We've released our second podcast episode! It's available on Spotify, Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts.
Welcome to the Earth Allies podcast, a podcast run by the team Earthly Education. I'm Rhys.
And I'm Nicole.
And as Earthly Education, we explore the climate and environmental issues, but more importantly, the solutions. We hope to educate and activate people worldwide, building a community along the way.
Each episode, we discuss recent events, research and other issues. And we will have special guests on the show including experts, activists, and more.
We hope you enjoy!
Welcome, everyone, to this week's Earth Allies podcast. Thanks for joining us. How are you today, Rhys?
Well, thank you. How are you, Nicole?
Yeah, I'm good. Thank you. So last week, we launched our podcast with our first episode. So thank you to everyone who listened. And we appreciate all the feedback that we got. But there's definitely a few things we're going to work on. But that's absolutely okay, because we're all here to learn. So, this week, we're going to be discussing the State of the Climate in 2021, both the negatives, and then we'll finish with the positives, because we can never just leave it at negative. There's always good things.
A deep dive into the State of the Climate. Sounds fun. Just for our listeners, I would like to highlight that we are trying to promote environmentalism, so conservation, restoration of ecosystems, into the climate movement, into the climate space, so that that can gain traction. So you'll hear us focus on those aspects a lot more moving forward. But it's also really important to continue to advocate all things climate, because climate change tends to overshadow a lot of the conservation and restoration issues. Hence, dealing with those matters actually requires dealing with climate change, hence why we focus so much on it. First, though, Nicole, I was hoping you could tell me and the listeners something fun you learned this week?
Sure. So this week, I actually learned that some of the Australian native bees actually make nests in some flower stems. So they nest if it's been cut off or something, you can see the opening. And it's got this really soft, pithy centre, and the bees actually borrow into it. I make a little nest in there. And I thought that was really cool.
Yeah, that is really cool. We actually both learned a lot about bees this week, because Nicole and I manage a little landcare group. And we were making bee hotels. And I learned something really cool. There's actually a certain type of group of bees that are really specific to plants that we call buzz pollinators. And it means that like your normal bees, well I shouldn't say normal, but like European honeybees when they come in, and they land and collect pollen, that doesn't happen on all flowers. And sometimes there are certain bees, I'm not sure outside of the Australian context, but they come in, and they start headbutting the flower and by headbutting the flower, that's the buzzing, and it's causing the pollen to actually come out of the flower. So it's a really special thing. And it just shows why we shouldn't just promote European honeybees, but we should be looking at all of the native bees to whatever location you're in. So that's a bit of fun, interesting. Yeah, fairly cool stuff. Yeah. So should we get stuck into some less cool stuff about global warming? Oh what a segue.
We should definitely and maybe with not so many horrible puns.
Sorry, of course.
Yeah. All right. Well, there was a really interesting report that came out just this week by a very good organisation called Carbon Brief, and a very smart individual called Dr. Zeke Hausfather put a report together and summarised the State of the Climate as it was in 2021. And here are just a few of the take-home messages before we sort of explain factors. So it was the fifth or sixth highest surface temperature in recorded history in 2021. It was the warmest summer on land, the warmest for 25 countries and 1.8 billion people. The ocean also saw record heat in a lot of locations and there was record high greenhouse gases of all accounts, so that's carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others. We saw record higher sea levels and record low glacial mass. Alarming statistics. Alarming headlines.
I think that is quite alarming. So to start off with, the fifth or sixth highest surface temperatures for the years since 2015, until 2021, inclusive, were quite a bit warmer than any years before those. And unless there was any significant unexpected cooling, then it's unlikely that we'll ever see a year as cool as 2014 was again.
