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121: Sir Jonathon Porritt on Climate Change and Economic Transformation

Guest Name(s): Sir Jonathon Porritt

Sir Jonathon Porritt joins Matt Matern to discuss his journey into environmentalism and his book, “Hope in Hell.” He stresses the urgency of climate action, the need to view it as an economic issue, and better communication strategies.

Porritt highlights the rapid pace of climate change, the media’s role in misinformation, and the balance between military and environmental spending. He calls for solidarity among climate advocates and urges listeners to stay engaged and informed.

Hope in Hell: How We Can Confront the Climate Crisis & Save the Earth >>

Forum for the Future >>

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Climate change is our era’s defining issue. We know, beyond reasonable doubt, that climate change is accelerating. To face a challenge greater than humanity has ever seen before, we must also accelerate ourselves, by summoning a sense of urgency, courage, and shared effort to match it. Jonathan Porritt’s Hope In Hell is meant to do just that, by confronting the issue directly and strongly, but also with inspiration and hope; it’s not too late to avoid the worst consequences of climate change…
This is my own personal website, and everything on it is here to help illustrate the breadth of all the work I do in the world of sustainability. I’ve been in that world for a very long time (having joined the Green Party in the summer of 1974), but I genuinely can’t recall ever feeling the same intense combination of despair and hope…
Forum for the Future is a leading international sustainability non-profit running out of offices in the UK, US, India and Singapore. Since we were founded in 1996, we’ve been working in partnership with business, governments and civil society to accelerate the shift towards a just and regenerative future in which both people and the planet thrive. Climate change, mounting inequality, nature in crisis: the world is facing complex challenges that are intensifying every single day…
121: Sir Jonathon Porritt, Author & Environmentalist
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You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program today. Great guest, we’re looking forward to talking with him. He’s a British environmentalist known for his advocacy of the Green Party of England and Wales. He was the chair of that party from 1979-1980, as well as 82 to 84 and 84. He published his first book seeing green politics to the college explained. Some say it was prophetic in many respects, he predicted an information rich knowledge poor age, seems fairly relevant to today.

And then 1996 to 2009, Sir Jonathon withdrew from active politics and focused on nonpartisan activity. And in ‘84 he became director of Friends the Earth. Heart it quoted that he said it was the best decision of his life. And then, sir Jonathon founded the Forum for the Future in 1996, the Sustainable Development Charity, and he then, and was appointed by Tony Blair, to be a part of the Sustainable Development Commission and in the UK, and reappointed twice for two, three year terms.

His most recent book is Hope in Hell. And so we’re going to talk to him today about all these topics. I mean, he’s been on the frontlines, the environmental movement for 40 plus years. Really great to have you on the program, Sir Jonathon.

Very nice to join you for this conversation, Matt. So looking forward to that.

So tell us a little bit, might as well jump in? What brought you to the environmental movement in the first place? What what was kind of your “aha” moment? Or as Al Gore says, that moment, “oh shit,” or something along those lines?

Yes, it was the latter. It was an “oh shit moment,” it has to be said in 1973. So 50 years ago, I read a very short book called blueprint for survival, which was published by a magazine in the UK, called The Ecologist. And it was a very succinct summary of why we were already heading into some very difficult territory with human numbers increasing every year, size of the economy increasing every year, environmental damage increasing every year, and very little political awareness.

And that was, to me a pretty accurate account of what was happening in the mid 1970s. And then I started reading all the books you’d expect, you know, Rachel Carson, and so on. And I suppose from that point on, I just thought, yep, okay, I’m gonna have to do something about this. Because it’s going to loom very large in the lives of everybody in the not too distant future. That’s what got me into it.

So then, you started to take steps along those lines. You know, I’m curious as to your book, Hope In Hell, why don’t you tell us about that? And and why, why did you write that book? And what’s the message?

Hope In Hell was the book that I hoped I would never have to write, to be honest, Matt. Because it was in that book, I basically, lay it out why we’ve now got so little time left, to do what we need to do. I mean, really, and truly, we’re, you know, we are talking decades, a decade at the most to do what has to be done to start getting these emissions of greenhouse gases done. And I always hoped, I must admit that I would not have to be so blunt, in reminding people that every year wasted is a year that we can never make up.
So for me, I would take it back to 1992. A huge moment in the history of the environment and sustainability world, the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro I was there. I watched world leaders sign these great big treaties. At that time, the treaty on climate change the treaty on biodiversity, endless amounts of warm words about how important it was to take account of all of this.

