You and the Planet: State of the Earth

So, ladies and gentleman, my name is Andy
Hopper, I’m Treasurer of the Royal Society and I very much welcome you all to this event,
and as importantly perhaps even more so, to the large numbers online who are joining in
real time, and almost certainly even bigger numbers will view this over a period of time.
This is the beginning of our flagship public event series called You and the Planet, all
of you and the whole planet. If you forgive me just being a little mundane, we would ask
you to turn off your phones and there is no fire alarm test planned so if there were to
be a fire alarm please go out through these doors and to the outside. So it’s a public
event series and as a strategy of The Royal Society we’re taking ourselves to different
places around the country. So while this event is right here I’m very pleased to tell you
that another event on energy will be held in Swansea, my alma mater, that’s where I
was an undergraduate so I’m always very pleased to hear that. There will be another one on
food in Newcastle, one on biodiversity at The Eden Project, and then finally there’ll
be a You and the Planet Festival at the Natural History Museum where we hope the general public
are able to participate. Now The Royal Society is independent and fiercely independent, independent
of government, independent of universities, and independent of industry, and yet we are
possibly in a good position to nudge, influence and encourage those actors to do their bit,
make changes, and I very much hope that these events will produce outputs which are of that
kind. So we have great speakers tonight who will be joining us on the stage here shortly
but please note there is a #youandtheplanet which is in play today. So please could I
welcome on stage our contributors Tom Heap, Corinne Le Quere, and Brian Hoskins.
Well, thank you very much indeed and good evening, everybody. My name is Tom Heap as
has just been stated. I’m a broadcaster and a journalist and I’ll be the host of this
evening’s conversation, You and the Planet, aka 90 minutes to save the world. I think
at least by the end of that time we should have a bit of idea of how to do it certainly
better than we are doing it at the moment. Well, as you may have noticed there has been
a change to the speaker line up this evening. Unfortunately, Christiana Figueres was unable
to join us tonight due to a family bereavement but we are delighted to be joined by Professor
Corrine Le Quere who takes her place. So before we get going let me formally introduce our
speakers. Firstly, on my left as I’ve just said is Corinne Le Quere. Corrine is a Professor
of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia and formerly Director of the
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. She’s a Fellow of this place, The Royal Society,
and a member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, and is Chair of France’s High Council
for Climate Action, which I guess is a little bit similar is it to the Climate Change Committee
here? Yes, it’s similar, it’s parallel, yes.
Very good, okay, and on her left next to Corinne is Sir Brian Hoskins. Brian is a leading Climate
Researcher and a Fellow of The Royal Society as well. He was Founding Director of the Grantham
Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, and now serves
as its Chair. In 2018 he completed 10 years as a member of the UK Committee on Climate
Change and was knighted in 2007 for his services to the environment. But I gather your proudest
Brian was in Scarborough a few decades ago, tell us about that.
I knew I shouldn’t have told you that. Well, my first public talk on climate change was
in 1985 I think in Scarborough and the Clean Air Society meeting. It was at a time when
it wasn’t clear and certainly the media had got hold of the fact that the next ice age
was coming, and Panorama had shown icebergs coming up the Thames. So my first talk was
Climate Change: Will We Freeze or Fry? I decided that frying was what we had to worry about.
Well, you bet the farm on the right [unclear]. Well, that’s right, 34 years later I think
I made the right choice. I think you did, yes, very good. Well, in
the blurb that went along with tonight’s talk was an aspiration that these talks the You
and the Planet should inspire a positive vision of a future where human activity protects
and enhances the health of the planet. It could be argued that for much of the last
300 years or so science hasn’t necessarily been doing that. It’s being doing quite a
lot for our health and our wealth but not necessarily the health of the planet. So,
Corinne, a sort of open question really, how do we begin that inspiration to enhance the
health of the planet? Okay, thanks, Tom. First, just before I answer
your question just to say I’m absolutely thrilled to be here tonight, a little bit surprised
but thrilled, nevertheless. Well, the first thing I would say is you have to actually
believe in it. I think that we’ll see incredible changes, I will see incredible changes in
my lifetime, I believe in it. I think if you believe in it you make a start, you exercise
your voice to say what you do around you and share it with others. This is incredible.
I think that in my lifetime we will breathe pure air in the heart of our cities. I think
in my lifetime we will recycle everything, and in my lifetime, we will stabilise the
temperature of the planet. That’s what I think, and I feel a lot happier by making my own
contribution to this. Just before I move onto to Brian, on that
belief piece do you think we’ve seen a change really in the last year or two where that
belief has gone from a sort of intellectual belief to perhaps a slightly deeper belief
in this country at least? Absolutely, I mean the last year has been
absolutely incredible. I’ve been working for 30 years in climate change and this is the
first year where I actually can almost step back a little bit. Because there’s so much
action, so many people, groupings around me that are taking up the floor, taking the space,
and this is new from this year and it feels good. It feels like I’m not just isolated
with Brian on an island trying to think what are we going to do next and what are we doing
wrong and everything? Now finally something is shaking.
Brian – inspiration. Well, I agree with everything Corinne has
said except I’m not sure it’s all going to be in my lifetime but I hope it is. But I’m
just wondering about this vision of You and the Planet and maybe what we’re moving towards
is you as part of the planet, so that we’re actually – over the next decades we can start
to think that we really are just part of the earth system like the rest of nature and the
rest of things going on. Instead of us looking down and saying, now what can we use, what
can we exploit here, actually just thinking of ourselves as part of this and what would
be the implications of our actions and can we do things differently? So we’re moving
on a different path and I think everything suggests we can do that now and it’s up to
us to make that choice. Let’s come onto that but just on the inspiration
piece if you like, I was quite struck as well by something that came out of the IPBES Report,
which for those of you that don’t know was a sort of – it did for nature what the IPCC
does for climate change in a sense. There was a report earlier this year and the key
author there was Bob Watson, and it was a lot about how we protect our nature and kind
of buried within it was a really significant thing where he said or the report said, we
need to get a new vision of a good life. We need to – which I think basically meant that
our vision shouldn’t be based on more stuff it should be based on something else. Does
that fit into this and how do we find that new vision, how critical is that?
Yes, absolutely, I mean we do need a vision. We have all these changes we’ll talk about
tonight that need to happen to tackle climate change, and there is kind of this sort of
resistance to change like this is going to be something bad that’s going to happen to
us. In fact, it’s not at all. I mean it’s about as Brian is saying being more in synch
and harmony with the environment, it’s about making an environment that helps us, so having
clean air helps us and helps a lot of things. Eating better helps us, it helps having more
sustainable land and everything and so having a vision of how we live within the environment.
