120: Ethan Brown, Host of The Sweaty Penguin Podcast
Guest Name(s): Ethan Brown
Episode Audio Links:
ACC #120 – Ethan Brown – A Climate Change with Matt Matern
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got a special guest on the program today – Ethan Brown, host of “The Sweaty Penguin” podcast as well as “Tip of the Iceberg” and another show that Ethan does.
Ethan’s got an interesting format, he has conservatives and liberals on the show as well as sometimes professors as well. And then he brings a funny slant to it to try to bring some humor to this conversation. And that’s kind of a, I think, a useful way to approach this because a lot of people find that talking about the climate is so dry or depressing that they don’t really want to talk about it.
So it’s kind of nice to get some people involved, talking about it in a funny way to access, gain access to the conversation. And that’s, that’s important, because we need to be talking about the climate and any, any way that we can engage those people that are not engaged currently, is is a big plus. So Ethan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Matt. It’s great to be here.
So tell us Ethan, a little bit about your background, and what was your path to the environmental movement and the comedy domain as well?
Sure. So going back to high school, when I first learned about climate change, I found it really overwhelming, really scary, but not interesting at all. I wasn’t really a outdoorsy person. It wasn’t something that I maybe thought about day to day. And so I think I felt hesitant to go into it. But it seemed really important. I was going to college for film and television. I felt like as a storyteller, I needed a story to tell.
So I decided to take kind of a environmental elective in college. And that was when I learned that it was a lot more than just the doom and gloom headlines that we see there are real solutions to these issues. There are real nuances to them that are interesting. And there’s real progress that has happened from from where we’ve started and learning that I realized that I wanted to try to communicate that to people to help them be a little less overwhelmed by it.
I also ran our college satire publication, I went to Boston University, it was called The Bunion. And I did that for two years, I grew up from just myself to a 90 person team, which was really cool. But with that, I was also learning through satire, how to approach difficult topics in a comedic way. So when quarantine hit I kind of put those two things together and formed The Sweaty Penguin.
So that’s pretty impressive to go from a one man band to 90 people working on your your bunion project, which is pretty tremendous growth. So how did you do that?
That I think I was fortunate to have some good people join early on and be willing to take on some leadership roles, we started doing a lot of promotion just to try to get more staff in initially. And we also tried to start putting out consistent content. So for that first semester, when it was maybe four of us, we would get together each Sunday, and just everybody write an article, and then publish all those articles throughout the week. So it looked like it was keeping up with content. Then as we grew, we started saying like everyone writes three articles a semester, they’ll go through a workshop and an editing process. And as we grew, we built out more and more structure, took on more projects and brought in more editors. And ultimately, it left off around 90 When I when I stepped down.
That’s great work. So you know, you are obviously leading a good team. And of course, every good team is going to have some strong partners on it. So how did you come up with the name The Sweaty Penguin?
So my dad actually had the idea for it. I wanted to do something comedic with climate change for a while. He thought of that idea. And he always says, I’m free to use it for whatever I want. I just have to give him credit anytime anyone asks that question, so there you go.
Okay, well, I’m glad that your family is contributing to this. So what’s the problem with sweaty penguins? Is that kind of one of the environmental challenges that we face. Is that some is that something we could solve? I mean, I’ve heard that Trump said that if we just gave them some deodorant, we wouldn’t have sweaty penguin problem.
Well, I we did do for Episode 100, we did our episode on penguins. And it was very interesting. I can’t remember I did ask the expert if penguins do in fact, sweat. And I don’t remember what she said off the top of my head. But it was a really interesting conversation. There are penguins ranging from Antarctica all the way up north to the Galapagos Islands. Each of them are facing their own range of issues, which we covered in that episode. But certainly, as with every issue, there are solutions on the table to either adapt to this changes mitigate climate change itself. So that’s, that’s a big part of what we do is exploring those solutions.
And so how do you think that the audience has reacted to you making fun of environmental things? And what’s your kind of method? What inspires your humor? Are you drawn to, or comedians,
I wouldn’t say we make fun of as much as we make fun with. I think my early inspiration came a lot from John Oliver and Hasan Minaj. But I think our humor is a bit different. I was talking about this recently, I was looking back at some philosophy of comedy stuff I learned in college. And there’s a superiority theory of humor, which is kind of humor where you laugh, because you feel superior to something that doesn’t necessarily have to be punching down that can be just looking at someone with a silly mask and finding that funny or feeling morally superior to someone and making jokes at their expense.