Yeah, that's right. So like the only thing that [would call our planet was] what Dr. Zeke put forward was if there was a volcanic eruption, which might put out a lot of its ash, preventing a lot of the UV or heat coming in from the sun. But yeah, we don't want to rely on volcanic eruptions to cool our planet. Might not see a cool year, cool as the year 2014 again. And looking solely at land temperatures, as opposed to the global temperatures, we've actually seen 1.8 degrees Celsius of warming since pre-industrial times. That's a whopping 40% faster than it's warming on the oceans. And why is this? Well, when you're looking at the ocean, you've got a lot of convection, vertical mixing, and this actually diffuses a lot of the temperature that's coming in, and heating our planet. Whereas on land, you haven't got that mixing or convection currents where you've got cooler water down the bottom, you just got land, sometimes, you know, black rock, or in the case of cities, concrete jungles. And that's why we have this effect called the heat island in which cities are seeing warming at a faster rate than the surrounding natural environments. And that's sort of why a lot of restorationists are pushing for greening our cities.
Urban greening is really important moving forward, since our cities will remain [in existence]. They're not going to disappear, they're only going to get bigger, as more and more people move into urban centres out of rural areas. And so therefore greening them through a whole bunch of different means, is really important to reduce the impacts of these heat islands. So this could include things such as just planting more plants around your house, along sidewalks, on traffic islands. This could even include planting plants, which grow up the buildings to help keep them even cooler. So this has a range of possibilities. And as more and more research is done, it's only going to become more clear how many options we have and what we can do to reduce these heat island effects as much as we can.
I'm so excited about it. I, and actually a lot of my friends and myself, I don't think I should say this on record, but guerilla gardening, the concept of just going out and planting wherever you want, if it's based on bit of science as well. So some native plants, just yeah, basically going out and planting trees in urban environments without maybe Council permission, whether or not we should be pushing out on this podcast, up to you. Really exciting just exploring the solutions, nature-based solutions.
But moving back on to concerning information, looking at what the IPCC did, in fact conclude as an established fact: global warming and increasing temperatures [are] increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events around the world. And in 2021, we saw increases in heat waves. I know North America was experiencing a great amount. And I think we touched on this last week in which Canada saw a record temperature smashed from 45 degrees to 49.6 or something in degrees Celsius. And it's just sort of highlighting how extreme the extreme weather events are happening. Yeah. Despite this knowledge, though, the severe weather scene throughout the summer demonstrates that a lot of us in a lot of the world, developing and non-developing, are not prepared for the impacts of climate change. Nicole, do you want to speak about what happened here in Australia when we had the bushfires?
Yeah, in 2019-2020 summer, so from our roughly November to February or March. So it was a really long fire season that year and the fires were intense. We had them burning basically all around the country. I'm sure maybe quite a few people have seen as well because it did get a lot of worldwide coverage because they were so severe and we had a lot of people lose their homes, people lost their lives, a lot of animals, lost livestock and wild animals. And it was just unprecedented. The fires are travelling so fast that people could not keep up with them, whereas in the past, they may have been able to help create these fire breaks.
I think it was 17% of forested area in Australia burnt, and ancient rainforests too which had never burnt before, but just looking at the response by I guess government and community, it was a lot of the time not ready or equipped for these intense fires. All this talk about preparation, looking at things like backburning and controlled burning to reduce the fuel load. But as we now know, from a lot of post-analysis, it's not an all- encompassing solution. We have to do a lot more including funding our emergency services. Perhaps some of you might have seen the photos of families out on boats, if the sky was red, and then black. [That happened] in a little town called Malacoota, which I was lucky enough to visit recently, that just shouldn't be happening, we should have much better systems in place in which you don't have to just flee your home and run into the ocean to escape wildfire.
We also saw record high sea levels in 2021. The global sea levels have risen by around 0.2 metres since 1900. And there is evidence of accelerating sea level rise since 1993. This was when higher quality data satellite was available compared to previously when we did not have this. So this is really in line with all of the warming trends that we're seeing globally. And then associated ice melt, and also the expansion of sea size.
