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The Climate challenge is sprawling and extraordinarily complex. It is too much for any individual to hold all of it in their head. That knowledge void has become a major political obstacle to effective climate action (SDG 13) as we fill it in paralyzing ways, from denial to apocalyptic fear.  The best way to learn that we can curb climate change is to do it. So Global GoalsCast co-host Edie Lush sat down with John Sterman, professor of Management at MIT, to solve the climate crisis on his ClimateInteractive model of the world’s climate and economy. Edie tried everything from energy efficient homes to a steep tax on carbon in a search for solutions that would hold global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). How did she do? 

To find out, listen to this special two-part episode of Global GoalsCast, timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit and the global journalism effort to increase awareness of the climate challenge, #CoveringClimateNow.

Facts and Actions are presented by Elizabeth Sawin, Co Director of ClimateInteractive.Org, the not-for-profit which makes the climate simulation available worldwide. Dr. Sawin is an expert in what she calls “multisolving,” helping people find solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing multiple benefits in health, justice, equity, resilience and well-being. 

Featured guests

John Sterman

John Sterman is the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Professor in MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society, and director of the MIT System Dynamics Group and MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. Prof. Sterman has published approximately 200 works spanning corporate strategy and operations, energy policy, public health, and climate change. Author of award-winning books and papers, he pioneered the development of interactive “management flight simulators” of corporate and economic systems, which are now used by governments, corporations, and universities around the world. These include the En-ROADS and CROADS energy and climate policy simulations, developed in partnership with the non-profit, Climate Interactive, which have been used by policymakers, negotiators, business and civil society leaders, educators and the public around the world. 

Elizabeth Sawin

Elizabeth Sawin is Co-Director of Climate Interactive, a think tank that applies systems analysis to climate change and related issues. A biologist with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Beth trained in system dynamics and sustainability with Donella Meadows and worked at Sustainability Institute, the research institute founded by Meadows, for 13 years. Beth’s work focuses on helping people find solutions that prevent future climate change, build resilience to unavoidable climate impacts, and provide opportunities to people who need them most. She writes and speaks on this topic to local, national, and international audiences. She is a member of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, a continuing dialogue on issues of climate change and sustainability among a select group of humanities scholars, writers, artists and climate scientists. Beth’s work also focuses on capacity building – helping leaders achieve bigger impact. She has trained and mentored global sustainability leaders in the Donella Meadows Fellows Program, and provided systems thinking training to both Ashoka and Dalai Lama Fellows in recent years.

Laura Gitman

Laura is a global expert on corporate sustainability, with two decades of experience in strategy consulting and has advised senior executives at global companies across a range of industry sectors and sustainability issues. Laura has also been a leader in BSR’s organizational growth and impact. She launched BSR’s financial services practice and New York office, and she is currently the Chief Operating Officer, leveraging her strengths in strategy, organizational change, and people management. Laura works with leading global companies to develop and enhance their sustainability strategies to maximize value for business and society. She is sought after to facilitate senior-level strategy workshops and multistakeholder collaborations. She has published reports on environmental, social, and governance trends among investors as well as sustainability integration and leadership. From 2006 to 2010, she facilitated the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition, growing the initiative from 15 to more than 50 companies.

This episode was made possible thanks to the support of

Transcript

John Sterman: 00:02 Research shows that showing people research doesn’t work. You can tell people the science, you can show them the science, you can give them the presentations and it just doesn’t change people’s behavior, their thinking, their attitudes. The way learning happens for most people almost all the time, is people learn from experience and experiment. But in the climate situation, as more people find out that, holy cow, this climate change is really a serious threat to our lives, our prosperity, our security. It’s just going to be too late. We can’t afford to wait, and there’s no way to run experiments. We only have our one planet. So that is why you need simulators.

John Sterman: 00:49 So your job, Edie,

Edie Lush: 00:51 if I choose to accept it…

John Sterman: 00:52 well, you don’t have a choice right now because the world is, the world is counting on you.

Claudia Edelman: 01:05 Welcome to the Global GoalsCast!

Edie Lush: 01:06 The podcast that explores how to change the world. Claudia, welcome to season three!

Claudia Edelman: 01:13 We’re back! We’re back! We’re amazing! Award winning, 125,000 downloads – featured by apple, inspiring , real action! The Global GoalsCast is back!

Edie Lush: 01:25 Yes. And do you know what? I missed you this summer when we were not recording.