And I thought to myself, “okay, they’ve signed up to all this stuff. So now we’re going to see what it looks like to put that into practice.” And the truth of it is that practically nothing happened in the next 10 years, in the next 20 years, and in the next 30 years, so Hope In Hell was a sort of recognition of failure on all our part, politicians and campaigners alike, we just didn’t get enough done. And now, we still have time to do what we need to do. But boy, it is now touch and go, let’s be honest.

Well, you know, I kind of betwixt and between both fear and some degree of optimism, I think I tend towards optimism just generically, though. So I’m, I’m optimistic in the respect that I see so many amazing people working on these issues and coming up with some great technological innovations, and so on and so forth.

Yet, I also am a realist in the respect that I see the tides of, you know, whether it’s an ever increasing economy, and, and a lot of unconsciousness to the environment out there, that bodes pretty ill if you’re in Vegas, putting down a bet for the environment. You’d be kind of crazy to put a lot of money, that we’re not going to create a worse problem than we already have. Because the tides of history are definitely running against us pulling this out of the fire.

I’m pretty much with you on that, Matt. I don’t talk about optimism. Personally, I talk more about hope, because I find it difficult to be optimistic in this world. But apart from that, I would entirely share that analysis. But it’s a race. I mean, it’s not that these two things can go on coexisting. It’s not that we can look to good people with brilliant ideas and amazing technology coming forward and hope that that is going to be enough, given the pace of change in nature.

I mean, the last few weeks, as you know, Matt, have been utterly staggering. In terms of the climate extremes that we’re now seeing all around the world. I mean, it’s impossible to keep a log of just how many of these what the climate scientists call anomalies, extreme anomalies, it’s literally impossible these days, to keep up with just how many of these come crashing into people’s lives in country after country, every single day, there’s a new nightmarish climate extreme happening.

So the trouble is, changes in nature are running faster than our ability to bring forward the solutions that we need to address that. So we’re losing the race, to put it simply. We’re losing the race.

Right. I mean, it’s kind of an unfortunate fact of human nature, from what I can tell is that we tend, and I can say this, from a personal standpoint is like, we tend not to wake up until we run into the wall until we fall down until we, you know, experienced the downside. And I can only hope that humanity as a whole and as individuals are experiencing these extremes are starting to wake up to the undeniable reality that climate change is happening. And it is very serious. And we need to take it very seriously. Right?

Yep. Now I go with that, too. How many times I’ve read another report saying this is a wake up call. This is the wake up call we needed. And I think to myself, I’ve been and many others have been waking up so many times, urging other people to wake up to this, but you put your finger on it a minute ago.

You said there are an awful lot of people who are still not alert to this threat to this risk to the stability of the climate and therefore the stability of human society. Huge numbers of people. And not I don’t mean that they’re outright what we call deniers here. In the UK. I’m not saying that, that the kind of they don’t believe anything about the science of climate change.

But I don’t think they’re alert to the implications of that science, to the consequences of that science as it impacts on humankind. And that’s what I find a little bit a little bit worrying because there are an awful lot of people in positions of very considerable influence and power, particularly in some of our media, as you know very well, Matt, from a North American perspective.

There are an awful lot of people who want to keep citizens in the dark, who don’t really want them to understand the nature of the crisis that we now face, and we’re up against that level of confusion and deliberate deception, which is still going on all over the world.

I guess, one of the things that I’ve been talking to a number of people about his communication strategy, or lack of strategy by the environmental movement, and, and to the extent that that has, has been a big part of it, and so to kind of look inside and say, “Hey, we as environmentalists maybe have not been doing as good of a job as we could in being persuasive, and using language in a way communicating in a way that can be more persuasive to to the audience out there.”

And I’d certainly love to hear your your take on that one. Yeah, we may have to get part of that after the break. But yeah, give us your beginning of it.

Just to just to tee up that discussion. I couldn’t agree with you more. And we set up my organization Forum for the Future back in 1996. Specifically, to help shift that dial on communications specifically to do that.

Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program today. And stay tuned, we’re going to be talking about communication strategy, or lack thereof, and the environmental movement and what we can do to change that direction.

You’re listening to A Climate Change This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program today. Sir Jonathon, I was kind of interrupted you on this issue of communication strategy. One of my recent guests, David Fenton, was talking about this and what we can do to improve.

