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118: Author & Environmentalist Jeff Goodell, Navigating the Heat Dome of 2023

Guest Name(s): Jeff Goodell

Matt chats with author Jeff Goodell, a leading expert on climate change. Jeff’s latest book, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet, will be published by Little, Brown in July 2023. He is the author of six previous books, including The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017.

Jeff has covered climate change for more than two decades at Rolling Stone and discussed climate and energy issues on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is a Senior Fellow at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.

The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet >>

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World >>

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The world is waking up to a new reality: wildfires are now seasonal in California, the Northeast is getting less and less snow each winter, and the ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica are melting fast. Heat is the first order threat that drives all other impacts of the climate crisis. And as the temperature rises, it is revealing fault lines in our governments, our politics, our economy, and our values. The basic science is not complicated: Stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, and the global temperature will stop rising tomorrow. Stop burning fossil fuels in 50 years, and the temperature will keep rising for 50 years, making parts of our planet virtually uninhabitable. It’s up to us. The hotter it gets, the deeper and wider our fault lines will open…
Jeff’s latest book, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet, will be published by Little, Brown in July 2023. He is the New York Times best-selling author of six previous books, including The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017. As a journalist, he has covered climate change for more than two decades and is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow…
What if Atlantis wasn’t a myth, but an early precursor to a new age of great flooding? Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels, and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth’s thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster…
118: Jeff Goddell, Author

You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host and I’ve got Jeff Goodell on the program today. Jeff is a noted author. He’s got a new book, The Heat Will Kill You First. Jeff has written a number of books. And of course, it’s really timely to have Jeff on the show because we just had on July 4, 2023, the hottest day since records began being kept. According to the BBC. Forbes said it was the hottest day in over 100,000 years, breaking records for the second day in a row. 57 million people in the US were exposed a dangerous heat on July 4th, 2023. And the World Meteorological Organization predicts there’s a 98% likelihood, and the next the next five years will be the warmest on record.

So Jeff’s book, The Heat Will Kill You First is certainly a timely one given what’s going on. Jeff is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He’s also a Guggenheim Fellow and 2020s contributing editor to the Rolling Stone, wrote a book Big Coal: The Dirty Secret, which was highly acclaimed as well as how to cool the planet geoengineering and the audacious quest to fix the Earth’s climate, as well as in 2017, the water will come rising seas, sinking cities, and the remaking of the civilized world, which the New York Times and The Washington Post, both said, were one of the best science books of 2017. So we got a lot to talk about. Jeff, welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, Matt. Great to be here.

So, you know, you had written that maybe we might be wind surfing at the North Pole and 2040 Is that still something that’s going to happen? Or is that prediction a little bit too soon? Or a little? You know, is it going to be before 2040? Or after 2040? I mean, how bad is this situation getting?

Well, I’m not sure the question of when serving the North Pole is the arbiter of how bad the situation is gonna get. We’re certainly you know, it’s you know, every three year old knows, when it gets hot, you know, ice melts. So certainly one of the consequences of a rapidly increasingly hot planet is less and less ice. So, you know, we’re already seeing cruise ships, you know, going through the Northwest Passage and in through the Arctic in ways that were impossible a decade or so ago. So as I went to Antarctica in 2019, I saw the ice melt there and the ice shelves beginning to break up. So there’s no question that we’re going to see increased ice melt and rising seas as a consequence of it. But that’s just one aspect of what it means to live on a hotter planet.

Yeah, certainly, from what I’ve read, The poles are getting hotter, faster than any place on the planet. So the stuff that we’re kind of experiencing in more normally temperate climes, down here in Los Angeles, and I guess you’re in Austin, Texas, which are both can be very hot places. But it’s not that unusual. Or for LA or Austin to be hot, but probably not as hot as it’s been.

