Meet Mark Jacobson and David Keith, the leading techno-fixologists who overpromise overhyped “solutions” to the climate conundrum. Please share this episode with your friends and start a conversation.
Warning: This podcast occasionally uses spicy language.
For an entertaining deep dive into the theme of season five (Phalse Prophets), read the definitive peer-reviewed taxonomic analysis from our very own Jason Bradford, PhD.
- The Solutions Project
- Carbon Engineering
- David W. Keith et al., “A Process for Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere,” Joule, August 15, 2018.
- Christopher T. M. Clack et al., “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar,” PNAS, June 19, 2017.
- Natanael Bolson, P. Prieto, and T. Patzek, “Capacity factors for electrical power generation from renewable and nonrenewable sources,” PNAS, December 20, 2022.
- Simon Michaux’s website
- Richard Heinberg, “Can Civilization Survive? These Studies Might Tell Us,” Resilience, December 19, 2022.
- Average household electricity consumption
- David Fridley and Richard Heinberg, “Can Climate Change Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline?,” Renewable Energy World, June 19, 2018.
- Mark Jacobson on Late Night with David Letterman
- James R. Martin, “Energy Transition & the Luxury Economy,” Resilience, October 31, 2022.
- Yamina Saheb, Kai Kuhnhenn, and Juliane Schumacher, “It’s a Very Western Vision of the World,” Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.
- Mark Z. Jacobson et al., “Low-cost solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy insecurity for 145 countries,” Energy & Environmental Science (2022).
- Nicole Jewell, “Leading Stanford climate scientist builds incredible net zero home, complete with Tesla Powerwall,” In Habitat (2017).
- Raymond Pierrehumbert, “The trouble with geoengineers ‘hacking the planet’,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2017).
How would you rate this episode’s Phalse Prophet on the Insufferability Index? Tell us in the comments below!
It’s time for the annual Crazy Town Hall! This exclusive webinar on June 6, 2023 is our way of thanking listeners who support the show financially. We hope you’ll join us!
Rob Dietz I'm Rob Dietz. Asher Miller I’m Asher Miller. Jason Bradford And I'm Jason Bradford. Welcome to Crazy Town, where the circular economy is burning coal capturing the carbon dioxide from it and turning it into gasoline. Melody Allison Hi, This is Crazy Town producer Melody Allison. Thanks for listening. Here in season five, we’re exploring Phalse Prophets and the dangerous messages they’re so intent on spreading. If you like what you’re hearing, please let some friends know about this episode, or the podcast in general. Now on to the show. JJason Bradford Guys, I shared with you my statistics for the month of April. We're in April right now. This is April 14th when we're recording the show and that's important. And that's important because I am now at what is my statistics say? How many bird species have I seen this month? Rob Dietz Oh, for crying out cryins, we're talking about birds again? Jason Bradford Yep. Rob Dietz Okay, well I like birds so . . . Asher Miller How many different kinds of species or? Jason Bradford How many different species have I seen so far this month? We're 14 days or about halfway through the month. As you can see here, I've given you this spreadsheet. I'm at 78. Exactly. Asher Miller You've seen 78 new species this month? Jason Bradford Well, no. This is not new to my life. I've seen one new life lister. A Virginia rail. But that's the only new thing for my life. But my goal is every month to see 100 species of birds. Okay? Jason Bradford Got it. Rob Dietz And why is that a goal? Asher Miller So you're halfway through the month? Jason Bradford Yes. Asher Miller And you're more than three quarters of the way to your goal. Jason Bradford Exactly. Asher Miller Congrats dude. That's awesome. Jason Bradford Thank you. Rob Dietz Wow, you're so, like, playing along with him. That's really nice. Asher Miller I'm not playing along? Rob Dietz I'm ready to be like, what the hell are we talking about? Asher Miller You don't give kudos to your little kids when they come home with a smiley face. Rob Dietz But a goal. Why is that a goal? Why 100 birds a month? Where'd you come up with that? Jason Bradford I just came up with it because it's a nice big number, but not super big. So this is a little bit of a story about like setting goals and making sure those goals are maybe like realistic to some extent. So I want you to try to think through if I have a realistic goal. Do you think I'm going to meet my target? Do you think I'm going to fall short? Do you think I'm going to exceed it by a lot? Given what you see - The statistics? Rob Dietz Well, you said the time of year is important. So maybe there's migration? Some new birds coming through? Maybe that'll help you get there. Jason Bradford I think that will help. Asher Miller I'm going to get - That's true this time of year. Jason Bradford My wife saw an evening grosbeak today. I haven't seen one yet this month. Asher Miller What was it called? Jason Bradford An evening grosbeak. Asher Miller Okay, that's an awesome name. A grosbeak. Jason Bradford But you see my cumulative species chart? Asher Miller It looks like it's going down, dude. Jason Bradford Yes, there's a diminishing return happening. So yeah, in my first four days, I got 45 species. In my next four days, I was up to 65 species. So by day eight, I was 65. But by day 12, I was at 73. And now I'm at 78. So it is getting harder for me to encounter new species. Rob Dietz Sort of like podcast listeners that way, right? Asher Miller Yeah, diminishing returns. Rob Dietz Yeah. First episode, we had millions. Second episode, it was down to the three who are now listening, which is just us. Jason Bradford Yeah. But what do you think? Do you think it's reasonable I'll get 100? Rob Dietz Sounds reasonable. I mean it's three digits. You're doing these two-digit numbers, but you're talking about 1-0-0. Asher Miller I don't know. I think on the trend that you're talking about, I think you might come in a little short. Jason Bradford It's a push. Okay? I'll tell you, last month I got 101. Rob Dietz Oooh. So not to get all over the place here, but are you sticking in this ecoregion or are you allowed to travel? Jason Bradford Okay, that's key. I went to the coast and got like 15 new ones that I could. Asher Miller Cheater. Jason Bradford No, that's the thing. So that's key. I may need to go to the coast to get 100. Asher Miller Are you gonna do that? You're gonna cheat. Jason Bradford It's not a cheat. Asher Miller If you go to the coast just for that, that's cheating. Jason Bradford Well, I mean, I'll enjoy a beach walk. Asher Miller Yeah, that's not the reason you're going. Jason Bradford But the spring migrants are coming in. So this is important - Asher Miller Which migrants are you talking about? Jason Bradford Spring migrants. Asher Miller Oh the bird species. Jason Bradford So this is an important thing to understand. Like, you know, how much am I going to change my lifestyle? How much effort am I going to put in, right? You don't do a simple extrapolation. You understand that there's diminishing returns on your effort. So I think I'm just trying to give you an idea that there's a lot of issues that actually are valid. There's good reasons for me to talk about my birding is what I'm saying. Asher Miller I think that I know what's going on here. I think Jason has looked at like, popularity of podcasts and realized that there's like a lot of birding podcasts that are really popular, and he's decided that he's actually going to hijack our podcast and make it about birds. Rob Dietz Rebranded Bird Town. Coming to you from the Farm. Asher Miller Because our listeners are like, what the hell are these guys talking about? What's the point? Asher Miller Yeah, what's the deal with these diminishing returns. Jason Bradford Okay. I'm trying to get at the point that when we're talking about something like birding, it's not that hard to set realistic goals and to talk about it normally. It’s not too heated a conversation. We can understand each other. Asher Miller I've seen some crazy birder throwdowns. I mean . . . Rob Dietz Yeah, I'm gonna see 400,000 species by the end of the day. That's my goal. How about that? Jason Bradford I'm not trying to do a big year or something like that and destroy my life. Okay? I'm just like, mostly hanging around here, looking at birds and accumulating. Now the problem becomes - This is what gets into our episode today - Is that, it's really hard to talk rationally and set appropriate goals for things that are really big and really important that have major consequences for society. And that's part of why we're in Crazy Town, I think. If we can only deal with this like I've just, and we've all dealt with my birding escapades, we could have a reasonable conversation, we could set realistic goals, and we have realistic expectations. Asher Miller And the stakes aren't that high. Jason Bradford And the stakes, you know, yeah, exactly. Rob Dietz Don't tell that to Alfred Hitchcock. The birds are coming for you, Jason. Just wait. Asher Miller This is why we've been working very hard, Rob, since the days of that film, to eradicate the biodiversity of populations and other species. Jason Bradford A lot of birds have recovered in North America since then. Rob Dietz It's a bird eat bird world, Jason. Jason Bradford I feel safe out there. Don't worry, guys. Alright. So we're gonna do something pretty unusual today, though. We're going to cover two people in one show. You know, they're different, but they represent kind of the yin and yang of climate mitigation. And I consider them to be the same species of false prophets. Rob Dietz So you're saying we're doing two today? It's like a two headed dog from Greek mythology or something. Rob Dietz Yeah, what's that name? Rob Dietz Orthros - It was a two-headed, serpent-tailed dog which guarded the fabulous, red cattle of Geryon on the island of Erytheia. Asher Miller I know that story. Rob Dietz Out here on the farm where the red cattle are roaming, we've got today's two headed Phalse Prophets. Jason Bradford Guard dogs. Asher Miller Alright, so who's our first one, Rob? Rob Dietz Mark Jacobson. Asher Miller Come on down. You're the next contestant on Crazy Town. He's looking for the exit. Rob Dietz You all know that I want to be a gameshow host. It's like the best job ever. Mark Jacobson, step on up. Asher Miller Vanna, tell him what he's won! The condescension of three guys sitting in their studio. Rob Dietz And a consolation prize of Turtle Wax. Okay, so Jacobson is a guy, he's in his 50s, he's from California. He has been concerned about air pollution since he was growing