Clearing 2021

What you'll discover about climate change in Episode One 

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The time to act is now. In our very first episode myself and journalist Martha Dixon, talk to some of the world’s leading climate experts about their work to fight climate change and to those who use this research to influence policy and engage the public.

Don't forget to subscribe for future episodes on the Louder Than Words Podcast using the buttons on the player above.

Andri Snaer Magnasson is a writer and poet and climate change is his passion. He uses his writing to get climate change on the agenda and storytelling to make sense out of complex climate data.

Dr Michelle Taylor and Professor Graham Underwood from the University of Essex discuss how their research contributes to policies that aim to reduce climate change.

At an international policy level, Tanya Steele, CEO of the UK’s World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF), emphasises the importance of science in making decisions and generating new ideas.

Environmentalist and company director Simon Lyster brings another dimension – the role that business plays in the drive towards a healthy natural environment.

Finally we talk to young activist Hattie who as a WWF Youth Ambassador is passionate about the natural environment and preserving it for future generations.

Find out more

There is so much more to find our about our contributors.

If you enjoyed hearing about the work of Andri Snaer Magnasson you can read his new bookOn Time and Water by and watch Andri's TED talk. You can also visit his personal website

Dr Michelle Taylor covers her latest research on her Taylor Lab website and you can find out more about why she is calling for a decade of action to protect our oceans.

Discover more about Professor Graham Underwood's influential research in this case study

The Living Planet Report from WWF underlines how humanity's increasing destruction of nature is having catastrophic impacts.

The Louder Than Words Podcast

I've been working with journalist Martha Dixon to create the Louder Than Words Podcast. We want to encourage difficult discussions, to offer a platform to people making a difference and to explain how you can take action on issues you care about.

This is the first podcast from the Centre for Public and Policy Engagement and was developed with CommsConsult. Louder Than Words shows how research delivers solutions to global problems, how we can improve people’s lives and how we can inspire people to take action now.

Each episode of Louder Than Words will look at a key global issue and give you a chance to hear from leading researchers, policy makers, thinkers and campaigners plus those directly affected by the issue.

The first season looks at climate change, migration, mental health, inequality and nature as therapy. Join us and subscribe to upcoming podcasts.

Episode One Transcription

Voices [OVERLAPPING]

- this summer, but nothing like what we're gonna get into starting -

Today, the mercury has hit a scorching 35 degrees Celsius -

Jules Pretty - Climate change is the crisis of our generation.

Martha Dixon - But the solutions are coming thick and fast.

Simon Lyster - And it's not that difficult. I mean, so many of the things that we've done, you know, are just common sense things.

Jules Pretty - I'm Professor Jules Pretty. This is Louder Than Words, the pod from the University of Essex that goes in search of answers to global problems.

Martha Dixon - I'm journalist Martha Dixon, I'll be speaking to important players in the world of climate change, about what we can expect our world to look like in the next few years.

Tanya Steele - We cannot self isolate from climate change.

Jules Pretty - And we'll be talking about vital research taking place here at the University of Essex that's being used to encourage new thinking, and bring in game changing policies. We'll also be finding out what experts are urging all of us to do to reverse the crisis.

Martha Dixon - Bringing new hope to the climate debate.

Andri Snaer Magnasson - I'm looking at Okjokull, Ok Glacier. But it's not okay anymore. The first glacier that Iceland lost to climate change. And in the next 200 years, we expect all our glaciers to follow the same path.

Martha Dixon - Andri Snaer Magnasson is a writer, a poet, and father of four children in Iceland.

Jules Pretty - Climate change is clearly Andri's passion, and his deep worry.

Andri Snaer Magnasson - So I wrote a letter to the future that claims: 'This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening, and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.'

[RUNNING WATER]

[ANDRI SNAER MAGNASSON WALKING UP OK MOUNTAIN]

Andri Snaer Magnasson - So you could say that I base my findings on data, on the newest findings of our finest scientists. And actually, they - many of them were asking me to do this. That is, there was they were frustrated that - and seeing that a new paradigm shift doesn't happen unless data is connected to culture. So I'm taking this data, and I'm connecting it to myself, I'm connecting it to poetry, I'm connecting it to stories and mythology. We live in a society of law and order, and we have all sorts of laws against harming others or protecting property; and the overwhelming science of climate shows that we are harming the future of our children and our grandchildren, and even ourselves. So, I'm connecting, maybe abstract future time and I'm bringing that into intimate time. Because our time is the time of someone we know and love, the time that creates us, our parents, our grandparents. And our time is a time of the people that we will know and love, the time that we will create, and we are creating. So, the time that we can touch with our bare hands, is up to 200, even 250 years. So I can touch 19- the 1920s and I'm deeply influenced by people raised in that era. And I will touch directly the 2100s, 2120- 30- 40. And then, in the case of my children, they will know somebody in the year 2160. And that's way beyond 'Blade Runner'. But I'm bringing that into intimate space, not sci fi.