And then there’s something called incongruency theory, which is taking two things that just aren’t expected to fit together and finding humor in that. I think a lot of our humor is the second one, the incongruity theory, we find all these climate stories that just have such bizarre outcomes or surprises within them. And I think that that’s where we find a lot of our humor. So it tends not to be making fun of anything as much as it is just looking at the weirdness of a situation and finding humor within that. Give us an example of of how that plays out. What are some of the highlight reels of of what you think is has been particularly funny in Congress?
You know, one example we did an episode on succulents and succulents do face some issues due to climate change and habitat loss. But because some of these succulent species have become endangered and become rare, there has developed this illegal rare, succulent market where there are people who will spend up to $1,000 on the black market to purchase these succulents, they think in their heads, they are saving them from this harmful environment.
But really, they’re preventing them from staying there and spreading their seeds, which is a big problem. And so we explored that in this episode. But we ran into this story where there was a woman in New Zealand I believe, who got caught in an airport with like 900 succulents and seeds attached to her body with stockings trying to go through airport security, which was just mind boggling. But I think that that was one example where we just saw a climate story that led to such a bizarre outcome. And we could we could find humor in that. It’s currently that could be a Saturday Night Live episode of the woman trying to go through security with 900 succulents.
I mean, it’s so bizarre that it it seems like over the top, if you saw it on TV, you’d say, Oh, my God, those writers are just being silly. And this is so far fetched. Nobody could be this crazy or stupid, but wrong, they could. So that’s a good one. I was curious if you’re been following the Yellow Dot Studios and what they’re doing and and in particular.
There was a Darth Vader video that was done regarding the Exxon knowledge of of their effect on climate change, and that the production of all this fossil fuels would eventually raise the CO2 levels to exactly where they’re at right now, like for her in 30 or 450 parts per million, and that it would have devastating impact on the climate change and that Darth Vader’s saying, you know, you guys that at Exxon I’m really envious of how evil you are. I can’t believe you’ve kind of wiped out evil even me.
Yeah, I’m familiar with the story. I haven’t seen the Darth Vader skit though, so you’ll have to send it to me.
Yeah. I will and we’ll post it up on our aclimatechange.com. So if anybody wants to view it there, you can check it out or look at Yellow Dot Studios. Yeah, I think that that’s really important work. And I was talking to a guest recently on the program, David Fenton, who has worked with yellow dot, and also he’s kind of a PR expert going back to the 60’s. And he was talking about the use of humor in terms of communicating, as well as shifting our language about how we’re communicating about climate change. Because a lot of times, the techniques, the words, the phrases, net zero and climate change, just don’t particularly resonate well with the general public. What’s your thinking on that one?
I agree, I think something we really try to do is communicate issues in a way that people will understand and appreciate. We look at not just the climate impacts, but how it affects people, how it affects the economy, how it affects health and justice, and security. And within that, trying to understand which which terminology we need to explain and which terminology, we maybe don’t, and we can just explain in more common language, but all of that I think helps engage our audience in the climate conversation a little more than they otherwise would.
Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Ethan Brown on the program of The Sweaty Penguin, we’ll be right back and just one minute, talk to a famous funny man Ethan Brown.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Ethan Brown of The Sweaty Penguin as well as the Tip of the Iceberg. And Ethan, do you often get confused with the other Ethan Brown, who’s the CEO of Beyond Meat? Is that a common thing? Do people come up to you on the street? And say, Ethan, are you the Beyond Meat guy, or what?
Well, I’ll tell you, when I was a kid I actually used to, I was really into math at the time, I performed a mental math stage show all over the world from ages 10 to 15, and did a whole bunch of cool stuff with that. And ultimately realized in high school, I wasn’t as good at the higher level math and step back. And that led to my climate interest. I think both were kind of making overwhelming topics interesting, ultimately.