Claudia Edelman: 01:30 I know I lost actually, like, practice. Let’s see how today goes. But today, Edie, today and in this episode we’re going to tackle the biggest challenge of all: climate change. Edie, this really is the biggest challenge that human beings have ever faced. It involves everyone on earth. It affects everything – from how we work, how we eat, and even how we play. It affects fairness, poverty, well, the entire human society is affected by climate change.

Edie Lush: 02:01 And Claudia, the problem is so big and so complex that many people either just deny the problem… or they throw up their hands and say: ah, we’re toast anyway… we can’t solve it, so let’s just get ready to live with it.

Claudia Edelman: 02:14 Yes, yes. And I read Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker saying that, exactly that… how depressing!

Edie Lush: 02:20 Climate apocalypse, which is what he was talking about, I don’t think is helpful. And at the Global GoalsCast, we prefer to talk about the champions who are doing something. Optimists! The glass half full types… the never say never people… and we find them! And when we come back, we’re going to introduce you to one of them. You can join me in saving the planet, but first this…

Presenter: 02:49 This episode of Global GoalsCast is brought to you by BSR – Building a just and sustainable world. Join BSR November 12th to 14th in San Jose, California, to hear how innovative companies are navigating a new climate for business and paving the way for people and planet to thrive in an era of unprecedented change: www.bsr19.org. Thanks to CBS News Digital and to Harman, the official sound of Global GoalsCast.

Claudia Edelman: 03:28 Welcome back! Edie, seriously? You saved the planet in your demo?

Edie Lush: 03:33 Actually, Claudia, you’re going to have to wait for part two to find out. No spoilers. What I can tell you is that I spoke to an MIT professor who’s built a computer model of the global climate and the global economy. 60,000 people have played his simulations. Everyone from Chinese technocrats to members of the US Congress. Our editorial maestro, Mike Oreskes, calls it a flight simulator for piloting the planet to a safe future.

Claudia Edelman: 04:03 Hmm, a flight simulator is a teaching tool according to the maestro, isn’t it?

Edie Lush: 04:07 That’s right! Professor John Sterman of MIT explained why that’s such a good analogy and then he put me in the pilot’s seat.

Claudia Edelman: 04:14 Oh my God.

Edie Lush: 04:18 Hello. Can you hear me?

John Sterman: 04:20 Yes.

Edie Lush: 04:21 Great.

John Sterman: 04:22 Good morning.

Edie Lush: 04:23 Good morning or good afternoon. Almost good evening here. So thanks so much for being with me. I am delighted to be speaking to you and tell me about what I am looking at right on my screen. What is this?

John Sterman: 04:38 Well, you’re seeing an interactive energy and climate policy simulator.

Edie Lush: 04:43 And why did you create this?

John Sterman: 04:47 The way that basic research in climate science proceeds is using some of the most complex largest simulation models ever developed. These models are essential for understanding how the climate works and moving the frontier of climate knowledge forward. Uh, but they take weeks or in some cases, months to run on some of the largest supercomputer clusters in the world because they have an enormous amount of detail. And this is essential for basic progress in climate science, but because of that and because they run so slowly, they are not helpful for education and for policy makers and negotiators who meet, for example, through the UN every year. So what we did is we developed a set of models that behave the same way as the large models do at the global level or at the level of a few countries. Can’t give you all the detail that the big models do. But in return, they run essentially instantly on an ordinary laptop. And that makes them useful for policy makers, negotiators, business leaders, leaders and civic society, the media and others. Why don’t the policy makers, negotiators and other leaders simply use the results of the big models? The reason is simple research shows that showing people research doesn’t work. And this isn’t just about climate, uh, whether it’s you should wear your bike helmet and your motorcycle helmet, you should buckle up your seatbelt. When you drive, uh, you should quit smoking. Vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and save lives. You can tell people the science, you can show them the science, you can give them the presentations and it just doesn’t change people’s behavior, their thinking, their attitudes.

Edie Lush: 06:52 Hmm.

John Sterman: 06:53 So the way learning happens for most people almost all the time, is people learn from experience and experiment.

Edie Lush: 07:02 Hmm.

John Sterman: 07:04 But in the climate situation, experience is going to come just too late. We can’t afford to wait and there’s no way to run experiments. We only have our one planet and we can’t…

Edie Lush: 07:16 But it does feel like we’re, we’re actually in an experiment right now. I mean even just this morning, the news on the radio was that yet again, we’ve had another summer of insanely hot temperatures in Europe. In France. They were over 40 degrees.