You know the thermal expansion? Yeah, look, it's hard. We're not I think we should preface to this at the start of the podcast that we are not in fact, climatologists. We are just conservation scientists really. But we, we believe that we can communicate difficult concepts. And that's that's what we're doing. But it's important to note, we're not climatologist. And there's a lot of complex science going on. And back to that sea level rise. I think it just highlights how underprepared as a collective world we are. In the face of a climate crisis, there's just an inadequate resilience and adaptation occurring. And it buys into this whole idea of climate justice.
In the Pacific Ocean, there's a lot of islands there, which are already being inundated with 0.2 metres level sea level rise, that is enough to, you know, remove a lot of their island mass, and they've been living there for however long, and now they're being forced to move. And with that, you might hear a lot of people saying 20 centimetres of sea level rise, that's nothing. But there's something to consider, of course, it's going to get worse, and there's going to be more sea level rise. But when you have a storm or a cyclone, which is also increasing, thanks to climate change, you're more likely to have a more extreme storm surge. So, if you imagine, like a rubber band, and then you have a storm, and everything's quite imbalanced, the rubber band can only go so far. But when you have a looser rubber band, because there's been more energy in the system, your storm surge is going in fact, further inland.
And taking us back to that notion of climate justice, these Pacific islands, not necessarily responsible for much emissions at all, a lot less intensive carbon footprint than perhaps a surrounding nation, big nation like Australia, or looking over in the other side of the world in North America. So yeah, should Australia and these other countries be adequately assisting these nations to in fact offer resilience against rising sea levels? You tell me?
I think so. And just to build on that, the next point is that greenhouse gas concentrations reached a new high in 2021, which is driven by human emissions from fossil fuels, land use, agriculture. So this is just building upon that idea of climate justice, where Pacific Island countries are not contributing greatly to these greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. And they're still being driven higher and higher every year. So methane concentrations, in particular, have also seen a sharp rise over the last decade, although, after a plateau in the 2000s.
Yeah, that sharp increase in methane emissions is an interesting one. And scientists are working around the clock to try and understand why, in fact, it's occurring. And one of the justifications is thanks to, well, of course, the EPA mention fossil fuel then use in agriculture. But in fact, with the warming we're seeing these activated feedback loops, like a really good example is the permafrost in the Arctic and Siberian region. When the melting occurs, this methane that was permanently locked below frost, thanks to somewhat stable temperatures, is now melting to a point in which the methane is releasing. And there is a lot under there, I do not remember the statistic. But I do remember reading it and feeling quite terrified about how large the amount of methane and the various so let's fingers crossed, we can come up with some solutions in the near future as to how we can mitigate that. And I think, talking about solutions, we're not going to finish talking about all of the bleak content, because I'm sure you're all quite exhausted, as we are when we read the State of the Climate 2021.
I really want to start focusing on how far we've come collectively. And the best example of this is just hearing back 10 years ago, when researchers were quite nervous about the outcomes because researchers quite often have to align their science with policy. And not just current policy, but pledged policy. And that's quite a difficult thing to do. But it's really important to understand where we're going because the climate future, it's not a straightforward linear path. It's got a lot of complex interactions occurring from billions, billions, literally billions of stakeholders. So looking at the policy and the pledges, and then allowing for the variance is interesting.
But anyway, back to 10 years ago, many scientists were fearful of seven degrees warming and seven degrees Celsius warming is catastrophic, like the movie Mad Max, but worse and less Tom Hardy. And yeah, but now, you know, you fast forward to today. And we're looking at the current policies and the state policies and then aligning them with the science, it suggests that we've got a bit of a range of 2.5 to 4 degrees warming, but then fast forward, and we look at the stated policies. It's somewhere around 2.4 [degrees] and maybe above or below that. Again, stated policies is a difficult thing to analyse, because not everyone's going to necessarily fulfil those pledges like all you have to do is, remember two years ago, when a certain individual, I'll say his name, Donald Trump was in power, he pulled America out of the Paris Agreement. And that just throws a spanner in the works for understanding stated policies, because that completely changes America, who is a high emitter. So it influences these outcomes.
