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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Environmentalist Offers Hope For Climate Restoration

 September 28, 2020 at 10:26 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The news is relentlessly bleak and scary record heat and wildfires in California and the West, a parade of deadly destructive storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 100 degree temperatures in the Arctic massive ice sheets, breaking up in Antarctica and Greenland all happening, amid a pandemic yet in the Washington post comes a headline of hope. Stopping climate change could cost less than fighting. COVID-19 the coauthor of that bright essay joins me. Now. Rick Parnell is president of foundation for climate restoration and a former chief operating officer of the United nations foundation. Welcome to midday edition. Thank you. It's great to be here. Well, the essence of your essay is as hopeful as it is eye catching. You write it as it happens. We can make a very real difference against climate change for less than we've already spent to fight the Corona virus. That's still trillions of dollars, but compare the estimated cost of climate change. If we fail to address it worldwide now, with the solutions that you're proposing. Speaker 2: 00:58 Yeah, I would say that, um, by a magnitude of we've had estimates of everything times 10 plus of what it will cost on a, on not only over the longterm, but on an annual basis. If we don't react now for us at the foundation of a climber restoration that we believe, and what we are working with partners to do is to make climate restoration, um, specifically around carbon removal and some of the other solutions, the third pillar of climate action. One of the things that's little known is that even if we reach to net neutrality in 2050, the legacy carbon of two centuries will still be an atmosphere. So the fires that you just spoke about, the, the storms, the flooding, the sea level rise, it will still be here. So we have to do this third piece, this third piece of climate action, and that is restoration and remove all of this legacy carbon, as you said, good news is we can do this at a cost effective, and we can do it at scale with solutions that are already on the market or emerging now. Right? Speaker 1: 01:56 Right. And you argue that not only can we halt the expansion of greenhouse gases, but actually reverse climate change, clean the air and water as it were and restore a livable planet, how could it be done, Speaker 2: 02:08 Um, through there's several solutions, there's natural solutions and there's technological solutions. But let me just focus a little bit on some of the technological right now, a perfect example is carbon negative concrete. There are a handful of companies that have come online over the last couple of years that can actually remove carbon, turn it into synthetic limestone from the production of concrete. So what that means is that you have a market that's already there. We're not going to stop building. The developing world is not going to stop building. The developed world is not going to stop building. So here is a solution that can rapidly, um, for no, uh, uh, maybe one, 2% cost difference between traditional concrete and this new carbon, uh, uh, negative concrete. We can scale buildings. Santa Clara County was the first local government in the world to call for their local County commission to be, uh, uh, climate restoration. Speaker 2: 03:00 And we're working to spread that globally. Look at, um, if we could grow the kelp, um, and the ocean. Um, it was in one of the pieces that was in the article. Um, it grows two feet a day and it has the advantage of that. It can be farm not only for, um, human consumption, but it can be feed consumption. It's used in beauty products. And so there's already a market. Therefore we just need to grow it. That the point of the entire story was we can change behavior. We just have to choose to do so. Speaker 1: 03:30 Well, talk a little more about these direct air capture systems. So we have so much pollution in the air now, which is causing the warming and the climate change. How do you actually reverse that with these air capture systems? Speaker 2: 03:43 What we were talking about is that you remove the carbon from the air. You can turn it into, some of it can be sequestered underground, permanently. Some can be turned into products that can be somewhat of a recycling of, um, of carbon. So they can be turned into things like jet fuel. That's not a perfect climate restoration solution, but it's a path. Um, and then, um, still others, they are developing products where you use the director capture machines, um, and they can be, uh, deployed at scale, um, to remove the carbon and turn them into useful products. Uh, climax is doing carpentry, carbon engineering is working on it. Um, director capture has a very, very promising future for us getting to full climber restoration. Speaker 1: 04:26 Uh, but this is worldwide. Uh, can these mitigation methods possibly be cost effective if they're, if they're done worldwide, Speaker 2: 04:33 They can be because they can be done in both the private sector and with the government policy. So again, um, there's about a six, 650 different carbon removal operations that are both tiny and large around the world. Um, and they're, they're growing every day. So yes, they can be. What we need is that the private sector comes in with the beginnings of investments, um, seed capital for some of these different solutions, then local governments can take them to scale because they can do it through their planning and procurement. So yes, absolutely. Yes. Speaker 1: 05:07 It sounds like Joe Biden is making the, uh, the same argument with his build back better part of his campaign. Now, when you make these arguments, you put forth these proposals, uh, I'm interested in the response you're getting from leaders and lawmakers. How can we possibly get United leadership on this among hundreds of nations and different political systems? Speaker 2: 05:26 Well, I think that the biggest thing is that people need to use their voice. So when, when you know what I mean, let me talk more about the movement that we're building. Um, for climate restoration, we have so many different partners ranging from earth day network to the girl up campaign to, um, faith leaders, you know, the Pope called on climate restoration and a letter on September one. Um, he talked about it for our common home. So more and more and more, you're seeing this out there. Um, I think that using your voice and demanding it, um, as we'd like to say, climate restoration should happening in the pews. It should be happening at school at work wherever you are, you should be calling on your leaders to do climate restoration. So, you know, a year ago when we launched the foundation at the United nations headquarters during general assembly, it was an idea around climate restoration and it was, it was somewhat nascent and we just finished our second annual global climate restoration forum. Speaker 2: 06:18 And we had unbelievable, um, turnout. We had incredible speakers. Um, we had 40, I think, 40 or 42 different, um, leaders talking about the investment opportunity, the science behind it calling for climate restoration. So I think that it's the biggest thing is using the voice we can change behavior we have to choose to do so. And if, if, once we have critical mass of people asking for this, then we'll make the change. One of our speakers, Christine Harada. She was the chief sustainability officer for the United States under the Obama administration. And she said 10, 15 years ago, investment in wind and solar was, was pretty iffy and look at that market now. So, you know, I have another partner that has said the work that you're doing is 10 years in the future. Yes it is. So we start now and build this next 10 years of the future that we want. So Speaker 1: 07:08 Build back green, it's a simple concept, a simple slogan. Do you think bill back green can be the campaign going forward? Speaker 2: 07:15 I would love to see that. I hope that we, uh, in the U S can join the rest of the world on a global green campaign, but that would be our goal. One of the things that coming out of our second annual forum is that we've had investors. We've had entrepreneurs, we've had business leaders. How do we work together over this next 12 to 14 months? So when we get to cop 26, all sectors are calling on the UN and global leaders to make climate restoration and carbon removal. The third pillar of climate action. Speaker 1: 07:47 Well, it's certainly good news in a, in an area in our discussion. That is all too grim, uh, far too often. I've been speaking with Rick Barnett, president of the foundation for climate restoration. Thanks very much. Thank you so much.

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The news is relentlessly bleak and scary: Record heat and wildfires in California and the West; a parade of deadly, destructive storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico; 100 degree temperatures in the Arctic; massive ice sheets breaking up in Antarctica and Greenland. All happening amid a pandemic. Yet in the Washington Post comes a headline of hope … “Stopping Climate Change Could Cost Less than Fighting Covid-19.”
KPBS Midday Edition Segments