For the third episode marking the one-year anniversary of the Texas Blackouts, we welcome Roger Pielke Jr. back to the podcast for a third time. In this episode, Pielke talks about why policymakers should not commit to decarbonization targets before they have realistic plans to meet them, Germany’s energy mess, a new “taxonomy” for thinking about disasters, doping at the Winter Olympics, and why we may have some good news on climate change.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased today to welcome for the third time on the podcast and my friend Roger Pielke Jr. Roger. Welcome back to the power hungry podcast. Great to be here, Robert. So you know, you’ve been on before. So you’re an old hand. Guests introduce themselves. Go.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 0:27
Alright. I’m Roger Pelkey Jr. I’m a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. And I study a range of topics where science policy and politics intersect. And there’s a lot of controversy over how to best go forward. And people have different legitimate views and science gets all wrapped up in the politics and vice versa.
Robert Bryce 0:45
And so, the main areas you’re looking at, though sports climate pandemics lately is that is that a fair?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 0:52
That’s Yes. The three big big buckets I’m working on these days. Okay, well, we’ll get
Robert Bryce 0:56
cracking on all of those. And this is, as a reminder to people tuning in, we’re doing several we’re doing a few episodes, I think we’re gonna do three on the one year anniversary of the Texas blackouts which occurred February 15, of course of 2021. So, how do you see let’s start there, if you don’t mind, Roger, the, in the I know, you live in Colorado. So you’re looking at this from a different lens than I am here in Austin. My power went out years didn’t. How do you see the politics around climate and issues around the grid? And these issues are playing out on the national level? Has the conversation changed in the last year? And if so, how?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:37
I think there’s been a number of events. I mean, we had the the marshal fire here in Boulder, big events, prompt introspection and thinking about things that we probably should have been thinking about all along. But when there’s the big event, it forces forces the politics to focus attention on it. And it
Robert Bryce 1:55
just I’m sorry, Marshall fire, what was the total 800 homes lost? Something like that? 1000
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:59
homes, 1000 homes and about 9090 people who are associated with with the University of Colorado. So it’s it’s pretty, you know, it’s pretty close to home here.
Robert Bryce 2:07
And you live in East boulder. So this is just a few miles east of where you live, then. Yeah, just a few miles southeast of southeast. Okay. Right. But but your house was not what was your house in danger? No,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 2:16
we weren’t in danger. And we weren’t affected, thankfully. But a lot of friends lost houses. And a lot of people live in the neighborhoods whose houses were spared, but smoke damage and so on. So it’s really quite a quite an event. just spun up in one afternoon.
Robert Bryce 2:29
Sorry, sorry, I interrupt you please go on about the the marshal fire in these big events.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 2:33
Yeah, so So I mean, this is characteristic of disasters in in general or extreme events, they prompt a rethinking of the sorts of things we should have been thinking about when before the disaster occurred. And there’s always this tension in the aftermath of disasters, to return to normal. And return to normal means to put in place those conditions that led to the disaster in the first place. And the reality is, you know, whether it’s, it’s a weatherizing a grid, or it happens to be improving fire mitigation. For the most part, we know what to do. And it comes down to a question of how much do we want us to spend for low probability, but certain over the long timescales sorts of events. And so the politics gets gets really, really difficult in that context of number one, returning to normal, and number two, asking people to start spending money to maybe increase resilience, reduce vulnerabilities.
Robert Bryce 3:31
Well, so now tie that back then to the what, you know, in terms of the grid, if you’ve been I don’t know how closely you’ve been following this, but there’s, you know, talk about resilience and building more resilience into the grid. The same is happening in California. But it doesn’t seem to be taking much hold on the national level. How do you see it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 3:48
Yeah, you know, I’m not an expert on that on the Texas grid. But, you know, from what I have seen, it’s pretty clear that the same sort of dynamics are playing out. I mean, you guys had a, you know, a cold snap, just in the last few days last week. And apparently, the grid Did, did you just find because there weren’t the same constellation of events. But the questions are going to be given the peculiarities of the of the Texas grid, you know, being kind of isolated off of the broader national grid. How much money are our Texan, either, you know, taxpayers or ratepayers willing to spend to harden infrastructure against an event that’s, you know, 1989 2011 2021 it happens, but it doesn’t, you know, if it happens once a decade, it can be hard to ask people to pony up to, you know, prevent prevented the disaster from occurring.
Robert Bryce 4:43
Well, as you say that it just what pops into mind is these what would be considered lower probability or lower frequency events, but high impact so in some ways, I mean, it kind of ties back into the whole ideas around pandemics and what in preparation for that, which you’ve been writing a lot about lately. But let’s shift Talk about because I know you follow European politics. How are the European energy crisis? What what bothers me and I’ve written quite a lot about this and testified in front of the Senate last year about this issue is us should not be following Europe’s energy model, because Europe just seems to be committing kind of a collective energy suicide, you know, closing its coal plants closing its nuclear plants, relying more heavily on Russian gas. What do you see happening in Germany? And more? Just as importantly, why what why is why are the German Why is the German political system. So I would say unwilling to see the dangers that are lurking, lurking?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 5:41
Yeah, I mean, Germany’s a fascinating case, I did just a quick back of the envelope estimate that said that if Germany didn’t commit to closing all of its nuclear power plants in the last one, which is planned to be shuttered by the end of this year, they could already be off of coal, and have that replaced with zero emissions, nuclear power. And so now, you know, depending on their success rate, they will have coal fired power plants through 2030 or later. So, I mean, if you’ve written about this, as well as anybody else, there, there are trade offs to be made among energy sources, but the one one trade off that is not going to be made is to turn the lights out. That’s that’s not an option. And so what we see is that if the choice is between unreliable energy and carbon dioxide emissions, will get carbon dioxide emissions if it’s between unreliable energy and reliance on a geopolitical foe like Russia will rely on the geopolitical foe. So I mean, Germany has put himself itself into a situation where domestically nuclear power is, is enormously unpopular, for a lot of reasons, you know, partly because of the cold war. And Germany was right, you know, it’s the bull’s eye. So I get that. Fossil fuels and climate issues are extremely popular in Germany. So there’s a great public support. And so that doesn’t leave a lot of room for alternatives. And so the the new coalition government that came in, after Angela Merkel, has decided to accelerate these, these trends continue with a nuclear phase out, accelerate the coal phase out, which means more reliance on Russian gas in particular, and also expanding renewables, which, as we’ve seen, don’t always fulfill the energy needs. So that’s why they’re relying on gas as backup.
