140: Paul Bledsoe, Clinton White House Insider Turned Climate Activist
Guest Name(s): Paul Bledsoe
Paul Bledsoe, former Clinton White House official, discusses urgent climate issues, methane reduction, global cooperation, and Biden’s climate plan in a comprehensive interview with Matt Matern. They delve into the need to address climatic tipping points. They focus on China’s role and global cooperation are discussed, along with the enforceability of climate agreements. The podcast concludes with insights on Biden’s climate plan and the economic benefits of clean energy innovation. A comprehensive exploration of key environmental challenges.
Episode Audio Links:
You’re listening to A Climate Change this is Matt Matern, your host. I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program Paul’s a professor at American University. At the Center for Environmental Policy in Washington, DC. Paul was the director for communications in the Clinton White House for the climate change Task Force from 1998 to 2001.
He’s worked for Senator Patrick Moynihan as well as former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt, leading voice in creating the Paris Agreement in 2015. And the Kigali agreement to reduce reduce HFCs in 2016, which the US Senate actually ratified in September of 2022. So a big victory there. So Paul, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us.
Thank you, Matt. My pleasure.
Well, we got a little bit more to the story of how we met I was in COP28 and Dubai and met through a mutual friend door Durward, Zaki at the conference. And I guess that that speaks a little bit to why people go to these conferences, so you can actually meet people in the Rio and expand your, you know, depth of knowledge and, and warn to kind of collaborate and get things done. So, tell us, tell us the story a little bit about how you ended up in the climate space, because you’ve been there for quite some time.
Thanks. Yeah, I was working on Capitol Hill in the late 1980s, early 1990s. And that issue was becoming at least known to members of Congress James Hansen’s famous testimony saying the climate change was happening was 1988, before Congress when I was working in house. And so by the time I went over to the Senate, it was pretty clear to me that this was a huge issue and would be for decades and indeed, centuries to come.
Then I went to the Interior Department, after the Senate and worked for Secretary Bruce Babbitt. And that’s where it was pretty clear to me that this was the issue I wanted to, to devote much of my career to. And the reason was because it was obvious that we were not doing the things we needed to do to prevent climate catastrophe. And unfortunately, we still have it here. Right? We are almost 30 years later. Right? And we still aren’t doing the things we need to do.
Yeah, it’s, I guess, it’s a matter of a lot of different things. I guess, in part, I, you know, looking back at where I was 30 years ago, and in my kind of climate journey, I was reading the papers, and I was seeing, hey, this is going to be important. This is important. We should focus some energy and attention on it. But it seemed as though there wasn’t a prescription as to what we should be doing and how we should be doing. It was. Nobody was making a great case for a plan of how we should attack it. It was kind of a hodgepodge mix of policy prescriptions, or at least that was my sense.
It was. Yeah, I guess by the time I got to the White House in the light, late 1990s, it was pretty clear what we needed to do. And which was reduce greenhouse gas emissions of all types, not just carbon dioxide, but others like methane and HFCs. And it was coming to the attention of global leaders, that this could be a truly profound issue that could undermine economies, national security, agriculture.
You know, when I was at the White House, one of the things I did was I read a lot of science and the science that was coming out then and then I would write short memos to President Clinton every week on key things that were coming out in the public dialogue. And I wrote a lot about new science that was showing that there were climatic tipping points in natural systems. And this was very cutting edge very preliminary science in the late 1990s. Well, now it is mainstream science. What is happening is that about a dozen natural systems like the Arctic sea ice, like the Amazon forests, like the Gulf Stream, like the Arctic tundra, are moving from net warming inhibitors that prevent additional warming. to net warming contributors.
And when that happens, when natural systems begin to slip into net warming contributors were in a lot of trouble. And we don’t know where we are on that scale with any of these major natural systems. And so it what I would argue is that the lessons of climate change are we’ve waited too long, but we still have time to prevent the worst, because the worst could be truly catastrophic. I don’t think most politicians, most scientists even really understand what destabilizing natural systems around the world could mean, it could mean it’s very, very difficult to get a normal climate back for centuries, or even millennia.
And so when I’m very focused on and a lot of other people, President Biden, many other global leaders, just especially in the last 10 years, is limiting near term temperature increases globally. So that we prevent these tipping points in natural systems. I’m not terribly worried about the carbonizing in 40 or 50 years, it’s pretty clear, we’re gonna have the technologies to do that. What I’m worried about, and what I think the most important scientists in the world are worried about, are tipping points in natural systems in the next 10 or 20 years.
