The JUICE Media Podcast

We need to talk about the latest IPCC report | with Peter Kalmus & Ella Gilbert

Episode Summary

Ep 28: In which I chat with not one, but two climate scientists about the IPCC's latest Working Group II report, and how to deal with the psychological toll that this fuckery is having on all of us who are paying attention. Feat. NASA scientist Peter Kalmus and atmospheric scientist, Ella Gilbert.

Episode Notes

You can view the video version of this interview on our YouTube channel - which we recommend as it includes our faces :)

👉 You can follow Peter Kalmus here
👉 You can find Ella Gilbert's YouTube channel here

👉 Links:
🔹 IPCC 6th Assessment Report
🔹 IPCC Working Group II Report (2022)
🔹 IPCC Working Group I Report (2021)
🔹 Australian Psychology Society guide for ‘Coping with Climate Change Distress’
🔹 Peter Kalmus's book: Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution

Other climate scientist YouTubers to check out:
🔹 Zentouro 🔹 Climate Adam 🔹 Simon Clark

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👉 Editor and Producer: Ellen Burbidge
🎹 Music by Tom Day

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Episode Transcription

Transcript by Jesse Dowse

Hey everyone, Giordano here from The Juice Media. Welcome back to The Juice Media Podcast. As you know, this podcast normally acts as a companion to our latest Honest Government Ad, which in this case was about the United Australia Party, but with everything happening right now in the world, I want to turn our attention to more urgent matters. 

Just a few days ago the IPCC published part two of its Sixth Assessment Report. Most people won't have even heard about it, because, at around the same time, this war criminal decided to launch a full-scale fucking invasion of Ukraine, which for good reason has captured our attention and dominated headlines. 

But climate change doesn't stop for wars or pandemics. As we are seeing in Australia, where massive floods have utterly devastated swathes of Queensland and New South Wales. That is why I want to dedicate this podcast not to Clive Palmer's monumental bullshit, but to understanding what this latest IPCC report says, what we should be doing about it, and importantly, ways to cope with the psychological toll that can come from dealing with the climate crisis. As you know, I'm a firm believer in handing the mic to and amplifying the voices of climate scientists, which is why I'm stoked to have as my guest today, not one, but two climate scientists, Peter Kalmus and Ella Gilbert. I mean, Peter Kalmus and Ella Gilbert. 

Based in California, Peter is a climate scientist at NASA's jet propulsion lab where he uses satellite data to study the rapidly changing Earth. As well as writing regularly for major publications, Peter also wields one of the most cited climate science accounts on Twitter, where he doesn't mince his words when it comes to speaking about what he sees coming. After my chat with Peter, I'll also be talking with Ella Gilbert in London, who is part of the next generation of climate scientists that's emerging and who are turning to YouTube to help people understand the climate fuckery that's unfolding. I hope you enjoy our chat, and I'll catch you on the other side.

Peter

Here we are, we're doing it! 

Giordano

Yeah! Finally, finally, Peter. Thanks so much for joining us on The Juice Media Podcast Peter Kalmus. It's really great to have you here. 

Peter

It's great to be here. I love your work so much and I think it's so incredibly important, and I'm a huge fan. 

Giordano

Awesome. Fantastic. Well, mutual fans of your work, you do amazing work. One of the things that really amazed me when I was watching that film Don't Look Up, which a lot of people will have seen by now on Netflix, whenever Jennifer Lawrence's character comes up, the climate scientist who discovers the comet, and she becomes exasperated because she's trying to tell the world,  “we're all gonna fucking die can you please pay attention to what we're doing,” I just think of you, Peter. Like, for me it's like that character was modelled on your- Obviously not just you, a lot of climate scientists, I think feel like they were validated by that character, but you in particular. How did you feel watching that film? 

Peter

I had, like, so much warm fuzzy feeling. It was really surprising. It was- I got really emotional watching it, just, like, in a good way, like, just, I'm like this is really happening. Like, this is mainstream, this is what it feels like to me. And and the world is getting a view of that, and it's been a very lonely thing to be trying to sound the alarm for, you know, almost two decades and to basic- You know, until very recently to essentially be laughed at for doing that and be scoffed at and to be ignored and what- You know, just, yeah, I really felt seen, and I can't- I don't really have the words to articulate how important that feeling was, of feeling seen, but it really did mean a lot to me, and then to see the to see the response, like, in the following weeks, and to realise that it really was mainstream. 

So my theory of change, by the way, Giordano, is that we need a billion climate activists, because- And you and Juice Media are very well aware of this. The government's basically controlled by fucking kleptocrats and we don't live in democracies either in the United States or Australia like they try to- it's propaganda to try to make us think that we live in democracies but it's money that really talks, right, and the more money someone has, essentially the more influence and the votes they have, and with the fossil fuel industry, they have so much money, they have so much influence. Buying politicians is really really cheap for them, buying media companies is really cheap for them, so they control the information sphere and they control the political sphere, and they've been delaying action for such a long time, so we need activists to counteract that. 