Robert Bryce 7:42
Well, it is remarkable because the land use conflicts in Germany are raging and the backlash there is as large and as vociferous as anywhere in the world. I mean, they haven’t been able to build nearly enough transmission to make the, you know, to make their grid, a car to allow their grid to accommodate large amounts of renewables, and the Martin and a lot of the provinces in Germany. So with no more we don’t want any more. But that’s but this is the coalition government, and they have to play nice with the Green Party. Is that is that that because they’re such a powerful element in in German politics? Is that how you see it?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 8:17
Yeah, I think that’s part of it. But I mean, the nuclear phase out, and commitment to climate mitigation goals really spans across the German political spectrum. It’s not a particular agenda of one part of the coalition or another. You know, I just saw it was just earlier today that, that in France McCrone has committed to building new nuclear power plants, right? Something like 15. So, I mean, a conceivable scenario for Germany and for Europe, is that I mean, it’s, it’s not a large place, and electricity can travel across borders, without passports or anything else. So it’s quite possible that we see that energy systems in Europe develop, you know, where they can be developed, and the electricity is moved to where it needs to go. So I don’t think I mean, and here’s the broader problem, I think with with Europe, and I think it’s a good lesson for the United States, committing to specific date targets for either emissions reduction, or phasing out a technology before you know how you’re going to get there can create some unstable policies and unstable politics. So it’s always good to have a plan in place to figure out how you’re going to do it before you commit to actually doing so quite.
Robert Bryce 9:41
Because we know that doesn’t happen. I mean, you i One of the things we talked about the last time you were on on the part of the podcast was the graphic that you done around the Biden administration’s did a pledge to decarbonize the electric grid in the US, and I don’t have it right in front of me, but it was something like a new nuclear power plant ever. A week or something on that order, right? As the scale of the challenge gets ignored amidst the political promises, but, but that doesn’t seem like that ever happens that the will or not even just have a plan. But let’s build a new system before we throw the old system out. And yet what seems to be occurring, both here in the US and in Europe is this eager desire to throttle to to, you know, to strangle hydrocarbons and throw them out before we have something that can replace them. And that’s where I see the convulsions particularly in Britain now are occurring because of that they didn’t have a viable new system to replace the old system. But now they’ve they’ve scrapped their their old coal railcar. So now they can’t move coal around. So well. Now, what do you do? And it seems like they’re in for well, so that’s my pontificating? I mean, what do you look forward? What do you see more broadly than in Europe now, particularly with Russia, you know, seemingly eager to create some friction? And how do you see those pipeline politics playing out? Or have you paid much attention to that?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 11:01
Yeah, I mean, I, you know, it’s, it’s centered on energy, energy policy. And, you know, everything from the Nord Stream two pipeline, to Russia’s ability to influence natural gas prices in Europe, is a huge vulnerability. And, you know, I have no crystal ball, who knows what’s going to happen with Ukraine, and whether Russia is going to move or not?
Robert Bryce 11:26
But if you were gonna bet, if you were gonna bet, what would you bet? I bet that they don’t do it. In my view, it seems like Putin is, you know, he’s got a lot of risk if he does this. And what’s the you know, what’s the upside, as you say? It seems like he’s just kind of enjoying just kind of poking, you know, the the West and saying, Well, you know, I might do this just to tour come up. He’s bored. I don’t know what Yeah, I mean,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 11:48
who knows? I mean, Russia has already invaded Ukraine. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. So so it’s, you know, who knows what’s going to happen there. But what it does show is the vulnerability to geopolitical vulnerabilities to introduce energy shocks, which then has cascading effects, you know, through the economy, if it contributes to inflationary pressures, can upend entire governments, I saw just today that the South African government has has given a waiver for Eskom to not be bound by emissions reductions targets. So So you know, you’ve talked about the iron law, I’ve talked about the iron law, when these pressures hit the energy system, you know, the climate goals are pretty, pretty weak, they’re going to be thrown out in service of economic and geopolitical objectives. So it’s really important to can’t just consider the climate side of the emissions reduction, you have to consider the whole the whole ball of wax, the energy supply, the energy price. And I think in Europe, in the UK, in particular, where the government is struggling to deal with the higher cost of energy, just just announced, they’re going to try to try to defray the cost to the public of electricity increases, that’s going to have enormous consequences worldwide, if energy prices, you know, systematically continue to go up as they have in Europe.
Robert Bryce 13:13
Well, then it sure looks that way. The headline I saw this morning was Britain’s in Britain that electricity prices are going to go up 54%. But you know, the same thing is happening in Southern California, San Diego Gas and Electric they would get their bills are up 50%. So by the way, you mentioned the iron law, you know, what’s it old line Picasso it’s attributed to Picasso and John Lennon, amateurs borrow professional steel. Well, I’ve heard this for on stolen the iron law of climate, which is your, your, your formulation, when forced to choose between economic growth and climate goals, economic growth went out every time I’ve been coined. And given a given full credit to you iron law of electricity, people, businesses and governments will do whatever they have to get the electricity they need. And the iron law of power density, which is the lower the power density, the higher the resource intensity. In fact, it just gave a, you know, a 10 minute lecture, Ted style talk on that a few weeks ago. So the iron law lives on, it’s going on beyond you. So I hope you don’t mind because I’m stealing, stealing, like, stealing like a professional. So let’s let’s talk about the mansion. You’re on the podcast last time in August of 2020 21. And we talked about the pandemic and the politics around it. Last month, you posted a piece on substack. And you’re on substack Roger Pilkey email@example.com. And you wrote I proposed a three part taxonomy for thinking about future disasters. You talked about the familiar, the emergent and the extraordinary. So explain those, if you don’t mind and then put in then put climate into that taxonomy because, again, we’re talking about the blackout weak here in Texas and how that you know, climate issues and all these issues kind of revolve around the grid and so on. But tell us what you mean by the familiar the emergent and the extraordinary when talking about the future. and future disasters.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 15:01
Yeah. And when we think about disasters, they’re disasters, just by definition are rare events. But there are some sorts of disasters that that we expect regularly. earthquakes, hurricanes, hurricanes in Florida, hurricane in Florida, those are the familiar disasters. There are, there’s a new class of disasters that we have that I call the emergent, you know, it’s the interaction of different processes that, that that lead to outcomes that maybe we didn’t expect, or they were much larger than than we thought they would be. You know, an example is there was flooding in Bangkok in I think, was 2011. And it turns out, it hit a bunch of companies that produce materials as part of the supply chain for automobile manufacturing in Japan. And it turns out, that was a huge economic event. localized flooding, global economic impact, with a lot of expenses for insurers, and reinsurers that was emergent because it hit a supply chain that people weren’t really paying attention to, in terms of disaster consequences. We see with the pandemic, we’ve been pandemics are are expected. They’re they’re typical, they happen from time to time. But there’s been a lot of effects of the pandemic that really haven’t been anticipated, such as the effects on the supply chain, another example, or the effect on public health where people aren’t going to the hospital for cancer treatments or other treatments, and so on. So, so there’s knock on effects, then there are things that are that I call extraordinary things that we haven’t even, you know, that’s not on the map. You know, volcanoes happen, but the Tanga recent eruption, we can imagine that being 10 times bigger, there could be an earthquake on the New Madrid fault. In the Tennessee, there could be another pandemic, that maybe has a higher mortality rate than then COVID, that we’re not thinking that there could be an asteroid heading towards the Earth. There’s all sorts of things that that could
Robert Bryce 17:12
happen, maybe somebody make a movie about that, or
Roger Pielke, Jr. 17:16
all sorts of things that could happen that are really sufficiently low probability or haven’t happened recently enough that they’re not really on our radar screen. And the argument that I make is that we disproportionately particularly us experts, but in policy and politics, also, we focus on those familiar sorts of disasters. And you know, really where where we need to be reallocate our attention, our thinking our preparation, is toward the emergent and the extraordinary, so that we are prepared. One of the things I found in the research we’ve done on the pandemic over the last couple of years, is that with with a few exceptions, the United States really wasn’t as prepared as it should have been for a pandemic. George W. Bush famously went to the beach in 2005, with a book about the 1918 pandemic and came back, motivated to propose some commissions and some policies, and that led to some flurry of activity. But if you look at you know, congressional attention, you look at the National Academy of Sciences, the attention started petering out so that when the Trump administration came in, there was almost no attention being paid to pandemic planning. So it’s not surprising that the systems the United States had in place, you know, broke down, haven’t worked particularly well, and still haven’t been, you know, improved. The Biden administration has improved the pandemic response, but there’s still huge work that needs to be done.
