219: Ice Down the Spine and Courage in the Heart
About this episode
This week, the team talk positive tipping points, grapple with the comms coming out of the pre-COP meets and send our tributes to dearly loved colleagues who have recently passed.
With pre COP 28 meetings currently taking place, the host team discuss the mixed messaging that is currently making headlines and anticipate what this might mean for how the future of fossil fuels will appear in the final text at COP 28.
Tim Lenton, the founding Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science is our guest this week, and with Tom unable to make the interview, our brilliant colleague from Global Optimism, Freya Newman, joins Christiana and Paul to interview her former professor. With negative tipping points racing along their own ‘S curve’, the team ask Tim Lenton whether there are signs that the positive tipping points can win this race and avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis (pssst, the answer is it looks very, very possible).
Music this week comes from jemima coulter with their beautiful song [flowers].
NOTES AND RESOURCES
Professor Tim Lenton, Founding Director of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter and Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science
Website | LinkedIn
Here is the website on Global Tipping points where you can find resources and info on all that Tim and the team discuss. Spread the word!
Freya Newman, Advisor, Groundswell at Global Optimism
We are all very saddened by the news of the death of Pete Betts, a former guest on Outrage + Optimism and an all round incredible human being. Please check out the episode here, to hear the man himself and his lifetime dedication to working for a better, fairer sustainable future.
As mentioned by Tom, here is one of the first O+O episodes recorded and it is one worth revisiting to hear the exchange between Christiana and David as they talk about the Garden of Eden and Garden of Intention. Truly worth a revisit.
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Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.
Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.
Paul: [00:00:16] And I'm Paul Dickinson.
Tom: [00:00:17] This week, aside from reflecting on some sad events that have happened in the climate movement and beyond, we talk about the countdown to COP, what to expect and what the key milestones are over the coming weeks. And we have music from jemima coulter. Thanks for being here. Okay friends, so we're going to get into it this week. There's a lot to cover as ever, we're now in the lead up to the climate negotiations that are going to happen in Dubai at the end of this month. We're recording this on Wednesday the 1st of November. But before we get into that there has been a lot happening in the world in general over the last few weeks. There's been a couple of sad passings of critical people who have been so important to the climate movement. So let's do that first. Saleemul Huq, Bangladeshi climate scientist, Professor Saleemul Huq passed away over the weekend. He was a staunch advocate for climate vulnerable nations over the last three decades and ever present at the UN COPs, he played such a pivotal role as a mentor to many people, and was just so critical to getting the world to understand the importance of adaptation. Christiana, you are the one that knew both Saleemul and also Pete Betts, who we'll talk about in just a moment the best. What would you like to say about Saleemul?
Christiana: [00:01:39] Well Saleemul, I think, needs to be recognized as having been one of the intellectual and operative authors of the Climate Vulnerability Forum, which is the group of countries that negotiated together because they share high vulnerability to climate change and were a precursor to the High Ambition Coalition. So, his work and strategic political thinking and operating goes way, way back. He's also one of the intellectual authors of the Adaptation Fund. He was always very much aware of Bangladesh's vulnerability to climate change, but also so many other nations. And he was absolutely staunch in always reminding everyone about that vulnerability and hence about the responsibility that we all carry as we negotiate climate change.
Tom: [00:02:46] Yeah, thank you for that. And missed by many, I mean, he was such a big personality, aside from his significant contributions, as you've said, and the other person that we've sadly lost since we were last with you is Pete Betts. Pete, of course, former UK and EU chief negotiator Pete Betts, also former guest on this podcast. We were privileged to have him on some months ago. Christiana again, I knew him, but not as well as you. I don't know if you'd like to share anything with listeners about who he was. And of course, we'll also put the link to the previous episode in the show notes.
Christiana: [00:03:20] Yeah, how wonderful that he was able to rustle up his energy to be with us on a previous episode, so you can hear his thinking there. So yet another member of the High Ambition Coalition, this time from, he was there representing the then EU, he was I would say, if one word comes to mind about Pete Betts, it's bridging. He was always very aware, very, very loyal to the EU and then later UK position, but always aware of that position and aware of the need to bridge to other countries and groups positions. So playing such an important bridging role, interpretation, political interpretation role in both directions for many, many years, he will be sadly missed. And the fact that he spent his last years writing his memoirs, his thoughts, his insights about climate negotiations and climate history is very admirable.
Tom: [00:04:31] 100%.
Paul: [00:04:32] Yeah, inspirational bravery that comes through in the podcast that we did with him. I mean, just such a rock of a human, a huge soul.
Tom: [00:04:40] And I will I mean, I will always remember his words at that event and do listeners do go back and listen to that episode that we did with him. He had a celebration of life a while ago in London, and he stood up and said, you know what, you're all going to be in this position one day. I might be a few years or decades ahead of you. But when it comes down to it, what matters is, are you surrounded by people that you love and love you. And did you do work that mattered. And that has really stayed with me. So, and he absolutely ticked both of those boxes in a big way. So we'll miss both of them. And before we move on, I think we also should probably mention the terrible events going on in the Middle East with atrocities committed by Hamas and the suffering that's currently being endured in Gaza. These are obviously issues of tremendous depth and sophistication in terms of the impact of them and the reasons for them. And I think all we want to share in this podcast is that our hearts are breaking for everybody affected. And that's pretty much where we wanted to come at this from, with a simple sense of humanity and solidarity. And a sense that we need to come together and solve our problems, rather than exacerbate them as we are. Is there anything that either of you wanted to say?
Christiana: [00:05:49] Well, I was really taken by this quote from Bertrand Russell. War does not determine who is right - only who is left. And I would add, and who is gone. How many thousands of innocent children, women, old people have been killed so brutally in this war. So just atrocious, heart-breaking.
Tom: [00:06:24] Yeah, so that is quite a beginning. But we wanted to make sure we shared those things with you, not that you listeners probably are unaware of them, but nevertheless, we wanted to be with you in our reflections towards them. And let's turn our eyes now to what's to come. Obviously, COP is now to some degree overshadowed by what we just said, but we're not going to go into the geopolitical implications, although we may do in future. But right now, the pre-COP is happening in the UAE and the parameters of what we can expect for the COP itself in a few weeks time are becoming clearer. Obviously, the Global Stocktake, which we've talked about many times on this podcast, is the backdrop to all of this, which has shown that nations are falling short of their climate goals. But there is significant movement right now to try to fill in the gaps with commitments on clean energy and fossil fuel phase down, although some of that has big question marks about it. Paul, would you like to come in and just sort of say, from your perspective looking at this, from corporate climate action, non-state actors, you've always been such an advocate for that perspective on this podcast. How are you seeing this COP shape up?
Paul: [00:07:38] I mean, you know, I'm not going to be able to talk about the COP specifically as effectively as you and Christiana, because I never really worked in that machine. But I do see the surround sound. And, you know, we've got a great briefing before this recording. And there was one thing that really just leapt out at me, and it was a difference between two forecasts. So you've got the IEA World Energy Outlook saying that 2030 is going to be the year of peak demand for oil, gas and coal. And then you've got OPEC's World Oil Outlook saying that 2045 is going to be the year of peak demand for oil. Now you're not quite comparing apples with apples, oil, gas and coal and oil. But the point is there's a gigantic 15 year difference between those dates. And what really struck me was both can be correct. You know, it could be 2030. It could be 2045. Both can be correct. And there was a famous book actually written by two distinguished authors called The Future We Choose.