And that’s a very different type of problem, it means that we need to focus on reducing greenhouse gases that are especially important in limiting near term temperature increases. For example, it turns out that limiting methane is more important to limiting near term temperature increases, then co2 cuts, we have to do both, because in the long run, we’re going to need to reduce both to prevent longer term warming.
But if you’re really focused on limiting temperature increases in the next 10 to 20 years, cutting Methane is a more effective way to do that. We’ve just gotten recent science in the last few weeks, that the world of average temperatures about to hit 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre industrial levels. That is the level that the Paris Agreement recognize, could put us in danger of reaching these climatic tipping points.
Now I stress that we don’t know exactly where these tipping points are for each of these natural systems. Let me take one for example, which is Arctic sea ice, Arctic sea ice has, we’ve melted half the Arctic sea ice in the last 50 years, there are studies showing that Arctic sea ice could be gone completely in 20 years, or even 15 years in the mid summer or late summer. reason that’s so crucial is right now, the sunlight and heat reflect off the ice and bounce back out of the atmosphere.
A percent of that heat goes back out of the atmosphere when it hits the ice. It’s called the albedo effect. But when the ice is gone, and it’s open ocean, most of that warmth is absorbed by the planet. That’s an example of turning a net climate inhibitor to a net climate warming contributor. There are a dozen of these across the world. And we do not know where the tipping point is where we’re going to lose these systems.
And so we’re really on the knife’s edge, every 10th degree of warming clearly is going to map and we could be on the precipice. If we allow emissions to continue rising, including a methane and HFCs, which we’re working on. We could be on the precipice of tipping into natural systems becoming net warming contributors, at which point we’re going to have to do truly dangerous things to bring warming back, like geoengineering like preventing sunlight, mechanically from reaching the earth, seeding clouds in certain ways, putting up certain substances to prevent reflect sunlight out really dangerous things that could truly tip the global climate.
So, to be honest with you, I don’t feel like most people in public policy understand how dire our situation is. Fortunately, I think President Biden does. President Biden has focused, for example, on cutting methane tremendously. It’s promulgated new regulations under the EPA that would cut methane 80% from the oil and gas industry. He was at the Global Climate meetings last year talking about methane at Sharm el Sheikh that led to an agreement this year by the 50 largest oil and gas companies to cut their methane emissions to near zero Row by 2030.
So we’re taking action, but boy is the hour is late. And we really need to act on these super pollutants like methane and co2, or we’re going to see this eruptions all over the world. And I’m talking about extreme weather events, wildfires, larger hurricanes, huge heat waves, undermining agriculture, loss of freshwater supply. This is really scary stuff. We’re getting a sense of it in the western United States and elsewhere. But we’re just getting the foretaste of what could happen.
Well, it certainly dire there is no doubt about that. And, you know, it’s good to see that some of the governments are waking up and taking action, I am still concerned say that the US and Europe has started are starting to cut emissions. But we’re still seeing rising emissions in China, which is now the largest polluter in the world, as well as an India.
And yeah, actually, Chinese emissions are more than every other developed country in the world combined. They’re almost three times to US emissions. We’ve got to get China to stop its coal use. It’s probably the single most important thing globally. And I’ve been writing about it for years. I really would like the administration to be more direct with China about it, but other nations need to help us too.
Well, absolutely. And I think that’s something that we need to write into law. I know that a number of Europeans are working on that. And I’ve heard, you know, it’s been battered around in the US as well.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program professor at American University Center for Environmental Policy. We’ll be right back in just one minute with Paul to talk about these very important issues.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program. Paul, right before the break, we were talking about how do we get China to clean up its economy, in particular, the coal.
And I had written about a little bit and campaigned when I ran for President against Trump in 2020, for the Republican nomination, which was that we should have a policy that puts tariffs on a country that is using standards below the US EPA standards for pollution, and that they should be taxed so that our industry isn’t playing in an unfair playing field, that if you’re using super pollutants to create products, you should be taxed for it, and probably keep them out of the country to the best of our ability, and then hope.