Robert Bryce 18:41
You you wrote on this is from your your substack. Piece last month in January, you said, climate change, you were talking about this taxonomy. And you said, I’ll read it in full because I think it’s important for me, and it reinforces what you just said. He said, climate change is important to be sure, but in 2015, was it really deserving of 18 times the number of papers that did research on global pandemic? In 2021. This ratio flipped around for obvious reasons, with three times the number of articles on pandemic as compared to climate change, that there can be no doubt that there is much knowledge that we are gaining during the pandemic that would have been useful to have available when it started. Should the scientific community do a better job in prioritizing research on topics that are not currently popular among researchers and funders, but may be much more important in the future? Our research incentives like funding and publication geared towards supporting such work well, you ask those questions, but it seems pretty pretty obvious the answers are no
Roger Pielke, Jr. 19:37
Yeah, I mean, this is this is a dynamic that that people in public health will be very familiar with. It’s it’s that we pay attention I mean, by we I mean collectively, nationally, in our in our our budget priorities either the federal government or pharmaceutical companies, on one popular diseases and by those I mean, those that affect, you know, people, you know, in the United States disproportionately. And there’s a lot of diseases, there’s a lot of public health problems that that we don’t research, we don’t study, we don’t look for vaccines for. And I think that same dynamic can be applied to thinking through disasters, it’s very easy. And I get this with students all the time, all the time, they come in, and they say, I want to write a PhD or a master’s thesis on this big problem that everybody’s talking about, you know, I get it, it’s popular, it’s, it’s a, it’s the focus of everybody’s attention. But what we often need are people thinking about the disaster that hasn’t happened yet.
Robert Bryce 20:44
The low low probability high impact event Yeah,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 20:47
and and we need, you know, a good distribution of our of our resources and our thinking and our attention. Such as there are going to be some people who are working on topics that aren’t immediately relevant today. And how we, how we are able to turn our assessments of risk into balanced science policy portfolios is an enduring challenge. And we need to, you know, we in the university community need to get past the idea that, you know, the best research is that which you can write a press release on and shows up in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, some of its going to be put into a obscure academic journal, and sit there until you need it. In 2018, we didn’t need a lot of, you know, news coverage or immediate attention to pandemic planning. But you know, today we can say, Boy, I wish we would have spent more time thinking about that
Robert Bryce 21:42
meeting. Well, how much of that has changed? I want to ask you, one of the guests I had on the podcast recently was Matt Ridley, and his new book viral, which I thought was just amazing. But it seems that there in the response to the pandemic and after reading, Ridley’s book, that the ability of the scientific community and the and the drug makers to fabricate new mRNA vaccines was just breathtakingly fast. And it’s so is that speed of the is the ecosystem getting faster than it responding to these kinds of things? Or is it or you’re arguing as I hear you, make sure we’ve got the table set. So you know, the cook can get the food on the table to really mangle the metaphors here. Yeah. Is that rhyme with what you’re trying to? Or what you’re arguing? Yeah,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 22:28
I mean, that in the in the whole response to the pandemic, the one, the one standout a success story is the vaccines. Truly, and,
Robert Bryce 22:39
and how quickly they were able to produce that scale?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 22:42
Yeah, the research was being done. We had mechanisms in place to evaluate, to approve to roll out to manufacture the vaccines, that that obviously, is a success, a huge success story, globally, of the pandemic. There are a lot of other elements such as how do we deal with advancing public health goals. And at the same time, economic goals? I mean, the cleavage that we see in countries around the world on the pandemic is very similar. It plays out in different ways, obviously, but it’s those who want to advance public health goals, keep people safe, not dead, and economic goals. Well, you still got to have a job. What about the people who work in restaurants and so on? And how do we how do we integrate those through policies? How do we do sports? How do we have kids go to school? I mean, and it turns out that, you know, there has not been great guidance given because we hadn’t thought through that particularly well. And we still haven’t put in place systems to evaluate, you know, what works in one place and move that as a lesson somewhere else. And we’re still struggling with that. We see that with mask mandates, we see that with vaccine mandates and so on, and it’s it, I get it for members of the public, it can be really confusing. You know, if on my campus, we started off the semester, teaching remotely. And then every a couple days, there’s 10,000 People in the basketball arena watching basketball. So I can’t have 25 students in my class, but we can have 10,000 at the basketball game
Robert Bryce 24:18
yell yelling and yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. Right, within two feet of each other. Yeah.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 24:23
And, you know, I think that’s partly the result of, you know, ad hoc, bespoke decision making, you know, it’s situation by situation and it just looks like, you know, if you like, take a big picture, I can understand how the public would be upset, confused. It’s
Robert Bryce 24:37
just crazy it frustrating is what it is. I mean, just, you know, like you say, you know, well, you have to be on the airport, you have to wear a mask. Well, everything that I read the flight attendants have one of the lowest infection rates of any profession. Well, why is that? I mean, but let me one of the questions I had for you was about these issues that you’re just talking about. And it’s the partisan divide over the He’s issues. And to me, you know, I don’t I don’t identify as a partisan, right. As I’ve said many times, I’m not a Democrat, not a Republican, I’m disgusted. Right. But the Democrats seem very much more willing to and in public wearing masks. I mean, you even see the Biden administration in the Oval Office where they’re sitting down, they’re six feet apart, and they’re still wearing masks are you see? So how do you see that? I mean, you’re a political science guy, right, that, that the Democrats, generally speaking, this is a broad generalization, but they’re much more inclined to agree with mask mandates, vaccine mandates and lockdowns, whereas the Republicans are saying, hell no, take your mask and put it somewhere this and And, John, we’re not going to do that. Is this about? Fundamentally it’s about, I think, our conception of liberty and personal freedom, but that but it seems such a clear divide in terms of party left and right or party division? How does that rhyme with what you think? How do you see that? Yeah, I mean, we see
Roger Pielke, Jr. 25:58
this in in public, public trust of public health officials and public health agencies. If you if you take a look at opinion polls, that would ask people in 2019, so before the pandemic, do you trust the CDC? Right? Do you trust the FBI?