Christiana: [00:08:43] Wait, wait, Paul, what do you mean, both can be correct?
Paul: [00:08:47] Well, I'm coming on to that, Christiana.
Christiana: [00:08:49] I apologize.
Tom: [00:08:51] You've gotten in the way of the careful reveal of Paul's point.
Paul: [00:08:55] The careful reveal of my point. There was a brilliant book written by Tom Rivett-Carnac and distinguished Dame Christiana Figueres, commander of the British Empire. She and Tom, seriously, you both wrote a book called The Future We Choose, right. And the point I would make is that there is choice here. And the key point, and we've picked it up before. But this is once again back to the IEA, very trusted authority, talking about 2023 having 2.8 trillion being spent on energy invested in energy, 1.7 trillion expected to go to clean technologies, 1 trillion to fossil fuels. So if you have, you know, almost like one and a half times, more than one and a half times more being spent on renewable energy than fossil fuels, surely the future that we're going to choose is the one with demand peaking much earlier in 2030. So my point is that I think to some extent the renewable industries are a bit missing in action in the public debate. You know, we're going to speak to.
Tom: [00:09:58] There you go, all right.
Paul: [00:10:00] Tom, can you explain what that noise was?
Tom: [00:10:03] I've been waiting for this moment. All right, thank you Clay, so Clay has just introduced a new thing that we are going to utilize in this week's episode of Outrage + Optimism only so far. But we can thank our good friend, David Shukman, former Environment Editor of the BBC, for this. David wrote to us and said, as an experiment, I wonder who can talk about climate change without using words ending in tion. We tend to talk about mitigation, adaptation, ambition. Thank you, thank you Clay, very helpful yeah. Transition, action. And he says, I find that people outside the COP bubbles discover these words to be off putting, and perhaps quite rightly. So in this episode, we are going to use the buzzer any time anyone uses a word ending in tion.
Clay: [00:10:50] My hand is just hovering over this buzzer, I mean, I am just, I'm ready to just smash.
Paul: [00:10:56] We know, we know the renewables industry is missing in its sacred duty. Ain't no sacred duty button Clay, the renewables industry is missing in its sacred duty to partner effectively with the scientists, with the youth activists, with the NGOs, with everybody, with the health professionals, which we should talk about to demand that we stop this consumption of fossil fuels, that we run it down.
Clay: [00:11:24] Consumption.
Paul: [00:11:25] Oh come on Clay, there's millions of words, I don't think consumption was on the list. I don't think so, anyway.
Clay: [00:11:29] You said it again.
Christiana: [00:11:31] It's tion.
Paul: [00:11:32] But so is practically everything.
Tom: [00:11:35] Every word that we use.
Paul: [00:11:36] You know, constipation, is constipation a word.
Clay: [00:11:39] Yes, so stop.
Paul: [00:11:42] Okay, good luck. I'm now going to hand over to Christiana or Tom who are going to try and say something with this sword of the buzzer hanging over us.
Christiana: [00:11:51] Well, it is admittedly quite a challenge. Let's see, let me try to say something about that and then come back to Pre-COP and COP. Yes, we have these two different dates. It's very obvious that there is self-interest on the part of OPEC obviously, to put 2045 as the year of peak oil demand. Now, I think we should understand and now I want to, at least in thought, go back to the COP that the year of peak fossil fuel demand, which I would like to just include everybody in there, is in part, in part, and I almost want to say in small part, the result of a multilateral agreement such as we may have from this COP. And let's talk about what that wording might be. But I think at this point there is much more of an influence, with respect to which year is going to be the year of peak demand, much more of an influence from domestic policy rather than from international agreements. From investment rather than international agreements, and certainly, certainly with respect to the capacity of renewables to continue the exponential trajectory of, frankly, superiority that they already have, and to the increasing understanding of energy insecurity that the 80% of people who live in countries that are net importers of fossil fuels, their energy insecurity, if they continue depending on those imports.
Christiana: [00:14:02] So, yes, we can look to the COP to say, well, you know, what year is the COP going to agree that there is peak oil demand. Or in fact, to be more specific, is this COP going to be able to move us from the current phrase that has been agreed to fossil fuel phase down, as we remember from previous COPs, a huge discussion there at the end. Or can we move to fossil fuel phase out. It remains to be seen. We can probably get a phase out on coal because that will not be so geopolitically represented there at the COP. But let's see what can be done on fossil fuel phase out at the COP. The the big question for me is, is that really going to determine the date in which there is a peak fuel demand, peak fossil fuel demand. I frankly don't think so. It doesn't mean that legal texts that come out of COP are unimportant. They are hugely important. They are critical. Otherwise, you know, why would we have spent so much time on text at COPs. But they are completely insufficient. And at this point, where we have moved from everything to do with multilateral, ouch, I'm going to use a tion word, let me see.
Tom: [00:15:37] You're doing very well so far. You're doing very well.
Paul: [00:15:38] That's why you're speaking so thoughtfully. You're checking your tion words.
Clay: [00:15:42] You did use the word question, which we've decided is acceptable.
Christiana: [00:15:48] Oh, really?
Clay: [00:15:48] It's how humans speak, you did use question, but continue.
Christiana: [00:15:52] Oh well, thank you, that's very generous. Well, then I can reach out for that. So yes, there is an influence of results that come out of these multi lateral questions. Thank you for giving me that. Being able to reach an early peak in fossil fuel demand is not as much I think the result of these multilateral gatherings and whatever they agreed to put into text, but rather so many other factors, so many other factors. And it will not surprise this audience that I personally, but I don't know about Tom and Paul, would love to know, I actually think that 2030 is not unrealistic. And we do have some studies that already show that we have reached peak demand on coal globally. We have reached peak demand on fossil fuels in OECD countries, and we have reached a plateauing of fossil fuels in non OECD countries to be quickly followed by a reduction in demand. So forget 2045, that is such a self-serving date that has nothing to do with reality.
Tom: [00:17:22] So just to push you a little bit on that.
Christiana: [00:17:23] Wait, did I manage that whole thing without tion?
Paul: [00:17:27] Yeah, but you spoke very slow, very slowly.
Christiana: [00:17:28] How many brownie points do I get for that?
Paul: [00:17:30] Many, many, many.
Tom: [00:17:32] And I'm looking forward to walking into a thicket of them now as I don't do as well as you which will show me up. But very well done. But, Christiana, let me just push you on that a little bit, because what you say is absolutely true, that we are moving through the trajectory of economic activity towards peak fossil fuel demand in many countries. That's going to take us, you know, we hope certainly through this reliance on fossil fuels, whether it's in time remains to be seen and that's the big jeopardy of our days. But if you cast your eye over the variance of national positions at the UNFCCC.
Clay: [00:18:07] Position.
Tom: [00:18:10] All right, well now the first one has been done then I can relax.
Paul: [00:18:12] I don't think that's the key point, but anyway carry on Tom.
Tom: [00:18:15] The EU is backing a phase out of unabated fossil fuels. China is talking about methane specifically but not saying anything on fossil fuel phase out. The US is backing tripling renewables and fossil fuel out and also engaging in carbon credits. I mean, I don't need to go through all of them. Saudi Arabia is talking only about COP 28 focusing on emissions and CCS. There's a whole variety of perspectives on the date and the process. And is it really, does it really matter that much at this point? That's the point you're.