Martha Dixon - Andri is becoming a bit of a climate change celebrity. He's on book lists, in many global newspaper interviews, and most recently, the subject of a TED talk.

Jules Pretty - Andri's new book is called 'On Time and Water'. He knows poetry and prose are working as a tactic to help get climate change high on political agendas.

Andri Snaer Magnasson - It's just the fact that our habits, our industries are undermining the future and that is unbearable for anyone to live in that situation. In this denial, it- it can go on for a generation that is raised in another paradigm. But for the climate strike generation, they're not going to allow this. I could say that I have hope, personally. But that doesn't really mean that there is hope. That's just how my mindset is. But I can see equal dystopias and utopias playing out. That- I can see that maybe I- we - overestimate progress in the short-term. But we might underestimate it in the long-term, of when we actually start moving all the machines in the right direction.

Martha Dixon - So how do we get those machines moving in the right direction?

Jules Pretty - It's clear the science, or the new ideas and evidence about the climate can form the basis for new policies. Put together, it's a vital part of the emerging revolution in ethical choices about how we live.

Dr Michelle Taylor - As you get a little bit deeper, that light disappears, and you start being able to focus on the things- like those tiny little particles that you see in deep sea video are quite common when it- when it's getting to that twilight zone, when that light starts disappearing. And then eventually, it's very dark.

Martha Dixon - Dr. Michelle Taylor from the University of Essex works in an unknown world.

Jules Pretty - Her mission is to catalogue and protect the ecosystems in the deep oceans of the Antarctic.

Dr Michelle Taylor - So some of these corals can be four and a half thousand years old. So you know, when the pyramids were being built, this- this thing was a baby. So they're very aged, so the recovery times also make them vulnerable. And now in our changing climate, the fact that they are made of calcium carbonate; they're made of like, you know, the things- like what are bones are made of, calcium. You know, Calci-Yummy. They - and they get that calcium out of the water. And as our waters- as our waters are getting warmer and more acidic there is less calcium in them, for them to be able to make their little skeletons and live their little lives.

I wouldn't do my job if I didn't have hope. I think that this- I think we've got to look at it a different way we've got to look at the time we have right now is an opportunity for change. So we have an amazing chance to, you know, become a green economy. Become better, the way that we live with our natural environment. So I really believe that exploring our own planet is- is vital. And understanding how our planet works is vital. Because if we understand it, it means that we can support it and we can make sure it's sustainable and better for, you know, our children and our grandchildren and for the rest of, you know, human existence. Laws and management decisions are pretty much in the dark in some circumstances for how we manage- specifically in Antarctica as well. I mean, of all the bits of deep sea that are the most difficult to get to. It's the place that's, you know, covered in ice for half the year. That's a real challenge.

Graham Underwood - Measuring these things, understanding how they work with the processes behind them. From a nonpartisan point of view, I think the big advantage of university work is that we're seen as honest brokers, we don't have axes to- axes to grind. We're just finding out what is happening and what the pressures and benefits are. My name is Graham Underwood. I'm a professor of marine biology at the University of Essex. I'm walking through a very special habitat, what are known as salt marshes. These fringe the coast of Essex, and large areas of southeast England. And they're particularly vulnerable to pressures of sea level rise and land reclamation. So, we're losing salt marshes in Essex. Yet at the same time, they fulfil really important ecological functions. They both provide a carbon store, in the roots and the biomass of the plants and the algae that live here, and they help protect the coast from storm surges and wave erosion. So the important part of the natural functioning and buffering of the coast that we as society rely on to protect us from sea level rise and flooding.

Jules Pretty - When decision makers change policies, including to reduce carbon emissions, they need evidence of what's already happening on the ground. And that data needs to be provided in a timely and convincing manner.

Martha Dixon - And that's what Graham has developed in his research work.