Robert Bryce 26:16
Or Fauci? Right, who’s a guy?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 26:18
Yeah, and Fauci is an interesting case. I mean, he wasn’t well known outside science circles until the pandemic, early in the pandemic, just like with the the federal agencies, when when the public was asked, Do you trust this person? Very high. I mean, they’re off the charts. 80%. And, you know, no real partisan split there between Democrats and Republicans. One of the things we’ve learned in the pandemic, is if we want to, we can politicize anything. And if you look, now, the CDC, the CDC has lost public trust across the board, much more so with Republicans than Democrats. Same with the FDA, same with Dr. Fauci. We can choose to make any topic scientific, an individual, an institution, a topic of partisan debate, my view very much, you know, it may be similar to yours is that it takes two to tango. And so, you know, as you say, there are the signifiers, that Democrats, you know, wearing masks, or whatever it happens to be, I can tell you, I go to my son’s basketball game in Boulder, and everybody’s wearing a mask, and I go to Douglas County, playing on the same size court, nobody’s wearing a mask. So I mean, they are expressions. And there’s good research on this, that people know, they don’t make these decisions based on careful judgments of risk or science. It’s their expressing to the world, this is who I am. And, you know, obviously people will have disagreements, my big frustration is not that people have different values or act differently. It’s that still to this day, the US government has not put together a high level science advisory mechanism on on responses to the pandemic, we should be able to get what’s the latest science say about the efficacy of mask wearing, and, you know, give that out to schools to states and companies. And then everyone will have the same scientific basis that they can, you know, impose their values upon as it is, it’s very hard, I don’t even know where to go. If if, if you ask me, Where Where should I go to get the latest scientific consensus on the role of masks in public health? You know, I can, I can go to Google Scholar and provide you 20 papers, but we don’t have a mechanism. And it’s remarkable the United States stands out among countries as not having a mechanism for sorting through all this fast moving science just to provide some guidance to decision makers.
Robert Bryce 28:50
Well, as you say that, that is interesting. And it does seem like a, you know, a failure of government a failure of imagination on top level officials to say, Well, what do we need to do here? So instead? Well, I saw there’s a headline in the paper just recently about now nine states are saying, well, they’re going to revise their mask mandate. So that the maybe it’s a reluctance by federal authorities to try and usurp or Bigfoot the states. Now, I don’t know. But you make a really good point about that, for all of the issues around in the federal control, federal distribution. My wife Lauren teaches, and she’s just got through the mail, free COVID tests. Okay. So they’ll provide you with free code tests. But what will how important are they or how it is, how good are the tests or how good is the mask because, you know, at her school, they wear masks, and it’s been frustrating for her. But yeah, something that would be more definitive or using the best available science, I think would be would be helpful. Let me switch gears a little bit because I mentioned Matt Ridley in his book on viral. You’ve thought about this pandemic a long time. Was it a lab leak?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 29:58
So this is me, no one knows. The origins and you know, that should be itself,
Robert Bryce 30:03
such as remarkable itself, right? Well, you know, where would it why did this happen? And we still every time you have a plane crash, they try and figure it out. And yet one of the most biggest crises in modern history, and yet we haven’t don’t know why it happened. But anyway, I’m sorry. I know.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 30:21
Yeah. I mean, there’s a few things that we know for sure. So so we know whatever happened, there has been a cover up, you know, and I think Matt and Alina Chan have done a very nice job documenting and continuing to document the cover up. We know that the Chinese government may have had incentives to cover up if it came from a wet market, or or from a mink farm or from a lab leak so so that that the fact that there was a cover up, doesn’t necessarily tell us much about the origins. But what you know I find especially troubling is that there was a cover up in the United States to there are key scientists involved in research and in publications. And there’s, you know, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act requests and emails that we’ve we’ve received. We know their interactions with a very high level of US government officials, Francis Collins, Anthony Fauci, with a group of scientists who, who were organizing a response to the question of origins to shape public discourse to take the idea of a lab leak off the table. For me that’s really troubling. And there’s
Robert Bryce 31:32
and that includes in that includes Peter Desertec, from the Eco Health Alliance, right, he was one of the leaders of the, and was getting funding from the US government and was working directly with virologists at Wuhan, and that they were monkey pardon that you guys monkeying around with bat viruses. And, I mean, what appears to me after reading and Ridley hasn’t said this, but it sure looks like a lab leak to me. I mean, you know, and my ignorance of the broader issues. But that would explain a lot and why the Chinese wouldn’t want this to to get much traction. I you know, in my, you know, from where I sit, that’s what
Roger Pielke, Jr. 32:10
yeah, I’m in the agnostic camp on that. But I mean, one thing that to get back to the discussion of partisanship in the House, the House Oversight Committee, the Republicans are leading an effort to explore origins. And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why that would not be one of the areas that is entirely bipartisan. It is in the interests of the you know, everyone in the United States to understand origins. So why it is that it’s only
Robert Bryce 32:39
everyone, everyone in the world every day right in the world to know, well wait, why did this happen? And here we are now, nearly two years after and we still haven’t pinpointed it. And but maybe it’s for fear of angering the Chinese? What would be the reason for not, you know, the Democrats? Well, you I didn’t know this, that by the partisan issue, but the Democrats don’t want to embarrass the Chinese. I mean, why would they want not want to pursue this?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 33:04
Yeah. I mean, I don’t fully understand why, why this issue in particular has become politicized in this manner. Because there’s not I mean, I can get it with masks and not wearing masks. Why, you know, freedom, liberty, Republicans versus Democrats, I can fit that in. But, you know, a technical wonky investigation into the origins of a pandemic doesn’t fit for me into a an easy partisan framing. You know, I know why the Republicans might want to, you know, shame or embarrass Biden administration officials. But, you know, if, ultimately, if there was a lab leak, then it happened in Wuhan, China. So it’s, it’s, it’s, again, I expect that we’re going to continue to learn more drip, drip, drip. And, you know, there were there is a scenario where, you know, imagine it could have been a lab leak, and the Chinese government and Chinese officials don’t know how that exactly happened. of the lab leaks that have happened in the past that have been documented. They can trace it to an individual that worked at a lab. And there was just a lab leak in Taiwan of COVID. The original SARS leaked, I think at least three or four times from lab, in some of those instances. Exactly how it happened is not known. So imagine if there’s a scenario where it emerged from a lab but the Chinese government right now doesn’t even know how that happened or through what channel or what individual got sick, we know that COVID You can have COVID and have no symptoms. So there’s a scenario waiting we no one ever learns where this comes from, and you know, it’ll be an enduring mystery going forward. There are other scenarios where you know, a smoking gun is found lab leak, maybe or maybe someone was infected in the field or, or the wet market theory pans out, and that we do have some certainty. So, you know, I think we’re gonna continue to learn more, but I’m not holding my breath that we’re smoking guns gonna show up.