I think, before we kind of before I bash it too much, I would like to say that there has been a sea change over the last, you know, 30 plus years, to build a consensus that maybe 25% or more of the population, at least in the US are pretty firm believers in climate change is an enormously important problem, which is probably, you know, 20 points up from where it was in 1990.

So, you know, don’t we shouldn’t probably hammer ourselves too hard. But it’s important to, to talk to at least where we get to its where over 50% or 60%. How are we going to get there?

Yeah, absolutely. In my book, I’d like to get to 100%. Because it’s not a question of belief, as you know, I mean, I know the language is, is contested here. But I didn’t ask anybody to believe in climate change. I asked people just to look at the way the world is, to see it for what it is in reality, and then ask themselves the question, what is causing all of that, but I think the communications challenge, Matt, was all about positioning this as an environmental issue, which it obviously isn’t.

Climate change is not an environmental issue. It is a massive economic issue. Because it means we have to transform so many parts of our economy. And once you accept it’s an economic issue, then all of our advocacy should be geared to what does this mean for people in terms of jobs? What does it mean to people in terms of innovation? What does it mean for people in terms of improved quality of life? What does it mean for people in terms of stronger communities? What does it mean, from a very realistic, hard nosed point of view, about quality of life and material standard of living?

And because climate change got stuck in a kind of environment box, we were always up against it. Because there are an awful lot of people out there who will never take quotes, the environment quotes as seriously as they should. So when we set up a forum in 1996, we tried to address that we said, we’ve got all the solutions we need. Technological, financial, political, if you really want them. We’ve just got to make this come alive for people now and the only way to do that effectively is to give people stake in that better future, not allow others to make up, they’re going to be the victims of that check.

I think that’s one of the brilliant things of the Inflation Reduction Act here in the US and President Biden’s centering a lot of that policy and giving funding to a number of states that are traditionally very Republican oriented states, and getting those states kind of to see the benefits of the economic policy of take it, you know, climate change.

And I think that that’s a long term future is to see, hey, it’s not scary, we’re not going to take all of your jobs away, we’re not going to take all the cars away, we’re not going to take all your meat away from you, or whatever it is, the fear oriented, reflexive political red meat that is thrown at the in the US, the Republican Party to to make them reflexively afraid of anytime the word climate change is used.

Exactly. And so you know, by those who understand communications much better than then maybe I do, or the movement does, they’ve always known that if they could continue to portray climate change, as a concern of relatively privileged middle class people imposing a set of values and beliefs on the rest of the population.

They understood that we would always be on the backfoot. So they’ve worked really hard to make out that this is going to be a massive sacrifice for people, that it’s going to be a series of punitive changes, that suddenly our lives are going to be stripped bare of all the things that we really hold, dear. And they’ve done that horribly, successfully, that over many, many years. And I’m sorry to say that the large media interests in the world today have been at the forefront of that communications, heist, basically, they’ve essentially taken over people’s understanding of why this could work so well for them economically.

Yeah, well, it’s a it’s a very challenging story to tell, I think, in, in large measure, to, to go into the economic issues and talk about how we could improve our lives by switching away from fossil fuels. It’s it’s a challenging, maybe it you know, maybe it’s simpler, you know, but I think in order to tell people, hey, shifting to alternative fuels store, versus could actually make your life better, is not something that maybe is intuitive for our people.

No, I mean, we’ve been dependent on fossil fuels for well, as long as any of us can remember. I mean, there’s nobody alive today whose life hasn’t been improved and enriched by the use of fossil fuels. So you have to start from that point of view, we have to acknowledge that coal, oil and gas have been a massive driver of prosperity for humankind, there’s no point trying to undo that. But even as we benefited from the use of those amazing, dense energy sources, we have caused this huge problem with with the byproduct with the greenhouse gases that are emitted as we burn those fossil fuels.

And we were very good at talking about the benefits of fossil fuels. But people were very keen not to discuss the benefits, even though we’ve known. And you understand this, Matt, even though we’ve known for decades, that if we continue to put those byproducts, those greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, that we we’re heading into some very dangerous territory.