Graham Underwood - So we've been trialing methods to use some quite simple formulae and image analysis to get a handle of how much carbon is in a salt marsh, and how much carbon could be lost if that salt marsh erodes, and how much carbon can be gained if you restore the salt marsh. Progress is taking place. If you look around the country, you see new coastal restoration schemes underway. And these always used to be just supported by people like RSPB [Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] and things, but they're becoming much more mainstream now. I do think we're on the right journey. But I do think over the years, championing the vital importance of these coasts has been successful. I sit on various committees and a long time ago, people would sort of roll their eyes if I spoke about these sorts of things, as if to say, 'Oh, here he goes again'. Now people nod and agree and have got the importance of ecosystem services and natural capital is this term that people now use quite commonly, you didn't hear that 10-15 years ago. So all the work we've been doing measuring these processes, understanding the underlying biology, that provides the scientific confidence for other people to take that, as you know what we need to do, and that it's credible.

Tanya Steele - I'm Tanya Steele, I'm the Chief Executive for WWF [World Wide Fund for Nature] here in the UK, and WWF is one of the world's largest conservation charities. We work in- in over 100 countries around the world. Science is incredibly important. It - as an organisation, we are science-led

It feels remarkable that we've had this sort of slow progress of decline that's unfolded in front of our eyes. And I think what we're seeing now as we start to drill down into some of the climate data, the loss of land, and the way in which we've lost so many habitats has undoubtedly contributed to climate change. But we're now starting to see the decline of species or the pressure on species because of climate change. And data is telling us that up to a fifth of wild species is certainly at risk because of climate change. We're seeing migration routes changing, we're seeing droughts, floods. Unquestionably wildlife- but also the richer biodiversity that sits around it- it is threatened catastrophically by climatic effects.

We know that policymakers, business leaders, world leaders do listen to science, where there are countless examples of we're working very, very closely with many, many universities. And for us, it's about the breadth of data and insights that is brought. But also it does generate some incredibly new ideas. I mean, in terms of the solutions, there's undoubtedly been some progress. And I think, importantly, though, we can't reverse climate change.

So, what we're trying to do now is stop the acceleration of climate change, but also start to put down some solutions in terms of how do we adapt and how do we mitigate some of the impacts for the future. We've seen, you know, an incredible degree of cooperation, human ingenuity, off the back of this shocking COVID crisis. We cannot self isolate from climate change. This is a much greater catastrophe, which is building and growing day by day. We need world leaders to both commit but also to legislate and ensure the right policies are in place, that businesses and indeed consumers can then start to support what will be a decade-long transition.

Martha Dixon - Interesting, 'a decade-long transition'.

Jules Pretty - That means the World Wide Fund for Nature is saying that in these 10 years, great changes must take place.

Martha Dixon - Massive change that could reverse the course we're on.

Jules Pretty - So, let's find out how this kind of shift is playing out for businesses on the ground.

Simon Lyster - Okay, I'm Simon Lyster. I've been working in wildlife conservation for many years and I still am involved in a lot of wildlife conservation charities. But I'm also been working for government agencies, I was on the board of Natural England until recently. And for some years now, I've also been working with business and I'm a non-executive director of Northumbrian Water, which provides water up in the northeast and- but also owns Essex and Suffolk Water which is- and I'm actually from- from Essex myself, I'm sort of Essex-man as well as the 'Greenie' on the board and, and that's been a very interesting new experience to see what the role of business is in in tackling environmental issues.

Martha Dixon - And tell me how you believe business should be involved in tackling climate change,

Simon Lyster - Well business has got a hugely important role to play. You know, because they've got a lot of power and money, and they can do very good things. We've all been on a journey, you know, in Northumbrian Water, realising that actually doing the right thing by the environment is also good business, it makes sense. You know, if we're going to be providing water to people in the long term, we have to have a healthy natural environment that is producing clean water. You know, trying to clean up dirty water is very expensive. So it's- it's- it's in our business interest as a water company to have a healthy, natural environment. And so, that's why over the last few years, you know, Northumbrian Water- and other water companies have all been investing massively in the environment.

Martha Dixon - And what sort of things are you urging businesses to- to adapt or to- to develop-

Simon Lyster - Well, I mean the first thing-

Martha Dixon - to help with climate change.