John Sterman: 07:32 Right.

Edie Lush: 07:33 We’ve seen one time in a lifetime, storms happening twice within two years. So it feels like we are an experiment yet we still need a tool like this because governments, companies, people aren’t making the changes necessary.

John Sterman: 07:50 So that’s absolutely right. We’re running a giant uncontrolled experiment. And when we find out, as I think we already have, but as more people find out that holy cow, this climate change is really a serious threat to our lives, our prosperity, our security, it’s just going to be too late. There won’t be any option to go back. So that is why you need simulators and you’re exactly right. We call these tools management, flight simulators, and we’ve been developing them in my group for decades. So that’s what we’re up to here.

Edie Lush: 08:24 Okay, so let’s fly the plane if that’s the right analogy. Let’s fly the simulator.

John Sterman: 08:31 Great! So think of this as the cockpit of the simulator and you’ve got these graphs.

Edie Lush: 08:36 Ok!

John Sterman: 08:36 You just asked me what you’d like to see. If we’ve got it, we can bring it up on the screen.

John Sterman: 08:44 So as you can see, and as we just mentioned, uh, under this business-as-usual scenario in which population of the world keeps growing according to the UN’s projection, uh, the economies of the countries around the world keep growing. So people are becoming more affluent and the last developed countries are rising out of poverty. Uh, that is accomplished right now with no climate action, with an awful lot of fossil fuel, a lot of coal, oil and gas. And that drives emissions up and that leads to warming of over 4°C by the year 2100 – 7.4° Fahrenheit. And the consequences of that are, are likely to be nothing short of catastrophe.

John Sterman: 09:31 So your job, Edie?

Edie Lush: 09:33 Yeah, if I choose to accept it!

John Sterman: 09:35 Well you don’t have a choice right now because the world, the world is counting on you.

John Sterman: 09:41 So down at the bottom of the cockpit.

Edie Lush: 09:43 Yeah!

John Sterman: 09:43 You’ve got a whole lot of different policy levers that you can implement.

Edie Lush: 09:48 So let’s start off with looking at burning fossil fuels. I think we know that…

John Sterman: 09:56 Great.

Edie Lush: 09:56 … globally, 25% of greenhouse gas emissions today comes from burning fossil fuels to create heat and electricity, mostly for residential and commercial buildings. So what slider do we need to push to try to look at that issue?

John Sterman: 10:12 Well, you could try to change the energy mix.

Edie Lush: 10:15 Mmhm.

John Sterman: 10:15 You can tax or regulate coal.

Edie Lush: 10:18 Let’s do that. Let’s tax coal.

John Sterman: 10:20 Great. So let’s tax coal. Now as I do this, as I move the slider, you’ll see that the graphs are changing instantly. And as I move the slider to, to the left, what do you notice?

Edie Lush: 10:30 It says highly taxed and the temperatures come down. Hmm. Not so much, so above, from above 4°C to now 3.9°C or plus 7.1°F.

John Sterman: 10:41 Right? So you took 2/10 of a degree, C uh, off of the expected warming. So that’s good.

Edie Lush: 10:48 Okay. That’s a good start.

John Sterman: 10:50 Uh, it doesn’t solve the problem all by itself.

Edie Lush: 10:53 Okay.

John Sterman: 10:53 And by the way, take a look at the graph of the energy sources. So I’ll move the slider back…

Edie Lush: 10:59 Mmhm.

John Sterman: 10:59 And watch, watch the coal wedge.

Edie Lush: 11:01 Okay.

John Sterman: 11:01 So the coal wedge should go down.

Edie Lush: 11:04 Coal wedge goes down.

John Sterman: 11:05 Yeah.

Edie Lush: 11:06 Gas went up and oil went up too.

John Sterman: 11:09 Yeah, it is right.

Edie Lush: 11:10 Oh, crumbs!

John Sterman: 11:11 That is right. Also, the renewables went up.

Edie Lush: 11:14 Yup. Okay, let’s celebrate that. But we also had issues.

John Sterman: 11:17 Right. So what do you think it’s going on there? Why did gas and oil get, uh, have their demand increase?

Edie Lush: 11:25 Well, because they become more economically attracted.

John Sterman: 11:29 Right. Right. You’ve made coal more expensive through this taxation and that causes people to substitute more gas, for example, in the generation of electricity.

