At COP23, the International Energy Agency predicts U.S. oil production is expected to grow an an unparalleled rate in the coming years—even as the majority of scientists worldwide are saying countries need to cut down on fossil fuel extraction, not accelerate it. Meanwhile, a group of 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dire “second notice” to humanity, 25 years after a group of scientists issued the “first notice” warning the world about climate change. We speak with the co-author of this report, Kevin Anderson, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain. The report is entitled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany. The International Energy Agency predicts U.S. oil production is expected to grow an unparalleled rate in the coming years, even as the majority of scientists worldwide are saying countries need to cut down on fossil fuel extraction, not accelerate it. Meanwhile, a group of 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dire “second notice” to humanity, 25 years after a group of scientists issued the “first notice” warning the world about climate change.
This comes as a major new study says European governments have drastically underestimated the methane emissions from gas. The report finds European Union nations can burn gas and other fossil fuels at the current rate for only nine more years before these countries will have exhausted their share of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget necessary to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Well, we’re joined now by the co-author of that report, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. He traveled here from England by train, refuses to fly because of its massive carbon footprint. Kevin Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain, co-author of the major new report entitled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?”
Kevin Anderson, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, there’s so much to talk about. First, you took a train here, not a plane?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yes. I always try and travel either by train or by ship, often by container ship. It’s not that I think the emissions necessarily from me or any other individual are, in themselves, really important. But I think it is really necessary, for those of us who judge that climate change is a huge and serious issue, that we demonstrate that in our own lives, and that we don’t just demonstrate it in what we do, but you try and push that agenda more widely, amongst our own colleagues, with our own universities, and then, of course, hopefully, eventually, that governments pick these things up and then scale up policies to drive this behavioral change at a national and then, hopefully, a global level.
AMY GOODMAN: You have coined the term “the climate glitterati.” What do you mean?
KEVIN ANDERSON: I think there have been—for many years, there have been people, you know, the great and the good, in the climate world. And they have certainly tried very hard to address the issue of climate change, though I think, with the latest data, we can see that emissions are going up, even this year, in 2017. So, fundamentally, they and the rest of us have actually failed in delivering what we expected to or what we hoped for.
But this particular group, I think, have done remarkably well out of the climate change world, if you like, out of all of these, the COPs or negotiations, the engagement with policymakers, the trips to Davos and so forth. And I think, in doing that, in being part of the status quo, they have actually misunderstood that a significant part of the problem when it comes to climate change is making changes in how we live our lives today, particularly those of us who are the very high emitters. About 50 percent of global emission has just come from about 10 percent of the global population. And the climate glitterati are quite clearly—and I include myself there—are in that particular group. And we have to demonstrate leadership in what we do. And I think if people are going to take our very careful analysis seriously, then we have to lend that analysis credibility by demonstrating that we are adjusting our own lives accordingly.
AMY GOODMAN: You took pictures of the summit on Friday night?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, I did indeed, yes. Yeah, I was here at 10:00, when it was virtually empty. I was still working in one of the computer clusters. And all the computer screens were still on. But the main large screens were still running. And this is the climate change conference, the 23rd climate change conference. Now, I’m all in favor of the UNFCCC and the IPCC and these big organizations. They are really important and pivotal to climate change. But we must be, surely, by now, demonstrating change in our own institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: I was talking to some Pacific warriors this morning, as they rolled out the red carpet that said “Keep it in the ground,” for Angela Merkel, who’s speaking today. They were from Tonga and Samoa. And they said it’s Fiji inside and Bonn outside, freezing cold outside and boiling inside.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, that’s very much what it’s like. Yes, indeed, yeah. It’s also very bright inside, as well, with all the lights.
AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about what David Banks said? This is President Trump’s climate adviser.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, my take on what I heard there was he was very uncomfortable trying to defend the indefensible, really. I mean, he clearly was not happy with having to agree what the president has said on a number of occasions about climate change. Of course, his position—the president’s positions have changed on this quite considerably, as they have on other areas, as well.
I mean, I think, at the end of the day, that quite clearly the president and his adviser are reluctant to engage with anything coming from the science on climate change. So they are coming to climate change from a completely different perspective, and the science is almost an irrelevance. They’re thinking of climate change much more in a short-term, narrow, political sense.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you had the Trump panel on Monday night. It was just astounding. Three-quarters of the room walked out in the middle, singing a song, “Proud to Be an American,” to a different lyric. And at the end of this panel—it was four corporate executives and someone from Pence’s office and Trump’s office—I got a chance to ask them a question.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman from the Democracy Now! news hour.