Christiana: [00:18:52] It does.
Tom: [00:18:53] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:18:54] No, I think it does matter. But I also think that we should understand that most of these statements that you have listed here for us are looking at fossil fuel, are looking at this from the supply side.
Tom: [00:19:09] Right, that's a good point.
Christiana: [00:19:09] And so that's a very different issue right. And I think that we should very much be very, yeah I think that we should be very clear with our listeners that there is a demand reality and there is a supply reality. And of course, the economy is made out of both demand and supply. And so ultimately you have the result of both. But in this case, which is actually quite interesting, it is that the advancement of the cleaner economy is being pushed by or pulled, I'm not sure which way you want to interpret it, by a, by reducing demand, and.
Tom: [00:19:54] This is very impressive I have to say, yeah.
Christiana: [00:19:56] It's a very different way of moving the economy, isn't it because.
Tom: [00:20:00] I actually meant your avoidance of tion words. But yes, I agree with that too.
Christiana: [00:20:05] Oh okay, thank you. It is a very different way of moving the economy because we're so used to thinking of the economy, I don't know if consciously or unconsciously from the supply side. And this is very much being moved by the demand side because of everything that we have said, because of their superiority, because of the problem with insecurity of energy. Should you rely on imports of these, of these fuels that are being weaponized. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, let's just, you know, understand that many of the political statements that we hear are reflections of the supply thinking.
Paul: [00:20:54] Sure, and, you know, we are kind of on the edge of tipping points. And we should go to our brilliant interview soon with Tim Lenton. But I'm also particularly interested, We Mean Business pulled up a fantastic indication of the feelings of business leaders regarding, you know, the state of play on climate change. More than 70% said they saw government regulation as being an important driver for. Regulation? Well, government laws being an important driver for accelerating the energy transition. And I think for me, the key point is that. Transition? Energy conversion. Yeah, okay, that'll work.
Tom: [00:21:37] The conversion.
Paul: [00:21:39] Yeah, shift. Thank you. But also we ought to think about the NDCs, the Nationally Determined Contributions of companies, of countries should be designed to maximize foreign direct investment. And if you look at the way they're presented on the UNFCCC website, it's really rudimentary. This is a real opportunity to reach out and accelerate all of that. So I'm just going to kind of finish there and say that I think that there's a policy race. Nations competing both with their own targets. And if you want to talk about projections, remember the projections that. Remember the forecasts that Kodak had for sales of film, and those forecasts were all registered irrelevant by the digital camera, and Kodak went bust. So you can forecast whatever production you like. But if people don't want to buy it, you're out of business. Okay.
Christiana: [00:22:30] Tom, I wonder whether before we go to the Tipping Points report, which is quite interesting and exciting, I wonder whether we should just summarize very quickly, because the President of the COP, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, did put forward for the pre-COP a list of what he thinks are possible landing points for the COP, and I think it would be good to just list them out quickly and we will be following them obviously over the next couple of months. But would you like to just give us a quick readout?
Tom: [00:23:10] Yeah sure, no good point, I'm happy to do that. You're right, seven points, thank you Christiana. So let's just run through these one by one. First of all, a commitment to triple clean energy and double energy efficiency investments by 2030.
Paul: [00:23:25] Brilliant.
Christiana: [00:23:26] And that looks like it has a lot of support. So I would say we probably can put a little tick on that one, because that does have a lot of support. It will be used as, of course, as a card against other things, but there is quite a bit of support for that.
Paul: [00:23:41] Super exciting.
Tom: [00:23:41] There's a lot of support. I think I feel very good about that one. I also think that a certain amount of that is actually happening through the natural economic transitions of the economy.
Christiana: [00:23:50] Yeah yeah, as we discussed.
Tom: [00:23:51] Clay, where's my buzz? There you go, thank you, yeah. Through the natural shift of the.
Clay: [00:23:55] I didn't know if you wanted to stop, I mean, you're reading a list. You're not choosing these words, but maybe.
Tom: [00:23:59] That's a good point, all right, I should be given a pass.
Paul: [00:24:01] Thank you, thank you for giving him a pass, thank you.
Tom: [00:24:04] Yeah, okay next, some form of commitment on fossil fuel phase down headlining with coal. My understanding of this, this is going to be Scope's 1 and 2. So operational emissions of fossil fuel producers rather than actually the stuff they sell. But it's unclear as yet exactly what the commitment will be on coal. The third point is landing the 100 billion finance target. And let's just take a moment and realize that Christiana and I left the UNFCCC in 2016, dealing with the 100 billion finance target. It is outrageous that we are still talking in 2023 about landing the 100 billion finance target.
Paul: [00:24:40] 100 billion annually.
Tom: [00:24:42] Annually yeah, by 2020, which of course is three years ago. Anyway, he's right to have it in there. Fourth, a long term.
Christiana: [00:24:50] Sorry, it comes way back right. It comes way back from Copenhagen.
Tom: [00:24:53] From Copenhagen, exactly. Fourth, a long term adaptation, resilience target and funding plan. Not much detail on exactly what that is, but I'm sure that's being worked on. Fifth, progress on delivering a fund and cash for the loss and damage fund, which is obviously the big one for many countries for COP 28. Sixth, a pact from major oil and gas producers to slash methane emissions by 75% by 2030.
Paul: [00:25:22] That's super important because it is, it reduces in the short term the, CH4 emissions are loaded in the near term. So if you want to take really big action really quickly, this is critical.
Tom: [00:25:36] It's true, 100%. And finally.
Christiana: [00:25:38] But it cannot be the only thing that major oil and gas producers do.
Paul: [00:25:42] Correct, correct.
Tom: [00:25:43] Right, and it can't be exactly the same as point two, which is around the commitment of fossil fuel phase down headlining with coal that can't, those two things could in some worlds be the same thing, or they could be different. And point 7, a deal to cover all economic sectors in greenhouse gases in national climate plans by 2030, makes sense. So that's the rough parameters of what we might see at the end of the COP. Is it enough, it's never enough. But some elements of it are pretty good. And of course there will be other things in there, like food and forests and health, all of which we will talk about in the coming weeks.
Paul: [00:26:15] So but will it keep us away from tipping points?
Tom: [00:26:17] We're going to go to tipping points. There's just one other thing I wanted to mention between now and then, which is something that caught my eye and I'm sure you both saw it as well. Did you both see that Panama is suffering its worst drought in history as a result of climate change?
Christiana: [00:26:32] Panama Canal.
Tom: [00:26:33] The Panama Canal. This is the way that things get connected that we don't generally think about in climate change. Panama is suffering its worst drought in history. The Panama Canal is compiled of a series of locks that are filled with fresh water. And as a result of this drought, there's not enough water in these locks to run the Panama Canal. And so usually the Panama Canal takes 36 ships a day, very large container ships, these massive ones. And pretty soon that's going to be down to 18 from early next year. Now, 3% or more of world trade goes through there. These are the kind of systemic impacts that we're not used to thinking about in terms of what that actually does to prices, to supply, to the way global trade works. But this is going to happen in all sectors of our economy. There's a great article in the. Financial Times about this I would point people towards. So this just caught my eye as a really interesting piece I wanted to bring up on the podcast.