We basically need a climate movement that's stronger than the fossil fuel industry and we're not- I don't see how we can get that in time unless we have mainstream things like this film and I hope it turns into lots more films, lots more climate storytelling, the stories are what guide large numbers of people, right? You can't have a powerful movement unless that movement has a very clear story that's kind of driving it and that's guiding it and that's pushing it forward, so we need the story, the scary story which is what Don't Look Up was, but we need so many more stories too. We need stories of social change and stories of solidarity, and stories of us building the world that we all know deep down inside. We can, you know, we can have a better world, a world with more equity and less violence, and a world where we're more in harmony with other species and this beautiful web of life, so, you know, I know we can do better as a species and getting those kinds of stories into the mainstream, I think would really help with that. So that's part of why it meant so much to me is it's basically an integral part to my theory of change, right, to get out of this mess, this nightmare.

Giordano

Absolutely. You mentioned equity in there, and you know, one of the things that I felt when watching the film- Okay, this isn't going to be a podcast review of Don't Look Up but just on that point is, you know, that was a story about an affluent western society dealing with the the comet crashing but we also need to hear stories of what people are- The comet has already fucking crashed in some parts of this planet, and those are stories also that we need to start hearing because we're still dealing with climate as if it's something that's going to happen at some point in the future. Yes it's very close, but actually it's happening already in in some countries, and I know over the last year when we were communicating you mentioned there's a fucking climate famine in Madagascar that people don't even know about, and I think you alerted me to that. I wasn't even aware of that. 

Peter

And there's gonna be so much more, so this is the thing that really frightens me, all right, you know, and we can kind of segue into the IPCC report. So it's not really rocket science, all right? So we've got a planet that's heating up at a tenth of a degree celsius every five years on average, so it's about double that over land areas. It's driven by burning fossil fuels, and the fact that we still burn fossil fuels is driven by the lies of the fossil fuel industry. So that's why we need this movement, is to, like, wake it up, we need to revoke that social licence. In my opinion, we should be seizing fossil fuel assets, because if you're still investing in that shit, and if you're still, you know, a fossil fuel capitalist or a lobbyist, you are bringing the whole species down, and not just our species, but all the millions of species on this only place in the universe that we know to have life. If that's not breaking a social contract and worthy of having your assets seized, I don't know what is, and then we, you know, we should, we could talk about this net zero by 2050 thing, which is absolute bullshit, so that's a way to prevent action today, right? 

We know, so we're gaining this, you know, tenth of a degree globally every five years. What I was going to say is that that's very obviously going to make all of the stuff that we're starting to experience now, which is just the merest beginnings of where we're heading, so everything, all of these trends on the Earth system. Dozens, hundreds, no matter where you look, ecosystems, sea levels, wildfire propensity, droughts, precipitation, right? These massive rainfalls that we're seeing. Everywhere you look in the Earth system you have this trend, these things that should be flat if we were on a healthy planet, a planet in equilibrium, a stable planet, all of these things would be flat. They're noisy, but if you look at them for long enough they're flat. They're now all trending, which means all of the impacts, the disasters that we've just started feeling are going to get worse every single year. Year after year after year, as long as we keep burning fossil fuels. So the flooding that we're seeing now, the fires that we're seeing now, in a few years we're gonna long for these days, right, because it's just gonna keep getting worse, and this is what I just don't understand, this is such a simple thing for people to understand, but somehow you don't get- the pitchforks don't come out really until people feel like their lives are threatened right now. 

So it's very hard to convince them that we literally need to wrest power from these sociopaths now when their lives are going to be threatened in five years, or maybe in 10 years, right? But it's just the physics is this… To us it feels slow rolling, but it's extremely extremely fast and it's, I don't know, I find the whole situation terrifying somehow, you know?

Giordano

Yeah well, listening to you talk I kind of want to get a pitchfork out.

 

I know!

Giordano

But just putting a price on the damage would in itself be enough, and if that isn't, then okay, pitchforks, but we haven't even got to the stage of that and I think you said recently like we've still got fucking frequent flyer programs, where we encourage people to fly, it's like, okay, you know, there's a whole debate about whether flying or not, but at least don't reward people for doing it! 

Peter

Yeah, and the frequent flying thing, that's a great example of the social license that I'm talking about, and also something else I like to talk about which is a transition into what I call emergency mode, which, emergency mode basically would mean that the public felt enough urgency that they were actually willing to make some sacrifices to have a fucking livable planet, which we should be willing to make those sacrifices, and then, you know, you'd have to throw all the climate deniers out of office, which you could do if the public woke up enough, right? And you could, you know, this is something that should cross party lines, because we all, no matter what your political leanings, you still need food and air and water, you know, and I personally believe that what's happening to the Earth system is literally terrifying. Anyone who knows and understands what's happening now, has to feel this terror, and the terror doesn't mean- Like, I still do stuff, I still write articles, I still write scientific papers and do analyses, I even still, you know, take my kids to music lessons and go out and have dinner with my wife sometime and celebrate anniversaries, so-

Giordano

You still do that? You lucky person!