FRANCIS BROOKE: All right, this is—this is our—this is our last question before we have to wrap up.
AMY GOODMAN: Quick question, just a simple yes or no from each of you: whether you support President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord? If we could begin with Lenka?
LENKA KOLLAR: I’m here for a reason, and that’s to support climate change mitigation.
AMY GOODMAN: Just a quick, simple yes-or-no answer.
LENKA KOLLAR: The question was?
AMY GOODMAN: Whether you support President Trump pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord?
LENKA KOLLAR: No, I don’t support it.
AMY GOODMAN: Holly?
HOLLY KRUTKA: I know you want yes or no, but our company’s statement wasn’t a yes or no, so please just allow me to say what it is. We did not ever weigh in. There was reports, actually, that we weighed in in both directions. Our opinion was that it’s up to them. There’s a lot to decide. But whether or not the U.S. is in the Paris climate agreement, we will continue to work on low-emissions technologies for coal.
AMY GOODMAN: And you, personally, Holly?
HOLLY KRUTKA: Gosh, I’m not really a policy person. I’m sorry, that was a cop-out. You’re right. I, personally—I’m not here to represent myself, so come talk to me afterwards.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes or no, are you for or against?
HOLLY KRUTKA: I’m not going to answer for my personal opinion.
AMY GOODMAN: Amos?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: I think I have the easiest task. I don’t think Dave or Francis expect me to say anything else. I worked for the Obama administration. I supported the Paris Agreement fully, thought it was a great achievement for the president.
AMY GOODMAN: Barry Worthington, yes or no?
BARRY WORTHINGTON: There’s actually two answers.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes or no!
BARRY WORTHINGTON: The U.S. Energy Association did not take a position before the president pulled out of Paris. As soon as he pulled out of Paris, we issued a statement saying that he should renegotiate Paris. From my own personal standpoint, the answer is yes, because of the reasons I laid out. We’re—
AMY GOODMAN: You support Trump pulling the United States out.
BARRY WORTHINGTON: We’re achieving the emissions reductions goals without having the regulatory burden. We’re doing it for other reasons.
AMY GOODMAN: Francis Brooke?
FRANCIS BROOKE: Thanks, Barry. Now we’re going to go to closing from our speakers.
AMY GOODMAN: No, Francis, I’d like your response.
FRANCIS BROOKE: Can you—we are not here—
AMY GOODMAN: Just two more people, simple question, just yes or no.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Takes five seconds! Answer her! Answer it!
FRANCIS BROOKE: I mean, pretty clearly, we both work for the administration, so that’s who we’re here to represent, and it’s not going to change anything. So we’re going to go through closing now.
AMY GOODMAN: And, David Banks, your—final question.
FRANCIS BROOKE: So we’re going to start with Barry Worthington.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes or no?
FRANCIS BROOKE: He’s going to close for us.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: David, any answer?
DAVID BANKS: I work for the president of the United States.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So is it a yes or a no?
AMY GOODMAN: That was Trump’s climate adviser, David Banks; before that, Francis Brooke, policy aide in the Office of Vice President Pence. Of the four corporate representatives pushing nuclear, gas and coal, Lenka Kollar of NuScale energy and Amos Hochstein of Tellurian disagreed with Trump pulling the U.S. out of the climate agreement. Holly Krutka of Peabody wouldn’t say. And Barry Worthington of the U.S. Energy Association agreed with President Trump. Interestingly, Trump brings—Trump’s administration brings four corporate executives; two of them—half of them—disagree with him on this issue. But your response to what they said?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Again, I think they are primarily just trying to take a political line on this. They’re not—they don’t seem to be particularly engaged with the issues of climate change at hand. They don’t—I get the impression they didn’t really see it as a really very serious issue, that it was just a thorn in their side. They were uncomfortable trying to defend one position or the other.