Robert Bryce 35:10
Let’s only tie up a pandemic. So where do you think we are now? I mean, you know, I’ve had three vaccines, you know, I’ve never gotten COVID I’m not I hope, I hope I don’t I’m knocking on wood right now. But or is this something that’s just we’re gonna live with? We’re How do you see this in terms of the both the politics and the science here in terms of you think this is just going to endure for and bounce around the human population for the next few years?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 35:34
Yeah, well, I can’t speak to the public health issues, but I can tell you that it looks at this point, like, like, the politics of the issue, are gaining the upper hand and that politicians are going to implement the policies that are popular. The idea of
Robert Bryce 35:50
following I’m sorry, what explain explain what you mean, the politics are going to get the upper hand over,
Roger Pielke, Jr. 35:56
over over public health concerns like this, we’re, you know, our our policies are designed to minimize the number of hospitalizations or deaths, that that the what public’s want, you know, it majority of folks don’t want maths mandates, or they don’t want vaccine mandates, then politicians are probably going to give in to those. And I think that’s gonna happen in red states and blue states around that around the country. And,
Robert Bryce 36:24
you know, just because of fatigue, just because of fatigue of the whole thing.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 36:28
But to the whole I mean, if you look at public opinion polls that, you know, the public, in general is pretty fed up and just tired of the pandemic.
Robert Bryce 36:35
That doesn’t mean, you can put me in that camp, I mean, doesn’t make
Roger Pielke, Jr. 36:39
it go away. But it does put it does, what it does make go away, is public support for, you know, continued policies that get in the way of how people want to live. So I, so I do think that, you know, going forward, but who knows, I mean, with with variants, you know, there could be a more severe variant that comes and changes the dynamics, and I just think there’s so much fundamental uncertainty. But if you look at the, you know, the trend, particularly in the last six months or so, it is towards much more. Moving past the pandemic, while it’s still rageous, which I guess is how I would characterize it.
Robert Bryce 37:17
Yeah. No, I think that’s pretty accurate. Because now the New York, New York Governor vocal has already said, Yeah, we’re gonna, and New York’s one of the bluest states in the whole country. So that does seem to be a bellwether. So let’s go. Let’s go back to the climate change. Issue. You you came out with a new paper just recently, and you you published on it about and tell me about that. You you looked at IPC scenarios that were come up with well, tell me about your most recent paper on RCP 8.5 and plausible scenarios versus those that are not so plausible.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 37:48
Yeah, so with my colleague here at Colorado, metallurgist, and Justin Richie at University of British Columbia, we I think it’s a pretty neat study, what we did is we we went back in time to when the IPCC for its fifth assessment report, which came out about a decade ago, almost, and it’s six assessment report, which is coming out last year, and this year, they collected 1311 scenarios of the future, the future is a foggy place, we don’t know how it’s going to evolve. And so you know, this is really important. We used what are called scenarios to project a wide range of different futures, and so on. The IPCC has a criterion that says that, well, for these scenarios to be useful, they have to be plausible. That means that that’s a future that could occur, they’re not predictions, and they’re not promises, but their futures that could occur. They started this process in 2005 2005, is getting to be a little bit ago. And so we have about 15 years of data that we can apply to evaluate, well, how has the real world evolved, compared to the imaginary worlds in these scenarios, and we can also take near term projections. So the the International Energy Agency, which puts out scenarios every single year, so they update them, we use the IEA, near term scenario for where the world is headed, plus history. And we use that to quantitatively evaluate Alright, of those 13 111 original scenarios, how many are still on the table today? How many survive reality and where we think we’re gonna be in the next few decades. And there’s a subset, and depending on how strict our test is, but it’s a couple 100 scenarios that survive. And so we take those scenarios that still look plausible. And then we ask a second question, What did those scenarios project to 2100 for carbon dioxide emissions and global temperature change? And it turns out, there’s some good news here, you know, people aren’t used to hearing good news on climate But the worst case scenarios, the ones that are at the extreme level with four or five degrees Celsius temperature change, they now appear implausible, the world would have to decide to consciously fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide at a level much higher than we can imagine today. Not going to happen.
Robert Bryce 40:22
So this so if I can if I interrupt, so this ties back to your RCP 8.5 work about that. That the bias and you when the last time we talked about this the hype? You call it a hyperbole from the head of the IPCC about embracing these implausible scenarios including RCP 8.5. But it seems like you’re that’s one of the points you’re making here as well, is that the RCP 8.5 includes huge increases in coal consumption, which coal consumption is going up, but not nearly to the extent that was predicted in that 8.5? is So I just wanted to add that in. So how does that figure into what you know, this this specific? Or can you tie this back to eight point?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 41:04
Yeah, so So our earlier work, which was published last year, we sought to evaluate the plausibility of these high end scenarios, and like RCP 8.5, we found that they are the world is far away from them, they’re off track. So that led to the current paper, which we said alright, if these scenarios are implausible, which ones are the plausible ones? Which which ones should we be looking at? And it turns out that all of the plausible scenarios, Project 21 100, the world will be between two and three degrees Celsius increase with a median value of 2.2 degrees Celsius. So so the Paris Agreement has a goal of holding temperature increase to two degrees 2.2 Isn’t two degrees, but boy, it’s pretty close. And so what we say is that, that this analysis doesn’t say that we’re going to succeed with respect to the Paris gold, but that attaining it might be more straightforward, and we’re closer than we, we would have thought a decade ago or 15 years ago. Deep decarbonisation as you and I both know, is an enormous, huge challenge. But it does not look like at least for the next several decades out to 2050 emissions are going to dramatically increase. They may have plateaued, particularly as coal is replaced with gas in many places, just because gas has about half the carbon intensity of coal. The real tough question, the policy question will be alright, what do we do when you know, if and when we’re finally off of coal? What are we going to do with gas? Is it going to be carbon capture and sequestration? Are we going to is there gonna be a commitment to expand nuclear, as you’ve called for, and I have? So but there’s good reason to believe that, you know, the worst case scenario for the next few decades is a long emissions plateau, not along emissions increase. And that’s, you know, that’s good news, because it’s better than we thought, you know, a decade ago.
