Few publications have become as essential for helping people understand the climate crisis as Carbon Brief, which publishes in-depth, scientifically rigorous, and eminently accessible analysis of the latest in climate news around the world.
So naturally, brothers Brock and Ty Benefiel open the newest season of their podcast, The Climate Pod, by interviewing Dr. Simon Evans, Carbon Brief’s deputy editor.
The episode is part of a new, four-part series called Climate Citizen, developed in collaboration with Global Citizen. Over the course of the next four weeks, the show will discuss topics relating to climate justice, biodiversity, and mitigating the crisis.
You can download and listen on The Climate Pod's website and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
The conversation with Evans is a crash course on all things relating to the Paris climate agreement, a sobering antidote to both climate denialism and doomism, and a riveting bit of storytelling as Evans presents the history and development of certain climate ideas.
Evans compares the carbon budget — the amount of carbon dioxide we can emit to stay within the goals of the Paris climate agreement — to a bathtub.
“We’re pouring CO2 emissions into the bath like water out of the tap and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere just keeps going up,” he says. “Until we turn the tap off and get to net zero emissions, we’re going to keep on warming the planet."
“And the really crucial thing about this and why it’s cumulative and why it keeps adding and adding and adding to the problem is that the CO2 we’re adding in the atmosphere effectively stays there forever,” he adds. “It isn’t the individual molecules of CO2 — those obviously move around the carbon cycle, they go into trees, the ocean, we breathe them in and so on — but the increase in the concentration of CO2 lasts effectively permanently."
Evans goes on to explain how pledges made during the COP26 climate conference could help to drive down expected temperature increases.
“There was a whole raft of pledges particularly during the first week of the summit, where we had stuff like 100 countries pledging to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, 130 countries saying they wanted to end and even reverse deforestation,” he says. “Those sorts of announcements, if they’re implemented, might actually shave something like a tenth of a degree off of expected warming.”
The Paris climate agreement calls on countries to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Evans explains how we’re already at 1.2 degrees Celsius of warming, and current trends suggest we’ll reach an increase of at least 2.3 degrees Celsius.
Such an increase would lead to severe climate impacts, but it’s not as bad as 3 or 4 degrees of warming. In fact, every tenth of a degree of warming avoided means fewer environmental disruptions.
In the interview, Evans argues that the growing acceptance of the severity of the climate crisis during COP26 suggests that more concrete actions will soon follow.
“This was the first time that a text explicitly called out fossil fuels, which are behind the vast majority of global emissions,” he says. “Now every single country in the world is agreeing that, actually, we’ve named this problem 'fossil fuel' and this is something we have to do something about if we’re going to tackle climate change. Even Saudi Arabia signed up to that. Now what does that mean substantively? How does that translate to actual policies, actual changes on the ground, actual emissions? We have to wait and see, but symbolically it’s important.”
COP27: 'A Critical Moment in History'
The first episode of Climate Citizen also features an interview with Azeez Abubakar, a 23-year-old climate activist from Nigeria and a Global Citizen Fellow.
Abubakar discusses how climate change is affecting communities in Nigeria.
“Climate change has caused droughts, which is making it difficult for people to grow food and eat,” he says. “It’s causing land degradation that makes it difficult for people to survive in their local communities. And you can also tie climate change impacts to insecurity, especially in the northern region of Nigeria.
“There’s a lot of flooding and more extreme rainfall, which is damaging and causing loss of life in vulnerable areas,” he says.
Abubakar recently traveled to COP26 as a youth ambassador where he got to network with other activists and speak truth to power.
“My message at those events was to get world leaders to prioritize the most affected communities,” he says. “When you look at these marginalized communities, they’ve contributed the least to climate change and they’ve suffered the most from it. So it’s more fair and more equal when we can have wealthy nations contribute their fair share to ensure these communities suffer less from climate impacts.”
Looking ahead, Abubakar is excited for COP27 later this year, which will be hosted by Egypt.
“I see COP27 as a critical moment in history because COP27 is the first ever COP that is hosted in Africa," he says. "And it’s really going to be a period for us to be able to get world leaders to really support developing countries within the Global South."
How Global Citizen Is Taking Action
Talia Fried, Global Citizen's director of climate and sustainability, rounds out the episode by informing the audience about Global Citizen's environmental campaigning priorities.
"The first one being mitigation and stopping climate change and that's everything from calling on countries, especially the biggest emitters like the US and Australia, to reduce their emissions in line with preventing 1.5 degrees of warming," she said. "It also means importantly calling on countries to implement legislation to deliver on their goals."
“We’re also calling on cities and sub-national governments who have a huge role to play here to also commit to and implement 1.5-and-below action plans and tackle key sectors, like clean construction and sustainable waste systems, and just transitions to make sure that the everyday worker, who will be impacted by a transition to a clean economy and sustainable energy system, is able to be provided with training resources and employment opportunities and that no one is left behind."
Take climate action now with Global Citizen and learn how you can help defend the planet here.
You can download and listen to the four-part Climate Citizen series on The Climate Pod's website, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. New episodes will drop every Wednesday!