Christiana: [00:27:35] I think we've mentioned it before on the podcast, but it is getting worse and worse and worse. And well, you both know, and most listeners would know that Costa Rica is just south or Panama is just south of Costa Rica. And I'm meant to go down to the Panama Canal in December. And I am, I say that with a clenching heart, with a clenching heart. I have been following the history of the canal for years. It's played a huge part in Panamanian and Latin American history. The fact that it was first built by the United States with military bases there, and then made independent and moved over to Panamanian authority. And there was talk years ago about charging a carbon fee to ships as they passed through the Panama Canal. And sadly, that was not done. And sadly, that canal needs obviously the water, that of the rivers that feed it in order to be able to move those ships through. In any event, I hope to be down there in December and may give you a witness account.
Tom: [00:28:57] All right, sounds good. Now we are going to turn to this great interview that the two of you did this week with Tim Lenton, Professor at the University of Exeter. But to introduce Tim, I am actually going to also bring in first an amazing team member, and Freya Newman was a student under Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter. So because I couldn't make it, or rather it was a great thing I couldn't make it, so Freya joined this interview with you. And Freya, welcome to Outrage + Optimism.
Freya: [00:29:27] Hello, thank you for having me.
Tom: [00:29:28] So nice to have you, great to have you. So why don't we kick off with you introducing your old professor, Tim Lenton.
Freya: [00:29:35] I would love to.
Christiana: [00:29:36] Wait, wait, wait. He's actually quite a young chap, so he's not old. Former professor.
Freya: [00:29:44] My former Professor Tim Lenton. So he teaches climate change and earth system science at Exeter University and has spent over 20 years studying the earth as a system and developing and using different models to understand its behaviour. And he's quite well known for his work on Earth system tipping points, but he's also part of this broader climate community that's evidencing how change can happen faster than we think and already is in some sectors. And that's where this concept of positive tipping points comes in, which is what we're going to speak to Tim about today.
Tom: [00:30:14] Amazing. And just a word Freya, you have been with Global Optimism for some years, which is Christiana and my day job outside of the podcast. So delighted that you can now join us on the podcast as well.
Freya: [00:30:26] Thank you, it's been an interesting first experience I think.
Christiana: [00:30:28] How was it Freya? How was the experience?
Freya: [00:30:32] It was a nice surprise when Christiana asked me to lead the interview like a minute before it happened. And now there's Clay hovering over a buzzer, so it's keeping me on my toes, I think.
Tom: [00:30:42] All right, so here is Tim Lenton and we'll be back afterwards with some more discussion.
Freya: [00:30:47] Boop boop boop, cue the music.
Christiana: [00:30:54] Tim, thank you so much for joining us here on Outrage + Optimism. Good to see you again. I just saw you, didn't I, just a few, I don't know, a few days ago or something weeks ago. And Tim so we have a very special treat for you, are you ready?
Paul: [00:31:09] Very special treat, very special treat.
Christiana: [00:31:09] Very special treat, A because we're so excited about the report that you're bringing out. And we thought, okay, how can we thank Tim for this fantastic report in advance of it coming out. And so as a very special treat, we have knocked Tom out of commission today. And instead of him we have Freya Newman. We have upgraded definitely the co-hosting function. Freya was your student at University of Exeter five years ago, and she is on our team now in the Global Optimism team, and she is just so excited to now be in conversation with you. So actually, Paul and I are going to be minimalist in our hosting today.
Paul: [00:32:01] Going to try to be minimalist, yeah.
Christiana: [00:32:02] Yeah, yeah, we're going to try, we're going to try and turn the baton over to professor and former student and now full fledged and very, very highly valued colleague at Global Optimism. It really is so, so delightful. You trained her well, you trained her well Tim. Thank you very much for that.
Tim: [00:32:25] That's my job, thank you.
Christiana: [00:32:28] There you go. Well, so just to launch in here, Tim, you've been leading on the Global Tipping Points report that is coming out on December 6th during the COP. And we are very excited about this report. You have divided it basically into what I would call two sections. Most of us are used to thinking of the concept of tipping points, the way we have been educated by Johan Rockstar, as I call him, Johan Rockström, and others who have been educating us for years about the vulnerability and the fragility of so many ecosystem tipping points that we're getting very, very close to or in fact have already exceeded. And so tipping, when we hear tipping points, you know, we begin to bristle and get extremely nervous because we know there's bad news behind that. Now, you have captured all of that, but also you have turned the concept around to positive tipping points. And that is what we would love to explore with you today. The positive tipping points concept, first of all. And then where do you where have you begun to see them. But before we get started into positive tipping points, Freya has some information about your family that she is now going to share. Are you ready Tim?
Tim: [00:34:00] Yeah, I'm ready.
Christiana: [00:34:01] Okay.
Paul: [00:34:01] Distinguished family, distinguished family.
Christiana: [00:34:04] Go for it, Freya.
Freya: [00:34:06] That was a slightly weird tee up for my question, but I do have a question to do with a relative of yours to kick things off, Tim. So we often look at social and political movements from history because there's so much they can teach us about today's climate movement. And so I was wondering if you could start off by telling us about a relative of yours, Lilian Lenton, who was a well known suffragette and share some of the learnings we can take from her actions that we can then apply to today in the context of climate change.
Christiana: [00:34:33] But hold on Freya, you have to tell us the story that you know.
Tim: [00:34:37] I can tell you the story if you like.
Christiana: [00:34:38] Okay go for it, Tim.
Freya: [00:34:40] Much better coming from Tim.
Christiana: [00:34:41] Yeah, I love it.
Tim: [00:34:42] Because if you rewind 110 years, you'd find.
Christiana: [00:34:48] 1913.
Tim: [00:34:49] 1913, earlier on in 1913, than we are in 2023. But you'd find Lilian Lenton in prison on hunger strike, having been caught almost red handed with her conspirator, Olive Wharry, for burning down the tea house in Kew Gardens, actually one of many arson attacks that Lilian was involved in. And in fact, she said on the record that it was her, she felt it was her task to sort of try and burn down a building a week, if possible, to continue to draw attention to the fact that the government could not continue to govern without the consent of the majority of those being governed and on, in prison in Holloway.
Christiana: [00:35:39] Wait wait, did you say a building a week?
Tim: [00:35:42] Yeah, that was her stated aim, yeah. And all part of not.
Paul: [00:35:47] That makes Just Stop Oil look a bit sort of tame, really, doesn't it.
Tim: [00:35:50] Interestingly, you could say it does, though it would still count as nonviolent action in the sense that she has, all the suffragettes were very careful to ensure there is nobody in said buildings. But anyway, in prison in Holloway Prison, Lilian was on hunger strike, as was a common thing to do as a suffragette. And she also, according to the prison admission report, smashed up everything in her cell as soon as she was admitted. But after a couple of days, the authorities got a little frustrated, I guess, and they did something they would do to many of the hunger striking suffragettes, which was force feed Lilian. But unfortunately they put the tube the wrong, down the wrong way into one of her lungs and poured liquid food into one of her lungs. And, well, she didn't she didn't die, but that would have nearly suffocated her. She choked violently, apparently it took about seven people to restrain her. After that horrific incident, they quietly released Lilian out of prison, to the care of her friends. But the then Home Secretary, when it came to light that she'd been seriously ill, essentially lied to the public and said she was, you know, she'd visited hospital and she was released because of the bad effects of being on hunger strike, not because they'd nearly, the State had nearly killed her. And that kicked off a huge public storm in the short term of kind of people pointing out that that was a lie and that and using this in a sense, as part of the political ammunition against the then government. And this is one of many important events that were, at the time shifting public opinion. And of course, depending on which historian you read, some would say that, you know, some sectors of public opinion were very unhappy with the suffragette militancy, just as many people today would probably be portrayed as unhappy with Just Stop Oil. But the deeper point is, I think many would agree it took those actions of a brave few, like Lilian, to shine enough light on a profound kind of moral and democratic issue to ultimately win universal suffrage.
