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A Climate Change with Matt Matern Climate Podcast

103: Building a Sustainable Future with Terry Tamminen at AltaSea

Guest Name(s): Terry Tamminen

Matt Matern and Terry Tamminen, author, President/CEO of AltaSea, and board member of 7th Generation Advisors, explore vital solutions from the ocean, and its potential to provide limitless food, fuel, and medicines.

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An accomplished author, Terry’s latest book, Watercolors: How JJ the Whale Saved Us, shares his remarkable true story of the rescue of JJ, a one-day-old gray whale that was found abandoned in Marina del Rey, California. His previous book, Cracking the Carbon Code: The Keys to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy (Palgrave), shows how to find the low carbon products and services that save money, get ahead of regulations, and preserve resources for generations to come…
As the CEO for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Terry Tamminen oversees the grant partnerships, which range from major environmental conservation organizations to local partners who are fighting to protect and defend vital ecosystems and species that are gravely impacted by the global environmental crisis caused by climate change. From his youth in Australia to career experiences in across the globe, Tamminen has developed expertise in business, farming, the environment, and the arts. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and later Cabinet Secretary, the Chief Policy Advisor to the Governor, where Terry was the architect of many groundbreaking sustainability policies, including California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the Hydrogen Highway Network, and the Million Solar Roofs initiative….
AltaSea is a unique model for ocean-related solutions. Through a bold plan conceived in concert with the community, AltaSea is making a lasting mark on the future of Los Angeles and the planet through a unique public-private ocean institute that joins together the best and brightest in exploration, science, business and education. The emphasis on creating public-private collaborations sets the organization apart. It is from these intersections that innovation is born, and from innovation comes groundbreaking impact…
103: Terry Tamminen, 7th Generation Advisors

#103 – Terry Tamminen – A Climate Change with Matt Matern

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Terry Tamminen, former head of the California EPA, under Cal Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and currently president of the seventh generation advisors. Terry’s had lots of different roles in the environmental movement, one of which was, you know, working with the California EPA to roll out hydrogen in the state of California, which has taken a while to get that rolling.

But to those of us who have hydrogen cars, we’re very happy for the great work that Terry and the government did on that front. And I think, lots of different hats that you’ve, you’ve worn you were the head of Leonardo DiCaprio as foundation. I saw recently some pics of you and John Kerry and Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that. But welcome to the show, Terry.

Well, thanks, Matt. And always a pleasure to talk with you and your listeners. I should just update my resume a little bit in addition to still being on the board of seventh generation advisors. I’m actually now the president and CEO of AltaSea in the Port of Los Angeles, which is a nonprofit that is renovating 110 year old warehouses here in the port, which so you might hear some hammering and sawing in the background of today’s interview. we’re renovating them into a modern hub for the blue economy. So for education, workforce development, and importantly, business development, for things like aquaculture and, and offshore wave and wind energy, and really exciting underwater robotics and sensors and so forth that will help us better understand our planet in a changing climate.

Well, that’s, that’s incredibly exciting. And you know, I hadn’t heard about that do tell us more. I had on a while back, somebody who had won the X Prize for aquaculture and growing kelp, and out in the ocean. So I know that’s really important and a great way to sequester carbon. You know, as well as grow food and help the wildlife, it’s just, there are a lot of different benefits.

There are indeed and in fact, 35 years ago, when I was the Santa Monica Baykeeper, running around in a boat, busting polluters and trying to restore the Santa Monica Bay, one of our projects was to replant kelp off of the palace Verdi’s Peninsula here in Los Angeles. And that was to restore this rainforest of the ocean that supports over 800 species of plant and animal life. It’s one of the most productive habitats on the planet.

And in fact, giant kelp grows about two feet a day. So it’s it’s incredibly abundant, taking nutrients from the ocean and turning it into plant life, which we use today. If you brushed your teeth this morning, you used kelp Carageenan as a thickener that’s used in cake mixes and toothpaste and paint and a wide variety of things. So there’s already a big help based industry. But we’re now learning that we can turn that into animal feed. And when you when you feed it to, let’s say cattle, they burp less. So that’s less greenhouse gases. And, and it’s more nutritious and it’s cheaper. It’s more sustainable than cutting down a land rainforest and growing soybeans and giving that to the cattle.

