The Case for a Sustainability Emergency, Part II (transcription)

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Jason Bradford: Alright, we are back. Thanks for being here, everybody. This is a really important show.

I want to thank my guest, Philip Sutton, for being back. This is March 3 where we live but it's March4th where you are. Right, Philip?

Philip Sutton: That's right.

JB: Alright, well thank you for being here from Australia.

So, this show is the second of two interviews with Philip Sutton, co-author with David Spratt, of a recent report titled ClimateCod Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency.

The first interview reviewed the latest scientific understanding of climate change and established an appropriate target for temperature change and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. So, to summarize your previous interview, the impacts from current levels of warming are already very dangerous and likely to spin out of control quickly unless corrective actions are taken. For example, the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free within a few to several years which would lead to the loss of major ice sheets, rapid sea level rise, and further warming from permafrost melt and global ecosystem damages.

However, most climate change policies aim to limit the average global temperature rise to 2-3 degrees Celsius, or about three times higher than what has occurred so far. Given that the earth is already overheated these goals are practically useless.

By contrast, ClimateCode Red advocates: apply a risk management regime based on a less than one-in-a-millionth change in major breakdown in the earth system, which would damage or threaten the welfare of all people, all species, and all generations; reduce the warming and keep it to less than 0.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level; reduce the current level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and keep them to less than 320 parts per million CO2equivalent; make the massive structural adjustments necessary in as little time as humanly possible with an unprecedented application of human creativity, as well as all available economic and other resources; and restrict the rate of climate change to less than 0.1 degree Celsius per decade.

So, today's interview we'll discuss how, with a shared sense of purpose and heroic leadership, humans have the technical and social capacity to go into emergency mode and design an economic and environmental turnaround in 10-20 years.

So, big challenges ahead for us. But, I want to thank you, Philip, for this report, and your co-author, David Spratt. And just want to open by saying that I've had a lot of feedback from our last interview and a lot of people are pretty upset by it. What do you have to say about people's reaction to this information?

PS: I think people's reactions are completely to be expected because, I mean, anybody discovering the situation, quite naturally ought to be upset. It's an upsetting situation. And I think we just, in a sense, we have to learn to live with that shock. If we shield ourselves from it, then, of course, we just don't know what the situation is and, of course, if you can't see a problem you can't solve it.

JB: I like how part 3 of the report, which is sort of the case for this emergency action, opens with the description of the Apollo 13mission. How is Apollo 13 a useful metaphor?

PS: Well, Apollo 13 was a life-threatening situation. There's interesting sort of parallels in a sense that they had problems with CO2levels—carbondioxide levels—getting out of hand and they had to find ways to strip that out of the air, and they had to manage their energy supplies, etc., etc. So, there's all sorts of kind of interesting parallels that way.

But, I guess the most important thing was really that they were in a life-threatening situation and they could have just become fatalistic and said, "Well, look, we're stuffed. That's it. We'll just take a few hours and get used to the idea of dying." But they didn't, and the support team back on earth took a really strong view, led by Gene Kranz, which was "failure is not an option." And they just simply, every time they struck a problem, rather than that throwing them into sort of a deep depression, that just became another piece of information, another situation that they had to sort of find a solution to. And that's exactly how they went about it. In their case they were lucky—when I say "lucky,"people worked really flat out to find solutions and it turned out that there were solutions available and they got back.

JB: Right. A lot of the solutions, they weren't even imagined because they hadn't conceived of the situation they were in.

PS: That's right. That's right. I mean the people on the ground stations had to actually try to imagine, in minute detail, exactly what it was like to be up in the spacecraft, what resources they had available to them, how those could be sort of re-jigged to produce essentially new equipment that hadn't, in fact, been designed into the spacecraft itself. And so, they just simply invented and innovated their way through to a solution.

JB: And the crew actually had to deal with several problems at once to arrive back home safely. You make the argument that climate change solutions need to be bundled together with others. What are some of those and how are they connected to the climate emergency?

PS: Right, yeah. If people were worried last week about the problems with climate change, something that we have to recognize, for example, is that food prices are going up quite dramatically at the moment. And that's due to the intersection of a range of problems—shortage of water in some places, floods, severe weather events, what have you; people trying to grow biofuels where previously they were growing food.