Robert Bryce 43:07
So a couple of questions. So how much media coverage Have you gotten for this paper? And second, how did you do it? I mean, it what kind of modeling the software? What, how did what, what, what, what mechanism did you use to sort out this big data set?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 43:23
Yeah, so we haven’t had much media coverage.
Robert Bryce 43:26
It’s funny, and why is that?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 43:29
I? Well, I could speculate, but it’s interesting. The paper is getting an enormous number of downloads and reads, and you know, it’s the hits on my substack on it. So people are reading it. I mean, just today, Matt, you you greasiest, who, you know, has 500,000 Twitter followers, but an article about it. So maybe it’ll it’ll break through my university is going to put out a press release. So well, we’ll test that theory and, and see how that goes. To the IPCs credit, they have taken all of these scenarios, and put them into a database that is really user friendly, that any one of us can go into and download and play with and experiment with. And so it is, you know, it is it’s not huge data, but it is big data, you have 13 111 scenarios with all sorts of variables and so on going out to 2100 and so it does take some some technical sophistication, to do the analysis. But when you get right down to it, it’s a really simple idea. Let’s look at what the scenario said about the future and compared to how the future has evolved. And it will
Robert Bryce 44:40
ask you so let me ask you about that for that format because I’m just curious because you know, my, my data analysis skills, there’s a good system, a very, very simple Excel spreadsheet. So what kind of software did you use and what format does the IPCC publish this in? How did you do the How did you manage the plot the get put data into, into formats that you could work with.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 45:04
So I mean, the IPCC allows it to be downloaded that can be used in any any software package that you want, you know, whether it’s our, or you could even I mean, you could do this in Excel. But I think that’s probably pushing some of the, we did some of the final analysis in Excel. And you know, you pick your favorite programming language and do the analysis. So it’s not, I don’t know, it’s not super, it’s not a super complicated exercise. It’s just familiarity with the dataset. And knowing what it represents, knowing where to get it, I think are the probably the the more technical skills and actually doing the quantitative comparisons.
Robert Bryce 45:42
Gotcha. So you’ve also in the past, and I, we talked about this sooner, last time, you were on the podcast, and I reviewed the interview we did back in 2009, which I think was the first time we talked down 13 years ago. And you’ve said it pretty much since then. But I think fairly consistently, and this paper seems to are your latest paper seems to argue in the same vein, which is, in 2009, you said, we need less stealth advocacy by experts we need we’re going to need climate science for many decades, to make sure we can maintain the credibility. But you also said we need to focus on adaptation, because the mitigation part is going to be so expensive, which is a point that I think is exactly right. And Bjorn Lomborg and others have made the same point. So am I right to say that? Maybe we’re worrying too much here or that that’s not a popular stance, right. It’s not a popular, not a popular position to take that maybe things aren’t as bad as we been told.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 46:46
Yeah, there is a debate out there like well, maybe because we we relied on these extreme scenarios a decade or 15 years ago that motivated more action. You know, let’s let’s put that debate aside. The thing that I think is should be most troubling to policymakers and researchers today is the stubborn continued reliance on extreme scenarios.
Robert Bryce 47:09
Roger Pielke, Jr. 47:11
point five continues to be the most used scenario in climate research. projecting out to the future. It is more often than not, and I would go so far as they almost always the basis for big headline, mainstream media stories about the climate future. The analogy I’ve used is it’s RCP. 8.5 is a little bit like spoiled milk. You wouldn’t go back to your refrigerator and pour the spoiled milk on your cereal. That’d be a bad idea. But we keep going back to the scenario refrigerator and pulling out RCP 8.5 and plugging it into studies that are supposedly policy relevant. There was a fo a Freedom of Information Act request in the UK just last week for a presentation given to Boris Johnson by climate scientists that supposedly changed his mind. And it turns out that, you know, two out of the 11 slides they had were based on RCP 8.5. If I’m Boris Johnson, and I found out they were using, you know, the equivalent of spoiled milk to convince me of the importance of climate change. I wouldn’t trust these guys. So So I think it’s really important to realize that yeah, the scenarios have their purposes, you can use and use extreme scenarios for some scientific applications. But once we start talking about policy and spending money and taking action, we want to have the most up to date, plausible, realistic scenarios in front of us. And those are scenarios that look plausible in 2022, not the ones we thought looks plausible from 2005. So so that’s my big frustration is that a lot of the policy discussion, whether it’s adaptation, or mitigation is looking to futures that are not going to happen. They’re hypothetical, imaginary. And that’s not a recipe for good policy.
Robert Bryce 49:02
Well, if I put it a different way, maybe tell me if you agree with this that, that the policymakers and scientists have not been updating their scenarios sufficiently to give us better advice. I mean, it’s in that regard, it seems like it’s a little bit rhyming with the climate and Pandemic issues are kind of running parallel tracks are similar, not the same thing. But is there is there is there is that close in terms of the how we’re how we’re moving forward on these? Yeah, here’s
Roger Pielke, Jr. 49:30
how I would characterize it. The IPCC, which is, you know, it’s an important institution, it does important work. If it didn’t exist, we’d have to reinvent it. But it says that its work is focused on plausible scenarios of the future. Guess what? No one in the IPCC or in the climate science responsible climate science community has responsibility for determining what is and is not a plausible scenario. So this this creates a a gap In our knowledge, where scenarios are presented to policymakers, and no one knows if they’re plausible or not, and that’s just not that’s not accepted wouldn’t be acceptable and pandemic planning would be acceptable in many areas. It’s a little bit like, you know, another analogy I use, it’s like planning for, you know, the geopolitics of the Soviet Union in 2022. Guess what the Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. So if a foreign policy analyst shows up with recommendations based on how the Soviet Union might reply, we’d laugh we’d say, that’s not even relevant to today. But people don’t know that with respect, RCP 8.5, because it sounds technical. And it’s been around a long time, and it’s easy to use. So it sticks around.