We’re also here at all to see we have the use USC University of Southern California, kelp Lab, which is experimenting with all kinds of seaweed in order to domesticate it, so to speak, so that there are different strains that can be grown in offshore farms for those benefits, but they’re also extracting really exciting things, pharmaceuticals, there’s one company that’s extracted a preservative for vaccines, such that if you had this several years ago, we wouldn’t have had to refrigerate the COVID vaccine. Think about how many more people would be alive today if the COVID vaccine didn’t need to be refrigerated to you know such low temperatures and and then also things like industrial color and so I learned a lot about industrial color and since I took on this gig that you everything that you see that plastic toys, you know computer parts, whatever it is that has a color, especially red and blue, come from industrial colorants or dyes that are typically made from toxic petroleum based materials. And now you can extract that from seaweed and it’s organic and non toxic. So the future of aquaculture is really huge seafood, seafood of was for humans that can be grown both on land and at sea. But also things like these other products that will that will benefit us.

And it’s pretty incredible. Yes, as you were talking, I was thinking about the colorants. And we had a number of guests on the show recently from the garment industry and talking about all the different toxic effects of the colorants and things like that the dyes that get into the water and, and are, are not healthy, probably they’re on our skin, because the fabric is on our skin. So there’s just so many ways that we can green our economy and which are healthy and and also are less polluting. So it’s a it’s a double win situation. How far how long has the AltaSea been in existence? And what how do you see it expanding?

Well, we’re very excited here in the Port of Los Angeles with all to see because the nonprofit was formed about five or six years ago. And then it took a while to draft a lease with the port. It’s basically a $1 a year kind of lease, as long as we raised the money to renovate these 110 year old warehouses into this blue economy hub, and then conduct the education programs and the workforce development, training, and of course, the business development activities. So that took a while to put into place. And then and then the COVID hit, of course, and that slowed things down. But now we’re excited to have raised the about $30 million and have started renovation, as I said, you’ll hear some of the noise in the background today. But about a year from now, all this 180,000 square feet of historic warehouses right on the water will be will be full of researchers working in these different areas of aquaculture of offshore renewable energy and onshore wave energy and things like that.

And then as I mentioned, things like mapping the ocean, Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic, he keeps his research vessel here when it’s not at sea doing work, and his workshops where he builds his new robots. And he teaches it to kids, high school kids who come here and learn about buoyancy and propulsion, they build their own little robots, and then experiment with them off of our pier right into the water. Many of them are probably at the bottom of the ocean right now. But the ones that succeed, even Bob Ballard learns from those students as as he’s teaching them and incorporate some of their innovations into his work. So it’s really very exciting to have all these different parties here and researchers and then the companies that are taking what the researchers find, and commercializing that into into products and new jobs.

So in terms of filling this, you know, these ginormous warehouses, 180,000 square feet, with with people, where are they coming from? And how did you attract them? What’s what’s working on that front?

The universities themselves needed places to do this kind of work. So for example, as I mentioned, the University of Southern California marine biology program has a great facility out on Catalina Island. But it’s very hard to go to work there every day, if you’re living in Los Angeles. So they needed a place in LA with access to seawater, where they could be doing this kind of research. And so this turned out to be the perfect spot. And then because they’re networked in with all these companies that are trying to experiment with different kinds of seaweed, that then attracted the companies, and many of them are taking the intellectual property from the research and turning it into products. And then their network of they spread the word. And so for example, we have a company here called hold fast, which was started by a local San Pedro resident, young man, and he is growing out mussels and oysters and clams, for commercial production.

And these are things that can be grown again, in open ocean farms. Or even in warehouses like this, we’re demonstrating that, that you can actually have seafood production in a warehouse anywhere in the world, and get high quality protein to people right where they are ready to consume it. So a much lower carbon footprint. But as you probably know, a lot of the farmed fish and shrimp and so forth comes from Thailand or China or other places where they don’t honor environmental laws very much. And a lot of that’s not sustainable. So by doing it on land or in controlled circumstances, at sea, you can have really great healthy sustainable seafood.