Peter

I'm still doing that. I do! I push as hard as I can for change, but you know, there are these people that, you know, some of them are scientists, some of them are activists, they fancy themselves, you know, communicators for climate. And for the longest time, they were telling us, they were telling me, they wanted me to shut up because they thought I was scaring people too much and they thought that would- If you scare people they'll shut down, so I think it's the opposite. I think fear is the thing, the way our brains respond to stuff, that if there's danger coming, we're afraid and that motivates us to actually act, right? 

Because there's so many things in our lives that strap us down and keep us just going on, like as we've been going, right? Like, there's bills to pay, there's, you know, kids to get to school, there's work to do, there's groceries to shop for, whatever. So, it's hard to- Life is hard enough without fucking doing something about climate change, so that's why you need the fear. And then if, you know, once the public has enough of a sense of urgency and you don't anaesthetise them by telling them net zero by 2050, you don't anaesthetise them by saying, you know, the people in charge have this figured out, it's going to be okay, you don't anaesthetise them by saying, “direct air capture, that's what we need,” we don't know how to do that, and even if we did, it would be incredibly expensive and we'd be putting that price onto the backs of our kids, right, which seems incredibly unfair. Not only that, they might not even be able to deal with it. So I think it's really important to tell the truth. 

We're already pretty fucked, and like you said, some places, especially in the global south are way more fucked than other places, and with every ton of carbon dioxide, every litre of petrol that's burnt, every little piece of coal that's burnt literally makes the situation worse. The thing that you have to understand is that all these climate disasters like we talked about, they will get worse, they have no choice. They'll start happening more frequently, they'll be stronger, the heat waves will be worse, the wildfires will be worse, the floods will be worse, it's just physics. And they'll start- since they're starting to come more frequently, they'll start overlapping in ways that will make things, you know, even worse right? They'll synergize. So what that means is that I think since things are already getting pretty bad, it might be faster to just get those billion climate activists, and basically replace the leaders, if the leaders aren't willing to go into climate emergency mode, which basically essentially means you have to have a year by year plan to ramp down the fossil fuel industry fast, like say maybe by 2030. What we need right now is to, we need to go to survival mode, like we need to focus on agriculture and doing agriculture with less emissions and, you know, kind of getting the worst parts of agriculture out and using these precious fossil fuels for just keeping the lights on, essentially, while we transition as quickly as we can. Does that make sense? That's climate emergency mode. Net zero by 2050 and talking about things like direct air capture which we don't have, that's like kicking the can down the road. 

Giordano

Here in Australia there's a lot of interest now in, you know, we need to electrify everything, get everything off fossil fuels, connected to renewables, and battery storage, and EVs, so, I mean, this is a different survival mode to what you're saying, this is more like, “hey, we don't have to sacrifice travel and transport and all these things, we can change the way that we generate the electricity to power these things.” Is that something that you- How do you respond to that? 

Peter

Well, okay, so, it's a- We're at the point of climate breakdown now, where it's a hard sort of calculus, and we have to accept that. So we have to weigh that against, kind of, continuing with the lifestyles that we're used to and that we like, you know, and I would argue that all of the speed of, like, running around and flying around and driving around so much and having these huge houses and consuming a lot, it's really, I don't think it's making us happy. I think maybe, and this is what I kind of focus on in my book which came out in 2017, called Being the Change, but I- You know, I kind of think we need a little bit to come down to Earth and have things like more community and to slow down a little bit more, and maybe to work less hours per week, right? Because right now that- So this, it's all connected, right, and so this is why we- Again, to go back to the storytelling, this is why I think it's so important to have good climate stories, because right now the main stories are like “the more you fly the more successful you are, the busier you are, the harder you work, you know, you want to get ahead,” so that's my response to that. 

You know, I know it's a hard sell, because no one wants to give up eating meat, you know, I know this from my experience that, you know, I gave up a lot of this stuff and I don't really miss a lot of it, all the flying, and eating meat and all that stuff, but you know, when I started doing that I kind of thought maybe it would be kind of contagious if I like, you know, people would be like “Oh,” like “Maybe it's not so bad to give up this stuff,” and that's not what happened. What happened is people feel, they like, apologise to me for their flights but they still take them, so I just make people feel guilty now which was not my intention, so that's why I stopped even pushing for that, but now I'm just like, man we just gotta get people out. That's why, like, now I moved on to the pitchforks I guess!