You know, to some extent, I think it’s reminiscent of what we’ve seen from the Trump administration: a lot of uncertainty and no clarity and, I would also argue, I think, a complete lack of innovative thinking. Because if they are genuinely concerned about the sorts of things that Trump said he was concerned about, things like jobs, I think the climate change agenda can quite easily be described as a jobs agenda. So there’s plenty of employment in responding to the climate challenge in line with the Paris Agreement. But it requires a little bit more innovative thinking. I didn’t hear—
AMY GOODMAN: What are those jobs?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, if you think about it, the renewable industry itself requires lots of people working in it. But also, we have to retrofit the existing infrastructure that we have in our society. If you look at the U.S., it’s very high energy consumption. That needs to change rapidly. That means retrofitting buildings and properties, people’s houses. It means much greater electrification of the energy system than we see today. There’s just a huge amount of construction work, engineering work, design work. You know, this is about really a 30-year jobs program for all of the industrialized parts of the world to transition from the very high-carbon infrastructure we have now to the low-carbon infrastructure of tomorrow. So, in that sense, surely, if his commitment to the Dust Belt was really a sincere one and he had some innovative capacity, he would see that the climate change agenda is a jobs agenda for the people that voted for him.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on geoengineering, something that’s also discussed here? First, what it means and what you think about it?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, let’s be quite clear. There is geoengineering, and there’s something else quite similar to that called negative emission technologies. The negative emission technologies are basically these technologies that we don’t yet have, that are designed in the—or hoped in the future to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, sort of suck the carbon dioxide out the atmosphere. And at least that’s addressing the real problem, even though we don’t have these technologies. Then you liquefy that carbon dioxide and store it somewhere safely underground for a few hundred or few thousand years. The geoengineering is—
AMY GOODMAN: Are you for or against that?
KEVIN ANDERSON: I’m for us researching it, but I’m for us doing all of the mitigation, all of the carbon reductions, assuming it does not work. So, yes to research, no to including it in our policies today.
And the geoengineering one is actually, I think, much more dangerous, in many respects, though, again, I think it’s important to have a research program on it. But the geoengineering is saying, “Let’s not really do quite so much on the mitigation. Let’s rely on reflecting the sunlight back out—the sunlight and the heat back out into space, and therefore we can dissolve the problem that way.” And they’re things like pumping sulfates into the stratosphere, rockets into the stratosphere to put sulfates there. They’re putting—enriching some of the oceans with iron to increase the uptake of—the development of biomass, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But these things all interfere with sort of major global planetary systems that we don’t fully understand. I think they’re incredibly dangerous. But nevertheless, I think it’s important to research those, but, again, mitigate our emissions, reduce our emissions, assuming that they won’t work, either.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, what effect does President Trump saying he’s pulling the U.S. out of the climate agreement mean? You were critical of the climate agreement. And we just have 20 seconds for this part of our conversation, then we’ll do Part 2.
KEVIN ANDERSON: There’s a good, and there’s a bad part. Pulling out sends a really bad signal. But in him pulling out, it has energized some other parts of the world to say, “We will step in and do far more,” including, of course, many U.S. mayors.
Kevin Anderson, thanks for staying with us for Part 2 of this conversation. Well, can the planet afford this?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, certainly not. If we are to deliver on our 2-degree-C climate change commitment, then the EU’s plans and policies for the development of a much larger gas network are completely incompatible with EU’s fair contribution to the Paris Agreement. So, all of the proposals and development we’re seeing with new liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminals, the proposals for these new pipelines that are coming from Azerbaijan and other parts of the world, these are completely incompatible with Paris, and they are locking us in to an ongoing high-carbon future.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you just explain for a minute, for laypeople? I mean, part of why, I think especially in the United States, with oil companies and others funding what many call not think tanks, but stink tanks, are that they don’t even understand what the—most people don’t understand what the Paris climate accord is, and they thought there was actually dissent, saying, “Was it meaningless?” What is it? What is Trump threatening to pull the U.S. out of?
KEVIN ANDERSON: The principal part, and certainly the part I focus on, but the principal part in terms of the temperature goals—in other words, we want to hold the global average temperature to a rise of no more than 2 degrees C from the pre-industrial period, and that’s basically brought about by the burning of fossil fuels and some emissions from agriculture. And 2 degrees C, 2 degrees centigrade, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, is seen to relate to the set of climate impacts that we’d see around the world that people have judged collectively would be dangerous. Indeed, many parts of the world now have said it would be extremely dangerous, which is why the Paris Agreement also included, at the behest of some of the poorer, more vulnerable parts of the world, a one-and-a-half-degree-C goal, as well.