And the big oil and gas companies knew that too. I mean, that’s the story emerging now about what Exxon Mobil knew back in the 70s, or even in the 1960s. And, and this is all beginning to come out now that they had the science absolutely clear, even as they set about obscuring that science for most ordinary citizens, but just I love repeating this, you know, link to the Yellow Dot Studios that produced that ad where they talk about the Exxon and and they have Darth Vader saying, essentially, you know, kudos to you. I’m kind of jealous at how evil you were I you know, it hurts me that I didn’t come up with this. I mean, it really is that level of evil, that you could knowingly destroy the environment of the entire planet to make money. It’s really on the far edge of evil and, and yet, if you like they got away with it so far like this is the crime of the century.

And they’re still getting away with it, Matt. I mean, I read the recent statement from Exxon Mobil to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the USA, basically saying, we’re doubling down on oil and gas, because we don’t believe there’s any way that humankind could end up the beneficiary of a shift away from fossil fuels.

So our job now is to continue to serve our shareholders to bring more oil and gas as much oil and gas into the economy as we possibly can. And the rest of you, not all of you greenies with the renewable energy fantasies that you have, you can you can stick it, and they’re still at it, that’s still hard at it. That’s the problem.

Well, they, they are dealing like a drug dealer, and that our society is essentially addicted to oil. And what and, and it is, it is hard to get off of the juice. So let me turn to something maybe a little more personal and just say, hey, what? How has it changed your life to try to be more sustainable? I know, it’s been challenging for me to kind of address the issue of flying less, or taking the subway or those types of things. How does that how does that impacted your life? And what do you do to kind of square the circle on walking the walk?

Yep, well, some of that was pretty easy. The last time I owned a car was when I was a student 50 years ago. So since then, I’ve never owned a car, and I’m a very keen cyclist and, and use public transport and my, my bicycle, which is, has served me well. On other things, it’s relatively easy. So I eat far less meat now than I used to. On some things, it’s really difficult. So your listeners won’t be able to tell this, but I’m actually doing this recording with you, Matt from New Zealand.

And guess what, I did not walk here, I did not come by boat. I’ve gotten a plane and I flew here. And the reason I’m here is to work with an airline called New Zealand to help them get on top of their particular climate challenge. What can they do to decarbonize that airline? So for me, flying has always been a real difficulty. I can’t deny it. My carbon footprint from flying is a nightmare. But because it’s part of the work I do, I’ve kind of learned to live with that, and feel that there is an acceptable way of managing that. And we might want to talk about that.

Sure, well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program. And we will be back after these messages. So stay tuned.

You’re listening to A Climate Change. And I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program. Sir Jonathon, just before the break, we were talking about, you know, personal sustainability issues. And I’m very impressed by your not having a car for 50 years. That is amazing. Kudos to you. And I was kind of considering doing carbon credits to offset my personal consumption for airline usage and things like that. Is that is that a an acceptable dispensation for my sins? Or do I need to do more penance?

No, it can be acceptable. And that is exactly what we do in forum for future we have we’re an international organization. We have offices in New York, Mumbai, Singapore. So it’s not possible to run Forum for the Future without some people getting on a plane from time to time. So we have a we have a carbon footprint at the end of the year, and the only way we can address that is by offsetting. And a lot of NGOs hate this.

But we take a lot of care in where we buy our offsets from. So we don’t buy the cheapest offsets. We buy the offsets that genuinely help abate the co2 footprint, but also socially responsible and help help with biodiversity at the same time. It’s like any market, it’s like any market, Matt, there are some really, really bad offset providers out there. And they’re, they’re dreadful. They’re just taking people for a ride. And there are some really brutally brilliant, tell us about the good ones.

And tell us about some of the not so good ones, because I’m not gonna name names map, because otherwise, I’ll end up in terrible trouble. But it’s, you can you can tell, I tell you what the simplest guideline for this is, the cheaper the per tonne price, you’re paying for your offset, the more of a scam it is likely to be.

Then they’d kind of you get what you pay for, you get it actually is applicable in in all parts of life. Well, I was gonna ask you, what’s your take on today’s frontline climate science.

It’s very disturbing what’s happening at the moment. And I’ve been, for various reasons, I’ve been trying to track the the degree to which things are moving faster than most citizens and most politicians understand. And my test for that is the level of surprise shock, that many climate scientists feel as to how fast it’s going.

So if you look, for instance, at sea ice, in the Arctic or the Antarctic, there’s not a single scientists with a specialism in that area that isn’t utterly devastated by the speed with which sea ice is disappearing. It’s the same with wildfire experts, it’s the same with people who study droughts and storms, and so on, everybody’s just astonished by how quickly it’s all moving now. And the one problem that we have to bear in mind, man, I’m sure we don’t want to get into the technicalities of all of this.