Giordano

You tried the peaceful means, okay, let's go to the pitchforks. Peter let's-

Peter

I tried so many things, Giordano, so…

Giordano

Yeah. Let's talk about this IPCC report which has just come out. Have you had a chance to read this latest report, Peter? Can you fill us in on what is your understanding of what it tells us? 

Peter

I would say for me there aren't a lot of surprises in either of the Working Group II reports. I kind of read it to see if it was- To see how much it was kind of, like, using the sort of ideas which I've just been giving in the rest of this podcast, you know, like switching to climate emergency mode, or is it talking about, you know, is it saying that net zero by 2050 is good enough? And I would say it's shifting more and more toward a sort of emergency mode framing that, doesn't use that language, of course, but it makes it very clear that the hotter we let it get, the more fucked we are, obviously, so that is, you know, basically, I would say the overarching point of the Working Group II report is that we need to rapidly, rapidly reduce emissions between now and 2030, or else we are extremely fucked. And what I don't- That's paraphrasing then-

Giordano

Well I mean, I was just going to quote, I mean, the quote that has gained a lot of traction does sound fairly alarmist, as far as, you know, IPCC authors are allowed to be, and it says, quote, “Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a briefly and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” Which you've paraphrased as, like, either we act now or we're fucked, basically. That's what it's saying. 

Peter

Yeah, and one thing that does kind of bug me about that statement, I think it's great, I'm, you know, I applaud them for being so forthright, but they don't say, kind of like, how rapidly that window is closing and again, like, it depends on who it's closing on, right? So it's people who died in the floods in Eastern Australia or in New York City last year, or who got burned to death in the wildfires, and non-humans too, you know, the coral reefs that are dying. The window’s already closed for those persons, human and non-human. One disservice that climate communicators have done to humanity, again, over the last few decades, is to give the sense that things are closing, and if we don't act soon, you know, we're going to miss this opportunity. 

So now, here we are, where what we're dealing with and why so many of us are grieving is that we've already lost a lot and what we're doing now is fighting. We need to fight as hard as we can to minimise how much more is lost. And that's a very, to me it's a very hard place to be, and you know, emotionally I struggle with it a lot, and I struggle with the norms that make it seem like, sometimes- So I read these reports and I think about the science, and I think about all the stuff that we genuinely are losing, and how it's accelerating and how we're going to lose more, and then I see world leaders saying, like, we need to- OPEC needs to produce more oil, or we need to drill more, you know, I almost am I an alarmist, right? Like, I sound like an alarmist to myself, and then I check myself and I'm like, no, this is really happening. Like, it's a weird thing to say, but I'm actually right, and I've been right up until now, and people didn't believe me and here we are now, and I'm right about where we're going in the next five years, next 10 years, the next 20 years, if we don't rapidly end the fossil fuel industry, and I know I'm right about that too and it sounds like I'm, you know, conceited to say that, but, it's just it's so exhausting to me as a human. We're social animals. To have to be constantly trying to convince the public that doesn't want to hear about it, that the way they think about the future and about climate is wrong. 

Giordano

Just on that point about, you know, individual responsibility versus collective action, that's another debate that we're seeing a lot of, and I don't think that there's a right or a wrong, it's like both. Yes, we need to do both.

Peter

Yeah, I agree. 

Giordano

Let's just cut straight to the chase. Obviously, having a debate about which one is right, it's kind of playing into the denial playbook, because it just gets us arguing with each other rather than getting on with the job. 

 

The thing that still gives me hope, Giordano, I haven't given up hope, but I don't like false hope at all. I don't like this, you know, talk about, I don't know. Just like, we need some more technology, or we can carbon offsets, or electric cars, like, that stuff doesn't give me any hope. What gives me hope is is seeing huma- Like seeing how society can, you know, maybe it's like sort of like a flock of fish, it's very complex, right, like how we constantly are responding to each other, and you, I mean, you see it when you have this sociopath, just, out of- So needlessly, just out of cruelty, to invade a sovereign nation like this, and to murder - I consider it murder - Civilians and children, and to destroy wantonly, you know, a whole nation like this, then look how the world responds, and look how fast, you know, that shift happens, right? 

I think something similar is in our future with climate as well. We'll have a collective, you know, ‘oh fuck’ moment where we shift faster than, you know, the aging climate activist founder’s dreams, and suddenly, it becomes super uncool to burn fossil fuels. Suddenly, it becomes super uncool for politicians to delay climate action, becomes super uncool to fly halfway around the world for a three day vacation that you post on Instagram, and it becomes really cool to be a climate activist where we don't even talk about climate activism anymore, because that's just what everyone is, and the first step has to be this, kind of, this moment where we all realise that it's kind of like a Hitler attacking moment, except it's climate, you know, and we start responding super fast. I mean, how long did it take for the United States to completely retool all of its industries to start churning out, you know, tanks and planes, to basically, to stop the fascists? It took a matter of months. And so, we haven't even come close to that level of, like, collectivism on climate, right? So if we had, and we were still failing, then I would probably be despairing, but I'm still waiting for the flock of fish to change direction and to get super excited about stopping climate and ecological breakdown. 