Why are our cities looking the way they are? This is the last century, why do we have not
more vegetation, biodiversity, refuge in the cities, why is everything has to be concrete,
where are the trees in this environment? All this is missing in the way that we accept
the world the way it is without criticising or being a bit more alert to the fact that
we’re here because of a series of decisions that have been taken without having a vision
of a planet that is overloaded now. Because currently our measure of a good life
or a government’s measure of a good life seems to be GDP.
Yes, absolutely. It’s how much we grow and that seems to be
the kind of – the sort of virility test for government doesn’t it? How important is it
to kind of shift that into something else? Yes, I mean even economists seem to think
this isn’t a good measure let alone people thinking about…
[Over speaking] But it’s still – I mean in my profession as
well in the media we worship it. Oh yes, absolutely, everyone waits for the
GDP and you judge your government on the GDP and the GDP has risen and do you feel happier
– no? This is perhaps the different life that we will go towards thinking well what is it
the quality of life we really want and is it countries getting richer? Can we all get
richer all the time? We have to question that, and the world is now seen as finite and the
resources are there still but we’re no longer able to put our waste there, it’s actually
full up. So we can’t go exploiting the planet how we were and so instead of saying, oh this
is terrible we can’t do this, actually going back to the vision there are different ways
of doing things, and those might not measure well on GDP but they certainly will measure
well on your happiness. Well, there’s famously this fact which is
a bit trite but I thought it was really revelatory as well. That a standing tree contributes
nothing to GDP, you need to cut it down and you replace it with a farm, and you use the
tree for something and it does, so it definitely has perverse incentives.
If your GDP is not doing what you want in a year and then you get a natural disaster
come through, a storm, and actually then all the activity to put that together will raise
the GDP but I don’t think it’s made anyone any happier.
No, and it hasn’t helped the nature beneath it do doubt either.
Things are changing though a little bit. I mean there is recognition that ecosystems
have services, an environment has services, that don’t just pay off in terms of financial
incentives. I think that in the way that we manage land in particular I mean there is
a lot of bills are coming through now, the Environmental Bill in particular, that will
look at how we value land in addition to the economic services that we get out of it. I
think that things will start changing because of that.
I want to come on to land use in detail perhaps a bit but a little bit later. First of all
Brian, I mean we’re here in a scientific organisation, what are the key scientific challenges, hurdles,
investments, that are required to enable us to stay within 1.5 and nought?
Science and technology… Yes, technology absolutely.
…and the key things we know already. We don’t have to think that something is going
to be invented in the future, they’re there, and we know if we decarbonise our electricity
supply which we know how to do… I’m really sorry to interrupt you but that’s
a key point. So what you’re saying is we don’t need massive blue sky thinking, there’s stuff
there already that we could use more and better and broader.
There’s stuff there already that’s right, we have to do it at scale whereas we’ve done
it in a small way. When I first got into this actually this sort of thing and the Royal
Commission on Environmental Pollution back in the late 1990s I think we were the first
ones to really think now let’s set this 2050 and we’ll think about the energy supply in
2050 because on that time scale we can’t imagine anything new providing a massive input. So
we already know what could be put in place there and we came up with certain things.
I think now the scene is so much more optimistic than it was back in the late 1990s. We certainly…
Well, you didn’t envisage wide scale wind or cheap solar or things like that.
The fact that those would be as cheap as or cheaper than fossil fuel was just not contemplated.
So it wasn’t possible, batteries, I mean batteries were way back. So the take-off of wind power
has just been amazing. On-shore it’s incredibly cheap, off-shore we’re doing an amazing job
there. Solar around the world, solar is the solution in most countries particularly in
developing countries. So those things are there now, batteries that weigh – it’s huge
progress and that means that… Still quite pricey the storage side of this,
it hasn’t had quite the same tumbles that solar has.
I think if you start comparing a system with renewable energy plus batteries then you’re
not on a much higher cost there. Then of course you can handle transport from this and our
homes if they didn’t leak like sieves could easily be heated by this electricity. You
start to say well all the things build on itself, we can do it. Agriculture and we’ll
come back to as you say land use change, that’s one of the more difficult ones actually but
we do know how to do most of this. So by that token are you saying that we don’t
need to spend billions on fusion or something like that, the tools are in our grasp rather
than trying to decide on new ones. Well, for those at The Royal Society working
on fusion in the latter half of the 21st Century if we have fusion great, now that would make
life really easy. But we don’t want to actually say all our money has to go there because
we don’t know how to do it otherwise, that’s not the case. We do know how to do it we just
need the optimism to really go for it. So I’m going to come onto you in a minute,
Corinne, but just to buy that analysis does that mean that science is going to do the
job for us and we as householders don’t really need to worry our pretty little heads?
No, absolutely not, absolutely not. This involves individuals, it involves society, it involves
politics, economics, every aspect of society, governments at all levels, and it’s only if
all those players are actually enabling it to happen and wanting it to happen that it
can happen. It can’t be imposed from the top, science can’t do it on its own.
Because they’re going to have to vote for it and pay for it is that what you mean?
They also – they’d have to make their voice heard to government so government will enable
it to happen. If we’re going to have electric vehicles you need a charging structure, you
need all the incentives to make this breakthrough and so all levels. So government makes it
easier for the individual to make the decision that we think they should make.
Corinne, is this what’s going to come, the next stage in this is going to involve us
a bit more because let’s be honest we’ve had these great successes in decarbonising our
electricity when it has halved since 2010 or so, but most still flick and forget we
don’t think about it, is that going to change? Absolutely, I mean the difficulty we have
with this problem is that to stabilise the climate at any level the emissions need to
be zero net. So that means anything we emit we have to offset with planting trees and
removing carbon from the atmosphere. If you start breaking down where the emissions come
from in the UK, we’ve been very good at what we call the easy stuff, which it didn’t look
easy when we started. But now it looks easy, which is producing electricity on low carbon,
so renewable energy, producing electricity with renewable energy. This we’ve done quite
a lot of that but we’re now faced with all the other things which is not when you think
about it that hard by itself but the number of actions that there are to do there’s lots
of them. Examples…
Well, just transport, for example, the way we go to work. So lots of people will go to
work in a car, using a car, and so these emissions are real, they are big emissions, it’s actually
our biggest source of emission in the UK so we have to what we say decarbonise transport.
You can do this by getting out of the car so bus, cycle, and walk. You can do this by
having electric mobility so either an electric car if you can afford it or an electric bicycle
which could actually become more popular. Can you do it by green number plates that
were just announced today this idea? Green number plates.