up. Jason, you'll love this - He played tennis. And he did so in bad air. Jason Bradford I understand. I did so in bad air, too, in the 80s. Rob Dietz Bummed him out. So he goes on to have this academic career at Stanford and UCLA, where he takes courses in engineering, economics, atmospheric science. And now he's on the faculty at Stanford. He's a professor of civil and environmental engineering, super impressive, publications out the wazoo. He's won tons of awards, testified before Congress, gets on TV programs. He was actually, before Letterman ended his run, David Letterman Show, he got on there. So yeah, pretty big deal. And then in 2011, he co-founds this group called The Solutions Project. It's a nonprofit - Asher Miller He did that with the Incredible Hulk. You know that right? Mark Ruffalo. Rob Dietz Oh, okay. Jason Bradford The actor. Asher Miller You should have known immediately who I was talking about, Rob. Rob Dietz Well, the problem is, my pop culture goes back farther. I was thinking Bill Bixby or Lou Ferrigno. Jason Bradford Lou Ferrigno! Oh my god, that was awesome. Painted green. So great. Rob Dietz So yeah, the Solutions Project is kind of this nonprofit that takes science business culture to try to educate the public about how to get to, quote unquote, "science-based 100% clean energy." Jason Bradford Their website is so slick. Rob Dietz Oh, yeah, yeah. But they want roadmaps for how we get the renewable energy economy that we need. And the guy, at least on some level, tries to walk the talk. He lives in this house that's got all the finest features of energy efficiency and modernization. Designed and built this net zero home and it's been written about. In fact, this writer, Nicole Jewell, writes for a website called In Habitat. She says that, "The structure is the epitome of future efficient home design that doesn't sacrifice on style or comfort." So livin' the life, the first head of our two-headed dog. Jason Bradford I wonder if he's got a recording studio in his library like we have here? Asher Miller He's gonna get one now after he listens to this. Alright, let's talk about our next guy, the second head, right? His name is David Keith. Rob Dietz But can I interrupt for a sec? Just don't confuse him with Keith David, the awesome actor who is in all these great movies like, "They Live." How do you know they're not the same person? They could be. Jason Bradford Is that a horror movie? Rob Dietz Sorta. It's a John Carpenter - It's actually an anti-consumer movie. Jason Bradford Okay. Thank you. Asher Miller Hmm, no. Not the same guy then. So David Keith, born in Wisconsin, his dad is British guy who worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service as a field biologist. So dude's got three citizenships. Jason Bradford That's pretty good. Asher Miller That's pretty cool. Jason Bradford Tri-citizenship. Asher Miller Yeah, I could have three, but I'd have to jump through some hoops with the Dutch government. He's an avid outdoor explorer in the Arctic, cross country skiing, rock climbing enthusiast. He's got a lot in common with you, Rob. Rob Dietz Yeah, I wanna hang with him. That sounds fun. Asher Miller He's a birder so he's got a lot in common with you, Jason. He's also in his 50s so one of us. Jason Bradford One guys a tennis player and one guy's a birder. That's what I do when I'm not recording podcasts. Rob Dietz Does he like the Grateful Dead? Asher Miller I don't know. We should find out. That's the first question I'll ask him. So he started as an experimental physicist with a doctorate from MIT. He made a switch to climate change research, did some really important work on atmospheric physics, eventually landed at Harvard University. Rob Dietz Har-vard as we like to call it. Asher Miller He founded a company in 2009 called Carbon Engineering, which we'll get into later. He's gotten a lot of funding from Bill Gates, who we have talked about on this very podcast. He helped him go mainstream. We'll also talk about that a little bit. He prides himself on his professional ethics - I'll give this guy some kudos for that. When he was at the University of Calgary, which is where he started. You know, the heart of the beast, if you're talking about the oil industry, especially in Canada - Jason Bradford Alberta. Asher Miller He called out the fossil fuel companies and the government there for their position on climate change. And because he does have this company, he has a lot of business interests, he doesn't seek grant funding, doesn't get any grant funding for his academic work on carbon capture research. So he tries to keep these sort of things separated. Dude has also won a lot of awards and accolades, including Time Hero of the Environment. in 2009. Jason Bradford My gosh, we gotta guy from Harvard, we got a guy from Stanford, and they are just like, awarded to the hilt, right. Okay, but wait a second. I don't think any of these guys probably has received the 2014 Good Steward of the Planet Award from the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce like I have. Right? Asher Miller They are jealous. Rob Dietz I love how our town awarded you steward of the planet. Jason Bradford Yes, they have the authority to look over the planet. Asher Miller And it was the Chamber of Commerce. Jason Bradford I know. I got the plaque right up there. You guys can look at it. Asher Miller Sorry, I don't mean to mock. That's amazing. I'm jealous. Jason Bradford Well, okay, so we made our point. These guys are - Asher Miller Better than us. Jason Bradford They're more famous than we are in so many ways. Alright, here we go. Let's talk about their ideas though, okay. This is about their ideas. We'll start with Jacobson. His big idea is to electrify almost all the work done in the economy. And there's a little bit with hydrogen. This ends up being a massive substitution of all the fossil fuel and nuclear with basically wind turbines, photovoltaics and hydroelectric plants. A few other things, minor stuff - Rob Dietz Which sounds okay to me. Jason Bradford Yeah, he calls it WWS for wind, water and sunlight. And his goal is to maintain business as usual services. Rob Dietz Okay, now it sounds a little less good. Jason Bradford Of course, this is going to come with a lot of new grid infrastructure, massive new transmission lines, transformers or interconnections between disparate sections of the grid. So energy can flow across continents. And the modeling for this on the global scale expects nations to share the grid within these 24 major global regions. They basically are arguing that even though this is adding a lot of work to the grid, that the grid normally that doesn't do this stuff right now. Right now, the grid is only doing about 25% of our energy that we consume that is coming from the electricity sector directly. But because electricity is you know, more efficient and doing a lot of mechanical work, they think that our total energy use in the model actually cuts down, about 60% down, compared to today's energy. Asher Miller Cause there's a lot less waste. Jason Bradford A lot less heat waste, for example, on the system. So that's the argument they make and the vision. Electrify it all. Asher Miller So basically it's, we're gonna electrify everything, transportation, manufacturing processes, Jason Bradford Space heating and cooling. Asher Miller Obviously heating and all that stuff, right? So everything gets electrified. You will not have a gas stove anymore. Asher Miller Right? Okay. Of course, when you have a system like this and you have intermittency, which we've talked about with renewable energy sources, you need a lot of storage, right? So you need batteries, other storage devices. So that, you know, if the sun's not shining or the wind isn't blowing, there's still you know, electricity available for people to use. Also a lot of talk of like district heating. Comprehensive district heating is implemented with ground storage. Rob Dietz What is ground storage? Asher Miller It's basically like you're capturing a lot of the heat and you're heating up water through the process of doing that. It's basically like an enclosed system. Rob Dietz Alright, so it's almost like a big radiator system. Jason Bradford Yeah, underground. Rob Dietz That can hold the heat back. Okay, gotcha. Asher Miller So here, Jacobson basically argues that we have all the technology we need right now. We don't need any miracle new technologies to be developed. As Jason, you pointed out, he actually thinks that we've got enough capacity and potential with WWS, the way he talks about it, that we don't even need nuclear power. We can fully transition and we could do it very quickly. It will save us a ton of money, right? Because there's going to be more efficiency gains and electricity will be a lot cheaper. And he thinks that we can wrap this up really quickly, we can get to 80-85% by 2035, just a dozen years from now. 100% by 2050, which you know, is essentially consistent with what people are saying is required in order to address climate overshoot. Rob Dietz And consistent with what Jason's getting at with the birds. Asher Miller Yeah. Now there are some, you talked about, there are some edges, Jason, and some of the plans are being put out - Like, when you get to questions around, well, how will airplanes fly? You know, batteries are a really difficult thing to do on a long-haul flight. Jason Bradford You can't do it. Asher Miller Right. So there's talk of like hydrogen fueled, cryogenic hydrogen, you know, to fuel airplanes. Rob Dietz So the passengers are cryogenically frozen or what? Asher Miller No, not the passengers I don't think. So there is, you know, he says there isn't any miracle technology needed. But there is a little bit of stuff there, right, that's like, yeah, this will work out. Rob Dietz Well, I want to bring in the economics of this as I've been accused of being a false economist. And the the other thing is, you know, this is kind of Green New Dealiish, right? It's Win-Win, promises a lot of new jobs. So you know, every state, every country, every locality that's rolling out the grand electrification scheme is going to have all these new jobs. And then of course, getting back to his tennis playing days, Jacobson's maybe motivation for getting involved is health improvements. You'll have a lot less air pollution. Jason Bradford I wonder how good he is at tennis. Rob Dietz Better than you. Jason Bradford I don't think so. Rob Dietz But then also his research group plans to roll out these transitions. They've done the road mapping, the planning, for all the world and covered almost everywhere. There's a few missing nations. Asher Miller I mean they've done like every state in the U.S. They've done the U.S. as a whole, they've done a bunch of countries. Yeah, I give them credit for - They like to do their plans. Rob