Yeah, I mean, everyone says that, you know, you know, again, Texas is always out. So what’s the big deal? LA is always hot. So what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is, is getting hotter, and it’s getting hotter for longer. And it’s staying hotter and staying hotter at night. And, you know, these are indisputable facts that you know, record keeping can has is proving here in Texas, you know, we’ve had, I think El Paso’s now had 12 days over over 100 degrees. I mean, the the sort of heat records are falling and falling. And, you know, it’s not just that, yes, it’s always been hot. It’s that we are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which we know to, as a scientific fact traps heat in our atmosphere. And as this heat is trapped, our atmosphere is getting hotter and more extreme heat waves are a consequence of this. It is really very straightforward.

Well, obviously, you know, we’re having these heat waves and where does that lead us. You know, certainly there’s some climate mitigation efforts that could be taken from what I’ve read. cities tend to be heat islands. So if we plant more trees and more greenery, we may cool the place off. But that may be kind of band aids on gunshot wounds? Or is or is that enough to kind of do some mitigation? Or do we need wholesale changes? Or do we need,

we absolutely need wholesale changes, planting trees are great, but that’s not going to save anybody or anything. I mean, that’s just a, you know, one aspect of much larger changes in how we live and how we get energy and power that are going to be required. I mean, you know, until we stop burning fossil fuels, our planet is going to get hotter. And cities are hotter than then sort of open spaces, because they’re built of steel and asphalt and concrete. Anybody who, you know, who lives in LA, or Texas or anywhere, any hot city, Vegas or whatever knows, when you go out into the street, you walk across the street, the asphalt is hot, the black asphalt radiates, it absorbs and radiates the heat back. You know, this causes this thing called, you know, heat island effect.

So cities are as much as 20 degrees, often hotter than the sort of surrounding area. And there are lots of ways to deal with that everything from you know, more reflective surfaces. White rubes, even in LA, they’re experimenting with white streets now to help reflect some of that heat back up, and not have it be absorbed by the asphalt. You know, there are ways of changing how we build buildings, allowing more ventilation, things like that. But you know, ultimately, we need to stop cranking up the heat knob on the earth on the planet. And to do that we need to stop burning fossil fuels.

Well, you wrote a book about coal back in 2006. Big Coal, The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future. Now, since that point in time, my understanding is our coal usage has gone down. And so in our in our renewable energy through solar and wind has increased and is now cheaper than coal. Isn’t that a big win for the environmental movement? Or is it? You know, are we just patting ourselves on the back without really deserving it?

Now, the decline of coal and kind of the tremendous decrease in the cost of renewable energy, solar and wind is, you know, one of the most unexpected because of the speed and scale at which it’s happened and most inspiring aspects of this transformation that we’re talking about. But the problem is, we’re not doing it fast enough. I mean, even here in Texas, which is the leader in the country, in both wind and solar, right now on the grid in Texas, which is, you know, the fossil fuel capital of United States 20 to 25% of the power that’s, you know, powering the city, right, or the state right now is coming from solar.

And it’s one of the reasons why we didn’t have any blackouts or anything during this big heatwave that’s happened in the last couple of weeks, because the solar has been so reliable, it actually functions better during these kinds of hot sunny days than it does it obviously in cooler and cloudy weather. But the problem is, is that, you know, the we’re even though we’re renewable power is getting cheaper, and we’re building a lot of it, we’re not building enough of it. co2 levels in the atmosphere are not declining fast enough. You know, we are continuing to build things that require a lot of energy. We’re not taking, you know, gas plants offline, we’re still burning a lot of oil, the oil consumption is continuing to climb. When you look at the only real measure that matters in this in this story, which is the levels of co2 in the atmosphere, which are measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii and has been measured since 1958.

The level has continued to climb and climb and climb and climb the curve is very steadily upwards. And as long as that curve goes steadily upwards, our planet is going to continue to get hotter. We’re gonna get hotter heat waves, we’re gonna get more sea level rise, you’re gonna have more erosion of the beaches. We’re going to have spread of disease, all these things that are related to the sort of radical distance mobilizing of our planet there were underway that is underway right now.

Right? So the question is whether the strategy of kind of going to a more sustainable lifestyle and using less consuming less, driving less, eating less meat is probably a more effective strategy to address this, or whether it’s through technology, and having electric cars and things of that nature.