Do you think that’s a good idea? Yes, why not, you know I’m all for ideas.
Just a little bit back of the fag packet isn’t it?
I mean I think it’s a bit small as far as ideas go in a problem like this but it is
an idea. So that means that if you’re an individual you’re going to have to do something. So you
have to first realise that well you’re part of the problem because you have a car and
you use it. I have a car; I use it not very much but I do and find yourself a solution.
So you have to find a solution that you can afford that will do what you need to do and
implement the solution. I think sometimes we think these solutions are bigger than they
are really but after you have actually decided to go to work on a bus then it seems there
are some advantages to this. You are sceptical… [Over speaking]
Yes, a little bit I mean it’s… [Over speaking]
Every time you drive on the road in a petrol or diesel car you are influencing the climate
for the next 1000 years and that’s an amazing thought isn’t it?
Yes. Really before you drive that car think I’m
an influencer on the climate for the next 1000 years.
Yes, it makes you feel a bit queasy actually thinking of the driving I do for my work.
But I was just going to say if you live and work in the countryside or even a county town
you’re a plumber or even let’s say you’re a journalist, you need that car currently
to get about and the electric alternative costs £20,000. It isn’t yet within reach
is it? No, that’s right. So there are number of things
that individuals can do now and depending on your personal circumstances you will be
able to do one or the other or maybe a few of them. If you’re in that particular case,
I mean not everybody is a plumber here, so if you’re in that particular case it just
might not be the solution for you now. That’s why people have some leverage that you can
put in place but the responsibility at the end of the day to make things happen at the
level that we need that’s what governments need to enable. So they need to produce charging
points together, they need to produce subsidies on electric vehicles, they need to organise
shared rides, for example, where that’s possible with employers and so on, and organise the
costs of things. So that infrastructure like cars that emit CO2 have a price, are charged
with a price, you take that money and you invest it somewhere else. It’s not that easy,
it’s going to cost, it’s not free but you have – there is a way forward.
Is energy too cheap, Brian? That’s a difficult question because it then
involves those who find it difficult to afford the energy they have. So you get then into
the inequities in society that some people cannot afford and others can. So you can’t
just say we should raise the price of energy unless you actually think about justice and
equalities and the society we have and that’s part of the whole issue here, where we do
have to think wider than just the climate issue. We may get back to ideas that are just
transitional or whatever but it involves thinking about the fact that things aren’t equal across
society and whenever you do something using a price mechanism then that’s going to make
life difficult perhaps for some in society. So there might be other ways to do it or else
we have to think in a bigger sense. Well, maybe we should get stuck into the transition
right now. But the reason I asked the question is that firstly energy is being asked to do
more and more things if you like which could well come at a higher cost, or maybe ought
to come at a higher cost because it’s being asked to do more than just…
So my simple answer is, yes, it should be. Thank you.
You should actually be more frugal with it. If you’re more frugal with the energy and
that’s like me saying, you’re influencing the climate for the next 1000 years when you
drive your car, now do you have to be charged for your petrol to go to that realisation
or can you actually think about what you’re doing?
The other reason I was going to mention is that it seems to me that for most of us, and
by that, I mean probably 70 per cent, 90 per cent of the population, actually energy is
too cheap for us to save it. It doesn’t – the energy saving things doesn’t really add up,
sadly they don’t, so there isn’t a great incentive to look after this.
No, I think it’s true with energy and food and both are probably too cheap. But as we
say we can’t just say they should cost more because that would cause real hardships so
it has to be looked at in a broader sense but, yes, it is too cheap.
Well the energy price we pay now does not recognise the damage that comes with some
forms of energy. So that’s a yes isn’t it?
So that’s, yes, it is too cheap. The other thing is that – so the strategy we’re using
now is producing more energy, renewable energy, and hoping that it will phase out fossil energy.
So there is a bit of a plan for coal, moving out of coal, but there’s no plan for gas at
the moment. You look at what happens worldwide there is great success in renewable energy,
most countries renewable energy grows in parallel to fossil energy because the energy demand
is there maybe because the price is not right or just the demand is there. So as much as
I would like to use all that more and more energy the fossil energy is causing climate
change, it’s causing pollution, it’s damaging, it has to be phased out or captured and put
underground and that part costs money and we just have to implement it.
But it’s amazing at the moment that the subsidies for fossil fuels around the world dwarf the
subsidies for renewables. So it’s still we’re putting all that money into fossil fuels.
Do we have subsidies for fossil fuels in this country as well, red diesel might be an example
for the farmers? I mean any subsidies that we put in gas in
the North Sea is subsidies in fossil fuels and helping the industry, tax, costs, and
so on, yes. So that should go.
It should go in a managed way, yes, eventually. It should go [unclear].
In a managed way and this is part of this looking wider than – I mean we’ve been plagued
with decisions that are made just at this instant thinking of this one and then perhaps
rescinded a little while back. What it needs is a plan where we actually say, well, this
is where we’re going and we will gradually get this coming in and this going out and
this cost will gradually go up but not these sudden changes. Because that really unsettles
everyone, no one can plan for those and we have to have something we can plan. It’s got
to happen quite rapidly but that doesn’t mean on the Decadal time scale 10, 20 years
we’re transitioning from there to there and we all know how that’s going to be done, and
these sorts of policies will be required, plan now for how we do that.
Just on that Just Transition thing you mentioned, it was quite an interesting notion. I mean
how do we make sure that in this transition those who are on lower incomes don’t suffer,
or I mean brutally do we say, actually that’s the way the market economy has always worked,
there is some suffering at the lower end? Whether Just Transition has something inside
a country and also in terms of the world and if I could start with the larger one then
many countries of the world will find difficulties, either because they’re developing and they
rapidly need their energy, or else because they’ve been dependent on fossil fuels and
they can’t see how to move away from that. So we have to help that happen and that means
whether you call subsidising, helping them do that with the new technologies to replace,
or if it’s a developing country that those new technologies are the way they start developing.
So they don’t have to go through the dirty phase we’ve been through, they can go straight
to the new phase and that’s almost an advantage for them. So we need to help countries but
then inside the country we have to say well – we have to look at what things costs and
what we’re transitioning to, and in terms of those in poorer parts or who need the extra
monies then the monies have to be there. But it’s not just the wealth they have it’s the
jobs as well because in this transition some jobs will go and many others will come in.
Then managing that to make sure that this is a transition which helps people from the
one to the other is very important. So coal mines closed and there was no help but we
have not got to go through that we’ve got to go through a transition that is planned.