But we are, of course, moving into a cyclical pattern now where what is called El Nino will undoubtedly exacerbate many of these climate induced anomalies. And the well, the likelihood is the next year is going to be very grim indeed, very grim. From the point of view of the number of people’s lives affected by this.

Well tell us a little bit about the gap between science and policy and how that’s getting bigger all the time. And how do you account for that?

I think one of the real difficulties is the science has to be it has to be authoritative, it has to get consensus across the science community. So we’ve always relied on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body which was brought into being specifically to give that scientific advice to politicians. And the politicians sign off on that advice. So when the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel came up with its assessment report earlier in the year, that is signed off by all politicians.

But there’s a problem because you don’t get that consensus. From what is happening in the real world. Most of the science in the most recent assessment report is three, four years out of date. So the politicians are not working with the science on the front line of what is happening and Michael Moran in your country very, for me, fantastic commentator on the science policy gap.

Michael Mann was very clear. He just said, so difficult for politicians, because they’re not dealing with the reality, the day to day reality, what’s happening. They’re dealing with the reality of the way the world look four or five years ago, and he doesn’t like that today. So the gap gets wider?

Well, I think there is a tremendous challenge for policymakers to get their arms around the science in that, generally speaking, policymakers and politicians are glad handers who are good at making friends and getting elected, which is not necessarily the skill of studying science. Those two things are not always associated.

And I know when I did my political run, I started to print out the IPCC reports and start to read them and I thought this is quite a dense set of materials. It’s not so easy to kind of pour over and I think there is a challenge For somebody who’s a policymaker to really consider this amount of material, and it is daunting, if you aren’t really working at it.

You don’t know diddly think, ya know, it can be daunting, but, but there are so many interpreters of the science now who make it much more accessible. And that’s accompanied man by, by real world experience. I mean, if you think about it, just what is happening in people’s lives today. And actually, America is a really fascinating example about this.

I mean, the number of climate shocks bearing down on US citizens now, whether it’s a wildfire or whether it’s a heat dome, or whether it’s a storm coming along, or whether it’s it’s floods in the Midwest, whatever it might be, the US is pretty much regularly exposed to increasingly damaging climate shocks. And by damaging I mean financially, as well as in human terms. So it’s not that citizens don’t get it. Because they’re living with it. More and more.

You think of everybody, I don’t know what the temperature is today in Texas. I was I haven’t had a chance to check up on it over the last two or three days. But you think about that heat term over Texas and Mexico. Wow, that that is that’s one heck of a challenge for people to be living with?

Well, I think it’s a challenge. And I think it’s goes back to the communication. And we had a weatherman on the show from Iowa. And he had gotten some threats, death threats that in because he was talking about climate change. And people didn’t want to hear this from the weatherman. And he was putting the data together. And it was, it was causing a lot of backlash. And so I think that’s part of the challenge that communication runs into. I wanted to ask you another thing, but you talk a lot about the power of incumbency. What do you mean by that?

Well, your weatherman, that’s a very good example of the power of the incumbency, because the oil and gas companies we were talking about before, they’re not going to politely rollover and say, No, you guys are right, this climate stuff is really serious. And the only way to address it now is to dramatically reduce our use of oil and gas as fast as we can.

You’re right, you’ve been right all along. And it’s time for us to make way and let this new, amazing portfolio of technologies, renewable technologies, storage efficiency, to let this become the means by which we derive all the energy services that we need, they’re not going to do that, Matt, they are fighting every single battle they possibly can. And that includes the Battle of the weatherman, because they have got people out there who they know will spring into action.

As soon as they think there’s an ideologically suspicious action on behalf of some media station or some, you know, journalist, whatever it might be, and they will fight, they will fight, they won’t just sit back and let it go. They will fight and they turn it into a political struggle. And I think, as we know, in the US, that’s now unfortunately, a really massive problem is the degree to which this is a totally polarized area for debate and discussion. And that does not help for decision makers.

Well, I know I get a lot of commentary on my channels, deriving my views on climate change. What’s the best thing to do with that? Ignore it, engage it? What do you think we should be doing as environmentalist?