Christiana: [00:38:07] What a story.
Tim: [00:38:09] I know, it's a big one. And then Freya asked me, well, what do we learn, what do we take from that? Well, we could probably take the knowledge that it's usually social activism of some form or other that starts really, truly fundamental change in societies. And if we're talking about fundamentally transforming everything essentially to, to truly avoid a climate and ecological crisis, catastrophe, emergency, then we're going to have to, at some point, shift our whole worldview as well as our behaviours and our technologies and our social norms, which is, of course, what the suffragettes managed to achieve, a major fundamental shift in social norms.
Freya: [00:38:56] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:38:57] I have to take a deep breath on that one. And that was your great great aunt, is that right?
Tim: [00:39:02] Well, that's interesting because that's my grandfather had referred to her as a sort of colloquially as Aunt Lillian, but I think she was probably a cousin of his. So I've been trying to chase this down in the family tree. Suffice to say, someone to be proud of whatever my direct, direct or indirect descendancy. Because Lillian didn't have any kids, the rest of the Lenton clan are going to have to, distant or otherwise are going to have to continue to celebrate her.
Paul: [00:39:32] If I can just say the celebration on the suffragette statue in Parliament Square from Millicent Fawcett, who I think spoke for the movement and our movement also when she said 'courage speaks to courage everywhere' and it's a very inspiring slogan.
Tim: [00:39:46] Yeah, I love that.
Christiana: [00:39:47] So that brings us to your report, because I think it's very courageous for you to put out a report that looks at tipping points from two different perspectives. So, Freya, on to you.
Freya: [00:39:59] Yeah. Thank you. I think that story is a really nice reminder and good framing for the conversation today. I think listeners are probably familiar with Earth system tipping points. I think we've had guests on in the past that have spoken about that. And we really want to talk today about positive tipping points, but I think it's probably worth touching base and recapping where we are with those negative Earth system tipping points and kind of the state of play today.
Tim: [00:40:24] Yes. Good that we do that, Freya, because I've been staring these wretched things in the face for over 15 years now. So where we are, is at, well, as we probably temporarily head towards 1.5°C of global warming in a building El Nino, where we are is, we're at a level of global temperature where we can't rule out that we've passed 1 or 2 tipping points in the major ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland, and we may have committed already to a long term sea level rise in the order of ten meters, long term being many centuries, thankfully. But we're also verging dangerously close to bad tipping points in coral reefs that support the livelihoods of at least half a billion people worldwide. And we're seeing the evidence that we might be getting very close to the tipping points for abrupt loss of carbon as the permafrost of the northern, high northern latitudes thaw. And if we transgress 1.5 °C, well, the risks only go up every 0.1°C counts. But we run into the realm where something like a something most people have never heard about a collapse of part of the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, and a process we call deep convection in the Labrador Sea, and could have major, cause a major shift in Western Europe in the climate and especially in the UK, totally transforming seasonality, agriculture, infrastructure, everything.
Paul: [00:41:54] Just a tiny question, Tim. I mean, if that circulation shuts off, I mean, we're on the same latitude as, in the UK, as Halifax, Nova Scotia. I mean, are we going to get like completely frozen to bits?
Tim: [00:42:05] Well, sort of, that's the short version. It's a bit the last time the tipping point happened. It kind of is associated with the transition to the little ice age in Europe. And you can picture all these famous Dutch masters painting these white landscapes and frost fairs on the Thames and everything else. So yeah, we get a climate, a whole lot more like an equivalent latitude over in Canada. And we're just due to speak to senior security folk in the UK Cabinet Office later this week, showing our analysis of some of the changes in extremes that will unfold, not least the extraordinary winter storms that will become the norm. But at the same time, I'm afraid summer extreme heat and heat domes actually become more prevalent. So it's like you amp up seasonality for the UK and some of its neighbours.
Paul: [00:42:56] Yikes. Freya.
Freya: [00:42:57] Yeah, no, I think always important to start with that reminder of the state of climate and the risks and the negative tipping points that we are at the moment accelerating towards. But if I may tip the conversation towards the positive side of things. I think the.
Christiana: [00:43:13] Tip the conversation, listen to her.
Paul: [00:43:14] We heard that, we heard that.
Freya: [00:43:19] Got to use the language. But I think the concept of positive tipping points may be relatively new to listeners. So it'd be great to just kind of define what positive tipping points are and maybe explain how they can unleash this exponential change that we've been seeing in lots of different sectors and combine to cause these cascade positive change effects.
Tim: [00:43:37] Yeah, so I should probably define a tipping point in general, which is I like to do if you imagine leaning back on an ordinary chair. We all know that you can get to a balance point where a small nudge, one way or the other, could take you back upright or sprawled on your back on the floor. And that point where a little, little change or a little nudge makes a big difference to your fate. That's a tipping point in the sense that a small change can cause a large response that can be abrupt and pretty difficult to reverse if you end up sprawled on your back on the floor. And that why is that the case. It's because in all kinds of complex systems, you can reach this point where amplifying processes, amplifying feedbacks get so strong that they can completely take over a system and they can cause change to become self propelling. And this is pertinent both to the bad tipping points in the climate. That's exactly what they're all about, it's triggering vicious cycles of self-propelling change in the climate. But over in tackling the climate crisis and propelling a renewable energy revolution are also some positive tipping points where change can become self propelling. The reinforcing feedbacks will change. The amplifiers get so strong that the virtuous cycles get so strong that they're self propelling. Now, would you like an example or two Freya, just to make it more concrete for people?
Christiana: [00:45:05] Yes, yes, yes.
Freya: [00:45:06] What's your favourite, what's your favourite positive tipping point?
Tim: [00:45:09] Well I, well I don't know if I should, feels like choosing between your children, choosing a favourite. But.
Paul: [00:45:17] They're all your favourites, aren't they Tim.
Tim: [00:45:18] Yeah, they're all my favourites. But yeah so my favourite example might be Norway being eight years ahead of the curve in the tipping point to electric vehicles. In Norway, the market share of EVs is 80% or more for battery electric vehicles. And if you include plug in hybrids, it's well over 90%. That's a case where you've got a tipping from one technology, petrol or diesel cars to another. It's a classic example of some people call it the diffusion of a new technology. But that case study encapsulates many things, many reinforcing feedbacks. Essentially, it's all about the fact that the more batteries you make, the better you get at making batteries, and the cheaper the next battery gets to make. So those are called learning by doing and economies of scale in kind of academic language. But those feedbacks have been really strong. So batteries came down an almost an order of magnitude in price for much of the last decade. And then underneath it all, behind those reinforcing feedbacks, is the question of what created the enabling conditions for Norway to be first, and that all traces back to social activists. It traces back to members of the pop band a-ha in the late 1980s, teaming up with an environmentalist, architecture professor Harald Rostvik from Stavanger, and an environmentalist, Frederic Hauge, and with a plan basically, they were upset with Gro Harlem Brundtland, the then Norwegian prime minister, who'd been telling the world that they should all adopt sustainable development whilst hypocritically increasing oil and gas exports from Norway to the rest of the world.
