C2GTalk: An interview with Andy Reisinger, Former vice chair of WGIII of the IPCC and Honorary Associate Professor, Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, Australian National University
How could the world govern new approaches to tackle climate change?
4 December 2023
The world is due to exceed 1.5°C warming, and countries will face more extreme consequences in the near -term, warns Andy Reisinger in a C2GTalk. Significant levels of carbon dioxide removal will be required, and policies are needed to reduce adverse consequences. Solar radiation modification is more uncertain, and would reflect a failure of global governance to cut emissions.
Andy Reisinger is an independent consultant specialising in the science-policy interface of climate change, with particular expertise in livestock agriculture and the role of methane as part of mitigation strategies. He was vice-chair of Working Group III (Mitigation) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) during its 6th Assessment cycle completed in 2023, and previously served as coordinating lead author in the IPCC focusing on impacts and adaptation for Australia and New Zealand. He currently is also one of eight Commissioners on the New Zealand Climate Change Commission, an independent expert body providing advice on adaptation and mitigation policies to the government. Prior to this, Andy served as Principal Scientist, Climate Change, at the Ministry for the Environment, and as Deputy Director (International) of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, focusing on international research collaboration to reduce New Zealand’s and global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. His research focuses on the role of agriculture in domestic and international climate change policy, the treatment of methane as part of comprehensive climate policies, climate risk and adaptation strategies, and the implications of uncertainty for decision-making.
Below are edited highlights from the full C2GTalk interview shown in the video above. Some answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
You have spent more than a decade working with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) process. What did your work there focus on?
I have actually spent more than two decades in the IPCC processes by now. I served in a whole range of different roles. I served as the national focal point for New Zealand, which is the official government representative on the panel of the IPCC, where the decisions are made. I served as coordinating lead author for a couple of reports and as a contributing author for others.
I at some point was the head of the Technical Support Unit for the synthesis report of the Fourth Assessment Report. The Technical Support Units are basically the workhorses in the background that make sure that meetings are arranged and that processes are in place for authors to write the reports and that the review processes function smoothly, et cetera.
Most recently, as you said, I was a member of the Bureau of the IPCC, which is the overall steering body located in Working Group III, which is the Working Group that assesses mitigation options.
So I have had a fairly wide range of experiences in looking at the IPCC both from the government and from the scientist and from the work coordinator perspective.
Looking back over that period what do you see as its greatest strengths? Also, where might there be room for improvement or where might it do better to alert the world to the impacts of climate change and provide a basis for action?
For me, the key strengths of the IPCC obviously are that it does provides a handshake from science into global policy. It provides the glue from pure research into what it means from an action perspective. It provides a very careful assessment of the level of agreement, but there are also areas of divergence in scientific evidence. So it is a very authoritative body and it works painstakingly hard to ensure that there is rigor in its assessment to avoid just being captured by a small and loud group of voices of individuals.
Its reports over time have clearly shown the progression of knowledge. You can trace how the evidence of climate change, both observations and our understanding, has grown over time. As a result it has provided a strong influence on global climate agreements by providing, if you like, scientific cornerstones within which legitimate political debates can then occur.
On the downside, the IPCC is controlled by governments, so it can only move as far and as fast as governments enable it to go. It is not a pure scientific body. It is owned ultimately by governments.
Of course, IPCC is largely driven by volunteers who give up part of their lives for the IPCC to progress, and some of those volunteers are excellent scientists, but that does not always make them very good translators of science into policy, so there are certainly areas of improvement.
To your question of what more the IPCC could do to alert and provide a basis for action, I am not sure anymore that that is the critical bottleneck for action. There is a part of me thinking: What part of statements like “Climate changes unequivocally caused by humans are unprecedented in thousands of years. Risks, adverse impacts, and related losses and damages through climate change escalate with every increment of global warming, and there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” Which part of those sentences is not clear enough? I think it is beyond the scientific evidence to understand the barriers to action.
Some are suggesting there could be room for the IPCC to move into actually suggesting specific policy and political courses of action, moving more into not just “This is what is happening,” but “This is how we should tackle it.”