So, these temperatures are—though they don’t sound too bad on a cold day in Manchester or in Uppsala—they think 2 degrees doesn’t sound too bad—they have massive regional repercussions. They have big effects on extreme weather conditions, whether that’s droughts or whether that’s floods or heat waves. So, the 2-degree-C average is a very significant shift. It’s worth bearing in mind that throughout the whole of human period on this planet, so 200,000 to 300,000 years, we’ve only ever lived to about 1-degree variation. We are now at a variation away from the norm that we’ve never seen as humans on this planet. And it’s getting higher every single year.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have Syria just signed on to the Paris climate accord, as did Nicaragua. Now, Nicaragua had objected to it because they said it just wasn’t strong enough. You also had fierce criticisms of it.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think actually needs to happen now? You have the Paris climate accord. Where do you think the world needs to go?
KEVIN ANDERSON: The science is fairly clear on this. The Paris climate accord has these temperature—I would call them obligations, not targets. They’re duties or obligations. We have to achieve them, not try to achieve them. We have to achieve them, particularly the 2-degree-C one. And the science is very clear that to deliver on that, we only have a certain amount of carbon dioxide that we can put into the atmosphere.
Now, that’s like having a cake of carbon dioxide, if you like, and the fair thing then is how do you divide that cake up between the world’s nations. That’s, of course, where you get lots of horseplay. And everyone thinks that we should have a bigger chunk, bigger slice, than really we should have, and others will have to compensate for that. Every country thinks that—the U.S., the U.K., the rest of the EU. Every country in the world says, “We want a larger slice than we can really have.” The problem with that is, when you add all those slices together, it’s much bigger than the cake. And so this is what we have here. You add up all of the commitments that every country has made, and it’s probably somewhere between 3 and 4 degrees C of warming, which would be utterly devastating at a global level. So, we have this 2-degree-C carbon cake, and if we are to really resolve that properly, we need to divide it up in a fair fashion. And at the moment, no country really is trying to do that.
And the EU, who—of course, it was very significantly involved in the Paris Agreement, and been based in the EU, has sort of tried to demonstrate that it’s one of the leading parts of the world, if not perhaps the leading part of the world, in delivering on Paris. And yet, when you look internally what it’s planning to do, it’s going to use public money, billions of euros of public money, to subsidize fossil fuel development that will lock the EU into ongoing use of very high-carbon gas for the next 30 or 40 years. It will breach its commitments, its fair commitments, under the Paris Agreement. And when we’ve spoken to some of the advisers to commissioners in the European Commission, they admit this privately, but they’re reluctant to say it open and publicly. So they see these these investments are a problem, from a climate point of view. But they see them as necessary, from other sort of political requirements of the EU. So I think there’s this ongoing balance between what our political and economic goals are and what our climate change and our moral goals are to future generations and poor people elsewhere.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the United States, though that wasn’t the subject of this particular study?
KEVIN ANDERSON: No, it wasn’t, no. Well, it wasn’t the subject of this study, but the United States is interesting, because the United States has had quite a big shift towards—towards gas production, from shale gas, in particular. And as a result—partly as a result of that, its emissions have looked like they’ve sort of stabilized and come down a little bit, except for, of course, it’s exporting quite a lot of the coal that it would otherwise have burned. So, you know, that doesn’t mean necessarily that that’s a good thing. If the U.S. transitions to gas, but then exports its coal, that is also a problem. The other drawback, of course, is the U.S. is producing so much gas now, it is already building terminals to export that gas to other parts of the world. And this is liquefied natural gas. And now, gas is very bad. When you burn it, you get lots of carbon dioxide. But liquefied natural gas also has a lot of additional carbon dioxide emissions from the process of doing that, but also methane emissions, the leaks that come from the LNG process itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, LNG, liquefied natural gas—
KEVIN ANDERSON: Correct, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: This constant term, “natural gas,” it was like “clean coal.” Do you refer to “natural gas”?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, gas, natural gas, shale gas, that’s all basically the same. It’s all—with very few differences, it’s all basically methane. And methane is—the chemical constituents of methane are carbon and hydrogen. And if you had a kilogram or if you had a pound of methane, 75 percent of that pound or that kilogram would be carbon. So, although people often refer to it as a bridging fuel, a transition fuel—sometimes even people completely mistakenly call it a low-carbon fuel—it is a very high-carbon energy source. It’s not quite as bad as coal, but it’s still very high-carbon and completely incompatible with the Paris Agreement.