Robert Bryce 50:41
Well, so let me ask you about, you know, how you how you’ve weathered this, because, you know, since the 13 years, since we’ve known each other, you’ve, you’ve taken some licks, but it seems like what is that they first they ridicule you, then they ignore you, and then they accept you or something? Have you gotten paid? Well, you got ridiculed, you got kind of cast out of the friend and family plan, and then you got ignored? Do you feel like you’re the science is coming back around toward some of the things you’ve been talking about? I mean, I’m not asking you to puff yourself up here. But as we talk about this, that sort of seems like things are kind of coming back around? Yeah, I
Roger Pielke, Jr. 51:23
mean, you know, you can hope in some ways, the science community is a little bit like a junior high school lunchroom, you know, the popular kids sit at one table with the jocks, and another, the nerds in another. And there’s some of those dynamics, which I try to ignore. But, you know, science is, is a tough business, and ideas, you know, aren’t always immediately accepted, even in the long term, they proved to stand strong. I will say, I’m really happy with and comfortable with how the work I’ve done over the last 20 years has stood up over time. And, you know, I don’t need to credit for it, it’s fine. But you know, the work we’ve done in extreme events, and on more recently on scenarios, and mitigation, you know, I am comfortable that it’s had pretty large impact, even if people, you know, are writing about it in The New York Times, or whatever. So, so yeah, but you know, I’m a tenured, full professor, I can’t be canceled, you know, I got my own substack in it. So I got 1000s of readers and 10s of 1000s of Twitter followers. So I got I got zero concerns about any of that stuff. It’s, it’s, it’s a privilege to be able to participate in putting out ideas that people argue about makes them angry, makes them happy. They follow up on. And so you know, it’s for me, it’s all good.
Robert Bryce 52:47
So tell me about substack. Because, well, a lot of writers are going to substack I haven’t, maybe I need to, but why did you go to that platform.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 52:58
I went to that platform, because I have had a number of experiences with I would say more mainstream publications, where I won’t say censored, but but editors would refuse to publish what I wrote, because they were worried about how it would play. The most, you know, obvious of that is my experience at 538 with Nate Silver. And so for me, I decided, You know what, you know, it’s great to have a big audience and editors that help you write, but if for me to get the stuff out that I want to get out. I’m going to do it on substack, which has proven to have an enormous reach. I have a great, I have a I don’t have you know, a huge number of subscribers, but I have high quality subscribers. And every time I write something, I get a lot of important feedback that helps me to do my job. And so for me, since since I am gainfully employed, I don’t need to be paid to write so, so substack for me, anybody can sign up if anybody listening now go sign up, and you’ll read about sports and climate, science policy and all sorts of things has been for me, you know, it’s just a great avenue to be sure that I can get out what I want to get out.
Robert Bryce 54:13
You know, it’s just a quick point, because, you know, I’ve been in journalism, my whole career, I’ve never had a real job. And now 30, some 30 years into this, that that brand of media outlet seems to matter less. And that the personal brand matters more and it’s salutary for me, let me tell you 61, like, Okay, well, I don’t think I’m going to get hired at the New York Times at this point in my career. Right. But that was the brass ring for a you know, for decades, right, that that was the ultimate there was no better, you know, or the Atlantic or some other big. But I think, you know, the rise of substack in the granularity of the the, you know, the writing community and being able to find candidates. I think that’s a very positive thing in many ways. But I think so That’s just a result of big media outlets, tarnishing themselves, and just maybe just being that being around for so long that ultimately you’re going to, you know, people aren’t going to, you know, love you as much. I don’t know, familiarity breeds contempt.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 55:12
I can’t say I fully understand it the substack phenomena, but it does appear that there’s some element of journalism that is returning to the pay for content. Yeah, world instead of just, I mean, most, I don’t think substack does advertising. They don’t, they don’t mind. And so there are a number of people pretty high profile people who make very good living writing, where people will pay for their content job, which I think is great for writers, and people who have that reach in that audience. And I do think it’s challenging, you know, you see people leaving the New York Times and, and Sports Illustrated and other places to set up their own shingle under substack. That’s a sign that things are a little bit different now than maybe they were 10 years ago.
Robert Bryce 55:55
Yeah. And Barry Weiss is one of the you know, obvious examples of that, right and has a couple 100,000 subscribers, but she was the Wall Street Journal. And a long time ago, she edited one of my pieces, the Wall Street Journal, and moved to New York Times and said, you know, and then kind of cancelled on on from all and she talks about it in her interview with Jordan Peterson. At length, which is rather wrenching to hear but okay, so enough about that. So we’ve talked about climate, we’ve talked about the pandemic, the Winter Olympics are going on. And as I was thinking about this, in August, when we talked, we were talking about Shikari, Richardson and doping. And I was thinking, well, the Winter Olympics, okay, doping in the Winter Olympics, what sports would that maybe be affected by the thought cross country skiing? But you told me there was something else that just happened in figure skating? Tell me about this?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 56:45
Yeah, it’s all the details aren’t out yet. And it’s a kind of a strange story. It also involves a 15 year old girl, a minor. So I think, you know, everybody has to be a little sensitive how they talk about it. But one of the leading Russian ice skaters, a woman ice skater, has apparently failed adult anti doping test for a drug that is associated with how the heart functions in exercise. I mean, this is important for a number of reasons in because Russia is not competing at the Olympics, the Russian Olympic Committee is ROTC as part of their punishment, oh, for for their state sponsored doping in Sochi 2014. And so every Olympics, athletes are failed drug tests and are punished. This one is particularly of note, because it’s Russia. And there are many people who argued that Russia shouldn’t have even been in the Olympics to begin with. And it’s a 15 year old girl, who, you know, it’s gonna raise real questions about agency, and how it how did it come? If it all pans out that she was in fact, on this drug? How did it occur that a 15 year old girl was on a heart medication to improve her performance? And you know, she’s She also is or was the leading candidate for the gold medal. So so that is going to be for a short period that will take the focus of attention off of China and the geopolitics of China hosting the Olympics and so on. But that’s, that is a that is a bombshell that you could not have even scripted before the Olympics. It’s really incredible.
Robert Bryce 58:39
Well, so now, you know, as I didn’t obviously didn’t give a whole lot of thought to this before I opened my mouth on it. But that’s not unusual, I suppose. But I’m thinking, Well, wait a minute Winter Olympics and doping, well, speedskating, biathlon any of the endurance sports then in in the Winter Olympics would be as potentially contaminated by doping as any of the Summer Olympic sports. But I’ll ask you a question about in that we talked about before, as well, because I haven’t watched any of the Olympics. I’m kind of in fact, I’ve just turn my TV off for a while because I’m just kind of sick of watching beer and you know, and Taco Bell ads, and just kind of full of it right. But are you do you monitor sports? You write about sports, but does it still thrill you? I mean, you mentioned going to your son’s basketball game, but what about, you know, professional and college sports? Do you still care?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 59:31
Yeah, I mean, I mean, one of the things that, you know, I this is what I say to people that you have to be able to have a little bit of cognitive dissonance, right sport is like any other area of human interaction like it’s not pure. And you know, if you look at the studies, I don’t I’m not aware of any studies of winter sports, but if you look at the studies that have been done on doping prevalence in track and field, say it’s hard to pin down, but in a round number, about 50% of athletes at the elite level, based on studies of the World Championships in the pan Arab games, you know, it could be between 40 and 60%, somewhere in there. But a lot of athletes are breaking the rules with performance enhancing substances. That’s part of the that’s part of the, like, the context. So if that makes people cynical, or they don’t want to watch sport, I get it. But you can still enjoy sport and know that, you know, it’s got some deep, deep seated problems. So, you know, I watch a lot of soccer, that’s, that’s my sport. I do enjoy the Olympics. And you know, these, these are just fellow human beings who have their workplace, and their workplaces can be as messed up as our workplaces. And so, you know, recognizing that and it’s just part of accepting sport as reflecting all of the human experience for me, that’s, that’s good enough.
