Nearly 150 world leaders have assembled here in Paris for the start of COP 21, the UN climate summit. And whatever may come out of it over the course of the next two weeks, it's hard to overstate the crucial importance of this year’s conference.
Elizabeth May has seen these UN climate conferences inside and out. She was at the Earth Summit in Rio when the UNFCCC was first created in 1992, and since then she has attended most, if not all of the 20 COPs. This year Elizabeth May is attending COP 21 as a member of the Canadian government’s delegation. We reached her by Skype a couple of weeks ago to talk to her about what the process is like, what the obstacles to an agreement are, and why when it comes to Paris, there's never been a more critical COP.
Listen to our interview with Elizabeth May here, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes
Yeb Saño for years was the lead negotiator at UN climate talks for the Philippines. But he first came to worldwide prominence in 2013 when he delivered an emotional speech at COP 19 in Warsaw, urging countries to set aside their differences and commit to averting the looming climate disaster.
While no longer on the official delegation for his country, Yeb hasn't stopped passionately speaking out about the climate crisis, and he recently finished a 1500km walk from Rome to Paris to urge the world of need to act.
We reached Yeb to speak to him about his people's pilgrimage, and what he hopes to come out of Paris.
The United Nations climate summit in Paris - or COP 21 - is just around the corner. But there's a lot to get a handle on with how these negotiations actually work. You might wonder, why have they failed in the past? What is it like to be there in the room? And what are the main points of contention between countries?
To get insights into these questions, and just what we can expect from Paris, we rang up Kevin Conrad, who for 8 years represented Papua New Guinea at UN climate talks, and this year is on the delegation for Panama.
With the birth of the industrial revolution and the creation of the modern world, economics helped us in a sense get into the mess we're in today with the climate. But what role could economics play in helping us solve the problem? And what types of economic policies could help move us towards a sustainable future?
To explore these questions, we sit down with Cameron Hepburn, an Environmental Economist at the University of Oxford, and the director of the Economics of Sustainability Programme at the Oxford Martin School.
We discussed the divestment, the lopsided subsidies currently going towards fossil fuels, and the sometimes tricky politics of implementing carbon taxes. We also talked about COP 21 in Paris, and the role that finance will play in the upcoming talks.
Listen to our interview with Cameron Hepburn here, or subscribe in iTunes.
Antarctica's ice sheet contains enough water to rise sea-levels by over 60 meters. That's something that should give us pause given our changing climate, and yet we know surprisingly little about the frozen continent to the south.
This is despite the fact that there are some very worrying signs already about climate change taking its toll on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Indeed, incredibly even today in a very real sense we know more about the surface of Mars than we do the topography of Antarctica.
In a live interview in Birmingham with Glaciologist Dr. Martin Siegert, we learned about the innovative ways in which scientists are studying the ice-sheet, why it matters for the world, and hear about the mysterious subglacial lakes that lie beneath the surface and the secrets they may contain.
Listen to our conversation above, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes!
John Schellnhuber is one of the world's most influential climate scientists. Not only has he acted for years an advisor to the German government (and Angela Merkel) on climate matters, he was also the the principal climatologist advising Pope Francis during the writing of the Encyclical.
If advising the pope and national government's wasn't enough, Schellnhuber is also famous in climate circles for another reason - he's the scientist who first forwarded the now internationally accepted 2-degree target as the global red-line that shouldn’t be crossed.
He's also the founder and current director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (or PIK). We spoke with John Schellnhuber about the birth of the 2 degree target, what it was like working with Pope Francis, and why climate change has become an essential moral question.
Listen to the interview above, or just subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
It was the dead of the night, during the early the morning of July 29th, when 13 Greenpeace protesters rappelled off of the side of the St. John's bridge in Portland, Oregon. It was part of an ingenious and daring plan that would place their bodies between Shell and its controversial plans to drill in the Arctic.
As word spread of the protest, soon the eyes of the world were on Portland. And as the drama unfolded over the next 40 hours, thousands of citizens followed along at home and on TV, captivated by one the most inspiring and dramatic showdown's to take place in recent environmental history.
This is the story of these climbers, and their action that made headlines around the world....
Listen to the story here, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
As Noam Chomsky persuasively argued in our interview with him, if we're to have a chance of staving off the worst impacts of climate change, it is essential that ordinary people get involved and create pressure on our institutions and politicians to take the steps required.
Luckily more and more people are doing just that. And to get an idea of some of the creative ways people are getting involved in the climate fight, the next little we at The Elephant will be producing a miniature series bringing you the stories of some of these inspiring on the ground climate actions taking place around the world.