AMY GOODMAN: When you watch protests, like, well, I mean, here, the protests against the coal, largest open-pit coal mine in Europe, in the United States, for example, the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, thousands of Native Americans, from Latin America, the United States, First Nations from Canada, converging in North Dakota, saying no to taking this Bakken fracked oil from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and then hooking up with a pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico, what were your thoughts about it? I mean, yes, you’re a scientist, but how effective do you think this is? And what is this gas, what is this oil being used for?
KEVIN ANDERSON: It’s hard to judge exactly how effective it is, but I think it is absolutely pivotal, in that it brings attention to these issues that we would not otherwise be fully aware of. And it’s the same—you see these debates in Germany now around the coal mines, you see the debates in the U.K. around the shale gas, where we see what we—what people often refer to as civil disobedience. Now I don’t want to, as an academic, say civil disobedience is something we should all aspire to. But I think there’s a choice here of civil disobedience. We have the people saying it is incorrect, inappropriate to actually dig out and burn dirty brown coal, like an advanced countries as Germany is doing now with its lignite. And so, that you could call civil disobedience.
AMY GOODMAN: With the brown coal, this dirty coal.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Particularly dirty, but even if it’s not brown coal. But digging out coal in a wealthy country like Germany and then using that to power its energy system is inappropriate. And so, people are using civil disobedience to try to bring attention to that and to try and stop it. But I would argue actually digging it out of the ground is also civil disobedience, because that is completely counter to what we’ve signed up in Paris. So you have this choice between two forms of civil disobedience: one that is sanctioned by government and one that’s where people stand up for a moral framework. And I think it’s up to us, as—the rest of us, as citizens, to judge which of those forms of civil disobedience is inappropriate. Remember, the ones that are standing up against the lignite mines are standing up for our children’s future and for poor people elsewhere to live more prosperous lives.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to one of the leading climate scientists in the world, Kevin Anderson, who took a train from Britain to Germany for this climate summit. You have warned about what you call a “shameful litany of technocratic scams.” You said, “Offsetting is paying a poor person to diet for us.” Explain what you mean. Even “offsetting” is just a technical term.
KEVIN ANDERSON: No, it’s—OK. Well, just just to put this in some sort of context, the first IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, report came out in 1990. That’s the—
AMY GOODMAN: The IPCC is the Nobel Prize-winning—Peace Prize-winning group of scientists.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Group of scientists. So it’s basically all of the world’s science is brought together and assimilated in really very detailed, carefully produced reports. The first one came out in 1990, two years before the Rio Earth Summit. It was a quarter of a century ago, quarter of a century ago. Since then, we’ve been really—we’ve known everything we need to know about climate change to do something about it. And yet now, in 19—in 2017, emissions are 60 percent higher, and going up again by another 2 percent this year. So when I say this litany of scams, during that period, during that 27 years, there is nothing we have put in place that’s made any absolute, meaningful difference to our emissions. Our emissions have just got higher every single year.