Edie Lush: 11:41 Alright, so let’s do something about that. Let’s let’s, what do we do tax, oil and gas as well?

John Sterman: 11:47 Great. You could do that. So let’s tax oil. So I’ve pulled that to a, a high tax. And as I did that, let me go back. You’ll see it real quickly. What happens to the oil wedge?

Edie Lush: 11:58 It definitely came down, but that didn’t do anything to the temperature…

John Sterman: 12:02 Right. Well, so watch the natural gas switch…

Edie Lush: 12:07 Oh!

John Sterman: 12:07 So that’s without…

Edie Lush: 12:09 This is so complicated [laughter].

John Sterman: 12:12 Right! So you’ve got a very complex economic system here with multiple markets, and by taxing coal and oil, you’ve definitely reduced their use. But you’ve done nothing to reduce the overall demand for energy. And so you’ve increased the incentive for electric power to be generated by natural gas. You are getting more renewables too, the green wedge of renewables has increased, but not enough to make much difference on the temperature.

Edie Lush: 12:41 Can we give renewables some incentives?

John Sterman: 12:45 So over here on the, the renewable slider, I’ll slide it over to the right and that implements a moderate subsidy to promote renewables. So in the real world, what that looks like is, uh, put into place or expand tax credits for individuals who go solar, for companies that go solar, put wind turbines in, for electric utilities who want to go with utility scale solar and wind, including the storage investments that they need or the changes in the way the grid works. And what did that do for us?

Edie Lush: 13:20 Well, where we get, we’re now down to an increase of 3.5°C, which is better.

John Sterman: 13:27 Oh, we’re still quite far.

Edie Lush: 13:29 Yeah.

John Sterman: 13:29 But there are… there is news here. Now, one thing to notice is subsidizing the renewables did a lot more than just taxing the fossil fuels.

Edie Lush: 13:41 Hmm

John Sterman: 13:41 Uh, and one reason for that is in many parts of the world today, renewables are already cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Edie Lush: 13:50 Hmm.

New Speaker: 13:52 But they also benefit from a very powerful learning curve effect and from scale economies. So, for example, every time cumulative production of solar panels doubles, which is happening every couple of years or so, the costs of the next ones you build go down by a little over 20%… and this is because we have not yet reached the limits of what these technologies can do. It’s the same for wind. It’s the same for, uh, energy storage that you need to handle the variability of wind and solar. And so by subsidizing renewables, you’re having an additional benefit that you’re driving their costs down faster than they would have gone otherwise. And that then leads people to use even more of them, which drives their costs down even faster. You have a beneficial reinforcing feedback loop there. You have a virtuous cycle that the more you use, the cheaper it gets.

Pause: 14:59 [background music]

Claudia Edelman: 14:59 That’s right! We need more positive feedback loops! Virtuous cycles instead of vicious ones.

Edie Lush: 15:05 You know, I couldn’t have said that better myself, Claudia. But let’s take a brief break to hear from someone we’re very positive about. Laura Gitman, the chief operating officer of BSR.

Pause: 15:20 [background music]

Edie Lush: 15:21 So what’s the new climate for business? And how and why should companies be preparing for it?

Laura Gitman: 15:27 So we’re living through a period, as many people know, of absolute fundamental change. The only constant is change. And businesses really need to figure out how would they respond to these changes given that the entire framework in which how they operate in is evolving. So from climate disruption to the role of automation, to the implications of artificial intelligence, these create new opportunities for business, but they also change the rules of the game. And at the same time we’re seeing increasing pressures and expectations from employees, from a political environment, from regulators, from consumers that actually redefine and question the purpose for business overall.

Laura Gitman: 16:09 So every day we work with companies as they think about these questions. And one aspect is figuring out what are the issues that are going to impact them. So first we help companies make sense and anticipate the changes that they’re going to be facing. And second, help them figure out how do they meet that challenge. So what are the strategies, what are the products, the services, the ways of partnering and collaborating, in new different kinds of opportunities that enable them to meet those challenges but also meet the challenges that our collective business community are facing. Right? So the challenges of achieving the goals of the SDGs, of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate, and that therefore working together to redefine what that new climate for business means.

Edie Lush: 16:55 And Laura, you’ve got an event coming up in my home state of California. Tell me about it.

Laura Gitman: 17:01 We do! So BSR has our annual conference. This year, it will be hosted in San Jose on November 12th through 14th. To find out more, you can go to www.bsr19.org.