Right? So that’s a that’s an interesting concept that’s becoming pretty popular. And the the idea is that the Chinese economy as a whole is about two and a half times more carbon intensive than our economy. And so the the idea is that you would put a tariff in place that taxes goods that have a higher carbon intensity than those in the United States, or some level in between Europe is already doing this Europe is set to in January 120 26, enact a so called carbon border adjustment that would put fees in more carbon intensive products in certain sectors, they’re going to phase it in by sectors.
And in fact, the US Congress is looking at this issue. I think the Biden administration is on record saying this is a good idea. This could be the only way to compel China and other major economies to rapidly reduce their coal use, which would then reduce our emissions intensity, essentially putting a tax on their imported products. Now how you do it is complicated in in ways that don’t end up taxing Americans for their putting carbon tax on American products. But there are ways to get through that.
And I think it’s an important issue. I’m glad. I’m glad you brought it up more broadly than that it is now clear that we have got to have a global methane treaty. When I worked in the last decade, we were focused on getting a treaty on hydrofluorocarbons, a super greenhouse chemicals, sometimes 2000 or 4000 times more powerful than co2 and warming per molecule. We got that agreement under President Obama in 2016. We are phasing out hydrofluorocarbons HFCs. Around the world, the US Senate ratified the agreement, as you mentioned in 2022.
Now, I believe we need a similar global agreement on methane emissions. Methane is a super powerful greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than co2. It comes from oil and gas and coal fact 20% of all methane emissions from fossil fuels are from Chinese coal mines alone. So coal is a huge problem when it comes to methane. But it also comes from landfills, and agriculture, including, you know, cattle and livestock.
And so there are ways to deal with all those sources. But we need to start as soon as possible because limiting methane, as I mentioned before, is the key to limiting near term temperatures and then preventing these tipping points.
So I think there’s a group of people including the Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Motley Youth Climate movement, others who have begun calling for a global treaty of methane in particular, you think that the actions taken at COP 28 Regarding methane? How far did that get us along on the on the journey to, to where we need to be regarding methane reduction?
It’s a great question that they weren’t really important. And they came about because the Biden administration and others in Europe and elsewhere, were putting intense pressure on the world’s largest oil and gas company. 75% of methane from oil and gas comes not from publicly traded companies, but from state owned giants like Saudi Arabia, and others in the Middle East.
And so those companies pledge to reduce methane by nearly 100%. By 2030, that was a huge important gain. But now we have to make sure with a global agreement, that methane gets phased out, we could start with oil, gas and coal, then we could move to landfills, then we could move to the agricultural sector, this would be tremendously important in limiting near term temperatures and preventing these tipping points, which are the old it’s scary thing. So I think a methane global methane agreement is the next big item in climate protection.
I guess the question is, how is this going to actually be enforceable? Because there were statements that were made by the UAE that they were cleaning things up, but Al Gore was at the conference, saying that a number of the statements made about the cleanups they had done to date really weren’t accurate.
So the question is, and that’s true, there have been some countries and companies who have been gaming the system, there’s some good news, we now have new technologies, including satellites and others that can detect global emission, we can bust methane emitters now in a way that we couldn’t, even three or four years ago, these new technologies are going to be able to register methane and will know who’s emitting what the second thing is.
Places like Europe, who are large importers of oil and gas, have started putting regulations in place so that high methane emitting oil and gas can’t even get into their markets. So we have the tools to make sure that everybody cuts methane. We didn’t five or 10 years ago, but now we do we have the tools, put a treaty in place and make sure no one cheats. And it starts cheating. We just won’t use their product actually.
Earning, you know, often said that, we need to really think as the climate crisis gets worse and worse, what’s more important to us incredibly cheap Chinese junk, like toys and clothes that are usually a questionable quality, or preventing climate in the long term. I think we really as consumers got to get a lot more serious. We need to move our governments toward using trade policy to force other countries to reduce their emissions. But we as consumers need to get smart about this too, and stop buying stuff from countries who will not limit their emissions.
I’d love to hear your take about the progress made at COP28. How did it rate? Was it an A+ or an an F minus?
You know, it’s hard to give it a great I think on methane it was, you know, a B plus, it was really good. These are the first time we’ve gotten these huge companies to agree to cut methane on CO2, it was D, right? We didn’t, we’re not doing enough to invest in clean energy, and lower the price of clean energy. So it’s so cheap that we can out compete fossil fuels on costs.