Giordano

Peter, thanks again for joining us. I want to ask you one last question before I let you go. One of the issues that the latest IPCC report covers is also human health, and also specifically mental health as a result of climate change. So the exposure to extreme events, weather events, can have an impact on mental health, including loss of sense of identity and place, heightened anxiety, risk of depression and suicide, along with post-traumatic stress disorder. And, you know, that also makes me think about the impact and the toll that it has on on climate scientists like yourself who work, and maybe you're not experiencing the the weather effects yourself, I don't know, maybe you have with the latest fires in California, but generally, always being exposed to this information and this data, I was wondering if you could explain, how do you deal with the emotional tolls that comes from working with this unfolding catastrophe. Can you, you know, how do you manage to do the tireless work that you do among the grief, the depression, the anxiety that you often express so beautifully and and powerfully in your writing? I know that many people listening to us today will also have these feelings, and perhaps you can share something with them. 

Peter

Yeah, well, so first of all, I don't always handle it so well, you know, sometimes I get emotional, and you know, the duty cycle isn't so bad, you know, most of the time I'm doing fine, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and sometimes I'll be giving a talk and I'll start to cry. I don't really mind the grief. It's the anxiety that, like, I really watch out for, because that's the thing that kind of makes me not able to function and makes me just completely miserable, so those are my two kind of dominant emotions, I would say, is grief and anxiety. 

And the grief, you know, people say that you never lose the grief, you carry it with you and you learn to live with it and I think that's that's right, and you know, the grief calls me to do what I do, you know, I just feel like honestly, I feel so just grateful to be alive on this planet, and like I feel like, it sounds corny, I guess, but I really feel like I owe my whole existence to this gorgeous, gorgeous planet and that it's kind of called me to be one spokesperson of very many for it. And to me, that's a great honour to be called like that and to serve it. And so, you know, that helps me keep going, because I'm not doing this for me, so that gives me a lot more courage and a lot more strength, and then, I think, so that's the grief part. 

The anxiety part, I do the things that, you know, most people know to do to try to deal with anxiety. Try to get enough sleep, try to get enough exercise. I started running during the pandemic which has been super super helpful. I’m not, like, a very good runner but, you know, I feel so good while I'm running and then after I run, and so that really helps. Playing music with my kids helps me. And then, you know, the thing that helps me that most people don't do is meditating. And it's very very clear if my meditation practice falls apart and I stop doing it, the anxiety kind of comes flooding in, and then, you know, so I'm actually going on a 10-day meditation retreat in a couple of weeks and I'm really looking forward to it, because the last few weeks I have had a lot more anxiety than usual, and so I want my meditation batteries to get recharged. That helps me tremendously. So we probably don’t have enough time to go into why that works, but I do kind of understand, again it's basically all about making things not about me, right, and not being attached to, like, successes or feeling aversion to my own failures, and to just have this equanimity and to just fight as hard as I can, no matter what comes, and to be a little bit detached from it all, right, but in a good way, if that makes sense. 

Giordano

That's really, I know that’s very personal to you so I really want to thank you for sharing that with us, and also, you know, thank you for your service to the planet and to all the the living things on it, which you know, you're one of the people that I know that really, I've seen fight so hard, and you don't mince your words, and you've been a real inspiration to us in the work that we do and I know to a lot of other people as well who really think highly of you, and I know that's not about you, but what you've done really encourages everyone to lift their game. So thank you very much for what you do. 

Peter

And likewise, you know, and it does help to hear stuff like that. We take the kind words and that helps us keep going, right? And it helps, it inoculates us against the bad words that inevitably come towards us, right? So thank you for that, and your videos are hilarious, and they're so fucking true, so that's- I think they help a lot of us too with our mental health. 

Giordano

Thank you so much for joining us Peter, we really appreciate it, and all the best on your meditation retreat, and thank you, keep up the great work. 

Peter

Yeah, thank you.

Giordano (between interviews)

I hope you enjoyed my chat with Peter who joined us from his home in California. We now cross over to London to speak with Ella Gilbert, an atmospheric scientist and a self-described cloud nerd, who'll help us unpack more of the IPCC Working Group II report and talk about why she's using YouTube to conduct her work.

Giordano 

Welcome to The Juice Media podcast, Dr. Ella Gilbert. Great to have you here! 

Ella

Oh thanks, it's a real pleasure to be here.

Giordano

So first of all, how are you in these incredible weird times? 

Ella

Yeah nice, just some pretty strange times we're existing through isn't it? I think okay but who knows really? 