That sounds great. Tell us where where does this go to next? Obviously, you still got a lot of work to do to build that space out and bring in all these different folks who are working on it. Where do you where do you envision it going from here?

Well, the important thing to note is that even in the old 110 year old, drafty warehouses, we’ve had the kelp lab, we’ve had 20 other tenants in the different blue economy sectors already located here. So we’re kind of playing musical chairs, we’re renovating one part, and then we’re moving them and then renovating the other part. So and then more tenants will come in.

So we’re already underway, and I invite the public to come on fact, April 29, which is a Saturday is our next open house. And people are welcome to come from 10 to one, there’s always exciting speakers, you’ll learn about what’s going on here. And of course, just check out our website, which is all to see.org al TAS EA dot o RG and sign up for the newsletter. So that way, you’ll know a lot about what’s going on in the blue economy. We have a little newsletter that goes out with a lot of that update, and when is the next time to come visit?

Well, that sounds great. Well, April 29, if you’re in LA 10am to 1pm, go down and check out all to see I’ll check it out at AltaSea.org. We’ll be right back in just one minute with Terry Tamminen.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Terry Tamminen on the program. Terry, you know, we talked a little bit earlier about about you meeting with John Kerry, and believe that was a few years ago, pre-COVID. What were you discussing then? And have you stayed in contact with him and his offices and what type of work are you? Are you coordinating with him?

Yes, very much. So, John has been just a tireless advocate for global solutions to climate change, as you know, really trying to push the rest of the world in Paris in 2015. I think it was when we got the Paris climate agreement among all the countries finally that was a cop 21. So as the name implies, it took 21 years to get a global agreement and people argue that it wasn’t Good enough, because it was voluntary.

But I would say that’s the first step, get everybody on the same piece of paper, making some kind of a commitment, and then hold them accountable and obviously try to increase the level of ambition. And that’s what he’s been doing really, since then is trying to get countries including our own to increase our level of ambition. It was frustrating, of course, during the Trump years. And then when he became the special climate advisor and ambassador for President Biden, he was able to accelerate that. And we now have a lot of great climate policy in the US to brag about to other countries, and certainly to take away their excuse to say, Well, if the US isn’t going to do anything, why should we or us isn’t going to do enough? Why should we?

So he’s been just a tireless advocate behind the scenes and, and openly, both for global climate agreements and higher levels of ambition that meet the demand of the urgency of the situation, but also for Oceans, his last years in, in office when he was Secretary of State, and we were working with him with Leonardo DiCaprio and others, he would hold an annual Oceans conference at the State Department, really putting the focus on oceans recognizing that two thirds of the planet is covered by ocean not land, and that that’s where a lot of the solutions will come from, as well.

Well, in terms of just having read some stuff about ocean warming, what what do you see the trends they’re being and you know, are we making any kind of headway? Or are we still going in the wrong direction?

Well, Matt, I wish I could say we were turning things around whether it was the total concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we need to peak them and then start bringing them down. And we certainly have not done that. Or whether it’s the impacts to the ocean. What people don’t know is that about a third of the excess carbon pollution, we dump into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean.

So when you hear about the concentrations in the atmosphere and the resulting warming, it would be much worse if the oceans had not been absorbing fully 1/3 of all that carbon pollution. But the impact to the ocean has been that absorbing all that co2 turns the ocean more acidic. So the pH is actually lowering, it’s becoming more acid like, as time goes by, and that has real consequences. For example, I was involved years ago in rescuing a baby gray whale in Los Angeles, that, at the time, in 1996, people were predicting that within 50 years, she and her kind would be suffering from malnutrition, because the acidification of the ocean is wiping out their food source.

And sure enough, just 25 or 30 years later, gray whales are washing up and emaciated, in record numbers along the west coast of the United States and Canada, because their food source has already been impacted decades earlier than predicted. So that’s one thing that’s sort of out of sight out of mind. But the basic food webs that we depend on as well for seafood and for other benefits from the ocean is changing. And of course, plastic pollution. That’s another thing, we continue to dump a lot of plastic into the ocean. Not intentionally, but but we haven’t done much to stem that problem. And then that gets into the food chain, you know, small fish eat little microplastics. And then the bigger fish eat them. And next thing, you know, almost all the fish has plastic in it.