Ultimately, that’s what it’s really going to take. We can regulate, we can ban that’ll work, certainly in developed countries, and we’re doing that. But that’s why I think Joe Biden’s climate plan is so brilliant. In just the last 18 months, private sector companies have invested more than $250 billion in new clean energy products, that’s a massive set of investments, what that’s going to do is lower the costs for consumers of these clean products, products, like electric vehicles, but a lot of other ones electricity, solar home heat pumps, many others.
And it’s going to lower the cost of all these technologies. And we’re gonna we’re creating, you know, 100,000 American jobs already. So this idea of unleashing huge investments in the cleanest technologies is brilliant. Biden deserves incredible credit for it. And it’s such a contrast to where most Republicans are, in fact, Trump has said he wants to repeal that incredibly important set of investments that Unleashed not only reduction in emissions, but a huge boom in American manufacturing. It doesn’t make any sense.
Trump isn’t on this issue, a complete audio law, I understand why some people may be attracted to him on some other issues. But on climate change, he is in the dark, he is wrong. He is going to send us backwards, and it could undermine the American economy and American security. And I hope over the next year, that becomes clear to voters?
Well, certainly, it should have been clear for the last 30 plus years that getting ourselves and our allies off of dependency from fossil fuels would have made the world a safer place. Because many of the people that many of the countries that are certainly were at odds with like Russia, Venezuela, I Iran are all big fossil producers and true.
How can we be cozying up to a Petro dictator like Vladimir Putin? I mean, it’s insane. It doesn’t make any strategic sense for the United States, it doesn’t make sense for our economy, it doesn’t make sense for our security. And it doesn’t make sense for the long term benefit of the geopolitics of Europe and the United States. And so, I believe that these issues are going to come to the fore in the 2024 election.
I think it’s not just climate change. It’s moving our entire economy to the biggest new economic sector in the world, which is clean energy. We’re talking about a $5 trillion global market for the newest technologies, China is ahead of us on some issues. On some products like electric vehicles, that’s why we need to catch up.
But we’re ahead of China on some big things we’re investing into, like long term technologies like hydrogen and carbon, hydrogen and carbon capture. So we can beat the Chinese on this issue. We can dominate the global economy, we can clean up climate change, we can win on this issue, but we can’t have Donald Trump because he’s gonna send us back to the dark ages in the wrong direction.
Well, there’s no doubt about that. Trump is absolutely wrong on the environment. And that’s one of the reasons or the main reason why I ran against him was that he just an existential threat to the environment. So you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program, and we’ll be right back in just one minute.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program. And, Paul, I want to ask you, what do you think are the kind of the top five things that the government should be focused on doing to address climate change?
Now, the good news is, since we passed the major infrastructure bill, the Chips Act and the Inflation Reduction act with all these climate incentives, we’re doing a lot of them. We’re we’re making, we have huge consumer and business incentives for for literally hundreds of billions of dollars in new investments that are going to create American jobs and lower the cost of clean energy. It’s really great news.
One of the issues I’m a little concerned about, however, is our electric vehicle policy. Right now, the Biden administration is considering regulations under the EPA, that would require that two thirds of all new vehicles by 2032 are all electric. I think that’s too fast. The history’s demit, the demand for electric vehicles is slowing down a little bit, it’s still very high, it’s just slowing down a little bit a little lower than we thought it was going to be.
And people are still concerned reasonably about things like range and charging and electric vehicles. The way through here is for the administration, to put more emphasis on plug in hybrids, plug in hybrids have gasoline engine you can use if you’re going on a longer trip, if you can’t, at a charge, but most of the time, they run just on a battery, so they reduce emissions a lot. plug in hybrids also use far more rare earth minerals, a lot of which are now made in countries where you don’t like like China, fact, you can make five plug in hybrids for every one, ie all electric with the same amount of rare earth minerals.
So I think that we have a lot of options when it comes to electric vehicles. But I’m calling on the Biden administration, to ease the regulations to allow consumers to use plug in hybrids longer and help ease the transition into electric vehicles. I think this is smart policy. It’s good for consumers. And it gets about 90% of the environmental benefit.
So I’m calling on the Biden administration to do that specifically, but in general, they have been fantastic. They’re doing all the right stuff. And it’s just huge for our overall economy. The genius of Biden’s approach is he’s creating new jobs, building American manufacturing and industry while we’re lowering emissions. Nobody did that before. And that’s why his strategy is so crucial.
