How to Solve Climate Change

Happy New Year!

This podcast of an interview with Saul Griffith is a great way to start your year:

• Ezra Klein, How to solve climate change and make life more awesome.

Skip straight down to the bottom and listen to the interview! Or right click on the link below and

download the .mp3.

I usually prefer reading stuff, but this is only available in audio form—and it’s worth it.

One important thing he says:

We have not had anyone stand up and espouse a vision of the future that could sound like success.

I think it’s time to start doing that. I think I’m finally figuring out how. But this interview with Saul Griffith does it already!

10 Responses to How to Solve Climate Change

  1. Ralph Burger says:

    Happy new year! After 2 min I still was not able to extract a single graspable suggestion or idea. A short synopsis would be very helpful.

    • John Baez says:

      It’s worth listening to the whole thing. They go through all the main ways to tackle climate change, how to do them, what we can accomplish with each one, and their limitations. The first few minutes are just warmup.

  2. Bob says:

    For those who would rather listen to the hour-and-a-half podcast on their mp3 player while jogging, walking the dogs, …

    Right click on the link below:
    Download the .mp3

  3. ecoquant says:

    This is wonderful, particularly the extended to-and-fro with Prof Kate Marvel on climate models and the difficulty of climate prediction, yet having no other way to foresee. I like the genuine discussion of geoengineering.

  4. kakimena says:

    Thanks for linking to this great podcast! I listened to the whole thing, and it was quite an eye opener.

    Happy New Year. And may you solar and heat pump installations go smoothly!

  5. ecoquant says:

    Well, on the Saul Griffith stuff, there’s nothing new there, really. The recent update from Jacobson and Delucchi and company ( : Synopsis) is new.

    Even if you point out all this possibility to people, I have found those with means and who are comfortable dislike the prospect of change, which they see as risk (Kahneman and Tversky short term thinking). Many who don’t have means don’t have the capital or the time to pursue, because they are trying to get through a week.

    A big solar farm is proposed for our town, on school property, in addition to the PV on school roofs and some municipal buildings. Brings in money to the town each year, costs no capital to build (Ameresco is funding it), and contributes to the Massachusetts green energy supply. This is a solar farm: No turbines. No one can hear the inverters. It’s out of site.

    Yet, people with homes a couple of blocks away are complaining because they fear it will depress property values. Claire and I can’t add ground-mounted PV because the bylaws of the town permit neighbors to object to the projects, and they do. They’d rather get electricity generated efficiently some place else and get heat from natural gas pipelines which they can’t see.

    This is very discouraging. But I think as more of us get solar and induction stove and heat pumps and EVs, our cost of living will be so much lower than everyone else it will show. And eventually, I hope, people will begin to adopt because it’s cheaper and because it’s cool. (Hence the Tesla mystique patterned after what Jobs created with Apple.)

    Meanwhile, though, as EVs come into mainstream, local repair jobs and gas stations will go out of business, and I’m sure there’ll be grumbling. And stores will put up EV chargers in their lots and there’ll be complaining about EVs having “reserved parking spaces”.

    We have no choice but to do this. But, at least here in Massachusetts, which originally promised to remain in the Paris Agreement plans and where we’ve fallen behind, people won’t take it seriously again until we get some reminders from extreme weather, and it dearly costs people.

    By the way, regarding Jacobson and Delucchi and company, when I heard of and read the criticism of their original studies, I took some of what they said with grains of salt. But then I discovered how brilliant Jacobson is. He’s not really a mechanical engineer, he’s an atmospheric physicist. And his Fundamentals of Atmospheric Modeling_ (2nd edition, 2005) is comprehensive and amazing. So while their plans seem almost unbelievably comprehensive, I believe they are simply correct, because they have an enormous capability to do good work. The latest assessments by using thermodynamic waste heat as a tool to understand fossil fuel engine overcapacity is brilliant.

    I also find they don’t get enough credit. In contrast, Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown and the corresponding book and Web site got and continues to get positive responses and reviews, yet the project never fulfilled their promise to produce the details and methodology used to come up with their plans. (The “Methodology” section of the book occupies but two pages.) Upon being pressed, they admitted what these are are economic metastudies, not actually engineering plans. In my opinion as an engineer, that means these are fluff. Yet Hawken gets accolades and people attack Jacobson and Delucchi, et al. Faye Duchin took Hawken and project to task. They did respond. And in that response they claimed

    “Over the course of this year, all technical reports and models will be made available on our website, with our methodologies fully transparent.”

    Never happened.

    • John Baez says:

      Jan wrote:

      there’s nothing new there, really.

      Maybe not to those who have educated themselves on these subjects, but that’s a tiny fraction of humanity, probably less than 0.1%. Most people, including me need to learn what’s in this podcast and see how the pieces fit together into a positive vision for the future.

      • Bob says:

        Things get silly when it gets to 50.1%.
        What bothered me about the podcast were the remarks about the Apollo-era space program. If it weren’t for that technological push, we wouldn’t know why spacesuits should be colored white or black, but definitely not silver. The Prentice Hall International Series on Space Technology published in the 1960s was full of useful and detailed information. And we’d be far behind in terms of climate monitoring satellites and space probes telling us about what happened to other planets climates. NASA’s artist propaganda, that was mentioned in the podcast, refers to all those pictures of O’Neil cylinders, rotating shopping malls in space wherein people would allegedly fly around, zero-carbon and self-powered , with stylish angelic wings in low-gravity, like birds.
        Using WWII as an example of American chutzpah and motivation was less inviting. America had to be dragged into WWII. While Americans marveled over the success of Patton and MacArthur in the battlefields, both of those generals were eventually fired (by Eisenhower and Truman respectively) for being political embarassments.
        “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

        Harry Truman
        One might think, a big lesson of WWII was that national infrastructures are best managed by the national government. One might think, historically the privatization of national or even global infrastructures (corruption would love to get its hands in that kitty) such as electric grids, public water, railways, mail delivery, the cloud,.. and other critical and infrastructures would be a thing of the past; gone the way of robber barons and protection rackets. Some people are willing to trade their voting for politicians, for voting at stockholder or union elections.
        Radiative floor heating is certainly preferable to force-air HVAC systems in terms of health (who likes living inside a vacuum cleaner bag?), but it’s still active heating and doesn’t address AC. How many people remember the heat wave of 2003 which is estimated to have killed 70,000 Europeans because they had never needed air conditioners before then and were caught offguard? A dastardly sneak attack by Mother Nature.
        Who wants to wage war on Mother Nature and get revenge!?
        Lately it seems some animals are evolving naturally faster than humans. It perhaps won’t be long before humans are able to chose their own evolutionary path. Maybe they will evolve into solar-powered autotrophs and grow radiation-hardened skins which can withstand living in space outside of the protective cocoon of the Earth’s atmosphere. Or maybe, instead they will choose to evolve into some kind of subterranean worm; protected from the ravages of killer asteroids and solar mass ejections. What path of human evolution will be sustainable?
        Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

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