Tim: [00:47:08] So they figured, quite rightly, that electrifying transport was a key opportunity for producing a cleaner, greener, better Norway, knowing that already 96% of their power supply was hydroelectric and what they did, knowing the media would follow that pop band a-ha wherever they went, is deliberately draw attention to a series of policy demands to incentivize the switch to electric vehicles, as well as draw public attention to the opportunity of this new technology. And they did that by sort of going to a famous solar race of solar electric cars in Switzerland, and also importing an electric vehicle to Norway and trying to force the government's hand to do at least the first of one of their many demands, which was to waive the import registration tax on that electric vehicle and every electric vehicle since. By my estimate, as soon as major manufacturers were producing electric vehicles to the Norwegian market around 2011. At that point, actually, it was probably equivalent price to own an EV as to own a petrol or diesel car in Norway. And sure enough, the market started tipping almost immediately, with the market share doubling or more than doubling every year.
Paul: [00:48:31] It's a lovely story. It's a wonderful story. I think I heard you talk about hunting down strong reinforcing feedbacks, and it sounds like you really found one with electric vehicles in Norway. But can I ask you just a funny question, Tim. You know, we've got this big problem with climate change and the kind of health of our planet. And you're a planetary doctor, right. You're basically, you and a whole bunch of people like you with a lot of satellites and big tech and big whatever have come together and said, look, friends, you know, we've got a real critical health situation here where there needs to be an intervention. And I just notice all this money going into like luxury goods and great big cars and, you know, like la la la, it's not happening. And I just wanted to ask you as the physician. You know, how does it feel that the patient doesn't hear from you. Should you be sitting with the head of state and the King or the president and on the television every evening telling people, you know, how does it you know, end of question, I just hand it to you.
Tim: [00:49:43] Yeah, well good question. I mean, that whole physician's approach to the planet kind of resonates deeply with me, because the reason I got into the research I did was I was inspired by James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis and his call, which hit me as an 18 year old after my first term at university when I read, my dad gave me his books for Christmas on Gaia, and at the end of one of the books he says, we need some practitioners of planetary medicine, is there a doctor out there. At which point I thought, well, that is exactly what I want to do my research on.
Christiana: [00:50:20] You raised your hand and you went, here it is. Here I am.
Tim: [00:50:21] Yeah, I wrote to Jim Lovelock and said, yeah, I'd love to work on this. I'm ready to answer the call. And he's the kind of humble guy and said, yeah great, why not come and visit me. And it kind of, our friendship blossomed from there. But like Jim. Yeah, it's kind of, kind of lovely. But like Jim, I suppose he was a quiet person who liked to live close to nature, as am I. So you could put me in front of, you know, our elected leaders, if the opportunity arise and I'll give them a rabble rousing talk, hopefully. But I also believe that change has to come, like in Gaia from the bottom up as well as the top down. And we're not going anywhere unless we can kind of bring these forces to work together and to align. And it doesn't kind of matter too much how they come into alignment. And the Norway EV case is like a classic case where the activists sort of shamed the government into action and the government started taking credit for it and so on. But yeah, I believe that the front is broad and long and that we need bubbling innovation from all places and sectors, from the bottom up, and we're not going anywhere without really supportive policy. That's thinking in a, in a sort of systems way, shall we say, if not a Gaia way about how to change things for the better.
Tim: [00:51:41] By which I mean we need the just as life creates its own conditions for flourishing on this planet, and has done for 4 billion years, mostly in microbial form, and it does through does so through sort of being actors in networks. We must take this same kind of creative view of the solution space and yeah, bring those, bring those top and the top down and the bottom up into alignment, but also really foster a complete sea change and kind of the need for innovation in, in all realms. I don't just mean technological to get ourselves out of this mess. So yeah, you're right. People appear to be asleep at the wheel up in the, up in the corridors of power, as far as I can see. I don't think they're wholly asleep at the wheel, but they're far too easily distracted by all the usual short term proximate things that hit their inbox every hour of the day and every day of the week. So I'd have, you know, let's talk creatively together about how to achieve the sort of worldview shift and the centering that's needed to not keep forgetting about the ultimate crisis, which is the one where we're all complicit to some degree, or trying to do something about eroding our life support system, without which we're all doomed.
Freya: [00:53:10] Are you guys pointing at me?
Paul: [00:53:11] Yeah.
Christiana: [00:53:11] Yes.
Freya: [00:53:14] I just had a quick follow on from that response, Tim, which was what you mean by bottom up? What does bottom up mean to you? And then I do have a couple more questions before we close.
Christiana: [00:53:23] Go for it, go for it.
Paul: [00:53:23] Go for your questions.
Freya: [00:53:24] Jump to it. Okay. So the Norway example you shared was really cool. And it's very clear that these positive tipping points don't just happen. And we really need to enable them. And I'm sure there's lots we can learn from the systems we've already tipped, such as EVs and renewables. So I think I'd love, we'd love to hear from you, like how do we tip the system? How do we tip the balance to the positive? And what are those enablers or enabling conditions we need to trigger the positive tipping points? Including the role of mindset shift, which is something we talk about at Global Optimism a lot. Would love to hear your take on that. Clay says give us the answers.
Paul: [00:53:59] Now.
Tim: [00:54:00] If you want to know, what do I mean by the bottom up? I mean kind of like social activism at some level, but also that inventor in their garage, metaphorically, who who creates the beginning of a new technology or refines one like a solar panel such that it can ultimately be something that can be world transforming. The other really big example that's starting to stare us in the face of a positive tipping point. Well, it is the one involving solar panels and wind power. The more panels we make, the cheaper they get to make they get better the more we make them. But to get it back to worldviews, I suppose you've got to have the worldview to want to create change, both at the level of the innovator who starts it all. In the case of the people who develop solar photovoltaic panel technology, it's now many of them are on record saying that they were motivated to try and bring clean energy to the world, and they cared about environment deeply. It can also come back to those social innovators like a-ha and friends who trigger the electric vehicle revolution in Norway. But then it's innovation in governance, isn't it, to take the step to change the rules, to help create the enabling conditions for a tipping point to happen. And that means being, it means courage and it means fortitude, and it means being willing to stand up to all the lobbyists and vested interests that are going to be in your ear as loud as possible, railing against you, weakening the subsidies for fossil fuel extraction, use, consumption, etcetera. Having the courage to go with what can actually be highly effective almost or zero, often zero cost to you as the policymaker or to your electorate policies like mandate you will, you must have X percent of electric vehicles in your fleet by year Y, and we're going to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by year Z. We know that mandates, which are kind of cost neutral to the people making them, are, in most cases the most effective policies for forcing the innovation that gets the reinforcing feedbacks going. That creates the potential for a positive tipping. But it comes it does, as I've said, come back to courage, leadership and and metal really, because you're going to have to stand up against the extraordinary vested interests in the status quo. And the tragedy of the situation is many leaders have proved deficient on that, those qualities.