Yeah, I applaud the efforts that the current administration has taken, it’s done a great job of moving in the right direction. What would you say to individuals, what should we as individuals be doing to address climate change?
Diet, car, voting, solar, consuming less, volunteering, what it was all those things are great, Matt, but they’re not as important as voting and political action. That’s more important than anything. We’ve got to tell our leaders that this is not optional anymore. You can’t leave our children with a disaster of a country. You have seen the costs of extreme weather events directly tied to climate change, like Western wildfires, like droughts in the West, like huge hurricanes, bigger hurricanes, like flooding, like heat waves skyrocket.
We just saw a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finding there were $30 billion individual events related to climate change last year. The costs are skyrocketing people in the southern United States places like Ron DeSantis is Florida. They can’t get home homeowners insurance anymore.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have got to act on climate to protect ourselves to protect our way of life, our economy, our safety, or public safety and national security. It’s not an environmental issue, this is an issue of our well being right now. And in the next decade or two, if we can act in the next decade or two, we can prevent the worst of this problem and we can solve it. If we don’t, we’re in big trouble.
What do you see on the front? If if, say, Nikki Haley was the Republican nominee? Is she any better really than Trump? Or is she just Trump light?
I think she would be substantially better than Trump. You know, she’s a former governor. She understands these issues at a basic level. There’s some policy gris disagreements I have with her. But I think she’d be far better than Trump. And if you’re Republican, and you choose between those two on climate change, it’s not even close, you should choose Nikki Haley, I do think that she’s got a long way to go to embrace what really needs to happen in terms of emissions reduction.
But for example, she has talked about that idea of putting taxes on higher emissions intensity products from from China. So she has some some worthwhile ideas. There’s no question she far better on these issues than Trump.
So in terms of communicating the urgency of climate risks, I mean, you’re kind of in the, in the business of communication, what has been working and what has not been working, as far as getting the public aware of these issues to the point where they’re telling their representatives, they need to take action?
It’s an important question. Thank you, Matt. I think the key is to let them know that we can win, we can solve this problem. And in the process, we can create a stronger, more dynamic, more manufacturing based economy, this is the way forward we can do it, we’re on the path to do what we can’t support politicians who deny science, we can’t support leaders who want to pull the plug on these huge investments that are the future for us to outcompete China and our other competitors. We have the ability, the United States can do anything we want.
If we put our mind to it, we can lead the world and protect ourselves in the process. But we’ve got to act. It’s there’s no point trying to scare people, they already see the impacts in their own lives, they already are aware, Americans are aware polls show this, that climate change could be very devastating to their own communities. What we have to convince them of is that we’re already on the right track if we just stay with it and keep going. And so there’s very good news here. There’s a lot of optimism. You know, if you’d asked me 10 years ago, if we had the technologies to solve climate change, I would have said, No, we’re not even close. today.
We do we finally have lower costs clean energy technologies, we’re bringing on new technologies like hydrogen, like carbon capture, and others, we can get there. advanced nuclear power, listen, anything that will work for climate, um, for that doesn’t have credible, strange risks, like, like geoengineering. So there is a lot of good news here. And we need to embrace that. Rather than just trying to scare people. It we need to act and we need to act quickly. But we can do it.
Right. Yeah, it’s as far as you know, hydrogen, I had a great guest on the program and an incredible young scientist, he already has 250 patents. And he was he’s got a technology that strips the carbon off of natural gas, so a C four ch four molecule and then sequestered that into a, you know, something that can be used for asphalt and then uses the clean hydrogen that results from it to you know, as energy so that we’re not, you know, creating more pollution. So, you know, ideas like that.
That’s right, Matt. The the US are technologists lead the world. We have come up with by far the most important technologies. We have the greatest scientists, we have the most innovation. What we’ve been less good at is following through and bringing those products to commercial market. That’s why these tax incentives that come Reverse past and Biden supports to provide consumers and businesses a big catch reductions to make investments.
For example, now, if you buy a qualifying plug in hybrid, you get five ever 7500 Right back right when you get into the dealership, you don’t even have to wait till tax time, you get it right off the sticker price. These are big investments that can benefit our economy. In the long term, our technology is the best, our scientists are the best, we just need the policies that are going to get these products to market, I predicted if we follow this path, the United States will completely dominate the global clean energy market in the next 10 years.