Yeah, so the past decade has been characterised by strengthening climate policy, and also rapid declines in clean energy costs. And it seems that these trends are likely to continue, which is really great news. For example, solar is now the cheapest mode of energy production in human history. That's pretty cool.
Love to hear that. It's really, really cool. And I think that is a good indicator of what happened with fossil fuels. Like the fossil fuel use, it just became obsolete, thanks to, yeah, technological advancements in solar and wind and hydro and whatnot. And I think we can now apply that model to another industry, that's quite a high emitter, the animal agriculture industry. I was reading a Futures Indicator report recently, and they sort of analyse, like breakthrough technologies, right. And they did the same for solar. And they understood that solar was going to take over and how much impact is going to be.
Then we can apply that same sort of modelling on meat growing in a farm, so agriculturally grazing or intensively in feedlot and then applying it to lab-cultured meat in which the meat is produced using synthetic materials and creating a meat which is still fit for consumption. And this lab cultured meat has a lot less impact on our water, land and emissions, but more importantly, the economics in which it's just a lot cheaper to manufacture. So they believe that, that lab-cultured meat will simply do what solar did to coal plants to gas fields, because it's probably the future. So it's really important to think ahead and plan because these disruptive techs are occurring faster and faster. They're exciting. But they're also possibly, maybe underutilised. Like we [should] see governments start to invest in these breakthrough techs, as opposed to subsidising the old conventional, traditional tech that is arguably driving a lot of our ecological and climate crises.
Yeah. And it's just a win in the end. It's a net win for economy, win for reducing the impacts of climate change, reducing emissions, reducing deforestation, reducing even animal suffering, I guess, making everything better for us. So why would they want to do anything else? And I think this really ties in with one of Earthly Education's favourite phrases: we have the technology, we have the understanding, we have the solutions, all we need is the political will. So, this in combination with, you know, the grassroots movements, is how we're going to make the change that we need to happen. And so speaking of that, we're now going to just discuss some of the climate policies to advocate for in 2022, and moving forwards, potentially, as well.
Yeah, and I think listening to all this information, it's really important to have an understanding of what needs to be done. So you have a lot more clarity, I think, in the world of misinformation and disinformation and over-information. Even when you've got clickbaity headlines and big money marketing, it's a huge step in the right direction to have an understanding of what needs to be done. So we'd like to give you four climate policies that you can yet advocate for in 2022.
First one being, we want to advocate for less 2050, more 2030. And this means that we want rapid emissions reductions now as opposed to later. Like, think of it this way, if the Australian Government good example, say that they're going to have net zero emissions by 2050, they can basically emit as much as they want until 2050. But, if they come out and say, we're going to have 75%, emissions reductions by 2030, that's a huge stack of emissions not going out into the atmosphere. So we need that everywhere. We want short term emission [targets].
Yeah, and it's really important as well, as they were saying in the lead-up, especially to COP26 is to keep 1.5 alive, because over this progression of talking about climate change, the media has just been pushing more and more towards only mentioning 2 degrees' warming, where it's so they can just, it's almost allowing governments a free pass to just forget about trying to stick to 1.5, which then ties in with this. Aim for short term plans as net zero by 2030, for example.
Yeah, yeah. 1.5 alive is super important. And I guess that's a bonus policy to advocate for in 2022. And then moving forward. This is a huge one under talked about, undertalked about in most of the media, [except for] maybe The Guardian. Fossil fuel subsidies are estimated at $6 trillion every year. I think it's like $11 million a minute. Stop it! It needs to stop now. It's way too much subsidisation for an industry that is genuinely wrecking our future. And with the subsidies, it's keeping fossil fuels alive. Removing these subsidies, and in fact, subsidising renewable technologies, we're going to see a rapid transition of the energy market.
Yeah, we just need divestment from fossil fuel industries all-round: governments, banks, everyone, because it's just not sustainable anymore for the industries themselves. They're a dying industry, regardless of how much damage they're doing to everyone and everything else. They can't continue. It's a finite resource. So it just seems ridiculous, really, to continue pumping money to keep them alive.
