This week’s theme is Australia. For a while I've been promising you a review of what's been going on from an environmental point of view since Anthony Albanese's Labor government took office in May. I spoke to Dr Simon Wright. He’s Director at Simply Sustainable Consulting and Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the Orange campus of the University of Technology, Sydney.
I found out that he was born in Cambridge UK, so as we are both Brits we started off by talking about the weather...
This week the United Nations climate conference, COP 27, opened and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set the tone with the warning that, "We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”
Measuring your personal carbon footprint is a first step towards taking action to combat the climate crisis. It's a first step and a small step and there is much more to be done. Recent reports make that abundantly clear.
This week we're talking about new technologies; about a new way of producing food. In fact we are talking about a new way of producing meat without farming and without slaughtering livestock.
That steak that many of us love to eat not only has a massive carbon footprint, it also uses very significant quantities of water and the nutritional value of a steak is far less than the nutritional value of the feed consumed by the cattle. Is there another way?
Recently I spoke to Daan Luining, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Meatable.
.. a couple of protests and plans for a further crackdown on protesters. Could there be yet another government U-turn, this time in favour of sustainability? There is a video you should see and I'll tell you about upcoming interviews planned for the next few months. Finally, what is sustainability anyway?
We're on the brink of massive changes. This week I'm going to talk about the UK government, though not about its financial management. There is a report from the world meteorological organisation as more extreme weather events are reported. A new academic study warns that palm trees face extinction while in Finland more and bigger buildings are being built from timber. On the energy front the UAE is stepping up oil production, and is hydrogen the ideal clean solution for home heating, or will it be just too expensive?
As I write this on the day after the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II there's little I can bring you in the way of sustainability news from the United Kingdom. The only news across all channels yesterday was about the Queen, the event, the pageantry and the history.
Did I tell you I was going to take a break in August? Well I am - to enjoy more of our long hot summer. More of that later. Actually it’s drizzling here in York in the North of England, but we’re promised more scorching weather before the end of August with a potential hosepipe ban and crops shrivelling in the fields. In this episode, drought, wildfires and keeping cool. The Environment Agency damns the water companies, the candidates for UK PM display their knowledge of the climate crisis (not much) there’s a book review and a new brew from Singapore. You can make your own jokes about that when you’ve heard the story. And it’s goodbye from me until September.
Are we leaving the Goldilocks zone - that part of the universe where life can exist? It's not too hot and it's not too cold; in fact it's just right. How much longer will the Earth be in the Goldilocks zone?
Very Bad People: The Inside Story of the Fight Against the World's Network of Corruption. That’s the title of a book I’ve just been reading. It’s about the history of an organisation called Global Witness, founded 30 years ago to tackle corruption. I’m ashamed I’d never heard of it before.
How corruption promotes the climate crisis, energy problems on their way, how green will the UK's new prime minister be? And my interview on GBNews about the West Cumbria Coal Mine.
The climate crisis is just too important to argue about. We need a mature approach to this crucial issue. Today’s guest, Marc Cortez, calls it climaturity, which is the title of his new book. Here’s what he told me.
Think carbon! I know I've said it before, but everything you choose to eat, use or wear has a direct impact on the size of your carbon footprint. Carbon footprints and carbon emissions determine the future of this planet, our home. Unsurprisingly, this week’s episode is concerned directly or indirectly with carbon emissions and carbon footprints.
Here in the UK we have just had the hottest day of the year and we're moving towards an even hotter one, with predicted temperatures of up to 33°C. What our Australian listeners would probably call a bright winter’s day. Nevertheless we have warnings from the NHS and a heat-health warning from the Met Office.
Short-term pressures are building. Although the conflict has gone off the headlines, we are all concerned about the continuing situation in Ukraine. In the UK, and no doubt throughout the world, the cost of living is generating headlines, driven by the rise in energy prices. The pressure is particularly acute at the pump because many people have to fill their cars just to get to work. There's inflation at levels not seen for 20 or 30 years and while food prices have gone up there are fears that there could be shortages and prices might be driven still higher.
...but I haven't made up my mind about the Prince of Wales yet.
Is the Monarchy Sustainable?
I warned you last time that I might get political so I'll be commenting on the monarchy versus republicanism which leads onto questions of ownership of land and that in turn leads to agriculture and food production.
UN Climate Conference
A UN climate conference opened in Bonn this week amid warnings that we should use no excuse to justify expanding fossil fuel production; a warning which appears to be falling on deaf ears. It could all end in tears, or stranded assets. Amid rapidly rising fuel costs, electric car manufacturers are trumpeting how cheap it is to refuel their cars. Forget the capital cost, but is that electric car as clean as you thought? A new report casts doubts.
I talk to Tinia Pina, CEO of Re-Nuble, about how her organisation uses commercial vegetable waste to produce a nutrient feed for hydroponic farmers. They use sea-food waste from fish processors too. It makes a biodegradable substrate to support the hydroponic plants.
There is a new government in Australia. Will it reverse the climate scepticism which seems to have been a hallmark of the previous administration? Here in the UK a responsible investment manager at a major financial institution takes an interesting slant on his job and gets suspended as a result. Questions are asked whether a charity with a view on climate science is in fact a charity or could it be a lobbying group? UK ministers have decided that now is not quite the time to require corporate environmental disclosure, inviting the question if not now, when? There's more bad news from Hinkley C, (I keep having to remind my spellchecker that there’s no ‘C’ in Hinkley - is that an omen?) but there’s a ray of sunshine from Oberlin, Ohio in the United States.