But if we veer back into the bizarre politics of of denying clean energy and cutting all these incentives, that will benefit consumers. We’re not thinking we’re going to lose the chunk we’re going to lose to our other competitors. And we’re going to undermine our climate.
Well, I guess I am befuddled. And maybe you have you know, some better answer than I, in terms of why is approximately half of the country kind of fighting against the clean energy agenda? Maybe not.
I will say it’s actually, if you look at the polling, most people favor it. If they’re if they’re not told, whose support center and who’s against it. If you actually look at the polling, the majority of Republicans support incentives for clean energy for consumers and businesses. I’ve seen it the polling is conclusive. But if you attach a democratic label to it, then they oppose it.
So what they’ve got to do is stand back a little bit and say, Hey, what’s best for the country? I don’t care whether it’s a democratic idea. I don’t care whether it’s a republican idea. It’s a good idea. And I think that advocates of clean energy need to communicate that better. This is not about democratic politics or republican politics, just about making our country stronger, safer, and better.
Well, amen to that. Well, obviously, we all can do a better job on communicating those things and taking the temperature down so that we can go back to a time period where, hey, back in 1970s, the entire Republican and Democratic sides voted for clean air and clean water. I mean, basically, that’s right.
It should be an issue like the Cold War, where we’re going to make the investments needed to be safe and to and out a gun and out innovate our competitors like Russia and China. That’s what this is about.
Right? Well, you’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern, and I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program. We’ll be right back to talk to Paul about these very important issues.
You’re listening to A Climate Change. This is Matt Matern. And I’ve got Paul Bledsoe on the program. Paul is kind of pivoting to you know, our future and our young people and and what would your message be to them in order to kind of get them activated and get them helping to support this as most effectively to protect their future?
It’s a great question in I really believe that if we do the right things, the future remain He’s very bright. I’m very concerned that there’s a gloom and doom attitude among many young people that there’s nothing we can do to solve climate change. That’s completely untrue. We have everything we need to solve the issue. We just need our politics to work better.
We need young people to support candidates and businesses who are doing the right thing or supporting the clean energy transition. Obviously, climate change is going to get worse before it gets better. There’s no question about it, but we can handle it. If we act now. You know, being a, you know, a doom and gloom, pessimist on these issues, is going to fall in the trap of inaction. And we have to act, we have to move on with the clean energy transition. The good news is young scientists, entrepreneurs, business people, all across the country of all faiths, are making huge gains in solving these problems.
They are solving basic economic, and climate change problems at a pace no other country can compete with, they’re creating new jobs, creating new opportunities, the future is very bright, if we act over the next 10 and 20 years. So I would just ask young people to get involved politically to make this one of the key issues they vote on in this coming election and going forward.
And if we do that, if all of us do that, we can deep politicize this, we can get more unified as a country and having us products and US reductions in emissions happening around the world making our competitors like China and others act. And young people are really key to this, I think they hold the key. And I think there’s every reason to believe that they can do it, and and prevent the worst of these disasters from happening. But they have to be activated politically. And they have to be knowledgeable about it.
In terms of like your heroes in in this area, who are the people that you’d put on your Mount Rushmore of climate change heroes?
You know, that’s an interesting issue. I think a lot of them are people that nobody’s ever heard of there was elke you had on your program, who is beginning to be recognized as maybe the single most important person on methane reductions and HSC reductions, which are utterly crucial to preventing climate disaster.
I think he’s one of my true heroes, I’ve had the good fortune to work with him. I think somebody like John, the late John McCain, was a tremendous champion, a Republican who recognized that this was a key issue. The former Secretary of State George Shultz, under the Reagan administration, he helped set up the Montreal Protocol, which was is the basis for us to phase out HFCs, which is going to limit increases in near term temperatures, just that action by a full half of degree Celsius, almost a full degree Fahrenheit in this century.
So this has been a bipartisan effort historically, and my heroes are pragmatic people who know we can make a difference. And then they’re just scientists and entrepreneurs around the country who are doing tremendous things. Those are the people that I admire the most. I think that’s a,
I appreciate that. It didn’t know that about George Shultz. But it kind of doesn’t surprise me in that he was he was a very effective, very smart guy, had irony. It was, it was you know, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, who got the Montreal Protocol, set it up, which has been one of the absolute most important climate treaties in history, probably the single most important. And so conservatives really started this, and we need to work with them and get the job done. So we can we can solve this problem.