Dietz Yeah, they got busy with it. Jason Bradford I don't know. He's a lot taller than me. Maybe he's got a bigger serve. Rob Dietz Just let it go. Let it go. You're a better birder than he is. Asher Miller Jason's stuck somewhere else. Jason Bradford Okay. Okay. Thank you. Rob Dietz Competition, man. Yeah, and I mean, the plans have really good graphics, nice breakdown, looks all good, and economic metrics and all that. So that's the big idea. It's an economic and green win. Asher Miller Win, win, win, baby. Let's transition. Jason Bradford A lot of wind in the plan. Rob Dietz Alright, speaking of wins, yeah, tell us about David Keith. Asher Miller So basically, Keith has got two big ideas, right? The first one is to suck carbon dioxide out of the air using what's called direct air capture, or DAC for short. And the second is solar geoengineering. Okay? So we're going to start with direct air capture. Basically, what these are is it's industrial plants located anywhere. Because carbon dioxide is all over the planet. Jason Bradford Right, it's well-mixed in the Amazon. Asher Miller And what these plants do is they scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Okay, so some people may have heard of something else called carbon capture and sequestration, which is typically, the idea is to capture carbon, basically at the point of emission, right? So you take a coal-fired power plant, for example, right? And you put scrubbers on there, you capture the carbon dioxide from that. That's CCS. Well, the fossil fuel companies don't like that so much. They like the direct air capture instead because when you do CCS on plants - And we can have a little conversation about them and how effective they are and how many of these things have failed and have cost overruns. They're expensive, right? They're expensive to do and they actually make electricity prices higher. So you could see a lot of the fossil fuel companies, sort of the industry, pushing DAC instead because basically, they don't have to bury themselves with that. Jason Bradford They don't have to do anything. Yeah, yeah. Don't make us clean. Asher Miller Even though, and we'll get to this later, it actually uses even more energy to do the direct air capture than you would do it - Rob Dietz But it's perfect - You just put a DAC factory anywhere you want and it has nothing to do with the the power generating coal-fired plant. Asher Miller Anywhere you want to put it, you could put it. Jason Bradford And the other thing that Keith likes about direct air capture is that it can handle what they call legacy admissions. Jason Bradford Not admissions. Not legacy admissions. Jason Bradford Oh no, that's like college admissions I'm thinking of. Asher Miller I thought it was gonna handle all the rich kids who get to go to their parents’ alma maters. Rob Dietz Yeah, like Mark Jacobson's dad went to Stanford. And David Keith's dad went to Harvard, or whatever. Jason Bradford Legacy E-missions. Asher Miller Oh, legacy emissions. Okay, got. Jason Bradford Yeah. So basically, you know, from 1750 to today there has been about one-thousand billion tons. Asher Miller Oh, I can totally imagine that in my head. Jason Bradford That's a trillion tons. And every year, right now, we're releasing about 37 billion tons. But the idea is that, and they talk about this at the carbon engineering website, that their goal is about scale. They're focused on a quote, "Global deployment of mega ton scale, direct air capture technology. So it can have the greatest impact on the huge climate challenge. Our team and partners around the world are working to deploy direct air capture facilities that can capture one million tons of carbon dioxide per year each." Okay, so I just want to put that in perspective. Asher Miller Okay, so they said a million tons of CO2 per year. Jason Bradford Per plant. Right now, they have a pilot plant that can do one ton a day. And they're trying to - Asher Miller That's not a million. Jason Bradford No, but they have these plans, and they have modeling for scaling up to a million tons per year. Of course, that's not a lot relative to either legacy. We'll get into this more, but . . . Asher Miller Yeah, I mean, let's be fair, right? Keith himself isn't proposing that DAC plants like capture all of the annual emissions that we're putting out. But we should understand the scale of the challenge, right. So if they're even able to ramp up these plants so that they can get to a million tons a year, it would require 37,000 of these plants operating full time just to capture the emissions that we put out every year. That's the new emissions, right. So legacy emissions are 27 times larger than that. That's the scale of the challenge that we're talking about here. Rob Dietz Yeah. And just to bring this into the real world a little. I don't want to just pretend like there's some magic factory, you know, with a giant scrub brush that somehow scrubs CO2 out of the air. So let's just describe really briefly in the kind of simplistic terms that even I can understand what's going on here. Jason Bradford Yeah, why don't you talk to yourself like you're a 5-year-old. Rob Dietz As I always do. Asher Miller There's a big building. Rob Dietz So there's actually a big fan is what it is. Asher Miller Big fans! Jason Bradford I do like that. Rob Dietz So these giant fans, they push air over a surface that's coated with a reagent that grabs carbon dioxide. You like that word, reagent. Rob Dietz That's a good one. So the chemical stew then gets concentrated and purified and turned into pellets. You like that word, pellets? Asher Miller That's easy. Asher Miller Carbon dioxide pellets. Rob Dietz Well sorta. Jason Bradford It's kind of a rock with carbon dioxide with pellets. Rob Dietz And then these pellets get super heated to then release pure CO2 into a gas form. Asher Miller Cool. Rob Dietz And the pellets without the CO2 are then further processed and they can be recycled into a form used to capture more CO2. So there's some recyclability there. But yeah, I mean it's basically chemically intensive procedures with fans blowing the air into the chemical vats. Asher Miller Right. Okay. So, like I was just saying before, he doesn't believe that plants are going to need to capture 100% of annual energy emissions. He knows that we need to massively reduce emissions. He doesn't want the technology to come across as an excuse to do nothing about our fossil fuel dependency. But, you know, as we'll get into later, it kind of seems like there might be some greenwashing with this tech. Jason Bradford There's what he wants and there's what's happening. Okay. Well, let's turn to then his second big idea, solar geoengineering. That's a general term, but his favorite technology to perform what's called solar geoengineering - Asher Miller This is us going to the sun, right. And doing something with the sun? Jason Bradford Throwing water on it to cool it down. Asher Miller Oh, that's solar geoengineering. Rob Dietz A billion squirt guns aimed at the sun. Jason Bradford Well, the idea here is inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which is what's known as a kind of solar radiation management. And essentially, they talk about a fleet of about 100 aircraft, so not that many if you think about the fleet of aircraft, injecting less than 2 million tons of sulfur per year into the stratosphere. And that would reflect away sunlight and cool the planet by a degree Celsius. Asher Miller So aren't we already doing this? Isn't that what the chemtrails thing is? Jason Bradford Well . . . Asher Miller Oh that's the mind control stuff. Rob Dietz We're not talking about chemtrails on this podcast. We'd be way more popular if we did. Jason Bradford Well we're going to hashtag chemtrails when we get the show out and we'll get some listeners. Asher Miller Oh great. Jason Bradford But there is a lot of sulfur going into the atmosphere now through current commercial flight. I think what would happen is it this would just direct it evenly. Asher Miller And actually, so when 911 happened, airplanes were grounded all over the world for a few days. They actually saw the effect of that because they could actually see a temperature rise when all those planes landed. Which is why you and I and everyone listening should be flying all the time. Jason Bradford Well you know, bunker fuel that's been used in the shipping industry, it's been cleaned up. And so there's a lot less sulfur pollution happening. And actually, one of the thoughts is that the oceans are getting hotter, faster, because we've actually cleaned up bunker fuels. Anyway. Jason Bradford Yeah, how so? Asher Miller I'll just give you a little example. JaAsher Miller Those do-gooders Rob Dietz The idea for this solar geoengineering and fire and a bunch of sulfur in the air actually has bases in nature, right? I mean, volcanoes do this. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it spewed 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. And that actually, at least as far as the scientists can tell, pushed global temperatures down by half a degree Celsius or one degree Fahrenheit for the next couple of years. So there's some real world experience with it. Jason Bradford I remember wearing a sweater all 92 and 93. Rob Dietz Yeah, that's good. Jimmy Carter would be proud of you. Asher Miller So, you know, there's been all this buzz about like blowing up pipelines to lose emissions or whatever. Why don't we just blow up volcanoes? Seems like a much better - Jason Bradford How do you . . . ? Asher Miller I don't know. Did you see Joe Versus the Volcano? Rob Dietz Well, so there's one movie you found that I have not seen. Jason Bradford There's a movie called Joe Versus the Volcano? Asher Miller Yeah, with Tom Hanks. Jason Bradford Okay, I gotta look that one up. Asher Miller It's a documentary about this. Rob Dietz Well, so something that's interesting to me about David Keith is that he actually seems to get a lot of things right. And I wanted to go over a few of those because I know it's a false prophet season, but we gotta give credit where credit's due. In a 2021 New York Times op-ed, Keith wrote that zeroing out emissions will not cool the planet, right? So if we quit burning fossil fuels, we're not doing the job. So you know, even if we eliminate all of the emissions by 2050, the warming effects aren't going to disappear from those legacy emissions that you talked about, Jason. It takes a long time for the greenhouse gases to dissipate out of the atmosphere. Asher Miller Thousands of years. Rob Dietz And another thing that Keith argues is that carbon removal from the atmosphere is a relatively slow and expensive way to cool the planet. So he's not doing a good job with that of selling DAC, right? Even though he's for it. But, you know, the comparison with