We’re talking about protecting the environment, in particular protecting it from plastic waste. Incidentally, there’s a detailed analysis of the impact of plastic pollution, including the number of decades or centuries it takes for common plastic products to degrade, on the Happiness Without website. There’s a link below.
Today I’m talking to Jake and Amee, creators of the S’wheat reusable plant-based water bottle. Very special thanks to them for going through it all twice, because first time I forgot to turn the recorder on.
It's World Bee Day. This week, should the Guardian’s Carbon Bombs be defused? There’s a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation on the State of the Global Climate 2021, I learn about a country where supermarkets accept Bitcoin while IEMA warns about the energy cost of Bitcoin mining, and there’s a prospect of new pandemics.
Blockchain. What is it? Is it important? Is it sustainable? How does it relate to crypto-currency like Bitcoin, and is that just for money-laundering or for wild speculation? I’m hearing more and more about blockchain, so I thought it was time for the Sustainable Futures Report to talk to an expert.
Friday 13th. Bad news for some, but generally the world goes on much the same.
Many of the stories that I cover in the Sustainable Futures Report come from the Guardian newspaper. Wherever possible I aim to find the original source behind their articles and bring you the original detail as well as a link to the paper or press release or organisation concerned. This week the Guardian published a special report by its own journalists, “Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown”. I shall quote from it unashamedly and you’ll find a link below so you can read the whole article yourself. I recommend you do.
Also this week, more greenwash; elections, floods and climate controversy in Australia; retrofitting - how they do it in Italy, mining for gold (and other minerals) in e-waste dumps, and the effect of the moon on the climate.
...and catching up on good news and bad from the past few days.
Roll up! Roll up! Get your bad news here! I'm concerned that there is bad news. There's always bad news. The climate crisis has certainly not gone away. We need to do something about it and we need to encourage people to do something about it but I'm increasingly concerned about warning them of the risks and privations that are likely to occur some years in the future. It's not going to work where people are increasingly concerned about the cost of living, the cost of mortgages, the cost of petrol, and whether there will be food on the table tonight.
In the spirit of working out how to communicate the climate crisis message I’m talking today to Manda Scott.
Manda is a long-time patron of the Sustainable Futures Report and has joined me previously, though that was a few years ago. Manda started off as a veterinary surgeon - becoming a midwife to racehorses - before switching to writing novels at the turn of the millennium. Her first novel was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, her most recent, the fourteenth, for the Saltire Award.
If things go wrong and we fail to overcome the climate crisis there will be profound consequences for society and humanity. The Deep Adaptation Forum exists to help people prepare for this worst case scenario, and you may find some of this interview disturbing or depressing. My guest is Fernando Garcia Ferreiro and he has offered to talk personally to anyone who is upset or concerned by the ideas we discuss. His contact details are at the end of this text, together with links and references.
This conversation was recorded in the week before Easter.
The Sustainable Futures Reportaims to bring you news and insights into the ongoing climate crisis, but other such podcasts are available. On this occasion I bring you an interview with the founder and presenter of the Sweaty Penguin, Ethan Brown.
The British Energy Security Strategy was published at the end of last week and although it runs to only 15 pages it has caused a lot of controversy. This is Easter Week so there will be no Wednesday Interview this week and no edition on Friday 15th or Friday 22nd. The next Wednesday Interview will be on the 27th of April and I'll tell you about that at the end of this episode.
This is edition No. 400. Thank you for listening and supporting the Sustainable Futures Report since I started podcasting back in 2007.
The big news this week, overshadowed by Ukraine like everything else, is the publication of the latest part of AR6, the climate report from the IPCC. It’s been all over the news, so what can I tell you that you don’t already know?
I need to start with thanks to listener Sofia Sosa Del Valle for promptly letting me know that there was a problem with last Wednesday's interview. I've been able to correct it, so now you can hear the full interview with Wake Smith, author of Pandora's Toolbox:The Hopes and Hazards of Climate Intervention. Thanks for that, and my apologies for getting it wrong. It wasn't intended to be an early April fool.
This week the UK government’s promised energy security strategy has been deferred yet again so I can't talk about that. Maybe next week, when the sixth assessment report (AR6) from the IPCC is also scheduled to be published.
Today we’re looking at the step beyond Net Zero: climate intervention or geo-engineering. Prior to his academic career, today’s interview guest had several executive roles in the aeronautical industry, including the presidency of a division of Boeing. He is a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and as a lecturer at Yale University teaches a world-leading undergraduate course on climate intervention. In his new book, he says,
“Geo-engineering in any form sounds like a terrible concept, until you peer carefully into the future and realise that not geo-engineering would likely prove worse.”
At a London Conference this week António Guterres said that the world must do more to Keep 1.5 alive. He was quite rude about Australia as well. Nevertheless, the UK has decided to make it cheaper to run a car on fossil fuels, some in the government want to restrict renewables while others would restart fracking. Water is an increasingly scarce resource across the world. Now we see it being used as a weapon of war. Next week we can look forward to the government’s energy security strategy and the final part of the AR6 report from the IPCC. And finally, what really is Net Zero?