We're all part of one system and if you make these big changes then they will impact in different ways on the same systems. In the past we've often sort of found it quite useful to think in single-issue terms. But at this stage we've got a series of issues coming together—peakoil, the climate problem, food supply issues, etc., all coming together, and we just simply have to deal with them simultaneously.

Some people have recently made the very legitimate point that, for example, the running out of conventional oil is really just the other side of the problem with our economic system which is that it's extremely wasteful of materials. So, on the one hand we get carbon dioxide poisoning of the earth due to the waste being released, on the other hand we get depletion of oil reserves. So these all kind of, in a sense, symptoms of a bigger problem that the economy itself is not being designed to fit on the earth that we live on.

JB: Yeah. The section 3.3 in your report is sort of about the social dynamics of climate change, as well as these other issues because you see the same problem in dealing with reform of the financial system, reform of the political system, come down to the difficulties and the social aspects of research and policy development, and you include a quote by George Monbiot. He says, "when you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist... everyone is watching and waiting for everyone else to move. The unspoken universal thought is this: "if it were really so serious, surely someone would do something?"... Who will persuade us to act?"

So, you apparently spoke to people who have viewed this issue from many different angles. You've got scientists, you talked to business interests, governments, environmental groups, and they all seem frozen in a trance about what is permissible to discuss. You want to expound on that a little bit?

PS: Yeah, we had a really strange situation that we would go to all these different players and they would say, "Well, look, I would love to do something, I would love to recognize this issues publicly, but I can't because somebody else hasn't done it; it's not possible for me."

And we actually mapped this out on a piece of paper and realized we had this sort of perfect loop where everybody was kind of pointing to the next person in the loop and saying, "Well, actually, it's their problem," or say that "they should move first." And it just simply became clear that if they acted that way, in fact, nobody would act first.

And one of the remarkable things about getting the book out and having people read that map is that they could see what they were doing now. And so we've actually had people who three months ago couldn't do things—wouldn't make a strong stand in public—who are now saying, "Oh, okay, look. I can see that I need to speak out because if I do that will then actually free up other people to speak out and very shortly I won't be the only person saying these things."

JB: Yeah, and, by contrast, you draw upon a set attitudes from the past with phrases like, as you said earlier, "failure is not an option" from Apollo 13, and this quote from Winston Churchill:"the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." Why the use of this World War II era rhetoric?

PS: I think because what we started to do—this is David Spratt and myself as co-authors—we realized, after we'd gone a certain way through the analysis, that we were really facing the level of threat to human beings and to other species that was the equivalent—at least the equivalent, in fact, probably even stronger—than World War II itself.

And, it's one of these strange things; we sort of said to ourselves, "Well, when did we last face this level of threat and when did we last act on it." When I say "we" I mean our communities. And, of course, the self-referencing thing, it was during World War II. So, they then say, "Well, quite clearly when there was a perception of this level of threat in the past we have actually—we as a community of people—have been able to tackle this; we have been able to do this and we've demonstrated that."

In fact, you can even go further. I don't know how many people know much about sort of the long evolutionarily past of human beings, but in the last 2 million years climate change—natural climate change—has been a constant part of our lives. And about every 1,500 years major climate events have occurred naturally.

Now, people might say, "Well, is one natural or it is caused by humans?" Clearly, the pattern of what we're doing now, it's absolutely clear that, normally speaking, the climate system would have been cooling by this stage. So, clearly we've pushed it to a new condition. But in the past there have been these natural fluctuations.

And the fact that any one of us are alive today—you or I; anyone of us—we're alive because our ancestors had the capability in them of coping with extraordinary disasters and finding their way through it. So, I take a great deal of strength, if you like, from that, knowing that we are only alive now because our ancestors had this capability of going beyond business as usual when it's necessary, when the time calls for it.

JB: Yeah. Part of what you say is that we also have to recognize the problem, and you say we need have to have a brutal honesty about it. Why is brutal honesty the only way to solve really tough problems?

PS: Well, it's probably a strange analogy, but if you're walking along a sidewalk or a footpath and a child suddenly starts out on the road following, let's say, a ball or something, if you sort of decided to workshop that with the child rather than screaming at them, "watchout, there's a car coming!," then they're not going to be focused on what the real issue is; they are not going to realize that their life's in danger. Sometimes we just have to tell ourselves what really is happening.