So there was crossover. But there was a period there where as I was making that transition, I was very insecure about all my math stuff being all over Google. And then when Beyond Meat took off that Ethan brown supplanted all of my stuff. And so I was very grateful that he did that. But now I got to work back onto the front page of Google.
It’s tough, I have a guy who has a publicly traded company with the same name as you so I feel your pain. But you know, I’m sure that in just a matter in a short order, you’ll be supplanting Ethan Brown from Beyond Meat to Ethan Brown, and The Sweaty Penguin.
So tell us about some of the other things that you’re doing. I noticed on your website that you had stuff up there from like the IPCC report, how do you make the IPCC report funny and accessible to to a general audience?
Well, I’ll say first about the IPCC report, I think a lot of the headlines around it were very much like scientists issue final warning about blah, blah, blah. And the actual synthesis report that they released the summary of it, over half of it was dedicated to solutions and steps that we can take to still maintain climate change under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. And not only that, but how it is economically feasible, how it is in line with all of our sustainable development goals, how there are synergies with how all of these goals are the majority of them.
And to me, that gave me a lot of excitement and optimism, not necessarily that we’re already on track, but that we have this available to us. And if we communicate this right, if people understand that if politicians act on that, then this is something we can actually accomplish. So, that was a big part of how we approach the IPCC report was trying to communicate that section of it a lot more strongly than it had been asked for humor. I don’t remember specific jokes we did off the top of my head. A lot of our humor too will just be explaining concepts through silly analogies or throwing in skits or incorporating rants about random pop culture events like John Oliver, Hasan Minhaj. Do. So you’ll have to check out that episode to learn more.
Okay, well, we’ll we’ll have to tune in for that one. Yeah, I, as I was talking about that, David Fenton conversation, one of the things that he said was that the communication strategy of strategy of two thirds hope and 1/3 Fear and that seems to be kind of in line with what you’re saying, there’s a lot of hope in the IPCC reports that kind of doesn’t come through a lot of times, when people are talking or thinking about the environment, it’s more gloom and doom, it’s probably two thirds fear or maybe 90% Fear and 10%
Yeah, one of the things that has come up during my conversations over the last few years, is, is how many amazing people are working on solving these problems. It’s just, you know, probably millions of people are engaged in this, in this effort. Just all kinds of publicly traded companies are on the cutting edge of taking these ideas, and making products and changing the way we do business and major companies like Microsoft trying to be net zero. And so they’re making tremendous efforts at reducing their energy consumption and, and doing it by green sources, rather than polluting fuels and stuff like that, which tends not to get the headlines as much as some of the other you know, news coming out of the, the climate area.
Yeah, and I think that’s something we’re working to overcome, I believe 69% of Gen Z reports feeling anxious after viewing climate content on social media, and feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, can actually lead people to disengage with an issue, according to a lot of studies on this. So that’s something where we really aim to understand where those emotions are coming from how they play out, sometimes it is the more talked about climate anxiety. But to me, I think it can also come out in the form of climate denialism, where you just don’t want to think about this.
So you don’t bother to learn and you come up with incorrect information, or climate indifference where you just can’t get your head around it. So you think this isn’t important. But however it comes out, I think by tackling that, in large part by talking about solutions, by showing people there are ways to address this, there are in fact, multiple ways to address this. And it can be done through regardless of your political ideology, regardless of what technologies you like, there’s just so many options for how we do it. I think that can give people a lot of hope. And in my experience, anyone in any of those three camps ends up liking our content a lot, because we address that emotion. And then when we talk about solutions, they they feel a lot more engaged and hopeful.
So how does The Sweaty Penguin work to make the climate kind of less political? What’s your, what’s your secret sauce there?
I think we do a very deliberate separation of the facts and the science from the policy. When we talk about the problems, we are very matter of fact about it, if something is somewhat opinionated, we are very clear, we’re talking about an opinion now. I think I think it lets people we want them to think critically. But we also try to help them through that critical thinking process. So they don’t feel like we’re trying to pull anything over on them or sneak anything by them.