Giordano

Yeah, good answer. Good answer. Ella, the reason I came across you was because of your YouTube channel, Dr Gilbz. We’ll link to it in the channel description for those who want to find out more about what you do, but yeah, I was really stoked to see a young climate scientist using this medium. I was wondering, what inspired you to use this channel rather than, I suppose, the traditional medium that, you know, peer-reviewed papers, which I'm sure you work in that field as well, but what inspired you to step outside of that and start publishing on YouTube? 

Ella

Well I guess, well first of all I'm from a long line of thespians, so the kind of jazz hands mode of of doing things seems like a natural thing that's in my psyche, but I think primarily I saw myself as having a unique position, in that I've been privileged enough to do this research, I've been privileged enough to do so much education, I'm in a place where I have a good handle on lots of difficult and complex climate concepts, but I also have the ability to talk like a normal person, I hope, and help make that science accessible, and I think as a scientist and as a human being I have a moral and ethical duty to be that translator, because that is a role that I feel that I can contribute to climate action and climate change by educating people. 

Ultimately, knowledge is power, right? So if I can help people access the sort of information that is traditionally behind a paywall, and also written in the most inaccessible dense language behind an ivory tower, if I can help people break down those walls in even my small way, then I think that that is a service, and I became a climate scientist because I was an activist first, and I think that's often it's not necessarily a common route in traditional academia. More and more so, perhaps, for the younger generation of climate scientists, actually, but I always wanted to contribute using climate change and climate science as a contribution to tackle the climate crisis, rather than just an interesting thing to do. And there's a famous quote that I absolutely love that science is not finished until it's communicated, and that is what YouTube's about. 

Giordano

Totally. I was going to say this is why I'm really excited about, you know, climate scientists getting onto the platform, and because you know, there's so much bullshit and misinformation, it's exactly right, you know, everyone is a fucking expert on the internet, but we actually need experts to step outside of the the lecture theatres and the conferences, which are important, they need to happen, but we need people to actually come and talk and and occupy that space because otherwise a whole bunch of bullshit artists occupy that space, and that's a problem, right? 

Ella

It's scary right, for scientists, because it's new territory, it's, “Oh my god I'm gonna have to be faced by the man in the street,” whoever that is, and that's that's terrifying, because you know, scientists in the traditional sense, you know, old white man in lab coat, whatever you want to imagine as a scientist is used to talking to their mates, and their mates going, “yes lovely paper I will read it.” 

Giordano

And if someone's critical at a conference it's very polite whereas on YouTube it's like, “This is shit!” 

Ella

Oh I don’t know! I don’t know what conferences you're going to!

Giordano

Okay.

Ella

Polite in articulate terms, maybe.

Giordano

Well let's put your- The communication that, you know, you want to serve the community with to use straight away. I thought, you know, the IPCC has recently published this really important report. Can you break it down for us just a little bit?

Because I feel like the world has, you know, the attention of the world is rightfully on Ukraine and what's happening there, this human tragedy that's unfolding, but climate change doesn't stop for wars, or pandemics, and this major report has really gone under the radar, so I thought before we talk about the report perhaps for those who aren't as plugged in, maybe you could explain what the Sixth Assessment Report is, where it fits into the bigger picture, and how there are different subreports and then we can get onto this recent one. 

Ella

Sure, so I mean, the IPCC is this incredible undertaking. It's thousands of different scientists working on producing these assessment reports, and this is one of those. I think it assessed 14 000 different individual pieces of scientific literature. It took eight years to produce this particular report and bearing in mind that the majority of that was- Well, the end of that was during a pandemic, that's quite an undertaking. It's a UN body and it gets approved line by line- Well, one of the reports gets approved line by line by governments, and it involves governments from all over the world and it reports on climate change and can inform policy, it's not policy prescriptive. It doesn't tell governments what to do, it says hey, here's the evidence, you can do what you like with it. It's also important to remember that they don't- The IPCC doesn't do its own research so this is a synthesis of everything that's been published in the last, you know, six or seven years or so, up to this point when they started writing it rather than reading. So, these assessment reports come out every seven or eight years, and with every single one they get starker. This is a sixth iteration, and the reports are broken down into three working groups. So Working Group I is the physical science and that's the kind of physical processes and the changes to the climate system, the changes that we've observed, and also the ones that are predicted. Working Group II which is the report that- 

Giordano

So, Working Group I came out in-

Ella

August 2021.

Giordano

Last year just before one COP26, the Glasgow summit that was the code red for humanity report that most people heard about. Right. 

Ella

Precisely, yeah yeah. Exactly, and that one was the first one really to say that climate change is unequivocally related to human activity. The warning has got stronger every single time, but this was the first time it was said that it was unequivocal and that human activity is the dominant cause of climate change, and that it is- Climate change is widespread, it's rapid and it's intensifying. So this is quite strong language from what you might call a conservative body that is backed by pretty much all governments, with all their different agendas, let's say. 