That’s quite an interesting example that isn’t it, the Hull and the Humber Estuary where
they’re moving very much from the kind of fossil fuels and coal things towards some
of the renewable energies. That’s right, that’s a really good vision
again there. Yes, I mean the Just Transition I mean this
is not optional, it’s not a choice that we need to take to have the Just Transition because
it’s nice or because people suffer, it’s not going to work if it’s not just. I mean where
you’re talking about exchanges between countries, I mean just stick to one country. If you start
pricing carbon in one way or another and it becomes unfair you get people go in the streets.
I mean this is the gilet jaunes in France. No, I was just going to say you’ve got direct
experience of this. The same happened in Norway last month, this
month in Ecuador exactly the same, subsidies on fuel the government took them out being
good doing what the United Nations said, people went in the streets and protested. In the
Netherlands the farmers blocked the roads because they said we should not use less fertiliser
because it’s all the planes. I mean if this is not just and if it is not managed it is
not going to work. We need to bring everybody on board.
But don’t those protests actually betray sadly the rather shallow depth of concern or care
in the general public? No.
Because you give them a tiny bit of pain and they’re blocking the roundabouts in France.
Absolutely not, absolutely not, they do portray inequalities in society as we have now and
then they are tipping the iceberg in addition but the transition that we have now is unmanaged.
There are a lot of injustices in the transition, there is a lot of exemption for aviation for
example, there is a lot of imbalance and we don’t even know who pays and who doesn’t pay.
In the Committee on Climate Change one of the recommendations that we did in the net
zero report is that the government must do a review of how the transition is going to
be paid but more importantly how are the costs going to be distributed in society because
it is so important? We have already an unfair society, if you make it more unfair it’s not
good. Okay, you say that they’re protesting because
there are other things – it was unfairly implemented but where is your evidence that people really
care enough to make these changes? Isn’t that just wishful thinking on behalf of the climate
scientists who want it themselves? No, I don’t think so. At the moment there
is a Convention Citoyenne Citizen.
Citizens’ Convention, thank you, there is one in this country that hasn’t started yet
but in France in response to this crisis the government is implementing a number of governance,
new ways, experiments with governance, and one of the things that they have done the
French Government here is selected randomly 150 citizens from the members of the public
to come and find solutions, propose their solutions…
This is kind of what Extinction Rebellion want isn’t it? I mean they want this Citizen’s…
[Over speaking] Exactly, and they had one weekend so far and
the discussions – the report for the discussion was very, very productive, interventions from
citizens very interested, very knowledgeable, putting their fingers on all the right things
and not at all blockage. In fact they’ve been surprised at the state of the climate science
and why don’t we know more in society about the urgency of the action?
I don’t think you should underestimate what the public know about this now. I mean as
I go around and give talks maybe I’m hearing a particular audience but certainly the enthusiasm
for tackling this issue is there, and you’ve only got to see the young people, the enthusiasm
is tremendous for tackling this issue. So it’s just to sit back and say, oh no one really
wants to do it. I don’t think it’s right, they’re not being enabled…
Are they prepared to take pain to do it or perhaps they don’t have to?
Well, it’s not – if we do this properly the pain is minimal. It’s actually enabling them
to make the right decisions. It would be a change and maybe some people don’t want anything
to change but it’s the change. Do you agree with that the pain will be minimal
or is perhaps the pain a little bit higher and there are 10 billion of us in 2050?
I mean, is change painful? I mean there is a cost and the cost is going to be real, it’s
a real cost. The cost should be less for people who are less able to pay and more for those
who are able to pay. But of course, the cost is a pain automatically but the behaviour
and the change is much more important than the cost in many ways and whether that’s painful
or not I’m not sure. The cost is one per cent or two per cent of
GDP to go back to your GDP. Many things are one per cent or two per cent of GDP, it’s
not as if this is way out of all the others and this is about actually our future on the
planet, which I would have thought was rather high on everyone’s agenda.
Yes, I think it was quite a nice comparator on that isn’t it because I think that figure
comes from the IPCC and that’s roughly what it would take…
It came from the Climate Change Committee actually.
But the comparator on that I think is that the moon landings cost two per cent to three
per cent of American GDP, so to get to another world two to three, to save our own half that,
a little bit of a deal. Yes, it sounds pretty good.
I’ll buy that for a dollar as they say. Yes, okay, that’s good.
A penny in the pound to save the world. Right, sold, yes.
I knew we’d get there. Let’s just move onto what we’ve been seeing on the streets particularly
of London. Do you think Extinction Rebellion are a good thing, were a good thing, have
they reached their moment? They have done some good Extinction Rebellion.
When they… Have they done some bad?
I might or not get to that but let me talk about the good first. There were strikes in
the spring, now I don’t live in London so it didn’t annoy me so I can just talk about
the good. But when Extinction Rebellion did the strikes in London in the spring they said
– one of their claims is we need net zero by 2025, nobody knew then what net zero was,
nobody in the society knew what net zero was and it was in the newspaper every day. By
the time the report of the CCC with the recommendation came with net zero by 2050 everybody knew
what it was and it seemed like a bit relaxed. Whereas I thought it’s going to be so difficult
to make society accept net zero by 2050 they actually pulled the whole referential of what
is possible in the other direction, and the mental space became all clear to do things
that I would have never thought imaginable before then. So I mean this is incredible.
Are they saying enough about what we can do rather than just the anger and fear message,
which to be honest has been a fairly familiar message from the environmental movement for
as long as it’s been there and you can argue about how effective it’s been?
Let me give the positive again first Tom and I think we had the children’s strikes and
the actions on Friday, et cetera, and along with Extinction Rebellion they’ve brought
this up the agenda there’s no doubt. Scientists like us can give all sorts of knowledge and
information… [Over speaking]
It’s good for science, it’s good for journalists in this space as well.
Yes, but then that informs policy but you need some emotion and I think they brought
some emotion to this and that’s really important, and this is an emotional issue looking after
our planet. We can sound very dry about it but this is extremely important and it’s important
to hear lots of voices and if the Climate Change Committee comes out saying we need
net zero by 2050 and they’re seen as extreme then maybe that’s going to be difficult. But
actually, there’s voices saying we need to it earlier than that and it’s been very important
that there are voices like that. So it helps to make 2050 seem more doable.