And one of the things that's really puzzles me is that in wartimes people talk about, that in certain situations in wartime, morale can actually be high. And you ask yourself, "Now, how could that possibly be? People are being killed left, right, and center and what have you, and people having a sense of their community being threatened. How cold they possibly have high morale?" And, I think part of the answer is in a wartime situation like that you know much more clearly the situation you're in; you know that you're in mortal peril. But, if people cooperate, if they work together, and soon, then, in fact, they have sense that there is hope and that they have the sense that they're all doing the best together. And you don't feel isolated, you don't feel abandoned, you know that everybody's kind of doing their bit.

And, remarkably, humans have the capability of maintaining morale and, in fact, often even levels of depression during wartime—clinical problems of mental depression—is often lower in a wartime than you'd expect compared to peacetime.

JB: Wow. That's truly amazing.

PS: Because, in a sense, people are facing these things with a much clearer sense of just matter-of-fact honesty.

JB: And they have sense of purpose, I think, and a sense of togetherness which is sort of lacking right now.

PS: That's right. That's right.

JB: Wow.

PS: We've had ClimateCode Red out now for about a month; it's been available on the web. And we've done a lot of discussions with people—I'm based in Melbourne, in Victoria, in Australia—and what we've found is that, quite strangely, the book seems to actually have energized quite a lot of people. And when we come together and we have meetings of people who have confronted the brutal truth by reading the book, when they come together and realize the other people in the room with them have actually confronted it as well, that actually gives them a great deal of greater, sort of, morale than they've had before. So, we've had terrific reactions from a lot of people because they sort of feel,"Well, damn it, we kind of knew in our gut that this thing was going to be bad—it isbad—but it's so exciting to see that there are other people prepared to tackle it."

JB: Right. I understand that completely. As humans we are a social animal and we need to see that people understand the same issues that we have and understanding of and that we're working together on it. And if that's not the case, and if it's life-threatening, then you feel so demoralized that it's hard to act.

PS: Yeah. That's right. I think the other thing is that it also depends a lot on how people react when they get together to talk about these problems. If you approach it from a point of view of... in a sense of having lost hope, then you just propagate that amongst yourselves and it spreads and people just become more dis-empowered. But what I think is a highly empowering thing is, in fact, for people to see amongst themselves that other people can see this issue and that they can still have a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of how to create solutions, and that this, itself—in a sense, optimism in the fact of calamity—is actually quite an empowering thing.

JB: Yeah, so what's the role of leadership then? What are good leaders to do in this situation to maintain morale?

PS: Yeah. Well, I think leadership is critical in this—absolutely, no doubt. And I think that, once again, that's one of the reasons...the reason why people looked at Churchill in the Second World War was because this person was capable of seeing the full enormity of what the Nazi regime represented and was not cowered by it, was not bowed down by it, but recognized just how important it was. And that sort of provided an enormously powerful form of leadership.

JB: Yeah. I know a lot of people who view sort of our innate tendencies as humans as greedy and individualistic. Or as your report is calling for cooperation and fair sacrifice. Do you think these two perspectives on human nature are compatible?

PS: Human beings are very, very diverse, complex beings in themselves. Each one of us, we are all capable of being quite selfish at times and self-centered and we are also capable of extraordinary gestures of compassion and common concern. We're the same people with this mix of responses. We can approach a problem with an us-them approach and we can treat the "other" appallingly; we can become racist, we can become brutal, we can strike down other people.

But if we change our perspective we can work together, we can bridge across divides, we can cooperate across continents. We have this mixture of capabilities in all of us. And the thing really is to find out how to bring forth the positive responses, how to give them emphasis.

In wartime people realize that they actually depend on each other; they will not survive unless they work together because any one individual person's actions are not sufficient to save them. And, so, then in that context what happens is that people actually feel that they have to treat other people fairly because what they are actually asking is for other people to sacrifice time, money, effort, possibly their lives, in order to help them.

And, so, we bring out these notion of fairness and collaboration and so on because we recognize the importance of other people. We have this in us; we can do it. We do do it. Whenever the need is there these sorts of behaviors come out in people.

JB: True. I think you are right. The other thing I really appreciated in the report is that you have this phrase called "the test of double practicality." Explain what that is.