Well, so they’re not, it’s not an either or thing. It’s not like, you know, we can choose between one or Option A or Option B, I mean, we need to consuming less is a good thing, you know, for sure that we’re lowering our footprint. But it’s also important to, you know, you know, replace dirty technologies with cleaner technologies. You know, solar power is better than coal power, by any stretch of the imagination by any measurement, not just the kind of climate, less CO2 levels and things like that, but costs, they’re much it’s much cheaper, you know, air pollution issues that are public health issue of dirty air, solar panels don’t do that.

So there’s lots of reasons why we want to push this energy trans, trans, transformation forward faster. But you know, that’s only permanent stamp you there for one second, and we’re gonna go to break you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Jeff Goodell on the program, author of the new book, The heat will kill you first. And certainly we’re all experienced that around the country right now. We’ll be right back in just one minute.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got to author Jeff Goodell on this program. Jeff, wanted to talk to you about kind of the language of climate change. And and you’re somebody who’s written quite a bit on this topic for decades. And I had somebody on the program, David Fenton, who is a PR specialist, and David was kind of saying that the environmental movement has not been effective in a while the language that it’s used to persuade people and that some of this stuff kind of goes over normal people’s heads, terms like climate change net zero. And and maybe we could use different terms. One of the terms he’s talking about using is “pollution blanket”. And that has, I guess, polled better and in communicating with, with average Americans, what are your thoughts on that front?

You know, obviously, people who care about this now they’re not all they’re not environmentalists, and this is something that, you know, people that have all kinds of persuasions, people who care about the economy, people who care about public health, people who care about energy. People who care about the future in all kinds of ways people who care about war, are thinking about it and concerned about and yes, we can do a better job of, of helping connect the dots with people and between.

You know, the reason that the East Coast and orange skies and this terrible air pollution in the last few weeks was because of the wildfires in Alberta, the reason that the wildfires in Alberta are so have been so big and so hot and so intensive is because the forests are so dried out. The reason they’re so dried out is because it’s so hot. The reason it’s so hot is because we’ve been burning fossil fuels and putting co2 into the atmosphere, which is heated things up, as we talked about earlier.

So helping to connect the dots about the kind of cascading consequences of what we’re doing. The drying up of Lake Mead, drinking water for LA for Southern California. All the is a similar kind of case. I don’t think it’s just a question of like, you know, changing the language. First. I’ve never heard the phrase “pollution blanket” but I you know, I don’t think it’s just a matter of like different words. I think it’s a matter of speaking more directly about the issue and speaking about it in ways that connect to people’s lives.

You know, inflation prices, the high cost of food, you know, what is the link between that and climate change and CO2 in the atmosphere? I think speaking about things like that, that people care about is what we need to do better and not just merely changed the words.

Right? Well, I you saw one the videos that Yellow Dot had put out recently and David Fenton is associated with them. And, and they were using Darth Vader to talk about Exxon and the fact that Exxon had known about the effects of, of use of fossil fuels and rising CO2 levels, and it would cause catastrophic climate change. And yet it continued to do it and buried their own research. And, and it was a very effective use of kind of comedy, as well as something that everybody kind of knows in popular culture, Darth Vader, and associating him with the evils of axon, you know, shall we do? I’d be doing more of that stuff to kind of catch the mass audiences.

You know, you know, maybe I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s lots of different ways of talking about this in different messaging. Certainly, there are some people that that will resonate with others, obviously, it won’t. I mean, you know, there are, I was just talking to some video game developers who are working hard to try to get climate issues, climate, you know, kind of situations, climate related situations, built thing them into games as a way of helping educate people about what’s going on. I mean, the real question here is, is this is not about PR, this is about education, how do we communicate and help people understand what is happening?

And not? You know, I mean, it’s a very political story, and it’s all about politics in a certain way. But it’s not politicized per se, this is science. This is like gravity. This is like, What time does the moon go up? And what time does the moon set?