And then Working Group II is the one that looks at the impacts and that's impacts on biological systems, as well as on human systems, and this is focusing on things like extreme weather events, so heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all of those kinds of things, and then also looking at things like ecological collapse, and how all of this impacts human beings, and what that means for people all over the world, which is obviously what most people are actually interested in, because it's in a sense abstract to think about the changes to the cryosphere for example. Okay, that ice sheet is going to lose 5000 gigatons of ice per year, or whatever it is, that doesn't mean very much but when you say that 40% of the world's population becoming highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and that could be any kind of climate impact, whether that's drought or wildfire or compromised food production, for example, then that makes more of a tangible difference I guess. 

I should also mention, just finally, that there is also a Working Group III and that hasn't come out yet, but this is the- I think Climate Adam put it in their video, this is like a three-part trilogy. The second one is always really depressing and the down point of the movie, but the ending is always on the up, so Working Group II three is the solution. It's how we mitigate.

Giordano

So this is like The Two Towers and now we're coming for The Return of the King- 

Ella

Yeah yeah yeah, precisely. Exactly that, yeah yeah. 

Giordano

That's a good way to think about it.

Ella

We're in the dip, we're in the dip. 

Giordano

Okay, right, thanks for that, and the next one is coming out in April this year. Is that right? 

Ella

I'm gonna, yeah, go with that. I don't actually know the exact dates. I know it's coming, but I don't know when. 

Giordano

Okay, so tell us a little bit about the Working Group II report. Maybe you could just pull out some of the highlights, or low points, if you want to put it that way, what your takeaways were.

Ella

One of the takeaways is that the impacts are being felt here and now, already, that 40% of the global population are already, and I quote, highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and- 

Giordano

That's a lot, how many people are we talking? 

Ella

We're talking three and a half billion people thereabouts.

Giordano

Okay. A lot of people.

Ella

It's a lot of people, and this is any kind of climate impact. That could be floods, it could be wildfires, it could be hot extremes, it could be cold extremes, all of these kinds of the variety of different impacts, and I think that's another thing that I took away from the report, is that there is not really any part of the climate system that is untouched by these impacts, it's everywhere. It's, climate change is changing every part of the climate. It's not just causing temperature rise, if that can just be a thing, it's causing sea level rise, it's causing sea ice decline, it's causing ice sheets melting. Obviously I'm a polar scientist, I'm gonna have a cryospheric bias, but it's also causing wildfires, it's causing droughts, it's causing flooding, it's causing food systems to be more vulnerable, and it's causing changes to the hydrological cycle, which means that rainfall is less reliable, it means that people who rely on glacial melt water for their water are becoming- Their water supplies are becoming compromised, and it's a really varied set of impacts and they're already being felt and every single ton of CO2 and every single tenth of a degree of warming will make those worse. I think the other thing that's really really important to take from the Working Group II report is that they identify that urgent action is required and also that there is a rapidly- I can't remember the exact wording they use, but a rapidly closing window of opportunity I think is the phrase they use. 

Giordano

To secure a livable and sustainable future for all. 

Ella

Yeah that, perfect, you've read it! You've done your homework. 

Giordano

Well I've got it in front of me. Yeah, I wanted to ask you, Ella, as you probably know Australia's east coast has been absolutely smashed by floods. The town, one of the towns in Northern New South Wales, Lismore might go down in history as the first city to be completely devastated, wiped out by climate change. Scientists are trying to understand this phenomenon, and that cause these floods and we're hearing new terms like rain bombs and atmospheric rivers. As an atmospheric scientist yourself, how do you look at this kind of extreme event in the context of climate change? 

Ella

That sounds absolutely horrific, and to be honest I've been very overwhelmed by the sheer volume of different news stories that are being thrown at us at the moment so I haven't been keeping track of it as much as I might otherwise have been. I have seen a very scary image of a house submerged in a flood but also on fire, which I think is attributed to what's going on at the moment in Australia. 

We know that extreme events, whether they- In whatever form they come, are becoming more extreme with climate change, particularly those sorts of wet extremes, because as the climate warms it can hold on to more water vapour, which means that it's generally got more water in the atmosphere to do that dumping, so that when you get an extreme rainfall event, then it has- It holds more water, which can obviously have more of a wet effect. 

And we're seeing more extreme events all over the world and more types of different extreme events because, I mean, you often see it visualised as, like, a bell curve where you have a little hat and the hat represents the all the different types of weather events, and the little the brim of the hat is like the extremes. Either, if we're talking about wet events, either very dry ones or the very wet ones but because we're warming and changing our climate, we're causing the hat to shift slightly towards the more intense extreme events, so not only does the kind of ‘average extreme’ in quotes or, you know, average weather event become wetter, the extremely wet events become wetter, so you just shift the whole bell curve, and you shift the hat, which means that you get more extreme events and that's the kind of the same sort of thing when we're talking about temperature extremes. That's why we see temperature records repeatedly smashed. 