So unfortunately, we haven’t turned that around yet. And those situations getting worse. And then to your point about warming the ocean, we’re seeing new science. In fact, this is one of the reasons that at all to see we focus on on underwater robotics and mapping and science, blue technology is that we’re learning now with some of these new devices that the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, the underpinning of that is melting faster than we thought Greenland, the ice sheet there is melting faster than we thought.

And if those collapse if those dump a lot of freshwater into the ocean, we could have catastrophic sea level rise much faster. I mean, within a couple of decades, rather than as predicted now inch by inch over 100 years, could happen much faster. And that would have huge implications for coastal residents all over the world.

It’s certainly enough to sober up and say we need to do something given given that set of circumstances. What do you see is maybe the top five things that our government should be focused on in terms of turning this situation around?

Well, I’d say the first two are of course continuing to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As as quickly as we can, and then getting others to do likewise. And that can be something like, again, California is the world’s fourth largest economy.

So we may not be the single biggest polluter, but when a big economy like ours says, we’re going to stop selling petroleum based cars in 2040, or whatever the number is, or we’re going to, you know, be 100% renewable energy by 2045, that that sends a signal to the industries that can then serve other states and countries and brings down the cost for everyone. So number one, I’d say we have to really dare I use the analogy of keep your foot on the gas. We have to keep moving forward rapidly on this transition to a cleaner, greener economy. But then secondly, I hate to say this, we do have to spend money and focus on adaptation.

Because it’s already too late to mitigate our way out of all of this, no matter how quickly we reduce emissions, co2, in particular stays trapped in the atmosphere up for up to 100 years. So our grandparents, co2 emissions are still up in the atmosphere. And so every tonne that we’re dumping into the atmosphere today will be with us for a long time. So I think the important thing is that we have to recognize that wildfires are more intense.

I mean, look at the tornado we had in downtown Los Angeles recently, the massive tornadoes ripping across the south of the US right now, wildfires unprecedented and everywhere from Australia, to Brazil, to Portugal to here in California. Obviously, sea level rise, even though it’s only been a few inches, when there’s more intense storms and longer lasting storms that drives more seawater on land and creates more flooding.

The city of Miami Beach has had to spend $500 million to raise the roads and put in pumps for dry weather flooding. And their mayor told Leonardo DiCaprio when we were doing his documentary before the flood, the the mayor Leo asked him, you know, well, that $500 million, how long will that keep you above water? And the mayor said about 30 years, and then we’re going to have to do it all over again. Well, that was about five years ago. So the clock is ticking. And we’re going to have to deal with adaptation every bit as much as continuing mitigation. And then I think the third thing is individual action.

And you know what some people might say, Well, look, if I turn off my lights, or if I, you know, take the bus one day a week or something that isn’t going to add up too much. But if everyone does, it does add up to a lot. And I think the other thing is if people are educated about these issues, they need to vote according to these issues.

This is not a Democrat or Republican thing. This is a survival thing. And as predicted, we’re spending the money to deal with the impacts of climate change, instead of having invested early and, you know, being leaders in solar and electric cars and so forth, that that would allow us to have prevented the money we’re going to be spending cleaning up the mess.

Well, certainly, I mean, it makes sense to take individual action. And like you said, if we all are taking individual action, it does add up to an enormous benefit. One example would be everybody getting solar, and getting off the grid a little bit more. I know you had an initiative for I think it was a million rooftop solar installations in California while you were the head of the California EPA, kind of how far did we go towards reaching that goal? How much more do we have to go or have? Did we already hit that target?

Well, that’s a really good example. I’m glad you brought that up, Matt, because right before the COVID hit and 2019 I participated in an event with at the time Governor Jerry Brown and former Governor Schwarzenegger, we all went up to a central valley location where they were installing the million solar roof out on a high school that was also teaching, electric car repair and solar installation.