I mean, there are certain physical facts here that are incontrovertible to anyone who, you know, believes in science at all, of course, but, you know, I guess that’s the problem is that it has become so politicized that there’s a large segment of the population that is turning off, when they hear anything about it. And kind of reaching out to that group. I don’t know, I if I had the answer, I’d be, you know, clear in what I would say, how do we do it? But as to you, as a writer? Are you writing to that person? Or are you saying, “hey, I don’t know if I’ll ever communicate to that person who’s denying that climate change exists?”

Yeah, I’m not interested in trying to reach that person myself. I mean, I, there are other people whose work is focused on that. And I think it’s really important, it’s really great and all power to them. But you know, I’ve been writing about this for 20 years, I and I know every time I give a talk anywhere, you know, I get asked the, you know, the sort of same basic, you know, the, the certain kind of category of denier will ask me questions about things about basic science about, you know, CO2 is, you know, good for the atmosphere, it’s good for plants, it’s a better, greener world.

And, you know, anyone who, you know, for me, again, there are, it’s a really important conversation to have. I’m really happy that there are a lot of people who are engaging in that conversation. But that’s not the conversation that I personally am engaged with, I’m engaged with trying to talk to people who understand the basic science who are not in denial about the role of burning fossil fuels, the role of CO2 in our atmosphere, but don’t really understand the consequences very well and don’t really understand the urgency don’t really understand the science behind, you know, crop failure, and how crop failure is linked with these rising temperatures and increasing droughts, and helping paint the larger picture of what’s happening in our world, rather than fighting in the trenches over basic science.

Yeah, I mean, if I could break it down, and I don’t know this to be true, exactly. But kind of in my general, understanding, like 25% of the US population is pretty environmentally conscious and really pushing forward kind of in the green camp, and then you’ve got maybe 20-25% that are kind of in the denial, Trump camp, and then you got 50% that, you know, may acknowledge that environmental, global warming is occurring, but is but are not very engaged on it.

They’re there. They’re acknowledging that there’s a problem but they’re just kind of unconscious to it and not really working in any meaningful way. To make changes in their life or in public policy, and to me, that’s probably the group that maybe the message is most important to convey to.

Well, I mean, I think everyone, I think it’s all important, but I do think, you know, that’s sort of the group that I’m sort of targeting, you know, you know, when you get into this sort of anti science, anti Vax, you know, hardcore Maga crowd, you know, who see anyone who talks about this as being in some kind of grand conspiracy, and, you know, this is all about, you know, Bill Gates or something.

I mean, I just, I, I’m, I don’t, I don’t know where to go with that. And I just, that’s not the conversation that I’m interested in engaging with, even though like I said, I’m all the power to people who, who are doing that I want to speak to the people in the middle, who understand the basics, but don’t understand the nuances and the urgency.

Well, let me talk to you about that a little bit, because you’re in Texas, and certainly there, there are blue islands of cities in Texas that are fairly, you know, left leaning, I guess you’d say a bit. And then there are massive parts of the rural parts of Texas that are very rare. So how have you found it living in Texas and what what kinds of good changes, obviously, 25% of their energy coming from solar is pretty remarkable. And I understand there are also wind leaders as well. Though, I’ve heard that the governor and the legislature in Texas is trying to kind of put roadblocks in the way of further solar and wind development, what’s going on there?

Well, in Texas, energy has become a kind of culture war. You know, it’s it, fossil fuels have become symbols of a kind of way of life. And, you know, clean renewable energy is somehow linked with, like woke culture and all that kind of thing. And, you know, to me, it’s a stupid and tragic kind of debate, but it’s not going to last long, because wind and solar are booming here. And the economic power of wind, and solar is growing so fast. And people here, I mean, I’m living it every day I see it. I mean, they’re, they’re like really interested in, you know, developing wind and developing solar, because they can make a lot of money.

And because it’s in their financial interest to do that. And that is a really good thing. And that’s a huge change from even a decade ago, when solar and wind were required subsidies and government help you who requires government help now, who requires subsidies now, fossil fuels, and so the only way fossil fuels are going to extend their lives, you know, is by government support, which is very ironic, given the sort of freedom, you know, calls of the sort of far right Republicans.