geoengineering is it's cheap and fast by comparison. And he's right about that. And then another thing in 2021 science policy forum paper, he and 20 co-authors, that's a lot of co-authors. I've never written anything with 20 other people. But anyway, they explain that the direct cost estimates for solar geoengineering are about $5 billion per year. Two to three orders of magnitude less than the estimated costs of the damage that would be caused by climate change. And a lot less than the direct costs of other emission reduction strategies. And it's also way, way energetically cheaper. What'd you say, 100 airplanes to spread the sulfur? I mean, compare that to however many of these factories you need. Jason Bradford Right, totally. I mean, remember that Kim Stanley Robinson book? Jason Bradford "Ministry for the Future" Jason Bradford Right. They have a scenario where this starts going, but it's kind of rogue, you know. India does it or whatever. Asher Miller Well, so there's a lot of controversy around geoengineering, right? Different forms of geoengineering. Rob Dietz Oh, we'll have some critiques. Asher Miller And you know, maybe we'll get into a little bit. They do try to address, Keith has tried to address, some of the concerns around governance and basically free drivers. Those are people who are deploying this unilaterally. In fact, I think there was a case of someone sort of immature trying to do this with a hot air balloon or something like that. Jason Bradford It was an insignificant amount but it made - Rob Dietz All the gender reveal parties for kids, they're actually embedding sulfur in those things. So it's everywhere. Asher Miller They're trying to do this on the down-low. So you know, they've tried to propose some pathways of governance, mutual restraint agreements, that are like similar to arms control agreements or treaties that people have, where countries can pursue R&D of geoengineering, but they agree not to unilaterally deploy it. Call me a little skeptical about all that stuff, but - Rob Dietz When has an international agreement not worked? Name one example. Jason Bradford Alright, well let's summarize this. We've got two guys. We got one guy on the West Coast, representing the West Coast, Stanford. Asher Miller In this corner. . . Jason Bradford And one representing the East Coast for Harvard. And there's three ideas. And think of these as like three legs of a stool to deal with climate change. You've got the alternative energy path. That leg, by electrification of everything and weaning from fossil fuels really fast. You've got this other leg, which is the carbon capture to clean up our legacy of hydrocarbon burning. And then you've got the third leg, which is a solar radiation management to keep Earth from overheating given the greenhouse effect. Jason Bradford I have to say, if they listen to this, they probably wouldn't be happy that we're lumping the two of them together because to us, there's a lot of commonality, which we'll get into. But they don't actually, from what we could see, don't like each other's ideas that much. Jason Bradford Yeah, they may like each other. We don't know that. But they criticize - Asher Miller They don't see themselves on the same page about things. So like, Keith thinks Jacobson's energy modeling is unrealistic, you know, maybe it's erroneous on some level. He doesn't think that we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels with wind as fast as Jacobson is projecting. Hence, why we need you know, carbon capture and solar geoengineering. Keith is an ecomodernist. He's signed on to the ecomodernist manifesto. He wants to keep nukes for baseload. You know Jacobson is anti-nuke. Jacobson thinks that investing in Keith's technologies is a waste of resources, it's a diversion, might lead us to be apathetic. Do you know what I mean? In terms of rapid transition of our energy system. We're going to be going green and clean super fast, so we don't need any that. Rob Dietz Man, for two heads of the false prophet dog here, I really agree with their claims about the other one. Jason Bradford Well, and now I get to put them all together in the same species. Let's go through the typology. Melody Allison How would you like to hang out with Asher, Rob, and Jason? Well, your chance is coming up at the 4th annual Crazy Town Hall. The town hall is our most fun event of the year where you can ask questions, play games, get insider information on the podcast, and share plenty of laughs. It's a special online event for the most dedicated Crazy Townies out there. And it's coming up on June 6, 2023 from 10 to 11:15am US Pacific Time. To get an invite, make a donation of any size. Go to postcarbon.org/supportcrazytown. When you make a donation, we'll email you an exclusive link to join the Crazy Town Hall. If we get enough donations, maybe we can finally hire some decent hosts. Join us at the Crazy Town Hall on June 6, 2023. Again, to get your invitation go to post carbon.org/supportcrazytown. Jason Bradford Guys, it's been a really good day for me for a few reasons. I mean, it's good to see you guys. Good to have you over. Rob Dietz Oh, that's so nice. Asher Miller No comment. Jason Bradford Yeah, the other thing is, I went outside the bird this morning to get something in and I got a purple finch, which was the new species for the month. And I've only seen that species a handful of times. They're not that common. And the other thing that happened is, I got an email from a listener, Laura. I won't reveal her full identity because she probably doesn't want people to know so much. Asher Miller It's a shameful thing, listening to this podcast. Jason Bradford But she emailed to appreciate the dichotomous key in the taxonomic treatment, and say that she understands when I talk about cladistics. She knows what I'm talking about. Rob Dietz I was just holding out hoping that the word cladistics was going to come up in this podcast. Asher Miller Cla-dick-sticks? Rob Dietz Cladistics - I can leave a happy man now. Jason Bradford And it's beautiful out. Look at that. Asher Miller It is beautiful. Jason Bradford Okay, so anyway. But back to our show. Rob Dietz Cladistically speaking. Jason Bradford So this species, these guys key out, directly. And Jacobson is the type specimen actually of this species. Asher Miller By type specimen you mean he's like the poster boy. Jason Bradford Right. You have to link sort of an individual to the species concept. So in case the concept changes, you can at least apply certain people to that. Asher Miller So if we're gonna have like Ansel Adams out there, you know, taking photos, or somebody's painting representative species, it would be Mark Jacobson in front of his Tesla and his fancy house. Jason Bradford Yeah, or in like the "Sibley's Book of Birds," you know, this was a picture of bird in it. Asher Miller It would be a picture of Jacobson. Rob Dietz So what's the species? Jason Bradford This species is homo multiplicitati, which is very complex Latin word. And the known familiar is complexifixer. Okay? So, yeah, these are the engineering types that you know, they're part of this clade have sort of the ultra modernists. Sort of derived from the double downer species, probably. They want to address these global scale predicaments with technologies that are fantastically difficult to manage and scale. So you know, these guys you can find them mostly on like college campuses and engineering departments, among many left leaning environmental orgs. They may have found venture capital, put their kooky ideas into practice. They generally think they are the smartest guys in any room, and that's probably true, but they're also total dorks. So anyway, it's pretty obvious who we're dealing with here and in this species. Asher Miller Okay. Rob Dietz Alright, thanks for that cladistics overload there. Appreciate that, Jason as always. Jason Bradford No problem. I'll talk cladistics anytime you want. Rob Dietz Yeah, I know. I know you will. Alright, let's get on to the critiques of the three legs of the stool. Asher Miller I got nothing. Rob Dietz I think that's the worst lie you've ever told. Because we know there's a lot of critiques and we can't even cover all of them by any stretch. If you want all of them, go read the list of scientific papers that covers it, but we are going to cover some. So for Jacobson's idea of the all electric future, we've broken the critique into three categories. Okay? Technical, material, and socio-political. And since there's three of us, we each get to kind of lead one. Jason Bradford I'm gonna take the baton then right now. Alright, technical. Again, there's so many here. I'm gonna just list a few. There was a real kerfuffle over this. This Christopher Clack et al. - So another lot of people in this paper. Asher Miller Is that who does car show on NPR. Jason Bradford Click and Clack? Rob Dietz No, that's Clickifer Clack. Jason Bradford Okay, anyway. In 2017, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, blah, blah, blah, took many issues with Jacobson. One key one that I think is rarely mentioned that is really important is that Clack et al. believed that Jacobson and his colleagues don't understand how the grid requires a stable baseload that is sort of driven by what they call, quote, "Rotating machines with substantial inertia that is critical for frequency stability, are supplanted by a synchronous wind and solar generators." And I mean, how do you understand this? Think about this like, you know when you're riding your bike and you're going fast, you're actually more stable than if you're going slow. So this is sort of like this inertia, this sort of power that's in the spin. If you take a tire and you're spinning and you try to turn it it's hard when It's going fast. Right? It doesn't want to turn. It's stable. Rob Dietz I will say I just got back from mountain biking. I was practicing my track stance again and I'm pretty good. I can stand on there on the bike. So maybe Jacobson is right. Asher Miller You're Mr. Renewable. Jason Bradford Okay. Okay. Clack et al. also don't believe Jacobson appreciates the difficulty of integrating large new energy sources like wind that is installed far from where it's used. And there's an amazing cost and complexity of transmissions over these vast distances that they do not believe is properly understood in Jacobson's model Rob Dietz I have wondered about that. Because you know, when you're traveling and you see like the big wind turbine farms, it's usually a pretty remote place. Jason Bradford Yeah, exactly. And so gathering all that and then funneling it through big new transmission lines and transformers and rethinking with the grid and trying to avoid losses. It just basically thinks our model really doesn't understand that and vastly - Asher Miller What's important for people to understand