And those scams include one of the ones that also, in this case, has been promoted by the the UNFCCC, who sort of oversee all of these COP events and much of the work on climate change—and do a lot of really very excellent work. But in overseeing COP, they have offered this offsetting scheme. So, as you fly here, be it your standard class or your business class or first class, you can offset just for a few cents, by, say, a few dollars, all of your emissions, apparently. And offsetting means that we will pay someone else to maybe develop some renewable power, or whatever, that might be somewhere else in the world, and that allows us to carry on with our lives as we’re doing today. But if we carry on with our lives today, that means we’re sending a signal to the airports to expand—almost every airport in the world is expanding—to buy more planes. We are buying more and more planes. So we are locking in a high-carbon infrastructure. Meanwhile, other parts of the world are perhaps developing a renewable energy infrastructure, which is a good thing, good for development. But in doing that, well, that will also give the advertisers access to people locally there, who they will develop slightly faster, and their carbon emissions will no doubt go up in the short term. That’s not a bad thing, but it is not an offset. So the combination of offsetting means, overall, that our emissions get higher, not lower. But it may be that from a development point of view, some of the money is spent on good things. But let’s not pretend, in any way, that an offset compensates for the emissions that we definitely put in the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels, whether that’s traveling here or heating our homes and so forth.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk more about lifestyle, because this is very important to you. I watched you at several of the sessions here. You’ve taken a train here. When we last saw you, a few COPs ago, the Conference of Parties, you also had refused to take a plane. You said you got a lot out of the many, many, many, many hours on the train. I think it was in Poland that we saw you.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, it was, yes, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: How long did that take?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Oh, god, it must have been two or three days. But I’ve also been to China and to Iceland by ship. So there are other—you know, I go to other places, as well, but it changes—it changes how often you go, so it changes how you have to run and structure your life, which is not always easy in a world that is increasingly structured to allow us to do things faster and faster. So, you have to sort of almost step back from that and say, “Well, what am I going to do about my other responsibilities whilst I’m away? How does that affect your friends and family?” And it’s not easy to organize the tickets, because the system is not designed for that. So we’ve designed a whole system, really, around flying. And that’s an interesting thing now. I work 50 percent of my time at CEMUS in Uppsala, at Uppsala University.
AMY GOODMAN: In Sweden.
KEVIN ANDERSON: In Sweden. And I travel backwards and forwards to the U.K. There were no more ferries between Sweden and—between Scandinavia and the U.K. And there were no more overnight trains, because aviation has pushed those out of the market. So you have to—so it takes me two days just to travel from Sweden back to the U.K. This is challenging, but it does mean I can get a lot more work done on the train. But I think what’s important there is less—as I said before, less my emissions in themselves, but it sends a very strong signal that we can still live good-quality lives—you can still become a university professor—and not fly. I mean, I haven’t flown since 2004. And I’ve got lots of other colleagues who have been—
AMY GOODMAN: You haven’t been in a plane since 2004?
KEVIN ANDERSON: 2004, yeah. And I’ve got lots of other colleagues who have made, you know, similar attempts, one way or the other, to either reduce their flying significantly or sometimes to eliminate their flying. And they still are living good lives and been successful in their careers. Some of the prestige goes, of our life, apparently, because when we fly somewhere, it makes us feel better about ourselves, certainly if someone has paid us to go there, and we got a taxi to the airport, we fly somewhere, get another taxi to a nice hotel, our meals are paid for, as we go in and out of these conferences and people meet people who we meet at every other conference. Is that—is that really important in the grand scheme of things? I think we’re just locking in a form of life, a prestige and a travel system that is completely, again, incompatible with our Paris commitments.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, continue with that, Kevin Anderson, about how we live our lives, the amenities, everything from when we do most of our work, in the day or the night, to, oh, refrigerators.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is why I think we are—actually, in this case, there are no historical parallels. We’re trying to deal with climate change. And we’ve dealt with ozone pollution, primarily, sorted that one there. We’ve done—we’ve dealt with much of acid rain. And we somehow think that climate change is going to be the same. But it’s not, because it’s in everything that we do. It’s in every—it’s in the dyes in my jacket. It’s how we get here. It’s what keeps the lights on. It’s in the Formica on top of this table. Nothing has ever been that pervasive in human history before. And we have to remove this in just a handful of decades.
So this is a massive challenge. And I’m not, at the moment, sure we’re up to it. I think we have all the skills and tools. But whether we’ve got the courage and the innovative capacity to push that forward, I think the jury is out on this. But I think if we are going to expect great leaders to bring about the necessary changes, we’re going to carry on for another 27 years of failure. What we require is a partnership between bottom up, or between people demonstrating things in their own homes, their own lives, their own workplaces, and also top down, the politicians looking for those changes and saying, “How do I scale them up?” So it is that interplay between top down and bottom up, that partnership. And if we really push on both of those very hard, and we have much more—have greater honesty and integrity in our thinking and our speaking about these sets of issues, I think we could still just about hit the Paris commitments.