PS: Yeah. It's a very interesting thing. Where that idea came from—double practicality—was that at the time when people were most likely to say "you can't tell people the truth" or "we can't go for measures that would actually solve the problem; we have to go for things that are so-called 'practical,'" I thought,"In my mind, being practical, it relates to things like getting something done in the real world, seeing real results." And then I was thinking, "If you take action and it fails—it doesn't produce the results you need—then, really, that's not very practical."

The only really practical action is action that aids—produces results in the real world—but those results in the world are actually going to solve the problem. And so I was thinking, "You really need both elements."

What I've found is that quite often when people have been used to, I guess, putting forward compromised solutions, and so on, and thought that that was the way to act in real life, if you like, that when you put it to them that "this is really not practical, it's not doubly practical, it may get something done but what's done is not going to solve the problem and that in itself is not practical,"people, in fact, relate to that quite well, they understand that. And they begin to realize that they really have to sort of step out and look at the issue more carefully, frame solutions that can actually deliver the necessary results to solve the problem.

And that's where the Apollo 13 example comes in. If any one of those people involved with the Apollo 13 rescue had gone for half-measures then they would have gone for the loss of the life of the crew. There's no question about that. They just simply couldn't use half-measures. Everything they did had to be aimed at truly solving the problem.

JB: Yeah. So that's why there's an emphasis in your report on this 450parts per million of carbon dioxide concentration. Stabilizing it 2-3degrees Celsius is considered the potentially, politically practical reasonable thing to do. But it fails the test of double practicality because that would lead to, basically, the loss of the habitable planet, in a sense.

PS: That's right.

JB: So, that's why it's such a powerful phrase because it makes it so clear for people. I really appreciate it.

PS: You know why? People often talk about the emperor having no clothes. So, for example, if people believe things that are, in fact, fanciful—if you think that heating the planet more than we already are is somehow a solution, and, yet, already we're going to lose the Arctic ice completely—we'll have a blue ocean within a couple of years—and that this will cause heating and knock-on effect, I mean, clearly we're already too hot right now.

So, you could talk to people about the emperor having no clothes, but, in the sense, of the kind of finger-pointing way of doing things. It's a bit like saying, "I can see something that you can't see." Whereas, if you say, "Look, let's work together to figure out what's the doubly practical approach." Or even, the other person, just asking them, "Could you think about what you're proposing in terms of double practicality?" That's a less finger-pointing way of producing the same result, which is "just notice that what you've proposed wouldn't actually solve the problem, and that that's not really going to do the job."

But people like relating to practicality; everybody wants to be practical. So, all we're just asking for is us to be twice as practical, which is obviously much better.

JB: That's right. You are listening to KZYX Philo, KZYZ Willits and Ukiah. This is The Reality Report and I'm your host Jason Bradford.

Our guest today is Philip Sutton of the Greenleap Strategic Institute and co-author of a new report called ClimateCode Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency.The report reviews disturbing new data and scientific understanding of climate change. It explains why existing institutions have failed to respond adequately to the problem and outlines an appropriate response. You can find that at

Alright, now let's get into what it would take, technically, to rapidly de-carbonize the world economy, withdraw carbon from the atmosphere down to 320 parts per million, and cool the planet and stabilize ice sheets. Why don't we start with cutting out emissions to near zero as fast as possible. How can we do that?

PS: Okay. Well, at one level, conceptually, it's pretty simple, which is: stop using fossil fuels. I mean, clearly, that's a bit easier said that done, but that's really the thing to think about.

People often say, "Well, why don't we have sequestration; why don't we trap the carbon dioxide coming out of the fossil fuel plants, power stations, or gas stations?," or whatever. The thing is we're going to have to use our capacity to trap carbon to take down the depth—the ecological depth—the excess carbon dioxide in the air. So, in a sense, that activity is going to have to be directed elsewhere.

But, we already know that we can produce electricity through concentrating solar-thermal plants; we know we can use wind power. We know that with ingenuity and sufficient investment that we have, in fact, got zero emission technologies for energy production right now. We need to scale them up; we need to put energy storage into a system, etc.etc. But these are things that are all doable, completely doable.

