything. And so I think we need to step back and the first thing is to realize what COP is. So COP is actually negotiations about climate change actually throughout the whole year. It's just the COP meetings are the high point and where everybody gets together and hopefully they come to some agreement. So the first thing to say is that it is the only place that a hundred and ninety six countries of the UN get together on an equal footing. So any agreement has to be agreed by all parties. Okay. So that means that it's not democratic. It's not like the majority. So, country, big country blocks like China or the U. S. can't push anything through. Everybody, including the smallest countries, have to agree. So it's by consensus. So that's a really unique and interesting thing. The second thing is that it is four meetings in one. So right in the middle, in the hub, you have the negotiations. You have all the diplomats from all the countries sitting in and trying to actually organize things. And then outside of that, you have the pavilions. So this is literally a climate change expo. So you have everybody like the World Bank, you have the FAO, you have the indigenous people, you have the youth, you have everybody there who are then talking to each other, and to the countries. So lots of business gets done, sorting out movement of money, support, grants, which sometimes has something to do with climate change, but then is sometimes to do with all the other sustainability. And it's one of the places that everybody knows to turn up, and everybody will be there. The other thing is around COP, usually, didn't happen in Egypt, but in most places you then have a huge envelope of business. So business literally comes to town, sets up, and goes, oh great, we know that the negotiators, all these organizations are there, but we also know all the other business. So lots of business gets there to promote their sustainability, promote their climate change agenda, and also work with other companies. And then the fourth meeting, is civil society. So at Glasgow COP26, huge amount of protests, okay. I was there and on the Friday we had, the Friday, strikes led by, of course, Greta Thunberg. And I thought that was huge. I mean, youth just kept coming. Yeah, until the Saturday. The Saturday, then everybody came out and literally I stood on a corner in the main street of Glasgow and the people literally kept coming. We had an 80 year old with his walking stick and I hoped he was going to get to the end of the march. To families with little kids. You know, this was a huge display and what it said was to all the politicians, this is important, but also you have microprotests about particular countries. So you have people protesting about human rights and things like that. So COP is four meetings in one and it has actually achieved things. I know it sounds like it hasn't but in Paris in 2015 and I have to take a deep breath because The French were magnificent. Ok, I hate to say that as an Englishman, but they were incredible. They did the international politics beautifully because sometimes you don't do it directly, but you get president of country A to phone up president of country B to say, why are you blocking something? And they were great. So what we got was an international agreement signed by all the countries of the UN that says we, the leaders of the world, pledge to keep climate change to two degrees warming and, if possible, try to keep it below 1.5. That's huge. And the interesting thing is, we're at 1.2 now, so 1.5 is pretty close, and the weird thing is with El Nino kicking off, we're likely to perhaps push through 1.5 but then drop back. But it's then, this idea came about of net zero. Prior to Paris, it was, well, UK was going to reduce by 70 percent of its 1990 levels, and we were all talking about all these little changes. After Paris, everybody talks about net zero, which is we are going to get to zero sometime in the middle of the century. And we have Western Europe and Britain will be net zero by 2050. Supposedly so will the USA. China by 2060. and India by 2070. We have 90 percent of the world's GDP under a net zero pledge. Okay, that's great. Are we going to do it? That's another matter. I also would say one of the most interesting things is if I was talking to you about this about 10 years ago, we would be worried about the apocalypse. Four to five, possibly six degrees warming by the end of the century, which would be literally hell on earth. However, now, because of climate policies that are already in process, and all the shift in the economy, which is renewables are cheaper, we're now looking at, say, three, three and a half degrees warming by the end of the century. Now, if all of those pledges which are called NDCs, National Determined Contributions at the COP meeting at Glasgow, if they all come off, then we're looking at, say, 2 and a half to 2.8 degrees warming. Now, that's still too hot, but it's a lot better than 4 or 5. So, we have moved the dial, but what we're trying to do now is move the dial even further so we can actually get back on track for the 1.5, but at least the two degree world. And again, countries don't want to lose face. So I have no idea what's going to happen in the United Arab Emirates, in Dubai, because it's led by the head of their own oil and gas company, who is a committed person who is trying to take his country to net zero as quickly as possible while exporting more oil and gas. So we have this dichotomy. So, somebody asked me last night going, what do you think is going to happen at COP28? And I literally went, unlike every other COP, I have no idea. Oh dear. What that, well, no, because it's not like Egypt where I realized that sort of like the Egyptians had no idea how to run international diplomacy. They're being heavily influenced by countries of the region. And literally for the whole of that meeting, everybody was fighting a rear guard action to keep all the gains that we made from Glasgow on the books because they're trying to undo those. And so it was, it was one of those meetings which was just literally fighting a rear guard action. No, we're going to keep that, going to keep that, going to keep that going to keep that. It also was very weird because it was like being in a prison camp. Literally went from your hotel. You basically took a taxi or the official bus to the center. You were not allowed out and every half a mile there were literally, men all dressed in military black with a gun with a little sunshade over the top of them, basically looking like dark stormtroopers, you know, it was, so, so it's a very, that, that I knew exactly what we were going to get. Glasgow, we were all very optimistic and we got almost all we wanted out of Glasgow, when we're being realistic. But yeah, so that's why I say with the UAE, I have, No, I mean, personally, I think that they are going to really push for an international agreement because they don't want to lose face. Because the whole eyes of the world and media and because they've moved the timing. So Egypt was unfortunate because they didn't understand timing. So the first week was during the, the U. S. midterm election. So nobody cared about climate. They were all worried about what was happening in the U. S. The second week. The weekend where there's usually the big announcements was the start of the World Cup. So nobody cares. I mean, you've got to understand how the world works, okay? Oh, and in the middle, I forgot, there was the G8 meeting on the other side of the world, in Bali. It's like, so the world leaders, only Lula, bless him, came back and actually was attended. So this one, they've obviously clearly moved. So it doesn't clash with the G8, all the world leaders can be there, and actually it, it will be them showing themselves off to the whole world. And the whole world's media will be there watching, so there's a lot of pressure on them to at least appear to have supported climate change and made a difference.

Tom Raftery:

Cool, cool. Mark, we're coming towards the end of the podcast now. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had? Or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of?

Mark Maslin:

I, I think the most important thing that people should be aware of is that we have agency, we are very powerful, and the more you talk to people, the more you find that they all think like you. And actually, when you start in your small organization, perhaps your church congregation, your sports club, or your work, if you start talking to people, then you can actually make very positive changes and actually move the dial. And I think that's what we forget. We're ultra social creatures and actually working in teams and working together for collective things is really good for us, society, and of course our own mental well being.

Tom Raftery:

Mark, if people would like to know more about yourself or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Mark Maslin:

So people can always find me on Twitter. Just don't read the comments underneath because you'll basically be as depressed as I am. I'm on LinkedIn and also you can find me on the UCL website. But also if you really want to know all the stuff that I've been talking about, I have a book published by Penguin called How to Save Our Planet, The Facts. And guess what? It's all single sentences, bullet points, no paragraphs, just facts and figures. And you don't have to read it from the start to the end. You can pick any chapter at any time and actually just read the one that's most relevant to you at that point in time.

Tom Raftery:

I'll put links to those in the show notes, Mark. Thanks a million. Mark, that's been fascinating. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

Mark Maslin:

Absolute pleasure, Tom. And thank you for actually doing this podcast because gives everybody a little bit of hope in this strange world that we live in.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about the Climate Confident podcast, feel free to drop me an email to Tom raftery@outlook.com. Or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you like the show, please, don't forget to click follow on it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks, catch you all next time.

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