Giordano

Ella, thanks so much for joining us. I just want to ask you one last question. You know, one of the things that the IPCC's Working Group II report talks about is the impacts on all sorts of aspects. Biodiversity, and even migration and human health, and one of the aspects is mental health as well. It actually recognizes that it has a huge impact on mental health. How do you deal with that emotional toll that comes with that? I know a lot of people listening will also experience those kind of feelings. Perhaps you can share how you manage to get the work done and also manage the mental health side of things? 

Ella

I think the short answer is increasingly badly, but I think there's two answers here, because firstly, I often say that as a scientist I can be a bit desensitised to it, because you get so bogged down in your specific little niche. You're working on a very specific problem. Particularly because I'm a climate modeller, I write code and do programming, and it's very easy to kind of forget about the big picture when you're doing something like that, but it's when I do my communication work actually that I really feel that emotional toll, because I have to take a step back. I think those are the moments when I really think, “oh fuck, this is really overwhelming,” and particularly reading the IPCC reports.

I cried when I read the first one, and the second one, reading through the report and making my video, I found it really difficult and I continue to find all of this really really difficult, but I can see the needs for clear evidence-based information, and that keeps me going. The other way that I deal with it is by looking for the positives, and also I'm a boxer so it really helps to be able to go and unleash all of that fear and anger and rage, the inadequacy of our leaders on a punch bag, or occasionally have other people unleash their their fear and terror and anger on my face. Which isn’t something for everyone. 

Giordano

I feel sorry for the people that if you're thinking of them as the climate crisis and you put your gloves on I wouldn't want to be that person on the other end of that exchange! 

Ella

I'm very tired, my punches are very lacklustre. 

Giordano

That's also, I imagine also the communication part of it makes you feel like you're dealing with this issue in a hands-on direct way, so I don't know. The reason that we focus on climate change and the Honest Government Ads in our videos is it's partly, I mean at least half is just to keep ourselves sane, and to keep ourselves kind of feeling like we're doing something. Is it going to work? I don't know, but if I don't do this I'm going to go out of my mind. So it's partly a self-medicating process. 

Ella

Absolutely. I used to do- I used to lock myself and super glue myself to things, and my role in tackling the climate crisis has changed somewhat because I'm a scientist now, whatever that means, and my mode of activism, my way of contributing is now more as a communicator than as an activist. So I just, that's, yeah, I always feel like I need to do something, because how can you not? How can you be confronted with this overwhelming fee of information about what we're doing to our amazing wonderful planet and not to do something? So, my something has changed, but that is the way I see my contribution now. 

Giordano

Well thank you very much for making that contribution. Thanks for stepping outside of the comforts of the academic, you know, research, sort of cloistered world and taking on that emotional toll to help communicate. Good luck with your YouTube channel, we'll keep- We've subscribed. I'll encourage others to do so, but we'll put the link in the video description, and yeah, it's been really great to meet you, Ella, and thanks so much for joining us today.

Ella

Aw, it has been such a pleasure, and thank you all for all your amazing videos, I have basically binge watched them all, so thank you as well for your fantastic communication. 

Giordano

Awesome, take care. Thanks Ella!

 

Giordano (outro)

Well, that brings us to the end of this episode of The Juice Media Podcast. Over the coming weeks, assuming World War III doesn't break out, we'll be focusing on the coming election that's about to take place here in Australia, so we'll be back soon with our next Honest Government Ad about that. Before we part ways today, I just want to remind everyone who might be feeling shit about what's happening in the world, and the climate crisis in particular, that a lot of us are feeling that way, and it's important to look after ourselves and each other. 

In the podcast, we've discussed some of the ways in which we can more healthily deal with the climate crisis, but if you want to find out more, the Australian Psychology Society has published a guide for coping with climate change distress. We'll put the link in the show notes and video description, and of course remember that taking action is medicine, and one action that's worth taking right now if you're in Australia is volunteering for one of the climate focused parties and independent candidates who are running in the coming election to kick out this coal and bullshit fueled government. 

Thanks to Ellen for helping to produce and edit The Juice Media podcast, and as always, thank you to our patrons who make the podcast and the Honest Government Ads possible. In particular, our patron producers, who support us via highest patron tier of $100 a month. Thank you. If you value our work, please consider joining them at patreon.com/thejuicemedia 

You've been listening to The Juice Media Podcast with me, Giordano. I'll catch you very soon for our next Honest Government Ad. Until then, take care. And if you're fighting for this planet, thank you, for all that you do.

Trancript by Jesse Dowse