Well naturally and the Climate Change Committee went through all sorts of things about how
soon can we do it and in the end they thought 2050? Well the lessons of the last decade
is maybe it will be possible to do it earlier but if we spend all our time arguing about
what the date is we won’t get on with doing it which is the important thing. So I agree
with you that actually there’s been a bit of frightening but maybe some element of frightening
is necessary for people – to shake people out of well perhaps we can put this off for
the moment and leave it to the next 10 years or something. It’s actually so urgent to take
action now, not because we’re going to fall over a precipice in 10 years’ time but because
we have to start taking action now if we’re going to equilibrate the climate at anything
that we think is really handleable. You both suggested there were some things
you think that perhaps weren’t helpful in the Extinction Rebellion message.
Well clearly – I mean I think the action went too far and they realised that themselves.
Now whether that was people really associated with Extinction Rebellion or others tacking
themselves on I don’t know. But I thought they had gone in terms of blocking streets
or whatever to a certain point and if they went to shutting to down Heathrow that would
clearly be counterproductive. You know there’s a point beyond which it really isn’t worth
going and you’ve made your point, don’t go any further than that. I think they got exasperated
because the media stopped paying attention to what they were doing and they were living
for the headlines. So that’s the way things often go. I mean we’ve seen that in the climate
thing over the years that in order to keep going for the headlines you have to have a
bigger and bigger extreme event. Do you want to come in briefly, I’ll talk
about the media a second? Yes, I mean this transition everybody needs
to be involved so if people are put off then they’re not going to be involved, this is
really, really critical. The issue that Brian and I have had throughout our life as scientists
is fighting climate sceptics or deniers of climate change. This was a big issue all my
life and now I’m sort of sensing a new issue which I hadn’t expected and it’s the cynics,
the climate cynics, so people who actually accept the need, say we need to do something
but then their position is well we can’t do anything about it because we can’t do it fast
enough and things are going to be so hard and everything, and people who have given
up. So we’re having now to manage two dimensions, so on the one hand the deniers and on the
other hand, well let’s just give up straightaway because it’s just too hard and how can we
do all this? Really it’s a strange position to be in but I think the centre part do action
as fast as we can is the one to be in. You mentioned the media and Extinction Rebellion
in particular have a real beef with the media. They say we’re not telling the truth. Do you
think the media is treating this issue fairly? I’ll start with Corinne.
More and more fairly, I’ve seen some good pieces, many good pieces of reporting in the
media. I think the balance you need to have somebody two views. This was a big part of
the media for a long time, this has now mostly or largely gone in many places and that’s
good because the consensus on climate change is so incredibly overwhelming. I think that
the media could be better at explaining when things change on impacts and particulars.
It’s really difficult at the moment because climate change enhances impacts and so you
don’t want to be saying that everything is climate change but climate change contributes
and that’s just hard. So overall I’m actually happy with the direction of travel with the
media in fact. B plus for us in the media.
Yes, B plus, yes. Yes and there’s no doubt the handling has
got better. The so-called balance of the past is not required anymore. The media finds it
much easier to deal with the extreme events that occur when there are lots of natural
disasters. They find it more difficult to discuss the inexorable change which these
extreme events are on top of. You know sea level rising by more than three millimetres
per year, just going over our points like this, the temperature on average going ever
upwards like this. So those sort of smooth changes, trends over time on which the extremes
will get ever bigger so that those don’t tend to be quite so easy to put across. But the
extremes I mean I used to get – as soon as event happened get the media on the phone,
can we say this is because of climate change? I’d say, well what I can tell you is that
this event is more likely because of climate change and that was the end of the story,
they’d go to someone else who would say it’s because of climate change.
It’s a bit damning really because it’s not that difficult a concept is it but clearly
it’s beyond… [Over speaking]
No, you wouldn’t have thought so. No, people are used to taking assessments of risks, you
cross the road, you do assess the risk of doing so and people are pretty good at putting
on bets sometimes on horses or whatever. They’re assessing risk. It’s not something we can’t
do yet it would seem in this area there’s actually – people couldn’t understand that,
contemplate that climate change event has made this more likely. Now these days there
are techniques for saying this is five times more likely and I don’t really – that number
could be anywhere between two and six probably. It’s like figures on a duvet, isn’t it?
Yes, but because they have a number now then they’re happier. I think whereas extreme rainfall
events have been for years we’ve known the science behind why those should occur, the
models show that it’s expected to increase so we know the science behind the increase
and almost around the world and almost everyone you meet has appreciated now that you’re getting
more of these extreme rainfall events. I mean it’s an amazing thing that the atmosphere
if it’s six degrees warmer can hold 50 per cent more water. So the same rainstorm would
be 50 per cent stronger, I mean it’s not difficult science. So the expectation is there, the
model is there, and we’re seeing it. So these sorts of things are really biting now.
Yes, and now just a point from the media that I’ve seen from my side, moving outside the
direct news area, is that in the area of documentaries and famously nature documentaries there has
been a change. I mean I work in – a lot of my work comes out of Bristol, I’m not part
of the Natural History Unit but they’re sort of alongside us. There was this kind of revelatory
moment with the plastics and the whale that they suddenly thought, shit, people actually
do care about this stuff, we can put it in a programme. Now it is going to come in there
and in the one that’s starting – is it tonight or this week the seven continents thing. I
think there’s going to be quite a lot of climate change and peril in there and in the past,
they just thought this is a turn off, people are going to feel guilty and powerless and
they’re going go off and do something else. Hopefully that is beginning to change and
go into – and people are – I mean I know because I’ve been asking or actually pitching things
as well that people are looking for ways of doing the environment that make people feel
empowered and not… That’s right, so a little guilt but then major
empowerment, that’s what we’re after. Yes, well solutions as well which is all what
we were talking about at the start. I want to come onto land use because it is one of
the most tricky ones isn’t it where we have made little progress in this country and arguably
internationally, and it comes into both the climate change and the nature sphere as well.
As we looked at – as I mentioned about that IPBES Report earlier on that was very much
about land use. Corinne, a ridiculously broad question but what needs to happen to land
use, what are the things we really need to engage with that we’re not engaging with now?
Well I mean at the moment we’re using land to produce food and drinks essentially. So
there’s a lot of value to land that is not necessarily systematically recognised. There
are lots of farmers that do good and sustainable farming and so on. But it’s not recognised,
it’s not managed as a whole so the land is fragmented. The farmers have their own land
and the sites for themselves, and all the bigger services that land offers like – I
mean land cleans water for example, holds biodiversity, stores carbon, so all these
services are not recognised as a proper value for land. We’re also not using land at its
best. In this country – I grew up in Canada myself. When I moved to this country I thought
where are all the trees this land is all naked? I mean it’s thirteen per cent of the cover
of the UK is forest? Increasing, it was about five per cent about
150 years ago. Increasing but very, very, very slowly, I
mean we’re not meeting targets for tree planting for example and all this vegetation has disappeared.