You might ask, "Well, can we afford it?" And that's where the wartime analogy comes in once again. During the Second World War when people knew that their lives were threatened, the standard thing was in most countries they were spending about 40% of every dollar in the economy was spent on the war effort. So, we know that we can produce this energy infrastructure.

The other thing is that we also know that in the past we've used energy wastefully, so that we can re-design our systems. Hybrid vehicles for example, are a lot more energy efficient than standard cars. We know that we can use public transport as another way of getting around. We know we can use bicycles. None of this is rocket science, really.

So, you just systematically work through and say, "Okay, well, what do we do to get people around, to provide the energy they need, to reduce the need for energy through efficiencies." And we invest in it and invest our way out of the problem, in a sense.

JB: You make a comparison of 65 million cars, I guess, are made per year, and what if that was turned into renewable energy infrastructure, for example? There are examples like that when industrial economies have shifted extremely rapidly from one form of manufacture to another?

PS: Well, that's right. The most dramatic example, in fact, is probably in the U.S. between 1941 and 1942 and the threat after the Pearl Harbor bombing. The United States went from the world's largest consumer economy to the world's largest—well, unfortunately, in this case, it was the world's largest war economy—but that was done literally of the space of 12 months. The priorities became producing tanks and Jeeps and so on.

At one stage the car companies were brought in and asked what they could contribute to the war effort and could they produce the Jeeps and the tanks, etc.—a kind of no-brainer question, of course they could—and they said, "Yeah, sure, we can do that. But it'll take us a couple of years to build the factories to do these things."

And Roosevelt—the administration—said, "Well, sorry, but for the duration you won't be producing domestic cars. We'll live with the ones that we've got and we'll just keep them going a bit longer, and what we'll do is we'll actually convert the industrial productive capacity across to what was now needed." And so, that's sort of one of those examples where you actually could re-tool many of our factories to be producing the infrastructure you need for a zero-carbon, zero-emissions economy.

JB: Yeah.

PS: This is not business as usual, obviously. Well, I mean, you sort of think, "Well, in the normal way of doing things how could you possibly do that? I mean, they're private companies, they own their own factories, how can you tell them what to do? This is unacceptable."

But the remarkable thing is that when people realize the extremity of the situation, then democracies routinely are capable of doing these changes and they do them for the duration when it's needed. And then the sort of normal way of doing things gets restored once the problem's solved. So, this isn't really a threat to democracy. This is actually another mode in which democracies work when they are really under severe stress of threat to life. That's how a democracy responds.

JB: Yeah. I can image that in his day and age trust in governments and corporations is pretty low and people are always going to be worried about someone trying to take advantage of a crisis. So, what does this mean, though—that this sort of control you are talking about—for civil liberties, and what are the dangers inherent in such a situation?

PS: Well, the situation we're in actually is different. Fortunately, it's different from a regular war. First of all, there is no enemy. It's not other people, it's not nature; it's just there is a situation, there is a problem, a civil emergency. It's just sort of something that's happened.

So, there's no enemy, so we don't have to have the kind of security-against-the-enemy type of mind set; there's no need for the sort of secrecy that you'd have in a wartime. So, that's the first thing.

Paradoxically, that actually presents us with a problem. When there's an enemy sort of breathing down your neck, the tanks are about to cross the border, etc., people can see that and then they respond very strongly. In this case what we're going to have to do is create an active imagination, and I don't mean that in a trivial sense.

The problem with the greenhouse issue is that the strongest impact from what we do today will be felt in 20 or 30 years' time. And so we have to strengthen our imagination—not in a frivolous way—but strengthen our capacity of foresight so that we can actually see that what we do today or tomorrow is going to have really tangible, physical impacts on people in 10, 20, 30 years' time.

And really, in a sense, they only way to do that is you have to reverse the dumbing down that we've had in our culture for so long where people say, "Don't you worry your mind about that. The boss or the political leaders will take care of it. You just have to live your ordinary life."

What we're going to have to do, I think, is to actually strengthen democracy through participation. We're going to have to go to the public and say... For example, we have jury service. And a small number of people will be called in to play a part in judging whether somebody has committed a crime, or something. Now, this is a public service; we do public jury service—we get time off work and it's part of the system.