But then when we talk about solutions, we’re very specific to discuss the pros and cons of every solution, and even how those cons can be overcome, if that’s applicable. So with that, we are providing a variety of options. People can see, oh, here’s the pros and cons of this, the pros and cons of that. And then they can kind of make up their own mind. We very specifically never say we have to do this, we have to do that. We’d say if we do this XYZ will happen. So I think making some of those shifts has been very useful. in cultivating our bipartisan audience.
So in terms of making fun of stuff or making fun of, you know, people are out in the news such as Elon Musk and all his doings. And certainly there’s just plenty of fodder there as a comedian is that is that a topic that you’ve taken up at all?
I think we are. Just in general, we don’t really target our humor toward individuals, we will if it’s completely unrelated to the topics, we’ll do a lot of jokes about celebrities, or whenever there’s like a bachelorette season on or whenever there’s a new singer with an album, like we’ll make jokes about that. But I think when we’re in the story, we avoid doing it with the individuals in the story.
And again, I think that’s part of that cultivating a bipartisan audience not to say there won’t be common ground on both sides about liking or disliking specific people. But I think that by just avoiding that side of the humor, we’re able to kind of cultivate trust with a bigger audience. And that’s ultimately our goal.
I’m curious as to your take on on the Musk/Bezos race to Mars and your thought about that vis-å-vis the environmental movement.
I think that if we’re talking about it, in the sense of, we need a planet B because Earth is going to crap or something that that does not seem accurate. To me, Earth is by far the best planet for human life that we are in contact with. So I think it’s a whole lot easier and cheaper to address climate change here address all our other environmental issues. And and live here. If we’re talking about it in the sense of just exploration and interest. That’s a little outside my purview. But I do want to draw that distinction. I certainly don’t think that living on Mars is any easier than fixing what we’ve got going on here.
Yeah, I think that I’m with you on that point that we’ve got a great planet here. There’s so many wonderful things about it. And we should focus on making this planet taking it to its best and least polluted state. And if we do that, we’re in great shape, versus focusing on Mars. Hey, maybe a few individuals can escape versus the 8 billion who are left here. That doesn’t seem like a very great solution for the 8 billion who don’t make it to Mars. And even for those who make it to Mars. Somehow I don’t I’m not looking forward to taking that trip are living on Mars that doesn’t appeal to me at all.
So I get easily motion sick. I’m happy being here.
Yeah, from there, the Dramamine cost alone of going to Mars, for those of us who suffer from motion sickness is just going to be overwhelming. And I think we need to calculate that into the equation. So Ethan, will talk to you more about that and, and many other topics after the break you’re listening to A Climate Change is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Ethan Brown as a sweaty penguin on the show, and we’ll be back in just one minute.
You’re listening to A Climate Change I’ve got Ethan Brown on the show of The Sweaty Penguin also does the Tip of the Iceberg. And you should check both those out online. Ethan, tell us about carbon bombs. I know you’ve covered it pretty extensively describe kind of to the audience what a carbon bomb is and why we should be concerned about it.
So a carbon bomb is a fossil fuel project that from start to finish with over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide. For context in 2019, the entire world emitted 59 billion tons of carbon dioxide. So 1 billion from one project is massive. And so after the UN climate conference in Glasgow and 2021, there was a agreement that basically there was a lot of tension as to whether it would say phase out coal or phase down coal Ultimately, that ended up being phased down. A lot of countries were upset about that. And what many, including myself pointed out at the time is we’re focused on coal, but oil and gas were not mentioned at all in this agreement. And the Guardian noticed this, and they launched a investigation that took about five months into future planned oil and gas exploration, specifically looking at oil and gas carbon bombs. And what they found is there are 195, planned oil and gas carbon bombs around the world, these projects would collectively have the potential to emit 646 billion tons of CO2. And that alone would blow past our 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. Now, that’s not to say that will happen, a lot of the projects are not particularly economically viable, a lot of countries are trying to transition away. But there’s a lot of work to do. So we started on our end, picking carbon bombs one by one and doing deep dives on them. And we can talk more about those projects. But that that story really hit me hard and made me want to try to report on them. And I feel like we’ve been able to do that in a very constructive and interesting way.
Well, totally, totally audience toe in tell me to what is the total carbon budget that we have projected before we would hit the tipping point. And this would be worldwide emissions? I can’t remember what that figure was where there was 450 billion tons or something along that line.