Pause: 17:16 [background music]

Claudia Edelman: 17:18 Welcome back! So Edie, how’s the simulation going? Can you give me some hope? Because here, in real life, I’m still very concerned about climate change.

Edie Lush: 17:26 Ah, the simulation is tough. It gives you such a big sense of how complicated everything is, how many choices there are, how everything is interconnected. You think you’re doing something great and then you’ve caused something not okay to happen. However, one thing that is impressive is how well John Sterman is able to explain those choices.

Edie Lush: 17:49 Tell me what about the, the carbon price? I’m interested in what happens if you fool around with that.

John Sterman: 17:55 Right! So up until now, what you’ve done is asked me to tax coal, oil and gas individually, which you can certainly do, but that’s going to be complicated. So I’m going to actually undo those.

Edie Lush: 18:08 Okay.

John Sterman: 18:10 And then we’ll implement a carbon price. So what a carbon price means is that either through a fee, a tax, or a cap and trade program, the price of any CO2 emissions would go up according to how much CO2 is generated. So the carbon price is measured in how many dollars, or euros, or whatever, per ton of carbon dioxide released. So that’s going to affect coal more than natural gas because coal is the most carbon intensive fuel.

Edie Lush: 18:47 Hmm.

John Sterman: 18:47 So let’s pull that lever up to a… a medium level. And remember where we started. We start at now 3.7°C with our subsidies for renewables. Uh, and now we’ll pull up the carbon price to a medium level. And we’re down to 3.3°C.

Edie Lush: 19:06 What does that actually mean? Like consumer going to the pump to fill up their car with gas? What would that mean in terms of a carbon price? Our prices at the pump?

John Sterman: 19:17 Absolutely, great question. So, uh, on all these policy levers, I can click on a button and it shows me all the details. It gives me more advanced options. So right now, we have a carbon price of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide. So what does that mean in the real world at the pump, as you say? Well, in the United States, that would mean that gasoline prices would go up by about 44 cents a gallon. Wow. So, well is that a lot or a little?

Edie Lush: 19:46 Well, I mean it’s definitely internalizing the price on the planet, but it’s a big jump for you know, many people.

John Sterman: 19:55 This is a great, great point. Uh, what are we gonna do with all the revenue from this carbon price? So let me… let’s, let’s take a look at that graph. So, if I look here at the financial impacts, I can look at the revenue and the cost from taxes and subsidies. So you’re subsidizing renewables, that’s going to cost money. Now you’re taxing carbon that’s going to generate revenue.

Edie Lush: 20:19 Mmhm.

John Sterman: 20:19 And you can see here on this graph that the revenue from this carbon tax generates about $2.4 trillion dollars a year globally. And that actually, uh, outweighs the subsidies for decades. So, then the question is what do you do with the revenue? So one of the most popular proposals is rebate it to every person on a per capita basis. So, you would get a carbon dividend check every few months, every quarter of the year, say… and you can do anything you want with that money.

John Sterman: 21:02 So, uh, if you rebate the money to individuals on an equal per capita basis, you convert the carbon price from something that could be regressive to something that’s going to be progressive and help the lower income segment of the population more.

Pause: 21:26 [background music].

Edie Lush: 21:27 Hmm. So what if we look at the next middle part of your screen, or my screen? 23% of greenhouse gases come from the result of burning fuel for industrial purposes. So what happens when we start changing that mix of energy efficiency and electrification? What do those mean?

John Sterman: 21:54 We’ll work on the energy efficiency of buildings and industry. So this includes, uh, industrial facilities and the processes that take place within them. It also includes the energy used in commercial and residential buildings. Now, having a carbon price already has led to some increase in efficiency, but now let’s implement a policy that would do more. So I’ll pull the energy efficiency lever for buildings and… uh, I’ll increase it moderately. And what did it do for us?

Edie Lush: 22:31 Wow, we’re at 3°C!

John Sterman: 22:33 Well, we’re making progress. And that did a lot. One of the reasons which you’ve pointed to is an awful lot of the world’s energy is used in buildings, industry, industrial processes, but also just buildings, commercial, residential, industrial buildings for heating and cooling and all the electricity that’s used within them. So, we’ve done a lot by increasing energy efficiency and there are many, many ways to do that. The other reason that this lever makes a big difference is buildings and processes can almost always be retrofitted.