Paul: [00:56:47] So we're almost out of time. Shotgun question from Freya. A quick one from me. And then we have to close sadly.
Freya: [00:56:51] Yeah sorry, I shotgun first. I just had one question about your kind of call for courageous leadership, which I think is something that will resonate with a lot of listeners and a lot of people. And so just kind of taking a really near term perspective, what the tipping points mean for governments, business, finance, policy, how should we be thinking about them in decision making, particularly with COP 28? So through the lens of tipping points, what is what we want to see from these different actors at COP that's only a few weeks away?
Tim: [00:57:20] Well, what we need these different actors to be realizing is that when you get close to a tipping point, you have a huge opportunity open up to you because you get to a situation where you can get enormous bang for your buck if I can put it that crudely, a little bit more effort on the policy levers or a little bit more investment, whether it's public or private money or usually a mixture of both could suddenly tip a system into this self propelling change, which if you're in there early and you may have in your, if you're a leader of a country, you've got the relevant industry in your country or whatever else, you may have many, many things to gain for many actors in the transition happening. Now, in the big picture, 80% of people are living in net fossil fuel importing countries so that 80% are definitely set to win. There's still the 20% in net fossil fuel exporting countries who are going to have been, are and will continue to rally against the change, but they're the minority and the majority walking into negotiations. The majority have got to make those facts heard and make their voices heard accordingly, and know that we're not playing what economists globally call as some kind of zero sum game. We've all been misled by many mainstream economists telling us in areas continuously that it was going to cost us to tackle the climate crisis. It's always going to be a net cost. Well, yeah, there are some upfront cost barriers we need to get over.
Paul: [00:58:54] Investments.
Tim: [00:58:55] But all the evidence is this is a massive economic gain, productivity gain, workforce, labour, etcetera gain, as well as a gain in sheer life support and collective flourishing. So we just.
Paul: [00:59:09] Yeah, I was going say your point about the 10% exporting the 80% importing, Christiana made last week. It's absolutely brilliant way of showing what's in the interest of the people in the world. We've got to finish in basically now. But I'm going to, I'm not going to ask my question. I am going to say I love it that you said we're going to get transformative change either way. And I do wonder if people involved in new fossil fuel recovery should feel some shame about what they're doing. Christiana, can you close us out?
Christiana: [00:59:37] Go for it, Paul. You can do it beautifully.
Paul: [00:59:40] We do ask all of our guests one simple question Tim, thank you so much for all you've shared. What is one thing that outrages you, and what is one thing that makes you optimistic about our future?
Tim: [00:59:52] Well, I'm outraged by all the so-called leaders currently, including my own, rowing back on their commitments to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions, because that's a heresy against present and future generations and other living things. But the thing that gives me optimism is my kind of deep knowledge of Gaia and the history of life on the planet and the way it innovates. I know in my heart of hearts that life in some holistic sense is going to be fine. I'm a human as well, and I want us to, with kids of my own and I want us to innovate our way out of trouble here. And I think that gives me optimism, because if we because we know if we can get into that culture of green innovation, we're going to be in a really funky, productive place where we actually better ourselves as a collective species.
Paul: [01:00:49] A-men, a-women, a-they. Thank you Tim.
Christiana: [01:00:53] Thank you so much, Tim. Really wonderful to see you again.
Tim: [01:00:56] Yeah, thanks Christiana, thank you.
Freya: [01:00:57] Thanks Tim, thank you.
Paul: [01:00:58] Creating great students.
Tim: [01:01:00] Yeah, thanks.
Christiana: [01:01:02] Yeah, thank you for teaching her so well.
Tim: [01:01:04] I'll try and send you some more students if you ask.
Christiana: [01:01:07] Yeah, there you go, there you go. That's your plan. That's a good plan. All righty.
Paul: [01:01:13] Cheers Tim.
Freya: [01:01:13] Thank you. Bye.
Tim: [01:01:14] Bye.
Christiana: [01:01:14] Bye.
Paul: [01:01:15] Bye.
Tom: [01:01:23] Okay. So, so wonderful to have that conversation with Tim Lenton. What a brilliant individual he is. What did you all leave that discussion with? Paul, why don't we start with you?
Paul: [01:01:35] Well, kind of tore my heart in half, really. I've listened to him on lots of podcasts. He's got some quite interesting graphics about what a tipping point means. But in climate terms, you know, when he talks about tipping points, what he's saying is, you know, the Earth is a spaceship and it you know, it might just suddenly change and we couldn't change it back. And that's just too terrible to think about. But on the positive side, I think the genius of what he's done is to point out that, you know, the whole point about the Anthropocene is we are making the Earth system based upon what we do, and there are tipping points in human behavior. That's just what we were talking about before the interview. So the degree to which we're able to make massive collaborations, for example, between the renewable energy industry and climate scientists and activists to get national laws in at great speed, to move the economy to decarbonize. That's a tipping point, too. So I feel he put ice down my spine with his talk of how the planet can tip. But he put courage in my heart that the union can make the force, and that we can tip the Earth's system in social science terms, towards a low carbon economy. If we focus on what's important. And just a final thing to say, I walked through a huge shopping centre yesterday because I wanted to have a walk in the rain and 95% of what was being sold was pure luxury. So like most, there are huge parts of our economy that are just pure luxury. Whilst we ignore a planetary emergency, it's insane. I know we can tip that and Tim shows the way.
Tom: [01:03:20] Amazing. Thanks Paul.
Christiana: [01:03:21] Ice down my spine and courage in my heart. That's a new interpretation of outrage and optimism.
Tom: [01:03:30] That's actually a club in London near Paul's house. But anyway sorry, carry on, Christiana.
Christiana: [01:03:36] No, Freya, I'm very interested in Freya's reaction.
Freya: [01:03:41] Sure. Yeah, I really liked how Tim traced so much back to shifting world views and social activism, because Tim is fundamentally an Earth system scientist, but with positive tipping points. We're talking about technological systems, social behavioural systems, and economic and political systems. And so I was quite struck by the way that he applied all of his knowledge of Gaia and the Earth system to the approach that we have to take to transform these different social systems. I think he said, if we want to transform them, change has to come from the bottom up as well as the top down, just like in Gaia. And so I thought the parallels he drew between Earth systems and human systems and the innovations we need to transform them, I found really interesting. And then, a second thought or feeling, Christiana, you often talk about how we're in a race between these two exponential curves, the exponential negative climate impacts we're facing and the exponential progress of technologies, and a general feeling I had coming away from the conversation, which takes quite a similar framing, it's just that the world is in this critical tipping point moment of its own, where over the next few years, we're going to tip the balance one way or the other, and we have to trigger these positive tipping points as the only way to avoid the negative ones. So it's obvious, but yeah, we need to tip the system in the right way. They were my main thoughts and feelings. Christiana.
Tom: [01:05:03] Nice.
Christiana: [01:05:05] Very nice. Yeah I'm also interested Freya, how was it for you to be in the interviewer position and have your former professor be the interviewee? How was that feeling?
Freya: [01:05:19] It was quite fun. It's a flip in the dynamic, but I very much felt like I was just, like learning publicly, while I was doing the interview.
Tom: [01:05:28] Welcome. Yeah.