Just imagine if you had something like that but on a much larger scale. Say the government, instead of spending billions of dollars putting TV ads on and propagandizing to us, spent the same money to hire us, to pay for our salaries. And say 100,000 people across whichever country we happen to be in, was asked to come in and meet over a period of some months, say one day a week, and talk through and try to come up with recommendations about what to do about climate change and peak oil.

And if we supported those people with access to expert evidence and information and we provide them with expert facilitators so they could work out how to manage themselves in this process of trying to find a solution, what would happen in that situation then is that people would actually begin to be aware of the detail and the dilemmas and the problems and they would have time to think and reflect and they wouldn't be caught in the 30-second grab of just sort of trivial news flashes that they get hit with at the moment.

And gradually over time people would start to develop a much deeper understanding and be able to recognize, "Okay, we're doing this. We need the emergency, we need to change the way we produce energy systems, etc. because of these problems and I now understand this because I've actually had time to think it through and talk it through with colleagues," and so on. And this, I think, is how we, in fact, can make it possible to have an emergency in peacetime by smarting people up rather than dumbing them down; so, really promoting deliberative democracy rather than secrecy and just sort of differing to higher authorities.

JB: Sure. And I think nowadays we see that there's so much unequal access to power in this world and there's such unequal levels of material consumption. Do you see there could some benefits to an economy in which you have this sort of shared sense of sacrifice for the common good?

PS: Well, I think so. Because I think what will happen is that people will actually get used to the idea of thinking about what's both in their own self-interest and also what's in their collective common interest. And this would actually be re-enforced as a natural thing that we would act on both.

Now, at the moment we tend to have our societies, or lives, framed pretty much by what's in our own personal interest and we delegate to other people all the big issues about how do we look after the common good. So, it's almost like we've lost... if you sort of think about democracy as requiring intellectual, or whatever, muscle—you actually need to practice democracy, you actually need to practice thinking about the future or these sorts of things and it builds up capability.

And at the moment we've gone to flab a bit; we've lost the tone in our democratic capabilities. And I have feeling that actually tackling this enormous problem will really substantially give this sort of workout so that we will actually have a re-invigorated notion of what democracy's all about. And I think that from that will flow a much better society because people will be consciously dealing with both their own self-interest and the community interest simultaneously.

JB: I mean, right now I know that people are worried about unemployment or losing their homes because of the financial situation, the mess things are in. Do you think dealing with the climate emergency would make the unemployment and housing outlook worse? I mean, a lot of what you get is, "I'd like to deal with the climate problem but it's going to be bad for the economy."

PS: It's a very interesting issue. This whole thing is actually a very big challenge to a lot of our presumptions. So, for example, a lot of people who are environmentalists, or whatever, assume that they can see all the things that we shouldn't be doing, and they say... I mean, some people actually like that, they say, "We should close down this and close down that factory, and stop doing this thing and that thing" and they sort of feel the solution is, in fact, to sort of, in a sense, end economic growth or economic production or whatever.

But if you actually look at the scale of what we need to do to rescue the planet—to rebuild our car fleets and in many cases avoid needing to use cars at all, to retrofit and refit and our buildings and our schools and our homes, get new appliances that are superefficient, new power systems—the problem for us is not going to be collapse of the economy. The problem will be to find enough people and enough resources and enough factories to build the new infrastructure, to recycle old materials, to re-fit and re-direct what we're doing.

I can guarantee you that for the duration of this sustainability crisis, that the problem will not be the economy running flat. The problem will be how we can get extra capacity to actually do what needs to be done. So, I would say that full employment is the likely outcome of this activity.

JB: You have some examples from, again, wartime. We got out of the Great Depression in the United States because of the war economies. How might that be a similar situation here?

PS: Well, it's a similar thing. I mean, if you think about... I'll just give you one task that we've got before us. We've spent the last 150 years, in particular the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years, putting up too much carbon dioxide in the year. There's about 200 gigatons of carbon in excess, sitting out there in the atmosphere.

Now, getting that out of the atmosphere is a big job. We're going to have to be planting a lot more trees and other plants to absorb the carbon dioxide. We're going to have ways of converting much of that plant material into things like biochar and then, paradoxically, what we're going to have to do is a bit like sort of reverse coal mining. We're going to have to actually stick that carbon back in the soil, back underground and that is an absolutely staggeringly huge job.