Ironic indeed, and obviously, I think that one of the ways moving the environmental conversation forward faster, is talking about the profit, the profitability of them as a business proposition, and linking positive change to making money and those two things, get the company get the country rolling in the right direction. So you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host and I’ve got Jeff Goodell on the program, who’s the author of the heat will kill you first. We’ll be back in just one minute to talk to Jeff about the book and so stay tuned.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Jeff Goodell on the program. He will tell you first Jeff, your book that’s coming out. Tell us a little bit about how you decided to write this book. And what do you think is the most important message coming out of the book?

Well, I decided to write this book because I happened to be on feet in Phoenix on a day when it was 117 degrees about five years ago, four years ago and I had to walk 10 or 12 blocks downtown to a meeting and I made that walk and I thought that he was going to kill me it was it was just extraordinary.

And I grew up in California I’m not like you know, I didn’t grow up you know in the Arctic Circle or something. It’s not like I unfamiliar with it, but you On that day and that extremity when I was that extreme, I really understood the risks of heat in a way that I didn’t before. And I began just to think about like, okay, so, you know, we talk about global warming all the time.

But you know, what are the real implications of heat? What does it really do to your body? Why did I feel so dizzy and weird at the end of that 12 block walk? You know, what is heat? And I, you know, even though I have been covering climate change for a very long time, I could not tell you what he was, I mean, it’s obviously it rise and mercury and a thermometer, but what actually is heat. And so it brought up a lot of really interesting questions to me.

And I thought it was a worthy subject for a book. Because for a book, you know, you’re going to be like, you know, choosing a spouse or something, you’re going to be with it for a long time. And you’re going to be living in hard times, and good times with that partner, whether it’s a book or a spouse, and so you should choose wisely, something that is of interest. And this felt interesting. And what’s the most important thing to take away from it?

The most important thing to take away from it is that, like me, when I started the book, we don’t understand eight, people don’t understand eight, people don’t understand how it works, how dangerous it is, what the risks are, the difference between dry heat and wet heat there, what happens to your body, how to protect yourself? I mean, people think, Oh, if I just drink enough water, whatever I do, I’ll be fine. Well, no, that’s not true.

You know, you’re not, you can still die of heatstroke, even though you are, you know, have all the water you need to drink. So there’s just a lot of myths and misconceptions about heat. And as our planet gets hotter, as more and more of us are exposed to extreme heat conditions, whether we’re out hiking, playing football, playing Frisbee, walking our dog, dealing with with relatives, this knowledge is really important. And I hope my book helps advance that.

Well tell us a little bit about the point at which the human body can no longer take it, I recall reading something that at 130 degrees, essentially, a human body will just break down no matter what kind of shape you’re in. And you’re pretty much toast. Is there some variants hit that like a bell curve, some people might not be able to partake? 120 or 115? Or 110? You know, depending on your physical condition?

Yeah, I mean, it depends on a lot of things. There’s no you know, one place for all people, there’s no bright line of, you know, when you cross over to, you know, what will kill you, and what won’t, it depends on, first of all, whether it’s wet heat or dry heat. So humid, or not, LA is obviously quite dry, he the Philippines or Miami is wet heat. And there’s a big difference. 110 degrees in LA is not like 110 degrees in Miami. Because in Miami, it’s humid. And you know, the only way that our bodies know that our bodies are able to dissipate heat is by sweat.

And so if you are sweating in LA, and it’s 110 degrees, it’s dry heat and the sweat can evaporate, and your body can cool off because the evaporate, you know, the evaporation cools the blood near the skin, and that circulates through your body and cools things off. If you’re in Miami, and it’s 110 and very humid, that sweat doesn’t evaporate. And so basically it breaks the cooling mechanism in your body.

And so that is one difference that makes a huge difference in sort of survivability of different kinds of heat levels. Another is your basic health, you know, the one, the way that your body cools is by sweating. And the way sweating works is your your when it gets hot, your heart pumps a lot of your blood away from the inner core of your body towards your skin, in order to get it to where it can be cooled by this evaporation process. But your heart has to work really hard to do that.