That goes back to the problem that the IPCC is ultimately a collection of global governments. What you are basically asking is, shouldn’t governments tell themselves more about what they should do? There is a real issue there in terms of the key catchall of the IPCC is to be policy relevant but not policy proscriptive.
Now, there is a strong case to be made that maybe some scientists ought to become more policy proscriptive, but the IPCC as a globally owned assessment body derives its strength by actually providing a very broad church that encompasses all governments rather than forging ahead in one direction that might leave other governments behind so you effectively lose that ability to act as a translator of science into the global policy process.
I think we have to be aware that the IPCC is not scientists who could do their job differently or better. It is ultimately governments coordinating and requesting scientific support for the questions that they as governments are asking, and that in itself provides a barrier to more accelerated or sharper recommendations because that would make it policy proscriptive, and one government’s solution is another government’s problem. That is exactly where I think we reach the limits of a global assessment body that is owned and ultimately driven by governments.
Let’s talk about where we are in terms of global warming. The world has already warmed by an average of 1.2°C or so above the preindustrial level. It is looking increasingly likely — some might even suggest this will happen; others are still holding fire — like an overshoot of the 1.5°C goal and probably beyond 2.0°C later this century. But we have already seen a lot of headlines over the past few months — “Hottest Summer,” “Hottest September” — and we have already seen temporary breaches of 1.5°C.
Could you give your perspective of what kind of climate impacts we might see over the course of the lifetime of a child born today, and to what extent do you think people are understanding and aware of what is at stake?
I can initially just say that I do not agree that the world is headed for more than 2.0°C. I think it is very clear that we are going to reach 1.5°C in the early 2030s, even if we undertake far more rapid reductions right now than governments are planning. That is simply the inertia of the global energy system that drives us there.
How far above 1.5°C we go is entirely up to human agency and actions and is still entirely within our control. That is exactly the relevant action space. We are committed to reaching 1.5°C. How far we exceed it is a question of human action and whether or not we exceed 2.0°C is entirely a question of whether we actually — there is still time to make progress to avoid exceeding 2.0°C, which would be an important next barrier that we certainly do not want to exceed even in the slightest.
Even in the nearer term we will see more extreme events, and that is where the sharp end of climate change impact is playing out in the near term in the sense of more heat waves, more severe floods triggered by severe rainfall with an attendant consequence of landslides, and greater risk of severe drought in some areas.
Of course, these extremes do not happen in isolation, so we are going to see more and more compounding and cascading impacts, either a succession of different types of impacts — say, the large-scale forest fires we have seen in various parts of the Northern Hemisphere this summer followed by very heavy rainfall, which may be compounded by the fact that there is already a greater risk of soil erosion from large-scale forest dieback as a consequence of fires — that, in turn, will then challenge the ability of institutions and governments to actually deal with these things.
Many countries struggle to deal with a single large-scale extreme event, like a major hurricane, but if we have successions of these events and cascading impacts that also cascade across different parts of the world mediated by global trade in food commodities but also in human migration, which creates a very complex system of escalating risks and impacts. I think that is something that, unfortunately, anybody alive today will witness increasingly, and people who have children today will see the full gamut of that.
But it is still within our choice whether young people today will see a peak and then a decline in global temperature or whether we allow temperatures to continue to increase over their lifetimes. That is, unfortunately, a near-term consequence of our choices and not of our children’s choices.
Is it fair to call our situation “a climate emergency which requires an emergency response?” Do you think that framing helps people think about and respond to this challenge?
It is a good question.
Looking at it from a planetary perspective, describing the situation as an emergency is warranted, but the problem is the meaning of the word in human terms is much more short term, and I think there is a risk that by describing it as an emergency you trigger human-style emergency responses, which may just consist of hunkering down and prioritizing in a triage mode, whereas we cannot afford to go through a triage mode where we only adapt and are therefore too busy to mitigate, where we only focus on one greenhouse gas but not on the other one. We need to pull all available levers, and I think there is a risk in an emergency framing that it triggers a short-term fight-or-flight response just from a human psychology perspective.
Notwithstanding that, if you look at the implications on a global scale, the word “emergency” probably is not an overstatement, but it is an emergency that we can still manage and over time scales that go well beyond what we normally in our emotional response describe as an emergency measure because emergencies last hours, days, and weeks, and anything beyond that is a strategic response, and that is still what we need for climate change.