So in this, the first instalment of our mini-series on climate activism, we hear the story of what happened earlier this year when 50 students from Fossil Free Yale occupied the administration building on campus.
It's a piece brought to us by indepedent radio producer Phoebe Petrovic.
One thing that has become abundantly clear over the past couple of decades, is that waiting idly by for politicians to solve climate change on their own simply won’t cut it. Rather, as Bill McKibben pointed out in our interview with him, that there's a major problem to be solved doesn't seem to motivate politicians - only the fact that there's real pressure on the ground pushing them to do something about it.
Well In the coming few weeks we're going to be highlighting for you several stories of citizens stepping up and organizing in creative ways to produce exactly that type pressure: whether it's in the growing divestment campaign, or through the on ground blockadia movement, where activists are putting their bodies on the line to drive home the point that we need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground, if we're to have a liveable world.
“It’s urgent for those who have the most privilege, the most opportunity, the greatest advantages, to be in the forefront instead of in the rear in trying to impede what is likely to be a serious catastrophe.” - Noam Chomsky
But before we get to those stories, we thought we'd start off by revisiting a conversation Kevin had with Noam Chomsky last year that touches specifically on climate change, and how social change happens. A professor emeritus at MIT, Noam Chomsky is one of the foremost intellectuals in the world, who has spent his life working on matters of social justice, and speaking out issues ranging from rising inequality, and corporate power, to foreign policy crimes of the west. Throughout the many decades of his public life, Chomsky has been a beacon of rationality, empathy, and hope for those concerned about the state of the world. And given he has both studied and witnessed first hand the ways in which social pressure when effectively applied, can create massive social changes even in the face of entrenched power systems, we thought he'd be the perfect person to speak to.
So for his insights on how we can go about confronting a challenge as large and daunting as climate change through activism, here’s our episode with Noam Chomsky.
And to hear Kevin's other interview with Noam Chomsky, from February 2013, in which they touched on his activism during the Vietnam war, and the need to “confront reality” regarding the major challenges we collectively are facing such as climate change, click here. And remember to subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
We’ve all encountered those who passionately deny that climate change is real. And at least when one reads the comment sections, it can seem at times like they're in the majority.
But given the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community on the question on climate change, where exactly does this doubt held by such a large proportion of the public stem from?
Turns out, it’s not there by accident. It’s been consciously seeded within society by a few key corporations, free-market ideologues, and scientists. Through interviews with Naomi Oreskes, historian of science and co-author of Merchants of Doubt (which has now been turned into a documentary film) and Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Centre, we look into the story of this secretive climate denial machine and learn about some of the key players who have been sowing doubt, and blocking action on the greatest threat facing our society.
From cold-war scientists and the billionaire Koch brothers to tobacco, and a web of think tanks, it's a story you won't want to miss.
To listen, click on the episode here or subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
We typically think of global warming in terms of the consequences it has for humanity. But it also has huge and troubling impacts for the species we share our planet with.
That impact is a topic that Elizabeth Kolbert writes about in her Pulitzer Prize winning book the Sixth Extinction. In it, she outlines how human beings are causing changes so disruptive to the environment, that a large proportion of the earth's species are expected to be extinct by the end of the century.
Some of these impacts are through things like habitat destruction and the mass introduction of invasive species. But increasingly the threat of climate change is also playing a major role, throwing a wrench into ecosystems and the ability of species to survive thanks to the devastating effects of ocean acidification, and the rapid movement of the sensitive ranges species have adapted to.
Listen to our interview with Elizabeth Kolbert here or subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes
Climate change is in some ways a surprisingly old story, but it's also one that some of the finest minds in journalism have struggled to tell effectively. We speak with Ira Glass of This American Life, Alan Rusbridger, recently retired editor of The Guardian, and University of Colorado Professor Max Boykoff about the ins and outs of how the media has dealt with the story of climate change, and why in 2015, things finally might be improving.
Listen to our episode on media above, or subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
Also to hear our extended interview with Alan Rusbridger, Scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Climate change is about physics and science. But it's also about politics and power. It's about how decisions get made, and in whose interests they're decided.
And by all accounts 2015 is the year that the fight to take on climate change is really heating up. Not only is this the year that the world will be again coming together in Paris to try and come up with an agreement to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, but social movements around the world are rapidly growing in size and number and are beginning to successfully battle the power of the fossil fuel industry.
The gloves are off now in this fight, and the fossil fuel industry is fighting for life - Tim Flannery
To help put this growing battle and political fight in context, we spoke to two of the most importance voices within the climate movement: Bill McKibben activist, author, and founder of 350.org, and Tim Flannery, Australian scientist, author of The Weather Makers, and chief councillor at The Climate Council.
To listen, click on the link below, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.