John Sterman: 23:10 So for example, I’m sitting here with your sound guy, Chuck, in my house and uh, it’s a 90 year old, typical New England home, made out of, uh… you know, uh, what we call stick frame construction. So, two by four studs and so forth. Uh, and, uh… when it was built, it was heated by coal and it had no insulation. Uh, when we bought the house, uh, it was heated by oil and still had no insulation.

Edie Lush: 23:43 Mmhm.

John Sterman: 23:43 So, over the years we, we insulated, we gradually replaced the appliances as they needed to be replaced with much more efficient ones. I swapped out a lot of the light bulbs, etc… and that actually lowered our, uh, carbon emissions for the home quite a lot. But then, uh, about four and a half years ago, we did what’s called a deep energy retrofit. So what does that means? It means, we put in a huge amount of insulation, not just blown into the walls, but extra insulation on the outside of the house. The windows, which were original, were leaky and in pretty bad shape. We put in much better windows that are super efficient. We put in led lighting everywhere, very high efficiency appliances, refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc… we put in heat pump hot water that’s super efficient, gets most of the heat to warm the water from the surrounding air.

Edie Lush: 24:42 Hmm.

John Sterman: 24:42 And we completely eliminated the, uh, fossil fuel heating system, uh, and replaced it with air source heat pumps that provide heating and cooling. And then, we put a solar array on the roof. And now today, uh, our house generates 50% more energy than we use, with no fossil fuel whatsoever.

Edie Lush: 25:13 Wow. So in fact, we need the whole world to do what you’re doing…

Pause: 25:22 [background music]

Edie Lush: 25:22 I want to recap where we are and what we’ve tried. We started at over 4°C of increased in temperature by 2100. We’ve subsidized renewables…

John Sterman: 25:33 Right!

Edie Lush: 25:33 We’ve made the price of carbon higher and we have, uh, worked especially on energy efficiency of buildings. And we’re now at an increase of 3°C, which is still not great. So, this is hard, because so far who either, we’ve already done a lot of work and we’re not there yet. As we know, we want to keep that increased to 2°C or 1.5 would be even better.

John Sterman: 26:08 Right.So the Paris target is no more than 2°C and striving for 1.5 and although you’ve done a great job getting us on the path, 3°C isn’t where we need to go. And just to show you what that means, let’s look at some of the impacts.

Edie Lush: 26:25 Oh, no!

John Sterman: 26:25 Sea level rise, right?

Edie Lush: 26:28 Oh, no!

John Sterman: 26:28 So sea level rise is barely less than what it would have been.

Edie Lush: 26:33 Right!

John Sterman: 26:33 And it’s over. Uh, it’s just about… it’s over a meter right now, and that’s a conservative estimate. So…

Edie Lush: 26:41 I mean it looks like a… it looks like a kind of… one of those… not quite a hockey stick graph, but definitely, you know, on the steady increase…

John Sterman: 26:49 Yes, right.

Edie Lush: 26:51 Over a meter of sea level rise still means a lot of island nations… that great refrain from the Paris accord was 1.5 to stay alive. A lot of those island nations will not be where they are now.

John Sterman: 27:07 Right. And I gotta tell you, it’s even worse than what you’re seeing, because there is a significant risk that sea level rise will be much higher than what you’re seeing here, because of faster melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets than the literature accommodates. So…

Edie Lush: 27:31 Oh my gosh!

John Sterman: 27:31 It is entirely possible…

Edie Lush: 27:31 Oh no, we’re up to 1.8 meters!

New Speaker: 27:36 Yeah, uh. Right. You’re almost a two meters even with your policies so far, this is not at all impossible according to the more recent science and evidence about, uh, accelerating melt of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet. So, what does that mean? Well, let’s take a look. It’s not just, uh, you know, for the island states. Here’s a…

Edie Lush: 28:02 So you’ve now pulled up a map of the world.

John Sterman: 28:05 Right. I’m going to zoom in on Shanghai just as an illustration. We can look anywhere you like.

Edie Lush: 28:11 Okay…

John Sterman: 28:12 And Shanghai, like many of the world’s great cities is a low lying coastal city on a river delta. What you’re seeing now is Shanghai today.

Edie Lush: 28:21 Mmhm!