They had a sort of a blue collar job program at that high school as well. And we celebrated the millions roof. When we started the program, we projected that a million roofs in California would generate three gigawatts of energy. Well turns out that we did all of this in about eight years and it’s generating eight gigawatts of energy. And we brought the cost down by 80%. From where it was when we started the program. So that helps everybody who wants to do solar around the world because we helped bring down the cost of the systems and installation here in California makes it much more affordable.

Well, that is an amazing results and just goes to show when government leads on these things everybody benefits while you’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ll be right back with Terry Tamminen, talking about some very important environmental issues.

This is A Climate Change with Matt Matern, and I’ve got Terry Tamminen, former head of California EPA and current head of seventh generation advisors, as well as AltaSea. Terry, just kind of going back to the subject of solar, and what people can do that makes an impact. I’m certainly considering solar on my rooftop. And, you know, it’s, it’s a challenge to to get that done. But I do believe that if each of us takes action to to make some sort of change that that does accumulate. And as you have shown through putting a million solar installations in California, since you instituted that policy, under Governor Schwarzenegger, a tremendous amount of energy has been created. And it allows for a greener, California. Now, in terms of kind of next steps on that front, what can the government do? And what can we do as individuals to to make changes that will, you know, power us to the next level?

Well, I do think it’s really important for people not to lose heart when they see the planet burning and tornadoes, ripping through communities and sea levels rising and epic droughts, followed by Epic floods, thinking maybe it’s too late. And my little bit, if I changed my life a little bit more matter, it really does. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has changed anything, is when everybody gets on board the train. And so and what I’ve always been telling people is that so many of the measures that we’d like people to take pay for themselves.

So you know, things like solar will actually not only help improve air quality, and help solve some of our climate challenges, but the payback time for solar is five to seven years, depending on where you live and what you pay for electricity. The utilities have forced through some changes where at least in California, the net metering In other words, you you send electrons to the grid, and then you take back from the grid at night. And other times when the solar is not working. And they pay, you pay maybe 27 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity, but they only pay you seven or eight cents a kilowatt for what you generate. And they’re constantly trying to squeeze you even farther.

But bottom line is it still pays for itself. It also adds to the value of your home, when you go to resell your home. It’s much more valuable with solar. And there’s a lot of studies that show that so it’s a great investment of all the things you can do for your home. But I’d also highlight just simple energy efficiency. You know, we recently had Earth Hour where everybody was encouraged this past Saturday to turn off their lights for one hour to sort of show solidarity with climate change solutions and so on.

And I have to always wonder to myself, it’s kind of like Earth Day for me every day is Earth Day because I work in this sector as I know you do, Matt so but for many people it’s Earth Day is once a year and then they forget about it, the Earth Hour for one hour, they turn off their lights, but then how many of those folks turn off the lights when they walk out of a room or you know, otherwise maybe install light sensors in their office so that the lights go off when they leave the conference room and things like that. It’s nice that we focus on it for an hour at a time once a year.

But you know, again, you can save money and and help the planet with a lot of these things. Electric cars now including hydrogen electric cars are much cheaper to operate and own long term than petroleum based cars. And we know we’ve seen the price of oil I’ll skyrocket over $150 a barrel, and then during COVID dropped to negative dollars and barrel, nothing more unpredictable, if you’re a business, not to mention just a consumer trying to, you know, live on a budget. So, so much more predictable to get an electric vehicle.

So again, I just I emphasize that every little bit will help, and we’ll get other people doing the same thing. But it’s also a matter of sort of things that will save you money or you’re just smarter by doing these things.

I just read something about tipping points, and that maybe we’re getting close to that tipping point of 25% of the, you know, the population believing that this is a serious problem. And so that every, every conversation, every person who kind of gets on board, kind of will kind of add to the potential that we tip in the right direction.

So the sooner that we kind of get to that point and take even more actions to clean up our economy, the better and, you know, kind of I see it as a win win is that cleaning up our economy and our planet is has so many long term benefits for for ourselves for future generations, as well as just living in the now we have, we all have cleaner air cleaner water, these landscapes that we want to enjoy will will be there for us to enjoy as well. So it does make it makes a lot of economic sense, as well as just personal enjoyment sense to, to take care of our economy and take care of our environment.