So anybody who’s been out on a hot day knows that their heart starts pounding faster and faster. So if you have a heart problem, if you’re on medication that has issues that affect your heart, that can increase your risk. Hugely. Also, that means in general, older people less well, people are far more vulnerable to heat them than younger, more in shape kind of people. And thirdly, another big factor is what you’re doing.

Right. If you’re sitting, just sitting there doing nothing on whatever the temperature given temperature is you can tolerate the heat a lot better than if you’re trying to run a four minute mile, right and it as you exercise, or if you’re in a work crew in on a highway, or you’re working as a farm worker in the fields, you know, in central California or in Oregon, or somewhere like that, your body is creating a lot of heat by your movement as your muscles move and things like creates inner heat.

So you overheat much more quickly. If you’re exercising on a hot day, everybody knows this intuitively, because they’ve experienced it, but they don’t know it consciously, and they don’t know how to take precautions against it. So those are three of the key things.

So is the record heat going to wake people up around the world and get people serious about global warming, you see some effects? You see that consciousness rising or? Not so much?

Well, you know, years ago, Al Gore told me that everybody who cares about climate change has what he called an ocean moment where they realize what’s at stake and what the consequences are. And, you know, I asked President Obama when I had a chance to talk with him, and I went to Alaska with him in 2015, and I asked him what his “Oh Shit” moment was.

And for him, it was, you know, he spent a lot of time growing up in Hawaii and seeing what was happening to the coral reefs there, as they become bleached as the ocean temperature rises, that has a big impact on coral reefs. And for him, the coral reefs were his “Oh Shit” moment. And so, you know, I think everybody has a different moment of what wakes them up.

So what was your “Oh Shit” moment?

My “Oh Shit” moment actually came in West Virginia, when the New York Times asked me to go down and and write about coal and coal mining. This was like 22 years ago. And I saw these mountains being blown up for the coal. And then I visited some coal plants and, and saw these enormous industrial machines burning tons and tons of these black rocks, and how primitive that was, and how it was basically the same thing that people were doing in Charles Dickens time.

And I then began to think about the warming and what the consequences of all that was. That was that was I had, I grew up in California, there’s no coal in California, I never thought about coal. I had no idea that at that time, half of our electricity came from coal. So that was my sort of “Oh Shit” moment.

But the question of what the kind of collective “Oh Shit” moment is where, you know, there’s, I don’t think there’s going to be a kind of sudden mass awakening, I think it’s going to be a long, slow transformation, I think it’s going to be pushed along by the economics that we talked about, I think it’s going to be pushed along by people getting more educated about the risks. I think that, you know, we’re seeing things like, you know, sea level rise, which is what my last book was about insurance prices rising radically in, in Florida and in parts of California.

You know, there’s, there’s, you know, the public health, people dying from inhaling wildfire smoke, the understanding of the consequences of that all of this stuff happening in real time around us, you know, I think is driving a slow but gradual and real awakening to the consequences and costs of our way of life right now.

So what do you see is the five most significant positive signs that people in government are, are actually starting to meet the challenge of climate change?

Well, I mean, I think first of all, you know, that we’ve talked about the tremendous fall in the price of energy. That’s hugely, of clean energy. And that’s hugely, kind of inspiring in the sense of, you know, it’s now possible and, in fact, profitable. And for everybody, not just the energy producers, but for me, and you, when we pay our electric bills, if that electricity comes from renewable power, that’s huge. That’s a huge thing. I’m seeing a big shift away from kind of climate denial.

You know, 10 years ago, there were a lot of people who were just flat out deniers thought that, you know, this whole thing was, as Trump, you know, famously said, a kind of political climate change was a Chinese hoax. I think that’s there’s very few or significantly less people in that camp now than then there used to be.

I think so. I think that’s very inspiring. And I think, you know, another thing that that I’ve seen in my 20 years of writing about this and thinking about this is it’s just become much more broadly part of our culture and our cultural conversation, you know, what’s going on here? And what do we need to do? And how do we need to think about this?