John Sterman: 28:23 20 to 25 or more million people in the greater Shanghai area. Uh, now let’s take a look at what happens if there’s 2 meters of sea level rise, which is close to what happens in your scenario so far. And all of these blue areas now are inundated. There are saltwater intrusion coming up through the sewers. Uh, high tides, you’re going to have sunny day flooding as we already have in Miami and up and down the east coast. But it’s worse than this because Shanghai and the coast of China is subject to typhoons! And, uh, a large typhoon like Haiyan, which hit the Philippines a few years ago, or the typhoon that, uh, hit, uh, Tokyo recently, uh, they bring storm surge multimeter storm surge. The storm surge in typhoon Haiyan was 4 meters. So what I can do is I’ll now take our 2 meters of sea level rise, which is causing immense economic hardship all throughout the Shanghai area. And now let’s add a 4 meter storm surge on top of that.

Edie Lush: 29:42 Oh my goodness. Wow. It looks like it’s completely underwater.

John Sterman: 29:48 Right? So, we wouldn’t have to wait until the year 2100 for a disaster like this to be very likely. Uh, and it’s similar if we go elsewhere around the world. Here’s south Florida with 2 meters of sea level rise and a 4 meter storm surge.

Edie Lush: 30:08 So it looks like most of South Florida is blue, as in covered with water.

John Sterman: 30:15 Right. Here’s the Gulf Coast focused on New Orleans…

Edie Lush: 30:19 It looks like it is completely underwater.

John Sterman: 30:19 and New Orleans is already under the the sea level.

Edie Lush: 30:23 Right.

John Sterman: 30:24 It’s gone.

Edie Lush: 30:25 Goodness. Okay. So back to the simulation.

John Sterman: 30:29 Yeah. And you’ve done a great job, uh, with a variety of policies here. Price on carbon, subsidies for renewables, promoting energy efficiency for buildings and industry. You’ve gotten it down more than a full degree C and it’s, so that’s great. It’s still not enough. So, when we come back, I’m going to ask you to see what else you might want to try to get us down towards no more than 2°C.

Pause: 30:55 [background music]

Claudia Edelman: 30:59 And we will come back to this and find out if Edie is able to save the planet. But we will do that in the next episode, which we will release after the Climate Summit and the UN General Assembly.

Claudia Edelman: 31:11 We felt that this topic was so important, that we decided to devote these two parts to this area.. and talk about solutions… and I cannot actually tell you how much my imagination goes to see Edie with a red cape and actually like super woman style, flying around that simulator and saving the world!

Edie Lush: 31:28 Hahaha.. you’re just going to have to wait for that , Claudia. In fact, I’m going to see you on Sunday, at the start of of Global Goals Week. We’ve got 5 UN summits, we’ve got 17 big goals. I feel like though, once again, the attention of the world is on New York next week.

Claudia Edelman: 31:46 Yeah. But again and again the relevance is completely different. Today was the day of the opening of the General Assembly and the Secretary General, summed up challenge. He said: we’re losing the race against climate change and our world is off track in meeting the sustainable development goals.

Edie Lush: 32:05 So what we’re talking about with professor Sterman in this whole special episode is how to get the world back on track.

Claudia Edelman: 32:11 And you and I are on the optimistic, we’re actually possibilistic. We are based on Hans Rosling factfullness… when we see the world through data, and the data indicates that we’re on the right track. And nevertheless, there are things that we should pay attention that are concerning. But one thing that I’m very, very clear about, Edie, is how purposed, the sustainable development goals, sustainability, are back on track and are absolutely moving the agenda forward and becoming mainstream. Like the tortilla effect.

Edie Lush: 32:44 What is the Tortilla effect?

Claudia Edelman: 32:46 The tortilla effect is fascinating as an analogy for what we’re talking about. It Is an economic and behavior theory that indicates how a product that is like on the corner of a store, like tortillas in this case, in the Mexican aisle or the exotic food, and have been pushed by consumers to become mainstream, and now have been traveling from one aisle to the other until they are in the mainstream of bread. And people don’t use tortillas anymore only for tacos, they use it for wraps, they use it for snacks, and that is what I’ve seen happens with sustainability and purpose that it has been pushed by consumers to the different aisles and now it’s actually moving from corporate social responsibility in countries, or companies to become part of their central strategy of growth.

Claudia Edelman: 33:29 But there’s another way to get the tortillas from the Mexican corner to the main bread aisle, which is, when the owner of the store would decide, I’m going to impose this product here. And I think that that’s what we were hoping to see next week with decision makers making an imposition and following the trend of purpose and sustainability to impose some action on climate change because that really could have a ripple effect.