Simon Lyster - Sure, well they've- they've got to commit to be net zero in everything they do, we've all got to commit as individuals. And as- if we're in business, or- whoever we work for everybody has got to commit to being net zero. So, businesses have got to agree to targets that they will be net zero by 'x'. And they've then got to develop a plan of action as to how they- they're going to do that. And it's not that difficult. I mean, so many of the things that we've done at Northumbrian Water, you know, are just common sense things. You know, like being as efficient as possible in the energy you use, don't waste energy. And then in- in- you know, in the energy you do use make sure it's come from a sustainable source. So if you're, if you're using energy, buy energy, that's- that's coming from wind or solar, or- or- or whatever the- the sustainable source is. You know, it's- a lot of it is- is fairly common sense. I mean, we particularly as an industry are doing a lot turning waste into energy. As our chief executive rather delicately puts it, turning poo into power. Through this advanced, sort of, anaerobic digestion systems taking waste, and then turning it into energy. That's something that we particularly as a water company can do. But there is everything- there are loads of things many people can do to be much more efficient. Not waste, be more efficient, get what energy you use from renewable sources, and that applies if you're in business, or whether you're as an individual.

Martha Dixon - Let's talk about the individual, Jules. You and me.

Jules Pretty - Each of us can help reverse the course of climate change. Governments have to act and we can help to. It's all about reducing the amount of carbon each of us emits.

Martha Dixon - And how much carbon is that?

Jules Pretty - Well, the world produced 53 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2020. We need that to fall to about 10 billion tonnes to stop the climate crisis. That's about one tonne per person for the whole world. Here in the UK, we each emit about seven and a half tonnes. So, we need to cut this to that one tonne target. So you and I can take action in four areas: food, the home, transport, and stuff. So here's a little list. If you go vegetarian or vegan, you're save 0.7-0.9 tonnes per year. If that feels like too much, then go for two meat-free days a week to save 0.3 tonnes and by the way, buy local and sustainable foods to save half a tonne. Switch electricity supplier to guaranteed renewables, saves one and a half tonnes. Install solar panels, you get free electricity and save at least one tonne of carbon per year. Replace your car with an electric vehicle and save two tonnes. In Norway, the world leader, half of all new cars are already EV's (electric vehicles). Flights are pretty awful for carbon: one return to New York costs each person two tonnes; one return to Rome, half a tonne; one to Sydney or Beijing six tonnes. So when you can fly, think about cutting trips you don't need. You could join the 'Wear 20 Times Movement' for clothing, plant 10 trees, join the volunteer economy, use less paper and plastic. All of these top up your total.

Martha Dixon - Simple steps really. And I suppose it's the next generation that will benefit from all this and who are most interested in helping change happen. People like 15 year old Hattie

[HATTIE WALKING THROUGH FOREST]

Hattie Phillips - There are so many woodpeckers in the forest.

Unknown Speaker - I know.

Hattie Phillips - I love it because of that.

Unknown Speaker - There we go! [laughs] it’s like we called them

Hattie Phillips - Hi, my name is Hattie Phillips, I'm 15 years old. And I'm proud to be a young campaigner for the future of our planet. I walk through these Woodlands every day. And I think connecting with nature is one of the most important things.

Dear John Wittingdale. It will come as no surprise that my request is environmentally-related. This is a huge year for the environment. And although it is clear that-

I started lobbying my MP, John Whittingdale. And I set up a meeting- a public meeting called 'Climate Change the Last Straw'. This is where I, kind of, got into the road with the WWF and became one of the first WWF Youth Ambassadors.

-as well. I would like to ask that we do this by including the climate and ecological crisis on the agenda that every-

You know, with COVID-19, we've seen that things can change overnight, and people's whole lifestyles can go upside down. And, you know, that's in a way, what we want to see with climate change and see a shift in how people are changing their everyday lives.

-tivity and profile to the issue that every department faces.

So I hope that young people get their voices heard and that there is a change in government and that climate change becomes part of the curriculum, and that we- we get taught about climate change in the faces that- my generation are going to have to face and generations to come. My main message is to go outside, understand and be open, you know.

Jules Pretty - We hope you've enjoyed Louder Than Words the pod that gets us talking about the big issues that affect us all.

Martha Dixon - Join us next time when we'll be discussing migration: the trauma, the joy, and the long view.

Jules Pretty - Thank you for listening. This was the Louder Than Words podcast from the Centre for Public and Policy Engagement at the University of Essex. You'll find links to the contributors and their work and books on the Centre's website.