When I first started writing about climate change and energy, clean energy, you know, 20, more than 20 years ago, I would tell people at dinner parties or you know what I that I met in various places about writing about climate change, and they would look at me and smile, and it kind of as if I were writing about the sex life of porcupines or something sort of weird thing that nobody really cares about. But you know, that’s cute that you’re doing that it must be really interesting.

Yeah, right. And now, when I go and meet people who don’t know what I’m doing, and I tell them, they’re like, Oh, my God, really? That’s so interesting, you know, and where should I move? Or, you know, how do I get solar panels or my house or our heat pumps? Really? Do they really work? And you know, they, everybody wants to talk to me about it now. And it’s a really a huge cultural change. It’s not me, it’s them.

Right? Well, three, you know, we’ll be back in just one minute. I’m talking to Jeff Goodell, author of the new book, The Heat Will Kill You First. And stay tuned. We’ll talk to Jeff a bit more.

Listen to A Climate Change. I got Jeff Goodell on the program, who’s a noted author, he’s got a book coming out, The Heat Will Kill You First. And, Jeff, you are just in the middle of telling us about the five most positive signs. To recap clean energy, the shift from the climate denial, denial people, and the cultural conversation has definitely shifted in the last 20 some years. What are the last two things that round out your top five?

Well, I think you know, I think the you know, I think cities are starting to you know, how we live in urban areas is beginning to change dramatically. I think that people are tired of and understand the problems with sort of endless car culture, endless concrete, endless asphalt, you know, we’ve paved over, you know, was the old one of the Joni Mitchell paving paradise put up a bargain Lowe’s and Joni Mitchell’s on? Yeah, I think that that era is coming to a close.

I think that, you know, cities around the world are thinking differently about how to move people around how to live, how to bring nature into cities, again, which I think is a huge issue that has a lot of implications for transportation, for heat, and for kind of quality of life. So I think that is another one. Iand what is that, four? What would my fifth one be?

You know, this is not a kind of happy thing. But I think that scientists and others, like myself who pay attention to scientists are really starting to see the subtle implications of, of warming and of what we’re doing to our planet. And so things like, we’re starting to see that even as few small changes in warming have big implications for things like spread of disease, and food prices and food crops. I also think, you know, another helpful thing is I’m a big fan of, you know, fake meat. You know, I think that getting away from beef cattle concern, you know, cattle, this sort of industrial feedlot thing is a big deal for climate. And it’s a very controversial thing to talk about here in Texas.

But even here in Texas, even here in Texas, at my grocery store, down the street in Austin, they just put in this giant plant based meat butcher shop. It’s like all these different cuts all these different season they were what white aprons it looks like a butcher shop, but it’s more sort of plant based meats. And I thought I saw that and I thought this is changing. If you can do that in Austin, Texas, then something’s happening in the sort of meat food world that is interesting. And so I think that’s that’s kind of inspiring too.

Yeah, certainly there has been a shift and I can say I was at a restaurant and here in LA it was vegetarian place and, and they came up with this meat concoction that actually tasted pretty damn close to me. I mean, like they’re really getting good at it. So it used to be 20 years ago, it wasn’t even close. Now it’s getting pretty close. So that’s, that’s good news. Okay, so now we’re gonna flip the coin and this and just say, What are the five most distressing signs that people, government corporations are not meeting that challenge?

Well, you know, it’s we’re going to repeat some of the things that I’ve said, you know, one is the kind of the way that this energy fight to this energy transition has become a cultural war. I think that’s a really big issue that basically, you know, burning fossil fuels, you know, has become, you know, the sort of, you know, if you’re a real American, you know, you burn coal, oil and gas, and if you’re a woke, commie, hippie, tree hugging, liberal wussy, then you embrace solar and wind and things like that, and, you know, you’re part of the woke mob.

And that I think, is, is insane, stupid, wrong, and kind of depressing. And like I said, I don’t think it’s going to last long. But that’s, that’s not an encouraging thing. You know, the fact that, you know, our planet is warmed a little bit more than one degree centigrade. That’s 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution.