Edie Lush: 33:52 I love the Tortilla effect and I think what you’re saying there makes me think of this episode and the idea of what is happening with electric cars when they’re going mainstream and it is coming through in the next couple of years. But we do have to be careful because while electric cars are great, if the electricity that they’re using is not clean, if it comes from coal, then we don’t actually bring the temperature down enough. And I learned that from playing with a simulator from professor Sterman. Individuals don’t clean the power grid, companies do. We have seen some great companies out there and there was a great example a few years ago when Greenpeace, the head of Greenpeace at the time, Kumi Naidoo stood up with the head of NL and agree to take this energy company away from dirty power towards renewables, towards clean energy. So companies have a role to play as do governments, as do consumers.

Claudia Edelman: 34:48 That great news here, Edie is that there’s pressure on decision makers by young people. Greta, coming to New York, arriving with 17 different boats and making waves, and increasingly attracting the attention of citizens, of voters, and of players. And because we’re so many more people like John doing simulations and doing groundbreaking innovation, I think that we have a great opportunity to be part of history, and be, as we say, the first generation that can really stop the impact of climate change. So now my favorite section of the show, where we give three facts that you can show off with your mother-in-law and three actions that you can take so that we can go on climate change, action, action, action. So for these we went to a colleague of John Sterman.

Pause: 35:44 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 35:46 often addressing climate change is framed as a big sacrifice, as though we have to suffer now in order to protect the climate for the future. But is that an accurate way to think about it? I’m Dr Elizabeth Sawin. I’m co-director of climate interactive, and my research focuses on what I call multi-solving. These are policies and investments that address climate change in ways that save money, improve people’s health, and open up economic opportunity. Here are three examples of multi-solving.

Pause: 36:17 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 36:17 If 50% of short car trips were replaced by cycling in the biggest cities in the Midwest, each year, 1,295 lives and $8.7 billion would be saved from a combination of improved air quality and better health through increased physical activity. That’s from a study in the journal, environmental health perspectives.

Pause: 36:34 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 36:34 Between 2000 and 2016 all of the energy efficient LEED certified buildings in the United States combined to reduce air pollution from energy use, enough to avoid hundreds of premature deaths, hundreds of hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma cases, and tens of thousands of lost days of work and school.

Pause: 37:00 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 37:00 Urban trees in Fort Collins, Colorado provided more than double the return on investment required to plant and maintain those trees. The savings came from reducing energy use, improving air quality, reducing storm water runoff, sequestering carbon, and increasing property values,

Pause: 37:16 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 37:17 …which leads to these three actions. We participate in multi-solving whenever we do home energy tune-ups or add features like green roofs and rain gardens to our properties or walk or cycle to work. These steps, save money in the short term, reduce air pollution and improve our and our neighbor’s health, while also reducing emissions and helping protect the climate for the longterm.

Pause: 37:39 [background music]

Dr. Sawin: 37:41 Many multi-solving opportunities are bigger than one family can take on though. So a second category of action is to engage elected officials to make sure that public spending is directed toward solutions like these multi-solving solutions with multiple benefits. All of us can practice connecting the dots in our own heads and in our conversations with friends and family so that more and more people can see how protecting the climate for the future helps create jobs, economic opportunity and improved health today.

Pause: 38:14 [background music]

Edie Lush: 38:16 Alright, that is it for this special climate episode, at least part one. We’re going to have the second half after next week’s climate summit.

Claudia Edelman: 38:26 Wow Edie, I’m so excited by our new season. We take on climate right at the start. Whoo! See you’re next time Edie.

Edie Lush: 38:33 See you on Sunday in New York, and until then, the big message is, if you liked this, please give us five stars, please subscribe, please tell all of your friends, and go to our social media. @GlobalGoalsCast. Adios.

Claudia Edelman: 38:49 Adios. Don’t forget the Tortilla Effect, Edie. It’s going to come after you.

Pause: 38:58 [background music]

Presenter: 38:58 Global Goals Cast was hosted by Edie lush and Claudia Romo Edelman. Your editorial gurued by Mike Oreskes. Editing and sound production by Simon James. Our operations director is Michelle Cooprider. Our interns last summer, we miss you. where Addy Gisby Ashley Esquivel, Darcy Nelson and Hugh Cruickshank. Music in this episode was by Neil Hail, Andrew Phillips, Angelica Garcia, Simon James, Katie Crown, and Ashish Paliwal. This episode was made possible with the support of BSR, also CBS News Digital, and Harman, the official sound of Global GoalsCast.

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