AMY GOODMAN: Refrigerators.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, refrigerators are an interesting example, whereby—you know, just look at the efficiency differences between them. You take a—what we call an A-rated refrigerator in Europe, so what people often think is a quite a good refrigerator, and it will use something like 60 to 80 percent more energy than an A-plus-plus-plus. And we even have another plus version now. So I think the role there is not of giving a choice between buying an inefficient refrigerator and a very efficient refrigerator. It is the role of the state to put stringent controls on the efficiency of the appliances that we buy, a bit like the Japanese Top Runner Program. And that gives a real clear market signal to say that next year if you want to sell a fridge, it has to be this efficient, and that we will tighten that efficiency every year at, say, 5 to 10 percent. And that gives a very clear 20-year market signal. So, the companies can go away and design their refrigerators or their cars or their computers to fit that standard, and we could really drive emissions down.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain. What isn’t efficient about a refrigerator? How is it polluting?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, it uses a lot—obviously, it uses a lot of energy to keep the compressor going in the refrigerator. And now, but there’s sometimes some—
AMY GOODMAN: You have these huge double-door refrigerators.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, and they’re getting worse if they get bigger. But even in the same size, there is huge differences in efficiency. There’s a massive differences between the same-size refrigerator that’s an A-rated and the same-size refrigerator that’s an A-triple-plus-rated version. The double-door ones make it even worse. As they get bigger and bigger, they get worse again. But within any particular category of fridge, there is this massive difference. It’s the same with our laptops, same with our cars.
As a simple example with a couple of numbers in this, the average American car being sold is something like 212 grams of carbon dioxide per every kilometer you travel. Now, you have to—I realize you use slightly different units in the U.S. But just compare with the U.S.—U.K., where the average car sold now is 118. So, on the car, the units are slightly different, but the difference from 212 to 118. These are cars that you could fit four Americans in a British car, and fit four British in an American car. They’re the same sort of cars. And yet you’ve got this almost halving of the emissions of the average car being sold. So, we have all of these technologies being sold today, with no price premium. But we have no courage within our policymakers to push these things hard.
AMY GOODMAN: So, even the work we do, when we do it, the issue of day and night?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Sorry. So, you have—
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, can you talk about when we do our work and the electricity we need?
KEVIN ANDERSON: OK, yeah, yeah. Well, just in our day-to-day activities, yeah, we get up in the morning, we flick the lights on if it’s still dark in the winter, we go downstairs, we make our breakfast, we put the toaster on. We’re using energy all the time. Now, that energy could be used much more efficiently than we use it currently. But also we could be more careful in how we use it. So, very commonly, you’ll just see—like I saw here on Friday, you’ll see just lights are left on. And what has been quite interesting in many parts of Europe, as they’ve got much more efficient light bulbs, these LED light bulbs, actually, the lighting demand has not gone down, because people just have more lights and leave them on more often, because they’re more efficient. So the one problem with efficiency in our day-to-day lives is that we cannot use the money we spare, we save, just on more energy activities. So, historically, energy efficiency has never bought emissions down, or even energy consumption down. But that’s the role of policymakers then to put policies in to stop this, what we call the rebound effect, which is really important, that if you make things more efficient, people just use the—you know, the spare money from not having to buy as much energy, to use to buy other energy services. And it’s, therefore, the role of government to put policy in to stop that rebound effect. But if we did do that, efficiency could really drive down our emissions.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Kevin Anderson, you’re a leading climate scientist, and I want to ask you about the Trump effect. People talk about it’s not only what President Trump is doing in the United States, but the effect, the reverberations of his actions around the world, whether we’re talking about the possibility of nuclear war, which will certainly destroy the environment, with North Korea or Iran—
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —not clear, or pulling the U.S. out of the U.N. climate accord. But I wanted to ask you about his effect on people’s views of science. He has called climate change a hoax. Have you seen a change? I mean, you have me asking—you just heard me asking David Banks, his climate adviser, how he rejects 95 percent of the world’s scientists. Are you seeing a change in the attitude towards scientists and science as a result of the 45th president of the United States?
KEVIN ANDERSON: When it comes to climate change, I think I’m talking from quite a privileged position, being in the U.K. and the EU, where I don’t really think Trump’s—I mean, now, to be polite, they’re just ramblings about climate change—Trump’s ramblings have really had any impact in how we view science or, indeed, how the rest of society has viewed the climate change science and research. When I talk to some of my American colleagues, clearly some of them are concerned, more about issues of funding. It hasn’t changed how they view their own science. And my understanding is, actually, from quite a lot of the—some of the polling data from the U.S., is that it hasn’t really changed the public’s view toward science. What it has done is put some fear into people that are working there about their job security, about their research funds, about whether they can make things publicly accessible, as most scientists want their work to be made publicly available. So people are—you know, are publishing work, but taking the words “climate change” out of it, using other forms of language.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about American scientists, your colleagues?