It sure does. And you know, we all talk about caring about our kids and our future generations. But but we don’t act like it, when we know that we’re adding carbon pollution to the atmosphere that will make their life harder and more expensive to clean up the mess. So that’s another reason that it’s Seventh Generation advisors, we put together the personal Climate Action Center, if you go to the website of seventhgenerationadvisors.org.

And look up the personal Climate Action Center page, there’s over 100 Great tips of simple things you can do that will save you money, help the planet give you a better lifestyle, and, and you know simple things like you can, the average person can cut their carbon footprint about 20% just by switching from hot water wash to cold water wash and all of the detergents work just as well in in cold water as they do and hot.

And another thing I learned recently, there’s a company called Tru Earth and there’s a couple of others that now sell laundry detergent in the form of little pieces of paper instead of liquid, so instead of shipping, gallons of liquid, which costs a lot of greenhouse gases because of the weight, shipping it around the big plastic bottle, all that kind of stuff. It’s in a cardboard box, there’s 20 sheets, like dryer sheets, and you just pull one out, you throw it in, and of course the water is already provided by your laundry. And the detergent is in a dry form in this little piece of paper, you just throw that in, and it works just as well as, you know, some big heavy liquid or powder detergent. And so you can again, cut your carbon footprint make the world more sustainable, but save money. And, and it just makes a lot of sense to do these things.

Those are two brilliant ideas. You’ll have to tell me the name of that company again so we can underline it for our listeners. What was that again? Tru Earth?

Okay. Yeah, I mean, it’s that is the heartening part of doing the show is I’ve spoken to so many people that are engaged in great work that that are making a difference on this front. And that gives me a lot of hope for the future is that there are a lot of brilliant minds at work. And also a great idea that all of us who may not be great inventors can can certainly push the cold water button on our washing machine and and save a lot of energy. And that that makes a difference too. So it doesn’t take a scientific mind to figure out that one.

Yeah, and you know, look, again, I think making it cool is important because some people just need a push. I always had this image in my head. I was going to ask either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Leonardo DiCaprio or Edward Norton or some of these other celebrities I know to just do a simple PSA to go into their laundry room and say, Do you want to cut your carbon footprint? 20% Here’s how I do it and then just show switching from you know hot to cold and saying what else do you need to know you know? mean, something like that, that could go viral? We never got around to doing it. But But if everyone can imagine it can be done.

Right? Keep it keep it simple. And I think those kind of simple messaging techniques are highly effective, because, you know, it’s something all of us can do. We all can relate to it. And it makes a difference.

So kind of switching gears a little bit to something you had talked about earlier, which was offshore wind. What what are the efforts that you’re all to see is taking on that front or other organizations that you’re aware of? And and what should we be doing, say, here in California and around the country?

Well, the good thing is, it’s an expanding industry in Europe, in Scotland and Ireland, though, you know, they’ve already figured this out. And there’s, you know, acres and acres of offshore wind farms, that are generating a lot of clean energy, Denmark, lots of other places. And now, California has passed legislation to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind here in California, and even issued leases for companies that that will now go out and exploit that opportunity.

But what’s really exciting about that is that starts to make you think about other ways you can harness clean energy from the ocean. So wave energy, some of which is out there, where those wind turbines are, you can mount wave energy technology right there with the wind farm. And so when the sea goes up and down, the waves go up and down, you capture that energy, and send the electricity on the same cable that the offshore wind farm is using.

But similarly, we have companies here one is from Israel. It’s called Eco wave. they’ve deployed throughout the Mediterranean, and they’re now coming to California. And they mount floats on to existing infrastructure, like jetties, or breakwaters, which are designed to absorb waves. And of course, the float then goes up and down, and there’s a hydraulic arm on the float, that then goes to a generator and generates electricity.

So we’re learning all kinds of new ways to capture clean energy from the ocean. And of course, biomass energy from kelp and other things can be made into biofuels, as well as hydrogen and other kinds of sustainable fuels.

Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I don’t think a lot of people may know that, like Denmark has, I think, more than 100% of its energy. So it’s an energy exporter from wind energy, they they create so much wind energy, are generated from all their offshore wind farms, that they’re actually talking about creating hydrogen with that excess wind energy, and then shipping the hydrogen off, kind of as an exporter, because they will have all this green hydrogen that they’ve generated.

So these are the types of things that are available, if we start thinking kind of long term as to how we’re going to transition to a greener economy.


So this is A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, I’ll be right back with Terry Tamminen and talking with him about a lot of different issues relating to the environment.

You’re Listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Terry Tamminen, former head of California EPA and current head of seventh generation advisors and AltaSea. Terry just kind of want to talk about some of the recent wins both in California and nationally on the environmental public policy front, and then kind of pivot from there to what are the things that you see both California as well as Nash only that we probably should turn our attention to from a public policy standpoint, that are the next wave of important victories that we should be shooting for.

That’s a great topic. And again, California is a great example of how policy matters. You know, we set renewable energy goals 20 years ago and just said to the utilities, hey, by this date, you have to get a certain percentage of your electricity from renewables, we’re not going to tell you how to do it or where you have to do it.

But you just have to get this percentage. And then they went out and found innovators and put out requests for proposals and power purchase agreements, and so on. And that allowed the solar industry to grow and wind and other renewable energy industries to grow. And today, about half of our energy comes from renewables, we had one Saturday recently, where about 100% of our energy on that day came from renewables. So so it just it shows that a little bit of policy can go a long way. We mentioned the million solar roofs initiative recently, that’s helped bring down the cost and created a lot of jobs in California, which pays back in many ways. So I think now we really need to continue that sort of work.

Energy efficiency is another thing that setting energy efficiency standards, fuel economy standards for vehicles, which again, California has led the way on, and then those become nationally adopted and even internationally. But I think the what’s happening in the cop process, you know, the UN Convention on Climate Change, which every year has the Conference of the Parties, the signatories to that agreement, and we’ve got cop 28, the 28th year coming up this year.

But every year, we’ve got to make more progress on that Paris agreement we talked about and making it more real and raising the level of ambition, holding countries accountable for what they’ve already pledged. I think that, you know, Arnold likes to say Schwarzenegger likes to say that, you know, you got to set goals in order to work toward them, that he points out that if he had not decided when he was a teenager, that he was going to become the youngest world champion bodybuilder, that he would still be in Austria, because if you just wake up and you say, Well, I’m going to lift weights every day and see what happens.

You know, as I say, he probably would still be in Austria and unknown. But by setting that goal, you set yourself something that you can work toward every single day, and you know what steps you have to take to get there. So I know some people will scoff at the goals because we often fall short. But again, as Arnold would like to say, you’re better off falling short of a really bold goal than never setting one or being, you know, timid about, you know, setting the goal you need and especially something existential, like climate change. I think one area for innovation, whether it’s at the local level, or the national level, or international level, where policy needs to start working is in finance.

Because financing this transition is really important. And especially in developing countries, here in the US, obviously, we have a lot of solar and wind developers, for example, companies like Tesla, turning out electric cars, and even charging stations and things like that, it’s not going to happen in developing countries quite as fast. And yet those economies are contributing vast amounts of carbon pollution, and and need to be given some help to come along.

Well, typical for profit investors, pension funds, and others fear to go into those areas, because you know, the developing countries might have political risk or currency risk. And so I think this is another area where governments can step in, and try to help set policy or incentives, or some kind of risk reduction so that these technologies can be expanded faster. And that includes ordinary investors, you might have money in a pension fund or a mutual fund, or other kinds of investments that if you say I want green, those investors will listen, they will create those products, and then go out and figure out how to do it.

Much like the state of California telling utilities, here’s the goal. Now go figure it out. So I think seeing more of that kind of thing. And again, retail investors from the bottom up signals to Wall Street that people want those kinds of sustainable investments, which by the way, are less risky over time. As we mentioned before, the price of oil has gone from $150 a barrel to negative dollars a barrel, all within a two or three year period. And there’s nothing more unpredictable than fossil fuels. So investing in the future in sustainable green economies will really make a difference.