Robert Bryce 1:01:01
Yeah, that rhymes with me. I you know, I love basketball. That’s the sport that I’ve always loved since I was a kid, and there’s something still pure to me once they step inside the lines. Yeah, what happens outside when they get in there, and I just compete. There’s something that’s still deeply enjoyable about that. Although my San Antonio Spurs are not doing so well this year, but nevertheless, still love pop. So well, let’s, we’ve been talking for about an hour. Now, Roger, I don’t want to keep you all all afternoon. But my guest again is Roger Pielke JR. He’s a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado. He’s at Roger firstname.lastname@example.org. And he’s on Twitter, Roger Pilkey, Jr. So you know, I have asked you these questions before, but I’ll ask him again, because I am attached to them. So whose work are you following now? And in these various fields whose work you admire in these different pandemic area, the sports and the climate arenas? Who do you follow on these issues?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:01:59
Yeah, I can tell you I mean, it’s good timing, because we’re doing a quote unquote, a book club across the semester in my graduate seminar. One of the books that we just discussed, and I think it’s excellent I recommend it is by Maya Goldenberg. It’s called vaccine hesitancy. And it’s really, it’s about more than that it’s about science and decision making. Her thesis is that it’s not a deficit of knowledge or deficit of science that leads people to be vaccine hesitant. It is a lack of trust, trust in institutions, and so on. And she does a great job in that. We’re also you mentioned this, we’re also reading viral by Matt Ridley and Alina Chan.
Robert Bryce 1:02:41
Great, really, really fascinating book, I mean, just almost like a detective novel in some ways, and the depth of understanding that they have of genetics, and, you know, some of which I had to read a couple times, because, anyway, I’m interrupting, but I, yeah, I had Matt and on the, on the podcast, and thought his book is just fabulous.
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:03:01
Yeah, I listen to that podcast, actually in the car. And it’s, it was he did a great job. And, and that book for me, you know, you know, I know, Matt, and I know Alina, through through online. And it’s, it’s a much more balanced treatment of the issue than maybe I was expecting. They don’t, you know, they, they argue for the plausibility of the lab like theory, they don’t say, that’s exactly what it was, whatever their suspicions are. And it’s just such a complicated story with the, the Pangolin papers and eco Health Alliance, and so on. So we’re gonna be digging into that. Another book we’re reading this semester, is by a political scientist named Matt Grossman, I think at Michigan State, and it’s called how social science got better. And it’s about how we social scientists have improved our research methods in a way over time, such that the knowledge we generate is more relevant to decision makers more relevant today than it’s ever been. And it’s somewhat technical, and it gets into some, you know, down in the weeds of, you know, how we social scientists do our business. But that’s the third book that we’re reading this semester. Gotcha. The climate stuff, there’s, there’s, you know, there’s an avalanche of work on climate and what I’m going to be looking for this year, the IPCC working group to report comes out in a few months, and then soon after the working group three, report, which, you know, number one, I look to those to evaluate them, like, are they doing a faithful job of, you know, evaluating the literature I’m familiar with and also you know, what can I learn from them from literature’s I’m not, not aware of, and so I would encourage people to, you know, start paying attention. One of the most important things for me will be how does the IPCC start treating scenarios? Because there is a growing recognition that the, the old scenarios aren’t fit for purpose. So there’s there’s a lot in there.
Robert Bryce 1:04:54
What gives you hope?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:04:56
I gave a talk this week. I don’t know What I was thinking it was at 1am, in Bergen, Norway, by zoom, and it was titled five reasons for optimism on sustainability. And, and I just talked to my class about this today. What gives me hope is that that we have proven as a species over and over again, that we’re up for the challenge of taking on big problems and making progress doesn’t mean everything’s rosy, or we don’t have more to do. But you know, examples I looked at are like the dramatic increase in human lifespans over the last century, just phenomenal. It’s a remarkable statistic didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen by accident. Another example I use is the incredible decrease in abject poverty around the world. Again, economic growth doesn’t happen just by accident. And we can see places in the world where we can screw things up pretty good. A statistic I shared with my students today is that the most recent survey of giraffes in Africa found that there’s 20%, more giraffes today than there was in 2015. That’s good news.
Robert Bryce 1:06:10
20% growth in seven years. Yep. Well, are they just counting better or the giraffes have a giraffe?
Roger Pielke, Jr. 1:06:17
Partly, it’s counting better. And partly, it’s populations, everybody? Huh? So. So again, there is good news out in the world, if we want to look at it doesn’t again, doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Or that everyone has equality in the outcomes, like energy access when we talk about a lot. But it does mean that we can make progress. So So you know, as somebody who studies policy teaches policies participates in policy, that gives me hope, because you know, from today to tomorrow, I don’t think we can see much evidence of progress. But if we take a step back and look at the, you know, longer arc of history, you know, I’m hopeful that the big challenges we have today, you know, whether it’s partisanship, whether it’s energy access, climate change, you know, we’re up to the task, it’s gonna be hard, hard work, and people will argue, but I’m optimistic that, you know, professor in 100 years will show different graphs that I show, and a lot of them will be the things that we’re dealing with today. And they’ll say, Look at look at what we did, and they’ll have their own problems, then.
Robert Bryce 1:07:18
I like that. I like that a lot. Is that is your lecture, the one that you just gave? What five reasons for optimism on sustainability? What was the title? Yep, that’s it. Five reasons for optimism on sustainability. Is it available? Is that it? Can
Unknown Speaker 1:07:32
people find it’ll be available? They will be? I’ll post it up. Okay. Good. All right.
Robert Bryce 1:07:37
Yeah. No, I’d like to see that because, you know, I, in fact, I’ve been in touch with people is just endlessly pessimistic. And I think Wait a minute, you know, you’re there a lot of positive things happening here. And they’re not they’re not being not being considered as well as they should. But well, let’s leave it there. Roger, you’ve been very gracious with your time. My guest again, has been Roger Pielke JR. He’s a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado and a friend of mine, and he’s a Roger piLc, a junior at substack. And on Twitter, at Roger Pilkey, Jr. Roger, thanks again for being on the power hungry podcast.
Unknown Speaker 1:08:09
Robert always fun I
Robert Bryce 1:08:10
appreciate it. You bet. And thanks to all you in podcast land tune in for the next episode. We’re going to be right here next week and well, this is the end I think of the the the special editions of the blackout week, after one year after the Texas blackouts, but there’ll be more until then. See ya