So we need to actually think about the way that we use the land as a whole, think about
strategically about rewarding farmers and land owners, not just farmers, for their broader
environmental services that they give. But we cannot offset our – we can’t export
rather our food production to other countries can we, that’s not fair?
No, but one of the big parts of our footprint is what we eat. So eating meat, beef, lamb,
and dairy in particular has a very big footprint on land so if we reduce how much of these
items we eat and we eat more healthily then we have a less of a footprint and we don’t
need so much land to grow food. We can use land to grow forests, for example, to use
the wood to build houses or bio energy and there’s no change at the borders. There’s
no change in trade at the borders with other countries because what we have done is change
the demand for food production on land. But how do we feed 10 billion in 2050, nine
and a half, 10 that seems to be where it’s going to come to without taking more land
under the plough and without all the current carbon emissions that come from farming? Is
it possible and how do we do it? With the western diet it is probably impossible
so it means that – we can’t have the whole world cannot develop in the diet of a typical
US citizen for instance or even a UK citizen. We know our diet is actually not very good
for us so there are many co-benefits of health and dealing with climate change and the big
one is air quality. But actually diet is a common one here that if we actually – we don’t
have to all go vegan, go vegan if you want to, but however if we just say well reduce
somewhat the meat content or the dairy content then that makes it that much easier. Also
we’re not showing to the rest of the world this is what you should aspire to, the bigger
the steak that’s what everyone wants, and so all around the world the Hollywood of a
bigger steak will go and you can’t do it, you can’t feed the world like that. So we
have to adjust to what is possible for all of us to live.
I mean just to give some numbers because I think scale here is very important what Brian
just said. In the committee on climate change we have this task that goes to net zero and
the assumption on meat and dairy is we’ll eat as a society 20 per cent less meat and
50 per cent less dairy so… [Over speaking]
By 2050. By 2050 so it’s less but it’s not dramatically
less and by releasing that land then we can grow forest and so on so it’s not dramatic.
The other point I want to make is that we actually have enough food at least with the
population we have now, it’s a distribution problem that we have so we waste a lot of
food and the food is not… [Over speaking]
Some of us eat quite a lot of it. … and some of us eat a lot and others eat
less than we should. So it’s not so much the production of food that is an issue at least
with the current population but it’s what is grown where and the waste of food.
But the way we treat the soils as well. You can lock a lot of carbon in the soils and
the way we’ve done agriculture in the past is not helpful like that at all. So you lock
carbon in trees and you can lock them in soils. So can we continue with the same in a lot
of areas what might be considered industrial intensive farming that maybe not that great
for soils and also with the nitrogen nitrate fertilisers is it responsible for quite a
lot of greenhouses gases as well… Yes, absolutely.
…can that continue? I think there’s no need for it to continue
given… So an organic future.
No, I’m not saying that particularly. I may have personal preferences that way but I don’t
think these have to say everyone goes that way. What has got to be done is more intelligent
use of fertiliser. I mean in the past you just – like pesticide you threw it on, threw
it on in case it’s needed, whereas now with today’s satellite view of what’s going on
in terms of actual – the measurements possible, it can be much more targeted than in the past.
I mean there is a big range in agricultural practices in this country. I mean there are
big differences between the best practice and the worst practice in this country so
there is a lot of learning that could be done within the country. It’s also an area where
– this is one area where actually we do need more science? We do need to know, for example,
agroforestry, so if you have mixed agriculture what is the effect in terms of the storage
of carbon in your soil, the soil quality, the biodiversity in the soil which enhances
productivity and so on? There is a lot of new knowledge that we could have in agriculture
to see what is more productive. Because once again referring to that nature
report that came out earlier this year, one of the things that the authors were very wary
about was extending the area taken under agriculture. In fact, that was virtually a prohibition
and there is a lot of concern that if we move to a lower chemical toward an organic future
that that could require taking more land under the plough and that’s got to be a no no, hasn’t
it? We certainly have to plan and see how we’re
doing and try and do the best thing and keep looking at it. I think actually at this moment
we can’t say what the agriculture will look like in 20 years’ time but we’ve got to actually
move in a direction where the right things will happen. I mean it could be even worse
because we might be wanting biomass to actually burn and then capture the carbon to create
energy or some people dream of using biomass to create the fuel for aircraft. So if that
was done that would take huge amounts of land so you can’t just say we can do that because
that really will stress the system. We need that land really for growing.
Corinne you make a good point I think there’s a lot of science to be done in this area.
For instance, there’s a lot of talk about what can be done in the sea with seaweed or
coastal farming and things like that which could produce fuels. It seems – and mixing
trees with agriculture not only crops but also livestock it seems to me there’s masses
of work that’s needed. There is masses of work. There’s already a
lot that we know, for example, managed forests or more carbon than on managed forests so
there’s lots of things that we can do already, the marginal land is not used. I mean we can
identify, you just go on a road and you can identify lots of land that is there and not
used for anything. But indeed, there is there a big area for research. (1) Is how you manage
the land to make it as profitable as possible for a range of things and the other is how
do you manage the whole land that you have in a country or in a continent or across the
world to make it as useful as possible. What is clear is that land is a critical resource
so it has to be dealt as a shared common resource rather than at the moment fragmented without
any vision of what the future of land is going to be.
As Corinne said that’s for a range of things. So tackling the climate change issue alone
isn’t good enough, you have to think of that range of issues and it’s biodiversity, it’s
all the other aspects of the world around us.
You also have to think that in a changing climate your land is going to start behaving
differently when it’s warmer, when the rainfall patterns are different, maybe there are some
extreme events, or maybe there is some invasive species, and the adaptation to climate change
almost invariably goes into having healthier land, healthier soils that become more resilient
to changes in the surrounding. Why does nature and biodiversity matter to
us? We like looking at it, some of us enjoy the National Geographic virtual reality thing
that we saw just now but why does it actually matter to human beings that we have healthy
nature out there? I mean I think it’s in our being that we feel
nature is important to us and also a moral thing. But then nature provides many things
that we require, many medicines for instance in the past, water. So nature provides many
services to us and it actually then is important in the adaptation to climate change that we’re
actually helping nature – nature will help us and we can help nature so together we can
do that adaptation problem for instance. Why should we care if we have as many species
as we do? Well we’re part of a system here. I mean this
is our environment that feeds us, the earth is in balance with its biosphere before humans
were there. I mean if we wipe it off we’re endangering ourselves and who knows, we’re
doing things in the dark here, we’re wiping some species by destroying environments and
so on and we don’t even know what we’re doing. We don’t even know that the planet is going
to be stable and is going to support us in the future. I mean you mentioned already the
food production in a changing environment, we have to lower the risks for – well there
are a lot of people on the planet, we have to make it habitable. I think – I mean in
spite of the fact it’s beyond just protecting the biodiversity because it’s biodiverse,
it’s just the whole survival of humanity having a planet that is hospitable, that has different
and lots of opportunities for us that we haven’t yet discovered that we want leave around.