Well, this is a personal choice, Matt. And I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this. But I used to engage with it. I used to try and be incredibly reasonable and kind of come back and answer these criticisms and provide References and sources have impeccable science and all the rest of it. And then I realized that they’re not interested in that.

They’re just simply not interested in that they have decided that you’re a problem. Your views are a problem. You’re in a different space for me, so I don’t I just don’t reply at all. I it is I know, I’m sure good communicators will tell me that’s the wrong thing to do. But life is too short. I’ve got to get I’ve got serious work to do. And I’m not going to sit there arguing the task of a lot of pointy headed climate deniers.

I’m kind of there with you. I haven’t gotten into the weeds with them. I think for people who are willing to actually have that intelligent conversation. I’m more than willing to talk to them, but if somebody’s just starkel A ignoring science. I just I don’t maybe I don’t have the energy to convince that person. But exactly.

So you’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program. We’ll be right back with Sir Jonathon to ask him some more questions about his views on the climate and COP28.

You’re listening to A Climate Change, this is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Sir Jonathon Porritt on the program today. And, Sir Jonathon, what are your hopes for COP28 at the end of this year?


Why is that?

I don’t know, who decided that it would be a smart thing to put the next big climate conference in the United Arab Emirates in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. I just don’t understand that. And I certainly don’t understand how we’ve got a president of COP28, who was simultaneously the chief executive for the one of the largest and most growth bound hydrocarbon companies in the world, in Abu Dhabi.

And I know Sultan Al Chava. He’s, I’ve actually in the past, done some work with him through his desired future energy price. And it’s, it’s it, it is really difficult to try and hold these two things in your mind. And let’s be honest, not one single previous cop, conference and party has yet called for the phasing out of fossil fuels.

And whatever else we need to do, to address accelerating climate change, we have to accept the reality that we now need a downward trajectory for fossil fuels, not a rising trajectory. So sticking this conference of the heartland of the Middle East remaining hydrocarbon reserves is as close to insanity as you can get.

Well, I kind of like the idea you mean as an Englishman, I mean, fighting dragons and all I mean, this is your opportunity to go into the belly of the beast and take on you know, Mordor and and you know, sar on and all that. I mean, this is this is no easy task, Bilbo, you’ve got to you’ve got to put on, you know, the cake and go, go get him.

Nope, bye back. Maybe I’m just a bit too old for this map. But I’m I am definitely not going out to Dubai, I can assure you at the end of the year. And it’s I don’t have the expectations, because I know that every single word in the final document will be fought over by those oil and gas interests, and they won’t let anything happen that is seen to trespass on their incumbency power. That’s the problem.

Well, I hear you there, but I’m always up for a good fight. So I’m kind of, you know, now. You tell me not to go. I’ve never been to one. So now that I’ve been told that there’s no hope I’m definitely going.

Okay, fair enough. Report back to me as to the your mental health of mind once you get back. Okay.

We’ll do well, they’re, well, people are beginning to talk about the need for billions of tons of CO2 and taking that back out of the atmosphere. What are your views on that?
Yes, they are. And it’s sort of regrettable, to say the least, because we’ve done so little to stop the greenhouse gases getting into the atmosphere in the first place. In the last 30 years. As I said, since the summer, we’ve now got a huge reservoir of warming gases in the atmosphere. And even if we stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, we still got too much of these gases to higher volume of these gases are concentration gases in the atmosphere.

So most scientists now acknowledge that we will actually have to bring back down billions of tons of co2 to limit the warming impact of all those gases in the atmosphere. And that will either happen through mechanical engineering solutions, which obviously lots of people are very keen on direct air capture and things like that. Or it will happen through bio solutions, biological solutions, read restoring health to our to our wetlands rewetting peat bogs, making sure that we look after our forests properly and plant as many trees as we can.

How sort of different ocean based bio solutions to withdrawing co2 from the atmosphere. I’m a huge fan of that kelp and seaweed and using seaweed as a solution to many of our different problems. So the answers are there, Matt. But it sticks in the gut, we’re going to have to spend so much money, dragging these gases back out of the atmosphere when they shouldn’t have been put up there in the first place.

I hear you, though, I am also encouraged by some of the work we had a guy on the program a while back, who was doing in one kind of a phase the X Prize because of his work growing kelp in the ocean, right. And then another guy, Gaurav Sant, a great scientist here in LA, who’s pulling carbon out of the ocean, where it’s 150 times more dense in water than it is in the air. So I’m very excited about the work they’re doing, though it needs to scale and it needs to scale incredibly, quickly. Tell me what’s your take on today’s nature based solutions?