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, this is in the U.S.A., yeah. So, I think, in the U.S., from what I understand, it has made some difference to how people have to operate. But, you know, the climate change community is reasonably bright and astute. They’re pretty well educated. I think they can find ways around Trump’s ramblings. But I do think it is a problem from a sort of a funding perspective.
We’re also fully aware that he will only be there for four to eight years, and that it’s very unlikely you get someone else like Trump in following him, at least as a climate—effectively, a climate denier. But also, of course, it could be that he changes his mind. He changes his mind regularly. People keep trying to predict what he’s going to do next, which I think is foolish. He doesn’t know, and nor do we. So he might become a—in year four, he might become a real climate advocate. Who knows? So I think we have to really get on with our work, almost independent of what—the wisdom of the U.S. president.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you said—you talked about the Trump effect in another way, that with the U.S. pulling out, this is giving much more power and space to, for example, grassroots activists.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Well, more than grass—it’s certainly given more to grassroots activists, but I think it’s really been quite interesting that—you could argue that we had the Paris Agreement, everyone went away, that we’ve got this agreement, this piece of paper, somehow as if that solved the problem, which clearly it does not. But by him pulling out, he’s brought climate change back to the fore. So you’ve got a lot of U.S. mayors, and you’ve got a fairly significant delegation from the U.S. here. I mean, they’re not representing the government, but they’re representing individual states and cities, and so they are really engaged in this.
AMY GOODMAN: The We are Still In coalition.
KEVIN ANDERSON: Yeah, yes, exactly. Yes, the We are Still In coalition. And it’s also brought the Chinese back to the table, who are pushing—or not back to them—pushing hard at the table. And the French have come back in to discuss these issues. So I think, in some respects, what Trump has done has brought Paris or the issue of climate change back nearer the—higher up the agenda. Let’s put it there. So I think you could also say that his—some of his ramblings have had that sort of political benefit, which I think was not what he wanted. I mean, it’s almost backfired.
AMY GOODMAN: As we begin to wrap up, you said yesterday at one of the panels, “We fear questioning the dominant socioeconomic paradigm.” What is that? And what does that lead to?
KEVIN ANDERSON: And this is one of the most challenging issues of the—in climate change. Because we’ve chosen to leave it so late—as I said before, we’re 27 years after the first IPCCreport—our carbon budget is so incredibly small. And the dominant paradigm is that we will see economic growth, better material well-being, for all 7.5 billion people on the planet, not just the poor ones, but all of us, including the very wealthy. That will just go on forever, almost infinite. And that is broadly the frame in the current economic paradigm. The problem is that’s completely incompatible with the climate change objectives we have. And if we don’t achieve those objectives, then the climate impacts that we will suffer will also make that impossible. So, either way, the future will not fit with the current economic paradigm.
So we need to—we need to be honest about that and start to unpick that and say, “Well, what else really matters?” And we should be really measuring prosperity in relation to the good things in the world, whether that’s job security, female literacy, you know, reduced crime. There are a myriad of good things that we can recognize in the world. Let’s look at those things and make them good. You know, whether that makes the economic growth better or worse is pretty much an irrelevance. You know, that’s a technical issue that a few narrow economists want to think about. But really, let’s start to focus on what’s important in our lives. And if we did that, I think we could actually reconcile climate change objectives like in the Paris Agreement with a prosperous, low-carbon future for the majority of us around the world. That will mean, in the short term, a material consumption hit for those of us who are very high emitters, people like myself and, if you like, the climate glitterati and the other ones who don’t work in climate change who are also in that same sort of category. We will have to take, in the near term, some hits in our material well-being, if we’re going to make—hit our climate change commitments.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for spending this time.
KEVIN ANDERSON: My pleasure.
AMY GOODMAN: Kevin Anderson is the Zennström professor in climate change leadership at the Center for Environment and Development Studies, Uppsala University in Sweden, also chair of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester in Britain. Dr. Anderson just co-authored a new report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe, titled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?” We’ll link to that report