Christiana: [01:05:29] Yeah, that's what we all do.
Freya: [01:05:33] No, but it was it was really good fun. Thank you for the opportunity.
Christiana: [01:05:36] No, it was wonderful. Thank you, thank you Freya. To just take Freya's point one step further. That conversation with Tim has made me think back again to our one of my favourite words in life, which is the Anthropocene. And I have often spoken about rewriting the Anthropocene because the first years since the 1950s to now, the first 70 years, have been so much about destroying nature and destroying the planet. And can we rewrite. So, and there are many thought leaders and philosophers who are already talking about the post Anthropocene, wanting to introduce a new geological era. I would rather rewrite it than have a new geological era within 70 years or 80 years of each other. But in any event, what was fascinating to me about that conversation is the realization that the Anthropocene as we know it up until now, basically with such an impact of destroying nature on the part of humans. I almost want to say, and this is really stretching it in the past few years, but for the most part, there was just no intention, or at least no focus on the destruction. There was much more of a focus on achieving comfort and achieving development and achieving, you know, whatever, you know, in Paul's words, achieving the luxury, Et cetera. Et cetera, et cetera. And so what strikes me is that in order to get to the positive tipping points in order to avoid the negative or most of the negative tipping points that come with that kind of thinking. We have to be very intentional about it. It was the intentionality that really struck me that this is not simply riding the wave. It's not business as usual. We're going to get there. It is the power and the need and the urgency of intentionality is the only way we're going to get to the positive tipping points. Because as Freya and Tim and everyone else has pointed out about these tipping points, they are, they're there within our grasp, but we don't quite have them secured or guaranteed yet. We can see them there they are on the horizon. But the only way that we can pull that horizon in toward us and make it a sustainable, a sustainable, lived experience is with intentionality. So the difference of intentionality between the past 70 years, what was the intention there, and the difference of what we ought to see in our intentionality over the next few decades was really striking to me.
Paul: [01:08:54] Yeah. And I mean a last thought. It's like a race. Have you ever heard that phrase it's a race between our stupidity and our genius. But I was trying to look up that quote, and I found one from Einstein saying, the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. Good luck, us, but I think we can do it.
Tom: [01:09:11] Christiana, what you just said reminds me of that amazing interview we did with David Attenborough years ago when he said, The Garden of Eden is no more. And you said, well, in that case, we need to build the Garden of Intention, which Clay, it would be great to put a link into the show notes of that, because it was a really remarkable moment where we talked about the garden of intention and the potential for human flourishing in a world beyond the receipt of abundance, which, of course, was our heritage for so long. And now we have to make it. It won't just arrive. Freya, it's been so fun to have you on the podcast. Thanks for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Freya: [01:09:48] Thank you very much.
Tom: [01:09:48] And I think we're going to leave you with some music, as we always do, jemima coulter.
Christiana: [01:09:53] And Tom, you know what, I think Freya is competing for your broadcasting voice tone.
Tom: [01:09:59] She does have a broadcasting voice.
Christiana: [01:10:01] She has a brilliant broadcasting voice. As we know, just because we spoke about Sir David Attenborough, who was so complimentary to you, Tom, about your broadcasting voice. But if he could have heard Freya, he would have said, my dear.
Tom: [01:10:17] Young lady, are you in broadcasting.
Christiana: [01:10:20] Young lady, are you, you also have a broadcasting voice. So, Freya, you will have to join us again.
Freya: [01:10:27] I would love to. Thank you very much.
Tom: [01:10:30] All right, very good. Thanks, everyone. Appreciate you joining us. See you next week.
Christiana: [01:10:35] Bye.
Paul: [01:10:36] Bye.
Freya: [01:10:37] Bye? Yeah, bye.
Clay: [01:10:42] Oh, we're keeping that. That is so good. That is too good.
jemima coulter: [01:10:49] My name is jemima coulter. I'm an artist from Bristol in the UK. And thanks so much for having me on Outrage + Optimism. You'll be hearing my track Flowers from my album Grace After Party, which I put out last summer. The song Flowers came out of a moment where I was feeling really low. I was slumped at my desk late at night, and I started to imagine everyone I ever knew around me. Everyone was reaching out their hands, trying to touch me and comfort me, and it made me realize that everyone I ever knew still had a presence in my imagination that was powerful enough to incite the same feelings of love and care as if they were really in the room. And all of that feeling is mine. It's created by me, and I can access it at any time. And that's what the song is describing. I feel outraged that the UK government has issued new oil and gas licences this year, but something I feel positive about is the research going into farming methods and ecological balance. I think all of that stuff is really cool, and I love that it's leading us to better understand the intricacies of the world we live in.
Clay: [01:16:05] So there you go, another episode of Outrage + Optimism. It's your friend and newly appointed resident, buzzer button smasher Clay. I hope this podcast meets you where you are this week. I'm currently struggling through a post Halloween Trick or Treat sugar crash, but I'm hanging in there. Anyway, enough about me. This week's song was Flowers by jemima coulter. Such a sweet indie sound. I loved it. The album that Flowers is on is titled Grace After a Party. As Jemima mentioned, and this album is just brimming with creativity, honesty, imagination, authenticity so many fascinating and imaginative production choices. It's really a work of art from a recording standpoint. As you can hear, I was truly captivated by the tones on the record, and I just really wanted to tell you all about it. It brings me so much joy to recommend their record to all of you. Again, it's titled Grace After a Party. You can check the show notes for a link to stream and buy the record. As always, the best way to support independent artists is to purchase their music. I think it would be a really great fall gift for a friend or treat yourself. I love that we have music at the end of our show every week, and this week's artist is just a perfect example of an artist that really inspired me. Some of the lo fi and stereo choices on the album really moved me. So Jemima, thank you and listeners check out their website too. So creative and just a masterclass in indie world creating and communicating. Okay, amazing music on the podcast. And hey, shout out to Freya Newman. Freya, thanks for coming on the podcast. Freya has been on the podcast in a different capacity before during the pass the mic series at COP26 that we did. She had been on in the credits to tell a story about Leonardo DiCaprio.
Clay: [01:18:22] One time she came on to talk about her master's research that got published, about how plants breathe at night. Anyway. Absolutely a privilege to now have Global Optimism's own Freya Newman here on the podcast as a co-host and professional podcast interviewer. Okay, Freya, I know you're listening to this. You now have the link to our podcast recording that we use every week, so please come by again. I'd love to have you. And thank you to Freya's former professor, Professor Tim Lenton, for joining us as a guest this week on the show. Listeners, you can go check the show notes to connect with Tim and see more of the work that he is doing. If you are listening to this after COP 28, the report that Tim helped create and release will be in the show notes. It's not currently out as of the release date of this episode, but we will mention the report being released on the podcast the week it comes out. So don't worry, we got you. Thank you. Tim. Okay, last but certainly not least in response. I know we covered it a little bit in this episode, but in response to the unfolding crisis in the Middle East, our friends at Plum Village, who are a community birthed as a non-violent, peacemaking response to the Vietnam War. They published an open letter, a guided meditation, and a letter to the president of the United States, packaged together as an invitation to sit for peace that I'd like to share with you all, in hopes that it might meet you where you are. Okay, I'll leave you with that. Link is in the show notes. Thank you for listening. Joining us this week. We will see you next Thursday. All right. Bye.