And when we started burning fossil fuels, and everyone had always said that, you know, burning the 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming was dangerous threshold, we’re already hitting that dangerous potential, the climate impacts that are happening much faster, these extreme heat, things are an example, then climate scientists suspect that even 10 years ago, so that our climate is more sensitive than we understood 10 years ago, that’s that’s kind of disturbing. You know, the general kind of I think that popular culture has failed in a big way to really engage and help educate people about climate. I was just at a meeting last week.

Speaking of LA about with Hollywood writers, and producers, talking about how to get stories about climate change into the masses into theaters into the public discussion more, they’ve been reluctant to talk about it to do it, because it’s polarizing, because it’s seen as too nerdy to scientifically. And so that failure, I think, has left a lot of people. And it’s a very powerful tool for educating people that has not been utilized well enough. And I think that’s kind of disappointing, but I think that’s going to change. So those are, what is that three or four?

It’s three, but we’ll move on to something else. If you were given an opportunity to make one change in the US law or policy to stop global warming, what would it be?

Oh, easy. I mean, you know, bad fossil fuels. I mean, you know, put it on not only banned them as in like, turn them off tomorrow, but I mean, remove all subsidies from fossil fuels, you know, put us maybe even something like a carbon tax that would make do for fossil fuels, sort of what we did for cigarettes, you know, make them really expensive, make it even more expensive than they already are, and do every pull every lever I could to accelerate this transition, because that’s what’s important is making this happen faster and faster.

Yeah, I would think a carbon methane tax would be would probably be the most efficient thing that we could do. So I’m assuming you’re not a Trump supporter, as a man as you know, Trump is the most anti climate change person on the planet, but is there anything that Trump has done that you would agree with? No. I would say the only silver lining is that he kind of woke me up and the lots of others who start taking action be particularly at the state and local levels that after he got elected it kind of like oh my god, you know,

that’s that’s true. And that’s that’s right. And that’s good. And he has woken up a lot of people and he has I mean you know, mobilize a lot of people and you know, put a certain kind of fear whether it’s for democracy or whether it’s for you know, you know women’s right to choose or whether it’s for climate into a lot of people in an activated a lot of people and yes that’s I agree with that. I think that that’s been you know, we’re really lucky that he’s just sort of so dumb you know, I mean, if he were like, as charismatic and and ruthless as he is and dishonest as Yes, but we’re a little smarter. We’re dealing with a lot more trouble.

Probably so. So flipping the coin on that for the Mount Rushmore of climate change heroes, who are the four people you put up on this mountain?

Oh, my goodness. Wow, that’s a question that in my 20 years of getting interviewed and things I’ve never had before. Well, I think maybe first, one of them would be Eunice Foote, a scientist highly unrecognized, but did some really important work and understanding how CO2 traps heat in the 19th century, right very unrecognized in the history of climate science. I would say that she’s really one of them. I would say, you know, I’d have to put Al Gore up there simply because of you know, I think he understood this early on, and was a powerful figure in that Greta Thunberg, I think has done.

You know, it’s been really important, obviously, in activating youth and then Jim Hansen, the scientist in 19, in the who, in 1988, in front of Congress. He was at NASA as well. He’s retired now. He’s still alive. A NASA scientist who famously testified before Congress that the you know, the signal of global warming has been detected. We know now that this is happening without beyond a shadow of a doubt. So those will be

Jeff It’s been great having you on the program and please, everyone go out and get a copy of Jeff’s new book, The Heat Will Kill You First. Follow him on his social media is always on the cutting edge of reporting on the climate.

We’re gonna have Sir Jonathan Porritt on the show next week – a noted English environmentalist, and follow us on all our social media channels, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, give us a review, send us some questions.

Please let us know what guests you’d like to hear from and and also go to Apple, Spotify to listen to this episode or any of the other 100 plus episodes we have, or check us out on aclimatechange.com

And in the coming week, let’s all go out there and take some action to address climate change. Talk to people you know, use less products, volunteer to plant trees, eat less meat, and be the change you want to see in the world. Until then. Have a great week everybody.

(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)

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