Right. I mean, it’s it’s something that everybody has an interest in. So in terms of methane, and and where we’re at in terms of public policy, since we have divided government right now, is there any chance that a bill is going to move through the US Congress, or is it something that the EPA could do or the administration can do? Right?
Good question. So they’re, so they’re the EPA has already promulgated rules to cut methane emissions by 80%. sent from oil and gas, Congress passed a bill that would put a tax on methane emissions above the regulated level, first ever tax on a greenhouse gas pollutant, specifically. And then industry is really acting. Even the oil and gas, particularly the gas industry, is reducing methane emissions because it’s cheap to do it, and it saves their fuel.
There’s no reason to just vent this gas into the atmosphere when we can capture it and use it for our for our home heating and our electricity supply. So we’re taking a lot of good actions. And now we need to force the rest of the world to act. And that’s why we have to have a global treaty. Good news, as I said before, is we’ve got these new detection technology satellites, we didn’t have them in five years, so and they can tell when the Russians who are a super climate emitter, the Iranians are some really bad global actors out there.
And we’re gonna bust these guys and show their massive emissions. And we’re going to boycott their products until they capture their methane and force a global reduction in methane. And that can be a huge key in preventing the worst from climate change.
So where are we at in terms of in creating a global treaty and say, you know, the Russians and the Iranians opt out of it, for example?
Right, so I think there’s a budding movement, you have people like the overshoot commission, with Lawrence Tobiano, one of the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, supporting a global methane agreement. You have key activists like the red selkie, and, and Mia Motley, supporting it, you have young people, but now, we need to amplify the idea that a rapidly set up global agreement to phase down methane severely can work, we need to start with fossil fuels, that’s the easiest one, we can cut them from natural gas to zero at very little cost.
And do it really quick. We need to get away from coal mines, coal mines emit methane, a lot of them hugely, there’s nothing you can do about you can’t stop that. You just got to close down coal mines. Now that coal use hit a record high last year, that Chinese coal use hit a record high China us more than half the coal on the globe last year, we’ve got to go to China and say, You got to stop this guys, we got to cut those mines.
I personally think there’s a huge opportunity if Biden is reelected, or him and Chinese President Xi to get together and come up with a plan to reduce both emissions from both the two world’s largest economies, but particularly cut those Chinese coal emissions and support a methane agreement. If we can do those sorts of things, we are on our way to preventing the worst of climate change.
And we’re creating this really exciting new set of technologies that are cleaner, one of the things about these technologies is not only do they reduce global warming, but they’re better for our lungs, they’re better for our health, right? They reduce asthma, they reduce the all pulmonary to stay, increase longevity, they’re better for children’s health.
So these are all healthy things we’re doing by making this transition to clean technologies. But we got to make sure it’s global. And that’s where the idea if China won’t negotiate with us on shutting those coal mines, we’ve got to think about using trade policy to compel them to do it.
There’s no doubt that we need to be more forceful on this. And and I quite frankly, I’m surprised the Biden administration hasn’t taken a stronger wine with China on on this as well as other issues. But they tried to on steel, they’re working on something, their idea she sort of phase it in by sector.
But I think you’re right, Matt, they’ve got to get stronger on China, using trade policy. And I think you will see that talked about in the campaign by the Biden administration. And if the President Biden gets a second term, I think it will be a key feature of their climate policy.
Well, thank you, Paul, for being on the show everybody. Tune into also the podcast, which is on Apple podcasts, and Spotify, and be a subscriber there. We’ll plant a tree in your honor also visit AClimateChange.com.
We’ll look forward to following Paul and his, you know, is always writing new articles. So lots of different papers around the country. So thank you again, Paul, and look forward to checking in with you as we go forward.
My pleasure, Matt, and tell you, your viewers, we can solve the problem. We’ve just got to work at it. We can do it. America can do it. We can do it. Absolutely.
So yeah, one step at a time. I think we’re making progress. It just obviously, it’s going to take everybody being engaged on this.
Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you, Paul.
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
Help Us Combat Climate Change by Subscribing to our Newsletter!