Yeah. And what's happening when we keeping the fossil fuel industry alive and subsidising a lot of the work that happens there, a lot of that money just ends up in the pockets of quite wealthy CEOs so they can buy their 14th investment property. The workers quite often get left behind. And if we keep, you know, a coal mining town open until we bleed every dollar out of the mine, without training off or offering a transition for investment for technology, sorry, renewable technology in that area, it's just going to hurt the worker, as opposed to the CEOs who can comfortably transition across to probably the boards of renewable companies because they're wealthy people.
Yeah. And this leads directly on to our next policy to advocate for which is about supporting a just transition away from fossil fuels. So this involves looking after the people, the workers and the families who are holding the industry up right now, not the CEOs, looking after the people who really matter so that they don't get left behind.
Yeah, absolutely. We need a few more unions representing the people to ensure that we do see, in fact, protection of the rights as workers and a transition, as we mentioned, to those new industries or alternate industries, as opposed to being left behind. And our final policy to advocate for in 2022 is halting the rapid decline of biodiversity. What does biodiversity mean, Nicole?
Biodiversity: bio means living and diversity is having a huge range of different things. So in a tropical forest, for example, these are generally really bio-diverse environments, which have a lot of different species in them, they can be plant species, animal species, fungal species, bacteria. And this is so important for us to have around the world for our health, as well as the planet's health.
I think it's something that's definitely overlooked. And it is a complex issue. But I do believe that maybe every human should have a good understanding, good grasp of biodiversity, because it's so, so important, as you said, and with those, like when you have more diversity, you've got more complexity, and you're more likely to have all the niches being filled, and then you have even more complexity. And that's really encouraging the cycling of really important nutrients, such as your phosphorus and your nitrates. And that's encouraging the regeneration of things like topsoil, which is super important for our agriculture and our food. And you can just look further into clean water, clean air, these sort of things that humanity relies on, and maybe should show more [gratitude] towards. But yeah, as of today, the rapid decline of biodiversity is continuing. And some ecologists are claiming that we've entered the sixth mass extinction event.
Yeah, so that's pretty scary. I mean, the last five, mass extinctions were the ones that we hear about almost as stories with the extinction of the dinosaurs being probably the most well-known one.
What's the threshold to describe mass extinction?
So the threshold is about 75%. of all species lost. And previous extinctions have seen much higher than this. But that's scary. That's a lot of species, if we imagine our world today losing 75% of our species. That's a lot. That's terrifying. Too many species. And I think a lot of us have learnt to love a lot of these species as well. So I don't think any of us would want to see them go. And then as well as what you were just saying, Rhys, about how the complexity and biodiversity is what keeps us healthy as well. It supports our ecosystems, our food systems, and the more complex the environment is, the more stable it is. It sort of seems like an oxymoron.
Yeah, no, I think moving forward to words that all of our listeners should start to Google and read about borrow books about conservation and restoration. Because if we do want to help the decline of biodiversity, it's important that we have a whole bunch of people understanding it at a deeper level, because at this point in time, there's still so much to know. We don't really have a great understanding of how many species there are in the world, let alone how many species are going extinct with record habitat loss and a rapidly changing climate. Yeah, I think we can finish today's podcast there. There is some interesting insight into the state of the climate, and also how far we've come in terms of how bad the outlook was and how achievable it seems now. Yeah. What do you think, Nicole?
Nicole – 30:10
I think it’s really great that we have these policies that we can move forward to advocate for. We have so much work to do even if it has gotten better. But we still have a lot of work to do.
Rhys – 30:25
And this is why here at EarthlyEducation, we are trying so hard to empower all of you with the right information to move forward so you can all become climate and environmental people and achieve the positive change that we really want and need to see. Wrapping up today’s podcast, we want to thank you all for listening. We especially want to thank our Patreons for their monthly donation: Amy, Rema, Lisa, Mark, Tagh and X. You’re all supporting our work, which is really beneficial to making sure we can extend our efforts and further our reach.
Nicole – 31:15
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