Untold Climate Truth with Kevin Anderson

December 3, 2015

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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Placard image via dielinke/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.

"The future will be radically different from the present. It will either be radically different because we have significantly – we’ve grasped the nettle and we’d be prepared to make the sorts of changes that would initially be quite challenging socially and politically, to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.


A little bit further down the line, we will be faced with huge social and political repercussions because of a very significantly changing climate."

-Dr. Kevin Anderson

That is Dr. Kevin Anderson. As one of the world’s top climate scientists, he says the hard facts about climate change are not getting out, and never made it to the Paris climate talks. It’s a shocking, revealing interview. Then we travel to Australia, where host Vivien Langford of the Beyond Zero Emissions show talks in studio with David Spratt, author of Code Red, plus a union icon and psychologist – on the eve of the Paris talks. More frank talk.

I’m Alex Smith. Buckle up, this is Radio Ecoshock.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

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During the Paris climate talks, one leading scientist says the fundamentals of the whole process is "wildly optimistic". It starts with climate models that assume too much, spills into unreal scientific advice, and ends with rosy media reports saying we can keep on growing without wrecking the climate. Our Western lifestyles won’t be greatly inconvenienced, they say.

The odd-man out at the party is Kevin Anderson. He’s a well-known Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester. Anderson is also the Deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a leading scientific institute not only in Britain, but in the world.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Kevin Anderson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

My previous show on Kevin Anderson, July 22nd 2015, "What they won’t tell you about the climate catastrophe" is blogged with links here.

But I call Kevin this time about a new article he published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The title is "Duality in Climate Science". The paper is available here, in free full-text. A useful article form phys.org is here.

Here’s the link to a great piece in Skeptical Science on Kevin’s new paper.


During our interview, Kevin mentioned a new paper by Chancel and Picketty, on how a few million top consumers are responsible for the majority of climate change emissions. Find that here.

The full title and citation on the Chancel/Picketty climate paper is:

Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris

Trends in the global inequality of carbon emissions (1998-2013) & prospects for an equitable adaptation fund

Lucas Chancel, Iddri & Paris School of Economics

Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics

3rd, November 2015.


After reports from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, the assembled government leaders gather in Paris. Their stated goal is to keep global mean temperature rise below 2 degrees Centigrade, from pre-industrial levels. Dr. James Hansen says it’s "crazy" to say 2 degrees C would be safe.

Kevin Anderson agrees with Hanson. As I wrote in my blog about Anderson’s 2012 speech:

"In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that – beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive."

Here is another thing that drives me crazy, and Anderson describes it in this new paper. The question set to be answered is: "what do we need to do to have a 66% chance or better of staying below 2 degrees C". Imagine we are playing Russian Roulette. We have a pistol with three chambers, one of which contains a bullet. The stakes are not just our own lives, but those of all our descendants, and possibly most life on Earth. Who in their right mind would pull the trigger with only a 66% chance of surviving?

Is it unreasonable for us to expect a GUARANTEE the climate will not be wrecked, rather than the kind of casino odds being offered by international negotiations?

It’s no surprise that major media provides a version of reality that allows advertisers, stockholders, and the public, to continue playing the fossil fuel game as long as possible. The surprise is that scientists who know better, do not work harder to correct obvious "mistakes" and outright fairy-tales about our predicament. I ask Anderson: Why aren’t more scientists speaking up?

I say the Paris talks are already set up for failure, depending on they do on voluntary goals, set a long time into the future, and without even the courage to talk about the remaining carbon budget. By the way, another blog, at theclimatecolation.org, uses Kevin’s paper to calculate the carbon budget would be all used up by 2034. Would you agree?

So I ask Kevin if the whole Conference of the Parties (COP) approach should be abandoned, having failed for decades to even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

His answer surprised me. The COP meetings should go on, he says, but they should not be the only game in town, with such huge stakes looming over us. Anderson has said for some time that the rest of the world, all the willing, should forget about trying to get the United States onboard. The retro anti-science crowd in Congress is never going to approve the moves that are needed.

The European Union should go it alone, with whatever trading partners it can bring along. If we say the Europe is involved in about one third of all world trade, if the EU insisted on climate-safe products and production, perhaps with side deals with countries like China, the United States would have to come on board, to protect trade. We can’t wait for the last countries to join the movement to save the world climate.

There has never been a greater tragedy than today. We know, based on hard science, what is coming. We can see it coming. Everyone keeps on dancing, with the drugs of consumption, the many energy slaves at our command, as though this party can keep going forever. For the dinosaurs, there was a time of tragedy, and even that time lasted some millions of years. Only the birds survived. Our time of tragedy looks to be very short, a few hundred years at best, just a few generations.

The greatest tragedy is that some of us can see what must be done. We cannot communicate that into action, so deluded are the other players. Even when they know, they will not act to end the addiction. We need greatness from our artists – poets, musicians, authors, film-makers, to express this tragic dream, before it hardens into unstoppable reality (if it has not already).

Kevin says a lot, a lot better than I do. Be sure and listen to this key interview.


I know cutting edge radio when I hear it. I play you part of the Beyond Zero Emissions radio show, on 3CR Community radio in Melbourne Australia. 3CR also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock, as one of our international partners.

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Following discussion of the climate action march in Melbourne November 27th, host Vivien Langford starts in-depth with David Spratt, co-author of the book Climate Code Red, and host of the influential climate code red blog. Then you’ll hear from Dr Colin Long, leader in the National Tertiary Education Union, who champions workers in the transition away from carbon. Vivien’s third guest is psychologist Lyn Bender, from the group Psychology for a Safe Climate.

The groups starts off talking about the climate movement in Melbourne, which I find exciting.. By the way, that was Australia’s biggest climate action ever, with 60,000 people showing up in the streets of Melbourne! But trust me, it’s not long before these three guests dive into issues that affect us all.

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You can listen to this show, and all the programs from Beyond Zero Emissions, here.

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Radio host Vivien Langford.

Or to get a taste, you can download this 26 minute segment, as broadcast on Radio Ecoshock, in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

I’m Alex Smith. Please help support this radio show. And as always, thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Alex Smith

Host of syndicated weekly Radio Ecoshock Show - the cutting edge with top scientists, authors and activists. Eighth year on the air as of 2014. Previously a researcher for global environment group, print journalist, homesteader, world-traveler, and private investigator.

Tags: climate change, Fossil Fuels