Now, a staggeringly huge job means lots of activity and lots of people doing things. That means a lot of work to be done. So, even on that one issue alone, getting the atmosphere back in good condition, getting the CO2levels down to the right level, is in itself enough to keep the economy going full bore for quite some time.

JB: Who would fight these kinds of proposals most vigorously? What interest groups in particular?

PS: Who would fight them?

JB: Yeah.

PS: Well, I mean we know already... people will fight it if they want to stick with the status quo. If they want to just continue making their money they way they do, then, initially, they'll try to fight it. And we've seen plenty of examples of that. I mean, you look around almost any company you might care to name, and they have a natural, a normal, preference to just keep on doing things the way they're doing it.

That was exactly the reaction during the Second World War. The car manufacturers were quite happy to make tanks and things, so long as they could add them on to their car-making. It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to substitute in the short-term.

So, who could oppose it? Well, in one sense, almost all of us could try and oppose this thing. We don't want to change our lifestyles, we don't want to change our business strategies. But, the thing is that no matter whether we like... if we're business people and we hear these so-called "greenies" talking about this stuff, we may not like them. But the thing is, at the end of the day we all live on exactly the same planet.

And I sort of have this thought experiment which is: think of a bunch of people in society that you hate the most and you don't like the way they're making uncomfortable demands on you about, say, climate issues. And then you just do this thought experiment, which is: next morning they're not there anymore—they are magically gone to Mars or something—the climate problem is still going to be there. No matter who you are in society, the climate problem is going to effect you and your family and your children and your grandchildren. It's your life and the people you care for—no matter who you are, the people you care for simply have to get action on climate change.

And, so, once that penny drops then people in the business world will just simply see this as another opportunity. They've got to re-jig their factories, their business strategies, but, hell, we do it anyway. When the IT revolution came through everybody had to change the way they did things. It didn't cause a breakdown of society; it didn't cause people to have riots in the streets, etc. It was just part of life and people got on with it. So, constantly we demonstrate that we've got this flexible capability once we just decide to get on and tackle it.

JB: Yeah. Can you give us a sense of what sustainable society might look and feel like?

PS: Well, a sustainable society is, depending on where you are indifferent regions, countries, whatever, a sustainable society will actually look and feel somewhat different for each area because I don't think that there is one formula.

So, for example, some societies might decide that they are just so welded to their cars, they’re welded to the car and they can't break the addiction. Sorry, I'm obviously expressing a bit of a personal view, here. But, in such a society people would then have to invest in ultra-efficient recyclable cars. And so, you'd be spending quite a bit of your money on sort of electric cars or hybrids—totally, completely recyclable, made out of renewable materials, or recyclable materials—the energy system would be based on renewables, and so on. So, that would be one place.

But in another place, somebody might say, "It's actually not terribly efficient having cars dominating the whole society. We could actually free up a lot of money in our society which we could then devote to other things," cultural or health issues, or anything you care to name. And these people might say, "Look, what we're going to do is we're going to follow some of the ideas that have been popularized by somebody like Richard Register," who has done some terrific work on eco-cities, "and we're going to rebuild and redevelop our cities so they're based largely on walking."And you say, "How could you do such a thing?"

Now, any of our central business districts are efficient as they are...the reason why we have central business districts in a city is because we actually want to give people access to lots of other people and we find that we just can't make that work if we have cars sort of clogging things up. So, for example, in our homes, where we've got dispersed homes, we will pack our car in the house, if you like, or the house block. But in the city when we want to get people to have lots of access to each other we keep the cars out. You don't park your car next to your office in your city block, you actually park the car in a parking lot somewhere else.

So, what I'm really getting at is that there are lots of different models of how a sustainable society might look like when you get to the fine detail. But, broadly speaking, what you can say is that: one, it would be based on 100% recycling of materials; two, it'll be based on renewable energy sources; three—and this is really crucial—all of the societies, no matter what they're like, will be based on what's called dematerialization, or sort of ultra-efficiency in materials use. And so, the quantity of materials needed to support as ustainable society might be nine-tenths less than we currently use. And that will be the case whether you have what seems like a very simplistic society or even sophisticated society; in all of those cases they'll have those common features.

JB: Yeah. Now, the scope, of course, of what needs to be done is certainly daunting. I wonder, though, if some professionals have already been developing schemes that can give individuals, governments, and businesses kind of an insight in how to rapidly transition to a fossil fuel-free society.