Yeah. So if I remember, right, I think it was around 500 billion tons to have a 5050 chance of staying under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. And so if we omitted the 646 billion, I think that would give us around a 33% chance. But again, this is just these 195 oil and gas projects. There are other oil and gas projects, there are still some coal projects, although those are declining, there are cement their agriculture.
So there’s more than just this to address. But I felt like this was a very important starting point, given just how large these projects are. And as we’ve studied them, we find that not only do they have this climate impact, but they have impacts on their local communities, they often have big economic issues, and there are solutions that are maybe even more viable than pursuing these projects.
Well, yeah, of course, talking about the local impacts, we talking about the pollution that the people around these sites would have to deal with, whether it’s water pollution, or air pollution, and all kinds of externalities that flow from oil and gas development, right?
Yeah, each each project tends to have its own story. And there are often things in common, I think air pollution is something we very commonly discuss a lot of oil and gas projects involve flaring, which releases not just you’re either leaking methane or if you’re flaring it, you’re turning it into carbon dioxide. But in that case, you’re still wasting it. But it also creates noise pollution, it creates air pollution. Water pollution comes up in a lot of these episodes.
And we’ve had on some experts who are very specifically studying water pollution of these projects. And then economically, a lot of them are very interesting stories, some of them like we did one on the Eagle Ford shale. Recently, the Eagle Ford shale is on the Gulf coast of Texas, that project has just been very economically unviable because there’s really only one layer of oil and gas as opposed to something like the Permian Basin where there’s multiple layers underground, and you can drill one well and suck up all of this oil, and other cases.
Today, we just released an episode on the Bavarian Covo gas field in Arctic Russia, that has largely funded the war in Ukraine from selling those gas exports. And that has led to a lot of things. But among them, there have been quite a few sanctions dealt to Russia, which has not helped their economy and really, this whole situation has not helped anybody. So depending on the project, there’s always a different story.
And I think we’ve really enjoyed being able to find those stories and tell them from a more local perspective as As opposed to just focusing on these big scary numbers, right, and methane is definitely a big story that probably needs to be communicated more and more, which is the the methane impact, as I’m sure you’re aware is multiple times, what is it to? I can’t remember if it’s 10 or 80, or what but it’s, it’s substantially more dangerous than CO2 to the, to the environment. And pretty much all oil and gas projects are emitting lots of methane, correct?
Yeah, methane is, I believe, around 29 times worse than CO2 over 100 year period. And natural gas is mostly methane. So whenever we hear about a pipeline leak, whenever we hear about venting, which is where you’re purposely just letting natural gas escaped because of compression or whatever, that is leaking methane into the atmosphere. Flaring is actually considered a bit of a solution to that in the sense that you’re burning the methane and to CO2. But it’s still wasting perfectly good methane, which could be used as natural gas.
And the flaring itself is, has all the issues I just mentioned, there was a follow up project that the Guardian did on methane bombs, which were projects that the methane emitted would be equivalent to a billion tons of CO2. And a lot of the same carbon bombs were on that methane bomb list, there were 55 of them. And so we’ve, we’ve been able to talk about some of the methane bombs within the carbon bomb episodes, the Bavarian Covo gas field, which we released today is the fourth largest methane bomb in the world, as well as the ninth largest carbon bomb in the world.
So the issues are very much hand in hand. So where’s the solution there? How, how do we find the positive spin in dealing with, you know, what is a very serious subject and doesn’t look good from the face of it, that we’ve got so many carbon bomb and methane bomb projects on the horizon?
I think each project has a different story. And that’s why we did this. And sometimes there are ways to mitigate some of the local impacts of the project. But often we’re talking about how do we make a transition to cleaner energy sources. And in each region of the world, there is very often some clean energy source that is really lucrative. The first one we did was on the guar oil field in Saudi Arabia, and they are one of the sunniest places in the world today would be a great place to have solar panels.