We’ve already reduced the species by huge amounts and if we’re not careful the next
species will be us. But sorry, isn’t that the problem that, yes,
we have done that and look at us? There are seven and a half billion of us and probably
wealthier and healthier than we’ve ever been before so isn’t the track record – I mean
I feel slightly heretical saying this but isn’t the track record that it doesn’t really.
How many can we get rid of do you think and then we still survive and do well?
Well I… Perhaps we’ll run the experiment to find out.
Well I don’t want to do the experiment. But I kind of wish it were the case that there
was an obvious loss and damage to our lives from this but I’m just not sure if the evidence
is actually there. I wish that it were. I mean we’re the most successful species on
earth so of course we’re dominant now but we haven’t got many decades of experience
exploiting this planet with the number of people that is on it. So I think your sample
of evidence is actually very short. When I was born we had half the population of the
planet of today and you know I’m not so old. So I mean the population of the planet is
probably going to stabilise by itself now in the current trend around 10 billion or
so. I mean think about having 1000 years with 10 billion on the planet and all the resources
go down. I mean come on you have to just prepare the environment for these people that will
live after us. The world doesn’t end in 2100, there will be many millennia afterwards
with lots of people on the planet and they need resources.
I mean it’s back to the vision I think I was trying to give at the beginning, it’s you
and the planet. It’s you as part of the planet that we’re moving towards so seeing us as
part of the system so not thinking about how many species we can get rid of or whatever,
we’re part of it. We’re part of the planet. See I think – I mean we are just in an incredible
moment in the history of humanity with this explosion that is going to stabilise. I have
this beautiful graph that I show to my students. It’s 3000 years, very, very low population,
then there’s us and we’re in the middle of this exponential and then there’s a population
like this and we live here. We’re here in this explosion. I mean people who live there,
the students today and the people born today they’re in this cusp there, they’re also incredibly
lucky and I think it was boring before and it will be boring after…
Maybe live in boring times. …but I think we have to very careful to
not look at the world today and say, this is our land and things are great because they’ve
always been and we’re so comfortable. This is really a very unique time.
To talk a little about population one of the extraordinary things is the amount of that
population growth that is coming from Sub-Saharan Africa isn’t it? I mean that is where the
massive growth is going to be. Is going to be.
Is going to be, yes, but just where it has been and I do just want to touch on the international
picture because we often get – people often criticise, yes, it’s all very well but what
about China and India? It often strikes me you can paint their energy position or climate
change position in whichever way you want. I mean both of you really I mean are we – should
we be optimistic or pessimistic of what’s happening in the big countries of Asia?
Yes, I mean a lot is happening in the big countries of Asia I mean it’s just…
A lot of coal. Yes but I mean China is a big country of 1.3
billion people. If you look at – I mean I work on carbon emissions, the emissions of
China are exactly the same as the emissions of the UK. Of course they’re the bigger emitter
in the world because… Per head you mean.
Per head, per person because there are so many people there in the development phase
in an interesting positon because the east of China is a developed country but the west
of China is a lot poorer and so they haven’t been – also they haven’t been developed for
so long so they are still in a quiet pollution heavy intensive phase. But the government
is one government and they are quite regulated with these five year plans with objectives
that they set in place. They’re not yet in the long term targets but they could get there
if the rest of the world – if the Paris Agreement works then I think China inside the Paris
Agreement would work. Well this is a really key thing.
Can I come in on China? Yes, but just for a minute Brian. Does what
we do in the rest of the world make a difference to these big countries?
Yes. It does, as sort of example setting or…
Well, yes, as an example setting, as developing the technologies, showing that it works. I
mean it’s not just us right for one thing that is on this pathway I mean a lot of other
European countries are on this pathway. The US the emissions are decreasing in spite of
the president of the – he’s the president… Yes.
I believe he is the president, yes. President Trump.
Yes and the Paris Agreement is a masterpiece. The diplomats who wrote the Paris Agreement
I raise my hat to. Respect to Christiana who isn’t here.
Yes, exactly, sorry you got me. But it’s really big because it provides an umbrella for everybody.
I mean I was talking about fairness before, I mean this is most transparent agreement
that exists. You know countries come and say not only what they are going to do but they
say what they are going to do is fair. Do you want to come in on China?
Yes, I mean I often get in the public talks why should we bother when China is the problem
really isn’t it? China has grown amazingly, and it’s done it a lot on fossil fuel but
it is changing rapidly as well, and crucially important they are now the leaders in production
of these renewable technologies, solar, wind, they’re the leaders. I often say that what
we should worry about is they’re going to control all the technologies, be the leaders
in the technologies… [Over speaking]
They own all the rare earth metals, don’t they?
Yes, so they’ve seen the way forward there and they are changing rapidly in terms of
their perception of the role that coal would have played so they are changing rapidly in
that. As Corinne said, I think they’re quite conservative in what they’ll tell us about
what their future plans are but I wouldn’t be surprised to see not very long ahead that
they’ve really equilibrated. But the priority for India and China still
seems to be lots of energy rather than clean energy.
Yes, I mean can we split India and China because they are two very different countries.
Please do. So India is a lot poorer in there per capita
emissions we are five times more than them, so a lot poorer in a very development stage
and massive land use problems and big development issue and demand. They’re doing a lot on wind
energy but it’s kind of very early phases. I think China is a lot more ready, a lot more
mature as a country to take big climate commitments and things could be very different, and China
will make a big difference whatever happens in China on coal, for example, will have implications
for the global emissions straightaway because it’s such a big country.
I agree about separating India and China, very different cases. India was viewing this
huge expansion on coal and Australia was licking its lips about how much coal it was going
to transport there. Those plans are changing quite rapidly and again it’s because of this
growth of solar and the fact that solar is cheap. The model now for India where it’s
always had trouble with these power stations and then getting down the line and hardly
anything gets down to the end of the line because it’s all taken on the way, suddenly
you have the situation where the village can have its own power and just that’s such a
better model. I think that… But the diffused grid works better for India
than… [Over speaking]
Absolutely, yes, and that would be true in Africa as well. Why go down our line of these
huge central power stations, they can just develop this new model and have control in
their village of what’s going on. So I think that perception is actually growing a lot
in India now but it is further behind the curve than China.