is we use transmission lines now to run electricity from fossil fuel power plants, for example. But if one is down in an area, it doesn't mean they're all down. But when wind is not blowing in a region, it's not like one isolated area where these wind turbines aren't blowing. It's typically over a larger distance. And that's why you have to have transmission lines over vast distances. Jason Bradford Connecting vast distances. Right. And that's very hard. Okay. And then many also go after Jacobson's sort of rosy picture of what are called the renewable capacity factors. And there's actually a recent paper and again, the Proceedings of National Academy of Science said that instead of using sort of modeling, bring in more real world data. So actually, what does it look like for 20 years of wind data, 20 years of PV data? And they basically argue that the ratios that are often too low, and this paper argues that one unit of fossil fuel generation needs four units of PV to be replaced, and two units of wind. And that doesn't include backup or anything like that. But it's just because the wind doesn't blow all the time and the sun isn't out all the time, etc. Rob Dietz Okay, so you have passed the baton from the technical now to me on the materials front. And we have a reader actually at resilience.org that comments on a lot of our posts and he's done something really cool after he went through a lot of articles. He's coined three terms that summarize some of the problems with the Jacobson's electrification model. Jason Bradford This is J.R. Martin. Rob Dietz Yeah. So the three problems that J.R. Martin up with, or at least that he's named, are the Michaux Monkey Wrench, the Heinberg Pulse, and the Smil Crawl all named after- Asher Miller These are all bars that are in downtown Corvallis. Rob Dietz Right especially - Well, no, not the 3rd one. You go on the crawl to get to the other two. Jason Bradford The Pulse has a great dance floor. Rob Dietz So the Michaux Monkey Wrench - Simon Michaux's work shows how the mining industry can't really gear up quickly enough to extract all the raw materials that are needed to do this massive build out. And there may not even be high enough quality of ores left on earth to do what Jacobson . . . . Asher Miller I mean, that's a big concern, right? Do we have the minerals to do this? Jason Bradford And I mean, Simon Michaux argues that we're off and by like an order of magnitude for a lot of these things. So it's not even close in many cases. Rob Dietz Yeah. So then the Heinberg Pulse, of course, is named after our colleague and friend, Richard Heinberg. And he's pointed out that if you're going to do this big industrial build out of the solar wind infrastructure, you're actually gonna have this huge pulse of emissions to do it. Because you have to use fossil fuels to build this, do all the mining, and all the transporting, and all the construction. So they're not taking that into account either. Asher Miller I think this is such an under recognized issue when you think about it because you're talking about massive, massive ramp up of industrial processes, and consumption of energy and raw materials to do t. On top of what the economy is already doing. Jason Bradford Yeah, it's an absurd amount. And all the mining . . . It's ridiculous. Asher Miller Which would create its own emissions and environmental - Rob Dietz Permits and land use and everything. Unbelievable. Rob Dietz Yeah, I've watched videos of the trucks pulling up mountain sides with the pieces of the wind turbines, and it's kind of crazy to see the amount of energy needed to - I mean, those things are massive. So to move them up to wherever they're going to be is just emblematic of it. And then the third one is the Smil Crawl, named after Vaclav Smil, who has written a lot about how these energy transitions, they're not fast, like Jacobson is proposing. They're actually really slow. They take a long time because you have so many institutions and the technical barriers and all that stuff to turn it over. Rob Dietz Right. Which gets to the sociopolitical kind of critique. Rob Dietz Yes, baton passed to Asher. Asher Miller And if you think about it, I mean, is sort of simple, right? Like, you could model stuff out on paper. Jason Bradford Spreadsheet. Spreadsheet. Asher Miller Spreadsheets, your computer models, do all this stuff, and it looks fantastic. It looks great. And you could do that for every country on earth, and every state and blah, blah, blah, right? In the real world, we're dealing with human systems, human decision makers, politics. We're not very quick, you know, in terms of transitioning to those things you see. You see, you know, the tensions that exist and the challenges that exist to get consensus on anything and policymakers on board. So to think about doing it at speed, and then that might be more like a localized political challenge. In all the entrenched interests and sort of the money that flows in to influence the political system and legislation, you start thinking also about integration across nations. Jason Bradford And yeah, the grid supposed to be spread and managed transnationally. Rob Dietz Yeah, you said 24 global regions, I believe. Asher Miller Just the sheer challenge, right? It's not just the technical challenge. It's not just the material challenge. It's the challenge of like, the coordination of all that to be done rapidly and at scale. And you could say, well, we'll figure it out. But there's another piece to it too, which is thinking about the actual impacts of what some people are calling green colonialism, right? So all of these renewable energy sources, whether it's, you know, the ones that are supplying electricity, or the ones are consuming them. Like electric cars with their batteries require a lot of raw materials. Many of those things are in places around the world, who have already been exploited through different forms of colonialism. And there's a lot that people are voicing concern around, a new form of colonialism, which is basically extraction of these for renewable energy economy and the localized environmental impacts of that. The human costs of that. I mean, there are huge human rights violations, concerns of rights of indigenous communities over their land. A major issue that gets completely glossed over or ignored in a sense through these plans. Rob Dietz So maybe there just a few really good critiques of Jacobson's stuff. And like I said, there's a lot more that if you're really interested, dive into the literature. But let's move on to some critiques of David Keith's two ideas. And let's start with Direct Air Capture. I'm going to give you guys a little bit of scale stuff. So even if you built 1,000 of these Direct Air Capture factories, or DACtories maybe you could call them. Jason Bradford Did you say daiquiri? Jason Bradford DACtories. And each one is a million tons per year. Rob Dietz Yes, yeah. A million tons. So, you know, sounds like a lot, but that would only pull out of the air less than 3% of current emissions. So we're nowhere near that. You said right now the prototype is one ton a day. So you could build one that could get 365 tons out. Asher Miller That's pretty close to a million. Rob Dietz And we kind of have already pointed out that we need 37,000 DACs operating full time. And that's just to eliminate the new emissions. Legacy emissions are 27 times larger than that. So we need an L-O-T of D-A-C. We need a lot of DAC factories. But I have the question, how much energy does each one of these suckers require? Jason Bradford Well let's go back. Remember, you basically went through the really kind of baby talk explanation of the technology, which I thought was really well done, actually. There was a very, very nice summation of this four step process, you know, and it takes an incredibly - There's a published paper, which is nice. They actually published a paper on their process and their technology, making the case that how scalable it is, and cost effective, blah, blah, blah. But when you look at it, it's transparent how much energy it uses. And it ends up being about 2,000 kilowatt hours per ton of carbon dioxide pulled out of the air. And so if you multiply that by a million tons, each one of these mega ton plants would need 2 billion kilowatt hours per year. And that's the equivalent of over 188,000 U.S. homes per year. For one of these plants. Rob Dietz Wow. Asher Miller Yeah. Rob Dietz And when we're talking U.S. homes, we're not exactly the most conserving when it comes to burning fuel and using electricity in our home. Jason Bradford Right. Asher Miller Yeah. And if you think about scaling it up, you're talking about one of these plants, right? Scaling his thing up - Our buddies, Richard Heinberg, who we just talked about, and David Fridley is a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. They co-author a book that we published a few years ago called, "Our Renewable Future." They wrote a piece a few years ago in Renewable Energy World, doing some analysis about this plan that was published and got a lot of media attention, by Keith and Carbon Engineering, basically, laying out a vision for doing Direct Air Capture, but turning it into gasoline, right. And this got a ton of attention. Wow, how perfect. Jason Bradford Carbon neutral gasoline Asher Miller That's like the circular economy. It's so beautiful. And they did some math on the energy inputs required. Rob Dietz God, it always falls apart when you do the math. Dammit. Asher Miller Fridley is great at doing math by the way. He's the guy I always turn to for that kind of thing. So if you just think, you know, just do a thought exercise. And I'm not saying that Keith is arguing that they're going to do this. But if there are enough DAC plants operating to capture all the annual carbon dioxide emissions, just powering the fans, right? You talked about this process - Starting with the fans but there's a lot more that goes into it than after that. But just starting with the fans, right? So just powering the fans would consume nearly 60% of all U.S. electricity consumption in the entire country. Rob Dietz Think of the nice breeze. You could probably - Those fans would then power the turbine. So we've got another circular economy. Asher Miller So that's just the fans. And then you go down the chain, right? The CO2 compressors, they would require twice the amount of energy that the fans would. Rob Dietz So now you're talking to like, that's 120% of the energy of U.S. Asher Miller Well, we don't need energy for anything else. Rob Dietz Or sorry, I said energy, but electricity. Well, the current design of these DAC factories, too, it uses almost exclusively natural gas for power and to provide the heat that it needs. So if that's the case, you're not solving the problem at all. You're running it on fossil