Talking about the one in Russia, Russia has the largest capacity for wind in the world. That’s a trickier subject. But if we go to each of these places, we can find a lot of exciting opportunities to explore cleaner industries, certainly here in the United States, we see that for every one of these projects, as well. And beyond that, I think, looking at what local communities are saying, trying to understand how they feel about it. And how we can incorporate that into our story is very important, too, because sometimes local communities are very opposed. Other times they are mixed, and sometimes they’re very supportive of a project. And understanding why that is, and how we take that into account is can be very valuable, too.
So what are you seeing as far as in Saudi Arabia, in Russia? I know that Saudi Arabia has has started to invest pretty heavily into into other types of fuel sources, and to diversify their portfolio. But do you see them kind of rolling out massive solar projects in order to harness the sun there? What about in Russia? Do we see any, any movement towards renewables at all? Are they just still just totally oil and gas dependent?
I think those are two of the most challenging countries in the world in this regard. But I do think there’s reason to, to be hopeful in the sense that in Saudi Arabia, it there are studies that show it could literally be too hot to inhabit by 2070 and they They, I don’t see any reason why they would want that to be their future. If they want to get into the solar game or any of these other things, they could really become a world leader, they certainly have the sunshine to do it. In Russia, I think it’s hard to talk about anything without saying it in the vacuum of the war in Ukraine being if not resolved, at least some ceasefire.
And so we talked about that a lot in the episode, but I know the Russian Energy Minister has expressed interest in hydrogen, they already have a lot of pipeline infrastructure that could transport hydrogen. Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of availability for wind there. So I think it really is case by case. But I think every country, if they actually look at the facts and see what the future looks like, if they don’t do this, they they should want to.
You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. And we’ve got Ethan Brown on the program. We’ll be right back with Ethan to talk about these issues and stay tuned.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Ethan Brown on the program of The Sweaty Penguin. Ethan, we’re talking a little bit about the cCOPs that, you know, in various COPs that have been in recent years. Next one is going to be in Abu Dhabi, I believe. So that’s kind of incongruous that there’s an Environmental Conference in one of the biggest oil and gas producing countries. What do you make of that?
I think there’s two ways to look at it. It might be in Dubai, I know it’s a new AI. But I think the one way that I think most people are looking at it is, this is ridiculous. And I think there’s been a lot of talk about saltan JRiver, being named the president who is the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, he also has done a lot of work with renewable energy. But I think there’s been concern, especially, I guess, some members of his team were creating fake Twitter accounts to spread positive messages about him and edited his Wikipedia page to say he was precisely the ally that the climate movement needs. And so some of that just is frustrating.
On the other side, what if they’re right, and I don’t want to be too optimistic. But ultimately, to solve this issue, we need oil companies and gas companies to see that renewable energy is a really good investment. And if they want to be a part of that they could make a lot of money at it. And certainly the world needs this to happen. And if he wants to try to bridge that, genuinely, then that could be very good. I don’t know if that’s what he wants to do or not. I don’t know him. I’m not involved in this. But I would like to have some hope that that’s a possibility. I don’t know how much hope is reasonable. But I would like to leave open that possibility.
Well, certainly, it’s kind of the way you’re talking about it is analogous to in my profession, in the legal profession, you negotiate with the person you’re opposing, at some point in time. Either you go to trial with them, or you go or you negotiate a settlement. So you kind of in this situation, your hope you’re negotiating with these big oil and gas producers, fossil fuel providers to negotiate a better solution.
So the environmental movement probably can’t expect to get everything that they want, but they can start moving in that direction of negotiating draw down of the production of oil and gas and and hopefully shift the the energy and focus of the oil and gas companies to more renewable sources and say, Hey, you guys are energy companies. You’re not necessarily oil and gas companies. So why don’t you focus on solar wind, wave energy, hydro power, whatever it is, because that that is the future.
And the sooner you get out in front of it, because you have plenty of resources to invest in it, you can, you can kind of mitigate the risk to your shareholders and still have a viable company. If you don’t, your shareholders are going to be holding on to shares of, of dinosaurs, because eventually fossil fuels are going to be completely eliminated. So that’s the way I kind of look at him.
Yeah, I completely agree. And looking back to cop 27, in Sharm el Sheikh Egypt last year, I know there was a lot of frustration following the conference. But what I saw happen there, first off, they established the loss and damage fund, which was a big, big, big deal for developing countries who are getting hit hardest by climate change, to receive a commitment to get funding from some of the developed countries that have been the biggest contributors to it, what that will look like how that will happen logistically is another conversation, but just them agreeing to that was a really big deal.