I feel we’ve been dotting around a bit, I do just want to come to aviation which may
seem a little bit coming back to one of the areas where we started but it’s one of the
things that I think is particularly knotty because we talked about a new vision of a
good life. I still think for most people particularly maybe young people the ability to travel and
see friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, in other countries or see the world
is absolutely bound in – woven in now. What do you see as the future for aviation and
is there a way of in prospect of de-carbonising it?
When the Climate Change Committee first started on this it became clear that any expansion
of the emissions from aviation was going to be almost impossible to deal with other sectors.
It was already considered a very special sector where all the others were going to reduce
hugely and aviation we said, well maybe aviation we could envisage in 2050 producing the same
emissions as back in the 1990s, 2000. That then said – so we weren’t saying you had to
stop flying and given the extra efficiencies of aviation it might even have been able to
expand by about 60 per cent so even more flights than now in much more efficient aircraft.
Now with the net zero at 2050 things may have to be revisited but I don’t think anyone is
going to say abandon all flights, you’ve got to stop flying now. It is like the car driving
down the street, is your journey really necessary? Clearly we’re not going to abandon it altogether
but I just want to ask – well on that piece it has been suggested – I’ve heard talk and
I think it’s quite an interesting idea that if we need to make sure you need to take that
flight is there a case for a flight taxation that you get one flight a year for free no
tax? The next flight maybe 20 per cent, the second flight 40 per cent, is there something
– should we be looking at something like that, that feels progressive in so far as it doesn’t
penalise people who want a week in Majorca or whatever but at the same time it does penalise
those who fly regularly. Corinne what do you think, do we need to grapple with something
like that? Well just – aviation is the only thing that
actually you can’t really bring to zero I mean beside agriculture. So it’s a tough one.
You’ve got to manage demand so through taxation. You have to manage demand if you want to reduce
the emissions or you have to offset, offset by planting…
[Over speaking] I was coming onto that actually but…
…with carbon capture and storage. But sadly there is a lot of regulation in plane and
it takes time to roll over. It’s not foreseeable, at least very, very difficult to think that
we’ll have technology that will be so good that the aviation emissions will be very small.
But you have to think the further you fly the more emissions you have right so it’s
not short haul it’s long hauls that are a problem. So if you fly to nearer places then
you… [Over speaking]
Okay, you’ll get your first 500 miles for free and then after that…
But then you should probably do it by train anyway.
But there are lots of issues in fairness in aviation. The ones you mentioned is correct,
there are also tax breaks in aviation that are not necessarily modern anymore. If there
is going to be anything of the kind that you say like now then it would have to be debated
massively and society would have to have a big, big uptake.
Which side of that debate would you be on? What I would be on personally.
Do you think there should be some sort of sliding scale of taxation for aviation in
the future, progressive taxation? I haven’t thought about it. I would have to
debate that within my family. There are many ways it could be done and I
think to say, oh yes, that’s the way to do it. You could say there are a limited number
of slots in this country and so the aircraft companies will deal with those slots, they
will pay a certain amount for them. But isn’t is absolutely crucial to come back
to the Just Transition thing earlier that if this is to have a chance of being accepted
it has to be seen to be more penalising for the wealthy and the super businesses.
Absolutely and how you do that I would like to say at this moment but, yes, I totally
agree, there has to be some equity in this. Now you mentioned offsetting and I was keen
to know… I think it was offsetting in a particular
way that… [Over speaking]
I mean because 10 years ago we talked a lot about offsetting and then it seemed to kind
of disappear, either because it got a bad name or it…
[Over speaking] Was this offsetting your emissions by doing
something in another country because that’s different from…
Yes, or whatever but I mean it could have been planting trees, it could have been transferring
technology. But there was an idea that, yes, we are causing climate change damage, so we
need to ameliorate that or offset that by doing something else. Well it’s an idea that
seems to have slightly vanished. Should it come back?
It got a bad name because many of the schemes weren’t really that effective.
If we hear people keep saying, oh I want to do something should offsetting come back,
respectable offsetting? Well when we come to 2050 there won’t be any
opportunity to offset anywhere else because if all the countries are going towards net
zero there’s nothing… Well there’s a long time between now and 2050
shouldn’t we be getting… [Over speaking]
Well there may be some but you have to be very careful how you do it to make sure it’s
really effective and the planning that is really done at governmental level to see how
to help, and I said moving this, helping this developing country to get this new ways of
doing technology, et cetera. We’re coming towards the end of our time.
Do you think that we should be engaging respectable offsetting again?
I think at the moment the market is not mature enough for offsetting, eventually, yes.
But the offsetting… Eventually necessary even but at the moment
it’s very difficult to argue for offsetting. But the offsetting Corinne was talking about
was actually then taking carbon out of the atmosphere.
Yes, actually, yes, she’s drawing it in. So offsetting by doing other things.
Technologically we haven’t – well, technology I was going to move onto but we haven’t got
time. One question I just wanted to end with for both of you. Let’s say within the next
year there’s a new prime minister, you’re sitting down in front of him or her, what
are your three wishes? Three, I’m allowed three am I?
Yes, plausible. Plausible.
Whatever, give me three, you’ve got 30 seconds for both of you.
I’m sitting in front of her, okay. My first one would be actually in terms of climate
that every government policy must be viewed through the lens of climate change. So it means it’s in Downing Street,
and every department has to look at its policies through that way.
Yes, that’s one, forgive me for pushing you, two.
Okay, get on with the mitigation measures that you know you can do, get those actually
working rather than talking about them. So do start on them now, have a very definite
plan where they come in now and sequentially over these next few years. The third one,
get on with that adaptation because we haven’t even started.
As in how are we going to adapt to a warmer wetter extreme climate.
Yes. I would say first set your vision for the
change that you want. What is the world, the UK going to look like? Then be the change.
So make your government follow this pathway that you are giving the others so you’re more
credible in the end and then be the ambassador for the UK so that we have a worldwide agreement,
a worldwide trajectory for net zero and then we truly tackle climate change.
Well, thank you very much. I’m afraid that we’re going to have bring this bit of the
conversation to a close now but it’s been a fascinating discussion. Thank you to all
of you for watching out there in YouTube land, online, and do continue the conversation on
social media with the hashtag #youandtheplanet. I should say that this is only the first event
in the whole series that will be touring the UK over the coming months, all of which can
be watched live and will be available to watch later on The Royal Society’s YouTube channel.
If you want to find out more about the series, please visit
But for now, please put your hands together for our panel.


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