fuels. Now, they're working on an all electric process, but it's pretty tough to tell how well that's going. Jason Bradford Yeah, yeah. Another important point is that so far, we're just describing this process as grabbing that CO2 out of the air. But none of what we talked about with energy or the machines involved are sequestering this. They're just capturing it and separating it in a pure form. So you would actually need more energy and a place to go, you know, pipelines and injection facilities to store it long term. And it's kind of weird because the other thing they keep, you know, even though this is sold as some sort of climate thing, if you look at their website, they're always promoting the creation of fuel for carbon neutral fuels, like airplanes and stuff. And so there goes the storage. Like, they're not even worried about the storage at this point. Maybe someday. Asher Miller Yeah, I mean, this is the thing. So let me just to understand this process right now. So you take natural gas, right? You put it into a system that's powering these fans and all these other processes that consume a shit ton. a metric shit ton, excuse me, of energy, right? Rob Dietz How many shit tons in a kiloton? Asher Miller Somebody's got to do the math on that for me. Depends on your diet. And then supposedly, you could take out some of this carbon dioxide, right? But then you can store it into anything. So what do you do with it? You turn it back into fossil fuels, like . . ? Jason Bradford It's not fossil fuels, it's just fuels. Now it's just fuels. So you've taken the fossil out of the fuels. So it's better. Asher Miller Right. Okay. Oh, yeah, sure. That's right. No, but what are they offering to do with this right now? They're talking about using it for injection so that they could do enhanced recovery of fossil fuels. Jason Bradford Yes. Those are the two markets. Asher Miller And you could fuel basically ICE engines. You can fuel internal combustion engines, airplanes - Rob Dietz Yeah, you could have exponentially growing DAC to take care of all the extra fuel you're producing. Alright, well, so that's a short summary of some DAC problems. Let's move on to solar geoengineering. The third leg of that stool, of course, governance is going to be a problem. And I don't really want to hammer this because we already hit it in Jacobson's stuff. So same kind of issues there. One of the things that really concerns me the most is that we have volcanoes that have cooled the temperature by throwing sulfur into the atmosphere. But there's a lot of uncertainty on how well this would work and what other side effects might arise. And it's not a genie that you can stuff back in the bottle. Asher Miller We've talked about the precautionary principle, right? So this raises all the precautionary principle flags. And I think it's a lot of the people's concerns globally. Jason Bradford Yeah. Rob Dietz I mean, you're not talking about like, you know, we're just gonna do this over New Jersey or something. Asher Miller And part of the problem about it being so effectively cheap and easy to do - like the technology exists - Is that people could just sort of rogue do this. Jason Bradford I think we're gonna do it. I think it's going to happen. Because It's cheap and relatively easy, and we're gonna get desperate. But the scary thing for me then becomes, what happens next? Because the main issue that makes this a tremendous hazard, and ethically kind of queasy for me, is what's called termination shock. And this was explained by someone with a great name, Raymond Pierrehumbert. Rob Dietz He's the lead singer of the band Termination Shock, right? Jason Bradford He should. Rob Dietz It's a punk band. Asher Miller Pierrehumbert sounds like a great cheese. Jason Bradford Well, he's a physics professor at the University of Oxford. He should be in Paris, but he works at Oxford. Rob Dietz He's taking on to Harvard and Stanford guys. Jason Bradford Yeah, he points to a key argument against solar geoengineering. And that is, typically, it's overlooked in the media coverage. So that's why I'm really highlighting it. And it's the showstopper for him. And he calls it the millennial commitment problem, I'm not talking about people born around the turn of the century. Okay? They have problems with commitment. You can just swipe left or right, or something like that. I don't know. But anyway, this is a quote from him. "Injecting particles into the stratosphere tries to offset this persistent warming by human action that needs to be continually renewed. If the particle injection were ever stopped, the particles would fall out in a year or so, and the world would suffer the full brunt of resurgent global warming in around a decade, a phenomenon called termination shock." Asher Miller I think this is really key. First of all, it makes me think of like paying off one credit card with another credit card, you know. It's like, you're just denying the reality. You're not facing up to the reality. Now, Keith obviously says, maybe this buys us time, you know. Jason Bradford But it locks us in. Asher Miller And that's the thing. And it's the same argument with nuclear power. Now we're going to get a bunch of emails about thorium and how I'm wrong about nuclear power. But one of the arguments there that I think gets lost so much is this assumption that we're going to have complex societies functioning to be able to maintain these things for 1000's of years. Do you know what I mean? It's just like, have you looked at history? Rob Dietz Keith himself weighs in on this a bit and I mentioned earlier that he comes across pretty realistic in some ways. And he's right about some things. You know, I agree with you Jason that we're probably going to do this geoengineering with our backs up against the wall. And I think that's where Keith is coming from. But here's his take on moral hazard, which reveals how strongly he's stuck in this modern capitalist growth paradigm. So the quote is, he says, "Is there a moral hazard to battery powered cars? Because fundamentally, it's the same kind of thing as the hazard to geoengineering." And he says, "And the only way those cars count as moral hazards is if you really believe the right thing is just to reduce consumption. So maybe, from Naomi Klein's point of view, and you really think the right thing is to reduce consumption and show that industrial capitalism is unsustainable, then anything that gets us out of the problem is in some sense, a problem." So he's basically saying that you can't reduce consumption. And that's a . . . Asher Miller I mean, he's kind of making our argument for us, but then he sort of like dismisses it. Jason Bradford He's just creating a new set of problems is the problem I have, right? This does not actually solve any fundamental problem. Asher Miller It's the double downer that you talked about before. Here's my thing about both of these guys that really gets me. It's like, not only are their assumptions about the technology working and all the materials being available, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff, right? Or just sort of like biophysical. It's really this idea that we can assume global coordinated rational action, right? And again, these guys are fucking engineers and physicists, right. So they don't probably spend a lot of their time dealing with the social sciences. But if you look at the fact that most of the problem here is basically a social problem, right? This is the choices that we're making, how we structure our economy. They're assuming that we're going to be rational actors, we're going to get the kind of massive government intervention we need. We would have to redirect effectively the entire global economy to do this. Like in Jacobson's case, massive deployment, if we're trying to avoid the Heinberg Pulse. Which, this even presumes that we have the biophysical capacity to do all this build out on top of that the economy as it currently stands. Which I doubt we could do. You would be forced to say, well, we actually have to ratchet down everywhere else in the economy in order to keep us from growing emissions while we're doing this. And there's no discussion of that, no recognition of that, no talk about that. It's like this assumption, basically, that we're all going to act in a coordinated way we can count on businesses and the markets to drive investments into these things. Rob Dietz All the stuff that gets sold on Amazon, they're going to quit and they're just going to start working on solar panels, right? Overnight. Asher Miller Overnight. Jason Bradford Overnight. Okay, we've done some pretty nice critiquing of the specifics, but let's sort of now move to some of the broader points we have. Because we're kind of picking on these guys, but really, they're emblematic of sort of the way the world is looked at, and processed, and considered, and what's considered realistic, right. Rob Dietz Yeah, one thing that came up for me in considering these two false prophets is that I wanted to be careful that we don't do the circular firing squad thing that we've talked about in the past where, you know, these guys are not Dick Cheney and Rex, what's the name? Rex Tillerson? The guy that ran Exxon Mobil. Jason Bradford No and they play tennis. And one guy birds. Rob Dietz Yeah, and I think they're trying to solve the problem. They're just wrong about how they're going about it. But it's valid to critique them. I just don't want to completely throw them under the bus. Asher Miller Sure. Totally fair. Jason Bradford Totally fair. Asher Miller That's fair. You know, something that I was really struck by when we were preparing for this episode, I actually went and watched that interview that Jacobson did on the David Letterman Show. Asher Miller Yeah, how was that? Asher Miller Back in 2013. I'll let you be the judge if you watch it. I'm not gonna be too mean about it. But what really struck me was sort of the very end of the interview. And I want to play you that clip, alright? Let's pull it up here. David Letterman Show Do me a favor right now. If you'd, Mark, look right in the camera and tell people everything's going to be okay. Everything will be okay if we collectively put our mind to it. There's no technological or economic limitation to solving these problems. It's a social and political issue. Jason Bradford He sounds like that character from Warner Brothers with the laser. Rob Dietz The Aludium Q-38 explosive space modulator. Asher Miller I just found it so interesting that this like, please look straight into the camera and tell us everything's gonna be okay. Rob Dietz I mean, that's an "aha" from this, right? There's this hunger, a desperation that we're all going to be okay. That some technology solution exists within the current capitalist business framework that's going to just let us keep on