Well as some relation to the goal setting. John Doerr has written the book on basically having objectives and key results for the climate and you know, and he what, donated a billion dollars to Stanford to create his the climate policy, you know, wing of their university. And one of the things that he talks about in his objectives and key results manual is basically to set audacious goals like you should be pushing beyond what seems reasonable to get yourself to move to the next level, like if you make it so simple and so easy, you’re not going to probably come up with the amazing results, because you kind of set the bar too low.

So I think, as far as the government is concerned, like, setting the audacious goals of we’re going to be on the moon, and in a decade from President Kennedy kind of got us moving got us to to actually achieve this result. And so, you know, America is capable of incredible results. And when we’ve had incredible results, one of the things that the Biden administration has done, but I don’t think maybe has kind of gotten the message out there as well as they might were kind of these are shots, which one of which was to reduce the price of hydrogen to $1 per kilogram?

And, you know, what do you what do you think they could do as far as messaging to get get these messages out there to the public and get the public engage more as well as getting the environmental community focused in that direction?

You know, I think that’s a very important point. And I think that starting however, with the the immediate stakeholders, industry, the ones that are going to have to produce that hydrogen, someday for that amount, and researchers, we have one here at AltaSea from UCLA, Dr. Gaurav Sant, who won the XPrize for carbon capture, he has just installed a barge here with a system where he’ll be able to remove carbon from ocean water.

Now, you’ve probably heard of direct air capture where there’s a lot of systems trying to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. But obviously, ocean water is much more dense than the air. So for every unit that you’re processing, you’re getting more carbon out, which makes it cheaper, and the byproduct is hydrogen.

So that gives you something that you can subsidize it with. Whereas direct air capture, there’s kind of nobody wants to pay for that. And without a three or $400 a ton price on carbon, it won’t pay for itself. But But this kind of carbon capture removal from the ocean has that potential and to create something like the dollar kilogram hydrogen, which Dr. Santos said his technology can do. So he’s demonstrating that at scale here, we’ll prove it out one way or the other.

But you know, when President Kennedy set that goal, I’m not sure most Americans were thinking about it. And I’m not sure we had public opinion polling, as detailed as we do today. But I doubt there was a poll that he was basing that on saying, hey, you know, most Americans want us to go to the moon, let’s, let’s do that. Or, gee, I’m worried that most Americans are opposed to that, let’s not do it. It was leadership. It was vision leadership, it was somebody who saw the potential, not only for us, as humans to go farther than we had before, and to be inspired to do great things.

But the technology that would come out of that the jobs and so forth, I mean, think about all the benefits that have come from that. And his administration and the President Kennedy were visionary in that sense. But I would also come back to one other thing that he said, which is, you know, ask not what your country can do for you.

Ask what you can do for your country. And so today, I think the number one thing we can do for our country has to take climate change seriously to realize it’s already happening, but that we still have time to turn things around. But that that also means when it comes to political leadership and policy, it won’t happen as long as we keep electing people who don’t believe in climate change or who are bought and paid for by the fossil industry. So just want to encourage everyone if you care about the climate and the future of your kids, vote accordingly.

Well, absolutely. Amen to that. You know, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show, Terry once again and appreciate your leadership out there in the community on so many different levels. We’d love to have that researcher that you had mentioned who’s working on the carbon capture and won the XPrize on the on the show to have him talk to our listeners because it sounds like fascinating work that he’s doing. Love to have everybody.

Tune in next week. Please listen to this episode if you missed any portion of it at aclimatechange.com. All our older episodes are available. They’ve covered lots of ground with lots of different amazing guests over the last two years, and all of them are up there at aclimatechange.com.

A special thanks to Terry Tamminen, leaders, Seventh Generation advisors, please check out their website as well as the AltaSea website. Follow them, donate to them for the great work, they’re doing volunteer go to help them or other environmental organizations. Get involved. Take some small steps today to use less energy, consume less and engage with other people you know about environmental issues. That’s how we’re going to solve this one step at a time.

So thanks for listening. Tune in next week. Great, perfect. Thank you. Yes, nicely done. Thank you, Terry. Appreciate it.

Have a good day, everyone.



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