You know, one of the biggest regrets I think we ought to have as climate campaigners as concerned environmentalist is that we didn’t make the case for nature. Even as we were making the case for addressing climate change, it somehow was relegated to a second order issue. And yet the damage done to the natural world has been devastating over those years. So in are struggling, really to put that right, to put the priority on restoring nature right at the top of the list. Hugely important.

Right, I had somebody on the program recently who had whose goal was to restore essentially half the planet to a natural state. I think Tony, hes rescuing the planet. Right? So though I had somebody else on after that saying, hey, we need to rescue the entire planet. But I guess we’ll start at half and then go from there.

Let’s, let’s start with the doable half. I think that’s a pretty good measure.


Well, tell us a little bit I’d be remiss in my duties as a host, if I don’t ask you to your connection to the chariots of fire one of my brother’s favorite movies. You know, are you a fan of the movie? Was it right on the history? And is it mirroring the challenges we face personally and collectively now as a planet?

Oh, well, there’s a there’s a question and a half my, I probably should explain the connection a bit, given the Chariots of Fire is indeed one of my favorite films. But it’s one of my favorite films, because my dad was an Olympic athlete, and he won the, the bronze medal in the Chariots of Fire Olympics, so that the film is all about that 1924 Olympics in Paris, and my dad was in New Zealand and surprised the entire world by somehow managing to win the bronze medal.

So when the film was made, it was a challenge for him because he didn’t think the filmmakers were going to be true to the history of what happened in 1924. So he didn’t allow his name to be used in the film. But he does appear just very fleetingly, for one second in the film, but look, you actually it’s really interesting, the way you frame that one of the most amazing things about that film is the solidarity between all of those athletes, as they took on all of those different challenges, the incredibly strong bonds that were made between them as they sought to do their best for themselves and their country and so on.

You know, the one thing about the climate movement is this solidarity between campaigners, scientists, entrepreneurs, the world over, it’s an incredible community of people. And that sense of community is actually the strongest and most important thing for me as a, as a campaign, as you mentioned, I’ve been added 50 years now it is those bonds, that sense of solidarity with so many others that actually makes it possible to go on to go on doing the work. That’s basically the truth of its I do find a connection with chariots of fire, although you probably thought I wouldn’t, but there you go, Matt.

I’m appreciative of you. You know, telling the audience and me personally, your connection about that it’s a fascinating story, and cut to something completely different or maybe not, um, we’re in this conflict in Ukraine, the war in Ukraine and question, do we cut military spending, given the climate problems We face or do we? Do we increase both military spending and spending on the environment? Because we have to win both battles? Because I’m certainly anti totalitarianism. And, you know, what’s your view on that?

Yeah, I’m so torn by that. And personally very torn as well, Matt, because our older daughter is actually out in Ukraine at the moment. She’s She’s part of a, of a big operation. They’re clearing landmines in the wheat fields of Ukraine so they can plant a crop again. So I’m personally very connected to this. And I hate the fact that we have to spend more money on weapons of war now, but we do because we can’t let a tyrant by Putin get away with what he’s done. And the criminal acts that are being perpetrated in Ukraine day in day out, are so shocking.

So I can’t see a way out of this. As soon as possible. I would love to see defense spending begin to come down because sure as hell we do need to put those resources as fast as we can into security of a different kind, national security through protecting nature, and the integrity and stability of the planet. We’ve got to see those massive amounts of money, hundreds of billions of dollars, transferred out of defense spending into protection of the natural world. For for us and for all future generations. That’s a that’s a really critical part of the transition that ahead.

Well, amen to that. Well, you’ve been listening to Sir Jonathon Porritt. Sir Jonathon, thank you so much for being on the show.

Great conversation.

Everybody go out and buy Sir Jonathon’s book, Hope in Hell, as well as visit his social media channels, and check out ours online at aclimatechange.com and send us questions. Tell us what we’re doing right or leave us a review.

Love to hear from you go listen to lots of great episodes we have online. And looking forward to having sir Jonathon back on the program at some time in the future, maybe after COP28, we can talk about what happened there.

I look forward to that Matt. I really do. Nice to talk.

Yeah, it was great having you on the show. Thank you for being here. My pleasure coming to us live from New Zealand.


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

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