But the other thing I saw that was very meaningful to me, I talked about that phase out versus phase down coal thing. The European Union, Vanuatu variety of countries kind of came in with the goal of getting phased down fossil fuels into the agreement. It didn’t happen. But by the end, I think the US had even expressed support for phase down unabated fossil fuels. So fossil fuels without carbon capture that that support was growing.
I think some of the opposition was coming from a some of the usual suspects, like the Russia and Saudi Arabia’s, but also some of the African nations who have large natural gas reserves and want the opportunity to explore them. But just the coalition that was forming around that, I think was impressive. And I think that can be built on. So we’ll see what happens in Dubai, but certainly, I think there is reason to, to feel like we’re moving in the right direction.
What’s your, what’s your thought on carbon sequestration, which a lot of environmentalists seem to be against, because they think that it’s just going to forestall the phasing out of, of the oil and gas and, you know, business? So what are your thoughts on that?
I think they’re ultimately needs to be an all of the above approach, I think solar and wind and nuclear and all these other clean energy sources are very important. I also think that I mean, if we do too much work, that’s not the problem. The issue with carbon sequestration, particularly things like direct air capture, is that they’re very expensive. And it’s actually a lot cheaper to transition to solar and wind and some of these things.
But talking about the 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 goal, it’s possible that we overshoot a little bit in the next 75 years. And if we do, we have to pull it back down to meet that goal. And so carbon sequestration gives us the opportunity to do that. Also, carbon sequestration is not just giant direct air capture things or scrubbers at coal plants. It’s also how do we preserve forests? How do we preserve our oceans to suck carbon out of the atmosphere?
There’s a lot of carbon sequestration that is natural and good and important to preserve for other reasons. So I think, yeah, all of the above, but also acknowledging where solar and wind might be more cost effective.
Talk to us about who would be on your Mount Rushmore of climate change makers. If you had tap for people to action, the side of the mountain who goes up there?
Oh my gosh, that’s that’s a really tough question. I think.
We’re not going to hold you to it. You can always carve out a new person or just kind of like tear somebody down if need be whatever.
Yeah, well, I’ll say this, I think I don’t know that I can name four, but what the reason why is I don’t think anybody is perfect and myself included. And I think what I tried to do is look at certain important figures and see where I agree and where I don’t. So I I know one example of that I learned a lot in college about John Muir and Gifford Pinchot back in the early 1900s, late 1800s I forget exactly, but John Muir was kind of the big preservationist Gifford Pinchot was the big conservationist, and it set up this preservation versus conservation debate, do we want to leave everything pristine as it is?
Or do we want to find ways to use resources sustainably into the future? And I think I often tend to lean in a conservation direction, but I think there’s reasons for both. I also know that neither of them were acknowledging indigenous rights in any way when talking about land. So I could not put either on a Mount Rushmore because I don’t think either had the full picture. But that that tends to be just as an example, how I look at some of the key environmental figures, I think we can learn a lot from them. But we can also acknowledge where they might have missed a few points. Yeah, I think that that’s a fair statement.
Well, Ethan, it’s been great having you on the program. Ethan Brown of The Sweaty Penguin, as well as Tip of the Iceberg, doing great work there and embracing both humor and deep diving into these issues, great work, and also communicating to younger folks about the importance of these issues. And that’s also critical.
Everybody should check out Ethan’s podcast, The Sweaty Penguin as well as his Tip of the Iceberg. And follow him on social media, as well as check out all of our social media and and you can view and listen to our material on climate change.com as well as on our Facebook and Instagram pages follow us.
So I always like to encourage people to go out there and make a difference and do what you can talk about the climate. Go out there and volunteer with various organizations. Reach out to people on social media, start creating the connections so that we can work together because this is such an important issue. The most important issue facing the world.
We need to work together on it. And I really liked that Gandhi line “be the change you want to see in the world.” So that’s that’s the challenge. Let’s go out there today and be that change. Thank you everybody for tuning in and tune back in next week.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
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