doing what we're doing. There's no transformation required to the economy or the society. Thank you very much. Asher Miller Right. And I mean, that's why I thought it made a lot of sense to talk about both these guys together. And you know, maybe they're the yin and yang. Jason Bradford Well, they're complex things. They're the same species. Asher Miller Yeah. I mean, even though they might see themselves maybe a little bit at odds with each other, you know, Direct Air Capture and geoengineering and massive deployment of renewables. Maybe they're not the same. But they really are part of that business as usual mentality, right. And that's amazing thing to me is they imagine that it's easier to deploy all of these crazy techno interventions at scale than it would be to change the operating system of the global economy. Even their assumptions are basically built on a premise that we are going to change the way the global economy works. We're all going to be coordinated on this stuff, you know, in order to be able to do this. But no, we couldn't possibly think about changing capitalism, or we couldn't think about reducing consumption. Jason Bradford This is where you get into Crazy Town mode, right? You feel crazy. And so they're debating with each other which one of these we should do, right? Like, "Oh no, don't do Keith's stuff, do my stuff." "Oh, no, he's unrealistic." So 90% of the conversation is about their kind of stuff. Their kind of debate - Asher Miller What kind of technological intervention do we do? Jason Bradford Right, as opposed to what we need to be talking about, and 10% of the conversation is about things like E-growth and massive conservation using the word rationing and culture shift. And what drives me nuts is that these IPCC models, the major institutions, of course, having to deal with this from a global perspective, they're increasingly relying on these fantastical, technological fixes to keep warming. You know, that they call these negative emissions technologies, to keep warming below two degrees Celsius to correct for overshoot. So yeah, it is madness. Asher Miller I think when we did that episode, I think it was episode nine, they'll think of somethingisms. I think we use this great comic strip that shows this professor and a student at a blackboard and there's like this complex math problem that's done. And then in the middle of it, then a miracle happens, you know. And he's like, you're gonna have to explain this a little bit. I mean, that's what negative emissions technology is. With these models, it's like this thing is going to solve this problem for us so we can actually try to limit warming to below two degrees. Jason Bradford I forgot to mention that. But that was episode nine. You gotta go way back - They'll think of somethingisms. And we did a lot. We did a whole episode that was focusing on negative emissions technologies. Asher Miller It's understandable, to me, that politicians and capitalists are basically, you know, resorting to these technology fixes. I mean, that's what they do. Right? Like, those are the waters they operate in. You know, try to figure out how to make a profit of this naked part of the free market. Don't tell people as a politician that they have to change their behavior at all, right. But I get just deeply disappointed and frustrated with people in our shared community of concern, right? The groups that are really concerned about the climate crisis, and maybe other environmental issues, and the funders of those movements who are again, all the conversations and the things that they're really promoting are still part of that same kind of, which technological intervention are we gonna do instead of other alternatives? And it's really frustrating. Jason Bradford It's hard for us because we're not from Stanford and Harvard. And we haven't gotten the same kind of accolades and all the peer review - Asher Miller You got the thing from the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce. Jason Bradford I did get that. It's true. I should wave that around more often. But you can see how nice it would be if you're from one of these groups to have a Jacobson plan you can just point to and just rally everyone behind. Rob Dietz But your lament, Asher, it leads right back to the denial and delusion framework that we've talked about previously. And the denial side of that is, you know, in the U.S., at least the right wing denies that there's even a problem at all. Why are we even talking about this? But almost more dangerous is the way the left has the delusional view that it's going to be easy. That we'll Green New Deal our way out of climate and out of biodiversity and all the problems that we're facing. And I feel like those environmental NGOs and funders that you bring up, they've got Jacobson and Keith as their two high priests on the delusional side of the spectrum. Jason Bradford We had an entire episode called, "Denial on the right, delusion on the left," or something like that. So we keep talking about the same stuff. Asher Miller Yeah I mean, I would say, generally speaking, I think the environment climate NGOs are more in the Jacobson camp. And you have more of business interests, maybe more institutional think-tanky actors who are like pro-market on the Keith side, I think. But they're basically all part of, you know, in our view, I would say part of the same area. Like basically what you said, Jason, there's common species, right? Rob Dietz Yeah, and the government and the foundation money are all going to be flowing that direction. Asher Miller And that's because it is easier to imagine these technological, magical fixes than it is to imagine us changing how we orient ourselves, which is just incredible. And the deeper we get into this crisis, I mean, we had David Letterman, asking Jacobson to look at the camera, "Tell everybody it's gonna be okay." Jason Bradford That was 10 years ago. Asher Miller Yeah, that was 10 years ago. As we get deeper into the teeth of all this stuff, I think we're gonna see more and more of this. We're gonna see more things being peddled out there as magical solutions to get people out of their state of trepidation, fear, anxiety, you know, and overwhelm, because people want to be relieved of that. We're in that concern. Jason Bradford Maybe some of these interests can sponsor our show. That would be great. So bummer. It's a bummer to do math that's not that hard to do. And realize that what everybody is banking on, what everyone's hoping for, it's all going to fail. It's all going to fail. None of this is gonna work. Asher Miller Or make things worse. Jason Bradford Or it might make things worse. Totally make things worse. Rob Dietz It's crazy because I want to be on Jacobson side. And I'm for solarizing and wind defying Asher Miller Yeah, you're a hypocrite dude. You've got solar panels and you've got an electric car. Rob Dietz I think he's right we need to have a renewable energy source for our power. And we've got to power down like mad. We need the degrowth we need the conserving. We need to power down, we need to figure out how to live life a bit more simply. But boy, wouldn't it be just nice to be in Jacobson's headspace where you're like, "No, no, we've just got to do this and everything's rosy and fine." Jason Bradford Do that in the voice of that - Rob Dietz The Aludium Q-38 explosive space modulator. Jason Bradford Say It's gonna be okay Rob Dietz No, I'm not gonna punch... Jason Bradford Alright, we got two guys to deal with on our insufferability index. I don't want to take too long and there's something we've got to talk about up front because you think, Jacobson plays tennis, Keith is a birder, you know. What could be wrong? Rob Dietz Engineer. Jason Bradford Yeah. Nice guys maybe. Asher Miller Just trying to solve the climate crisis. Jason Bradford Trying to solve the climate crisis. It could be pretty low scoring. However, I'm a little worried about Jacobson. You know more about this, why won't you mention what happened? Asher Miller Oh, so basically, we talked about the Clack et al. paper that was published. And there was a lot of critique of Jacobson's models. Well, Jacobson took offense of that. Which is fine. There's debate that happens all the time in academic literature. This is part of the process of doing science and doing you know, studies. But he decided to sue for $10 million. Rob Dietz $10 million? Couldn't just give him a wedgie or something? Asher Miller No. Could have challenged him to a tennis match. Jason Bradford But he lost and had to pay the legal fees or something. Rob Dietz No, it ended up that he had to withdraw it because it had no merit. This is something that should be debated in an academic journal, not sued. Asher Miller What you're saying, Jason, is that might affect your scoring. Jason Bradford It's gonna affect my score for sure. Asher Miller Alright. So just quickly summarize for us the scoring system. Jason Bradford Okay. Zero is a low score, three is the highest score for these three categories of your intentions, your personality and your ideas. And then - Asher Miller So with this, you can get up to 3 points in each of those three. Jason Bradford Yes. And then there's a score bias. You can give him an extra point. Rob Dietz And a higher score is worse. Jason Bradford Yeah, a higher score is bad. Okay, so let's do Jacobson first. Rob Dietz Alright, well I'm giving him - He's getting a low score on intentions, I think has really good intentions. His personality seems kind of like a nice enough nerdy sort of dude. The ideas are decent, but then get a little out there and then the scores for that frickin' suing the dude for $10 million. I'm gonna give him a 3. Jason Bradford Okay, that's reasonable. Asher Miller 3? Jason Bradford Yeah. pretty low. Asher Miller That's really low. I'd go higher than that. Jason Bradford Really? Rob Dietz Go for it. Asher Miller I'm gonna say a 5. Jason Bradford A 5. That's pretty high. Okay, what made you go much higher? Asher Miller Well, the ideas I think are kind of - they're pretty high on the - I don't know about wackadoodle. But yeah, I mean, waving his hand at cryogenic hydrogen. Yeah, we'll just keep flying. Like literally just literally dismissing any concerns about air travel whatsoever. Like, "Oh, yeah, we'll just figure that out." Jason Bradford Okay, I think he's got a little bit of power trip because of the fame and stuff and wants to be seen as a great guy solving the world's problem but he's not like a Jack Welsh or something like that so I'll give him a 1. You know, the suit thing, and he's got a reputation for just wearing people out by just arguing incessantly and not seeing the other side. well so 1.5 for personality. Ideas, I'm gonna give him another one and a half. So what am I up to? That's 4? It's a nice day. I'm gonna stick with 4. Rob Dietz Let's run through Keith because I think he's a little more realistic than Jacobson. So I'm just gonna blanket him a 2. Asher Miller I'm going 3. Jason Bradford Okay. Yeah, I'm gonna split the difference, 2.5. Alright, that was quick. We got to move through. Rob Dietz Boom. Jason Bradford Boom. George Costanza Every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. Rob Dietz Probably the first and most obvious do the opposite is to refrain from engaging in wishful thinking and delusions. A delusional tech idea is going to come your way every day if you're looking for them. They may even be coming from these high credential, Harvard, Stanford, whatever, Yale. Jason Bradford MIT is full of them every day. Asher Miller They put press releases out constantly. Jason Bradford MIT is one of the worst actors. Rob Dietz And just have a lens. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Jason Bradford So beware, you know, any proposal that involves a lot of high tech never done before kind of stuff. Rob Dietz Solar roadways! Jason Bradford Yes. Easy to be built out quickly at a massive industrial scale. Realize there are going to be issues with material shortages, supply chains, cost overruns, massive and ongoing maintenance and management. In a world facing limits, this likely means these will fail. Asher Miller Yeah, and you're gonna hear lots of breathless news about technology solutions. It's not just MIT that is putting out press releases. This stuff seeps out into the mainstream a lot. I remember with the proposal for direct air capture to gasoline, you know, that got tons of attention. Big write up in The Atlantic magazine. A bunch of other places. With like no critical thinking involved because as we talked at nauseam on this podcast about, there's such energy blindness. There's such a lack of energy literacy in the general population, let alone you know, journalists trying to cover things. So just think critically. Rob Dietz You know, this is a little bit of an unfair comparison, but these kinds of tech DAC to gasoline whatever, it reminds me of those artists renderings that you sometimes sending around, Jason, of like a cruise ship that flies. just stuff like that where it's like, yeah, that's probably not going to happen. Asher Miller I just saw one the other day, which is, you know they're talking about flying cars now in cities. Like I mean, Jesus. Jason Bradford There are no flying hippos, okay. The largest bird is like the albatross. Okay, never mind. Asher Miller I would love to ride a flying hippo. That sounds awesome. Rob Dietz In the bayou. Asher Miller And then I'm gonna give an adage, which he probably wouldn't even say it's an adage of his. I'm kind of putting words in his mouth a little bit, but David Fridley who we've talked about, one of my go to guys on energy. He always says - I will send him things like, did you read about this plan? Or, did you hear about this thing? He's like, anything that I see, if it's only put in dollar terms, I ignore it, basically. So like that is I think generally a good rule of thumb. Jacobson is incredibly guilty of this, which is like, putting $1 price on everything rather than saying, "This is what is going to be required from a material standpoint, energy throughput, all that stuff." Jason Bradford Well think about all the stuff that says, "The cost of solar and wind is now below the cost of coal." It's like, "So what?" in many ways. Asher Miller So ignore financial costs only. Make sure you're looking. If they're not talking about material inputs or energy needs, don't pay attention to it. Jason Bradford I have a series of adages that I go through and here's what they are: Beware of scale is one. Most things will not scale. Okay? MIT is the worst. This a lab breakthrough and it will never scale. Take off the energy blinders. Most of the time, the proposal technology, and just like we went through the DAC thing, it's just idiotic. As soon as you do any energy, math, time is not on our side. Okay? Most of the stuff, to have any significance, needs to be rolled out slowly to have any chance of working. All this high tech stuff can't be done quickly. Okay? Complexity confounds. Think about the machinery and all this process that Rob went through and how complex the grid thing that Jacobson - That's not going to work. Complexity confounds. And then, we prolong growth at our peril. So most of this stuff is about prolonging business as usual and growth, which is the wrong question to be asking. It's the wrong answer to be seeking. The wrong solution set to be working towards. So anyway, those are my adages. Asher Miller I would add the precautionary principle as an adage. Jason Bradford I'll add that one. Rob Dietz Good lenses to view the world through. And if you are using those lenses, or adages, or whatever you want to call them, look, you have to face that we need to reduce our consumption. And so that means we're going to have to embrace rationing, or at least figure out how we live more simply. And everybody's got to share in that sacrifice. Asher Miller And if justice is important to you, which it should be, we have to recognize that consumption is not equally distributed. And that there are many people who are not only not responsible for the climate emissions that we've had, historically, their energy consumption, their material consumption, are a fraction of ours in western wealthy nations. And so it's on us to reduce even more significantly. Jason Bradford The belt tightening happens here, more than anywhere else. Okay. Remember that this whole term negative emissions technologies actually includes what's called nature based solutions. So I think we can work with those. That's the thing to focus on. We don't actually know how far these going to take us. But there are encouraging signs. And it's really, I wouldn't consider these no regret type investments because they come along, we know there's multiple benefits along with the climate mitigation. So you know, you can look things up. You know, growing a forest where there wasn't one before, let's say. Replanting forests that have been cut down. A lot of work on coastal marine habitats is very important. Getting carbon out of the ocean and sequestering it is really important to do. The oceans absorb so many of our emissions. Farming methods that can increase the carbon content of soil: Organic farming, more perennial systems, less tillage, organic fertilizers, biochar and tropical reasons, maybe. So these are many of the kinds of techniques out there that are actually talked about by the climate community. Those are the kinds of things that we should be investing in and working to scale. Asher Miller I'll repeat something that we talked a lot about on this podcast, which is simplifying and sort of complexifying. Right? So it means when it comes to technology, it's low-tech, right? It's shorter supply chains. It's distributed energy and food production, less industrialization, generally speaking. I mean, it's ratcheting all of this industrialization and complexity down to one, be more resilient if we're facing a lot of the cracks in the system that you talked about Jason, but also to reduce the load that we have. In terms of either replacing fossil fuels, or in terms of thinking about sequestration, or somehow removing carbon from the atmosphere. Rob Dietz Yeah, and a final do the opposite. If you're talking about transformational change, then you really need to be looking at, how do we consume less. So that's degrowth. Right? Where we're talking about, learn about it, promote the concept, talk about it with with anybody that you can. The idea is to shrink our economy down to a size that's commensurate with what the ecosystems will support that will meet our needs without undermining the life support systems to the planet. And there's actually been some little promising bits. I don't know earlier, Jason, I think you said 10% of the discussion is on - I think that's a little optimistic. But it is coming up. The most recent IPCC report on climate - You know, you mentioned like all the modeling and everything has these negative emission technologies. And I'm not talking about the ones that you just mentioned with forestation. Jason Bradford They do have some of that. Rob Dietz Well, but they really do focus on the tech technologies. But there were parts of that report where they said, "We've got to work on how much we're demanding. We've got to actually have less energy and material," and mentioned the word "degrowth" for the first time and one of those reports. Jason Bradford I think in the perspective of, "Maybe we should consider this." Asher Miller I mean, I think those institutions are gonna be late comers. They always are late comers. Especially in international body like that, where you have to get consensus from a lot of people. That was I think, actually a pretty big deal that they could get language like that through that process. And a lot of it's coming from the fact that, degrowth, particularly in Europe and other places, is really, I think, on the ascent. And people like Jason Hickel, who we know, and others, Kate Raworth, have been asked to speak to national governments, city governments, you know. It's starting to get out there. Jason Bradford So you're saying, is it okay for then for degrowth to be growing? Asher Miller I don't know, man. Jason Bradford It's like a paradox. Asher Miller Hypocrites! Jason Bradford You know what I think I want to do right now? Head out to the forest down there - And I haven't seen them this month - I know they're over there. Okay? A pair of wren tits and red breasted sapsuckers. Asher Miller I thought you were just talking about those red cattle. What was the thing you were talking about? Rob Dietz I don't know. I'm just stuck on growth for degrowth. Melody Allison That's our show. Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard, and you want others to consider these issues, then please share Crazy Town with your friends. Hit that share button in your podcast app or just tell them face to face. Maybe you can start some much-needed conversations and do some things together to get us out of Crazy Town. Thanks again for listening and sharing. Jason Bradford Based on ground shattering breakthroughs from scientists at the University of West Virginia, Recoalate is the first and only coal-to-air-to-coal technology. We can now imagine a sustainable economy based on mining coal, burning coal, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, turning it back into coal, repairing the coal, and mining it again. The mountains of West Virginia can now be rebuilt and destroyed over and over again, creating 1000's of eternal Sisyphean jobs. Recoalate: Because it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of industrial civilization. Asher Miller and Rob Dietz Recoalate!