PS: Yep. There's work that's being done by a group in the United States, for example, looking at zero CO2and zero nuclear energy strategy, which has figured out how you could re-jig things to deliver the services needed. So, that's available.

There's a group in Britain called Zero Carbon Britain who have done a really comprehensive plan for how the United Kingdom could restructure its economy.

In the area that I live in the Beyond Zero Emissions group has been developing plans. They've got a two-level plan. One is to make the transition in 10 years and the other is to get halfway there in three. So we're actually looking at things, for example, like really rapidly improving the efficiency of the housing stock so we don't have to use natural gas in the housing sector, and then that can be reused to power—temporarily—can be reused to power the electricity sector while we're building up the renewables base for energy supply.

So, what you'll find that right around the world in most cities, in most places, there are people already beginning to work on how this transition might happen.

Now, as we gather momentum as a world, what will happen is that people will end up collaborating a lot more and sharing ideas and so that there will be increased intensity of work on these things. But there is a fantastic amount of work that has already been done. The real blockage is people deciding to actually get on and implement things, I think.

JB: Yeah, that's right. We only have a few minutes left in our program and I just wanted to... Is there anything else that you think that we should add here in the last couple of minutes, or anything you want to reiterate?

PS: Yeah. I think that the... I mean, some people listening to the program so far will probably be having mixed reactions. I mean, given how, in a sense, the issue of the climate was so downbeat last program, people might have been sort of thinking, "Well, that's great. This time around we're sort of talking a much more positive way." But I think there's going to be a sense of skepticism about this positivity. In other words, it is just a kind of case of revving people up to make them feel good or just sort of wishful thinking, basically.

And I think a lot of people will be very skeptical about the possibilities of change. And that's based on their own experience of just how hard it is, often, to make extraordinarily small modest changes at the office; how hard is it to get people to recycle paper and put their apple cores in the right place and all that sort of stuff. And you sort of think, "This idea of restructuring the economy is just pie in the sky. It's just a dream."

I think one of the crucial things is that... I agree with people who are skeptical about this, by the way. I think that unless we actually formally declare a state of sustainability emergency, then I don't think that we will signal to ourselves, as a community, that we're really serious about this. And so, I think that we actually have to work—we have to get a campaign going to actually to develop a concept of a civil emergency that deals with this problem as one of prevention rather than just waiting until the tsunami or the fire or the flood hits. This one has to be done as a preventative exercise.

So,we actually have to have people working on fleshing out what the sustainability emergency would look like, how would you run it, and so on. But we have to have a political process where people really demand that their governments actually declare a people-friendly, life-friendly sustainability emergency because we need that social signaling to ourselves that business as usual for the duration, till we fix the problems up, is put on hold, and we are going to this different mode.

I mean, we can talk about a different mode, but you've got to have someway of triggering the switch of mode. We've got to signal that to ourselves. So, I actually think we need a public movement to frame a people-friendly, life-friendly sustainability emergency, but then to actually demand it politically and make sure it happens.

JB: And is that whatClimate Code Red, with its collaborators, are working on, setting up that communication network and the movement, you're saying?

PS: Yes. Yes, exactly right. That's exactly what we're doing.

We started out ClimateCode Red was a report, it was a book, but within a very short time we've realized that this thing will not mean much unless it's actually connected to people taking action. So, we're now working very, very actively with people around the idea of creating action networks to really pursue this very actively, particularly around the issue of declaring a people-friendly, life-friendly sustainability emergency.

JB: Alright. Well, we'll have to end this show right there. I really appreciate spending another hour with us and folks, you can hear this show and the previous show at, and there willbe CDs available for sale also

Iwant to thank you for listening to KZYX in Philo, KZYZ Willits andUkiah. This has been The Reality Report. I'm your host Jason Bradford and today we spoke to Philip Sutton of the Greenleap Strategic Institute and co-author of a new report called ClimateCode Red: The Case for a Sustainability Emergency.That's at

So, thanks today to my studio engineer, Tim Gregory, and again, to Philip Sutton for getting up so early in the morning in Australia and for all the fine work you've been doing. Take care, Philip. We'll talk to you later.

PS: Thank you. See ya.

JB: See ya.

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