The nature of how in front of you this challenge is and the time scale is pretty important. For somebody who is struggling to put food on the table and put enough fuel in their car, that might seem to be the emergency rather than a longer-term trend. How do you convince people who are in that position, basically seeing their income relatively decline and the cost of living go up, to actually say, “Yes, but this longer-burn climate challenge is something that you should also be essentially accepting higher prices to help to address?”
This is a narrative that we are seeing every now and again in different countries popping up as an argument against taking rigorous action on climate change.
One thing is that if we do not address climate change, the impact of climate disasters and food prices is far higher than the impact of climate policy on food prices in almost any place.
Many of the solutions are already cheaper. Solar electricity is cheaper than coal-fired electricity. Onshore and offshore wind electricity is highly cost-competitive with coal-fired electricity generation. Electric cars by now have a lower lifetime cost than petrol cars in many countries. Of course they may have a high initial investment cost, but they cost less to run over time. So it becomes a question of policy, of how you distribute costs both over time for people but also across different people because some people obviously are far better able to bear costs than other people.
It is not at all clear that everybody’s costs should rise equally in order to address climate change, so it becomes a lower-level question of how we design policies that minimize barriers to action while still driving action forward, whereas just not allowing carbon prices to rise for fear of cost of living would stymie response to climate change in the first place, and then both expose us to higher risks from climate change and simply drive up costs because we have failed to make the transition away from fossil fuel-intensive energy production early. Then we are really met with an emergency response that might actually escalate costs for future generations.16:16
I think the cost narrative needs some unpacking before we universally accept that for everybody necessarily taking action on climate change means they pay more for the greater good, if you like, quite apart from co-benefits in terms of reduced health impacts from reduced air pollution or enhanced mobility from a more diversified transport system. There are many difficult-to-monetize benefits that once you take them into account actually make climate change mitigation only a vehicle for a whole range of improvements in living conditions.
You mentioned earlier “all the levers.” The main thrust of climate action so far has been the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through various approaches and some removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through nature-based approaches, such as those taken by New Zealand, as well as adaptation measures; but we have seen recently growing acceptance that much larger-scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is needed, which could be by biological or technological means.
Based on your work in Working Group III on long-term strategies and development pathways, how important a role do you see carbon removal playing? How big a part of this climate action picture is it? What kinds of approaches do you think offer the most potential?
What we know from physical climate science is that we do need to reach at least net zero CO2 emissions globally in order to halt the rise in global temperature. From there it is a very straightforward conclusion that unless we manage to reduce our actual emissions to zero, we do need some form of carbon dioxide removal to compensate for those emissions that we cannot reduce to zero.
It is also pretty clear that we will not be able to reduce all emissions of especially long-lived greenhouse gases like CO2 but also nitrous oxide and some of the synthetic gases completely to zero. So there is a logical necessity to accept that we do need carbon dioxide removal at a significant scale because we will not be able to drive our emissions to total zero in an absolute sense at the global scale.
It is a wide open question of how much carbon dioxide removal we need, and that depends entirely on how successful we think we can be in reducing our gross emissions if our main goal is to reach net zero of emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases; but, of course, we may want to go beyond that and achieve net-negative emissions, so taking more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than we put in, in order to achieve a decline in global temperatures because we have to remind ourselves that reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions only stabilizes temperatures at whatever level it will have reached. If we decide that, say, a level of 1.7°C is distinctly too warm, then we may want to undertake efforts consistent with pursuing 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement to bring temperatures back down again, in which case you need more carbon dioxide removal than you had as remaining emissions.
The actual scale is very much dependent on the efforts we can make in reducing gross emissions to as low levels as possible, so we certainly should not see this as a physical necessity that large-scale carbon dioxide removal is needed under any circumstance. It depends again entirely on the scale of actions we are prepared to take collectively to reduce our actual emissions into the atmosphere to as low levels as possible.
In return, the more we think it is challenging to achieve large-scale carbon dioxide removal, the greater the incentive to actually try to reduce our gross emissions to very low levels rather than rely on carbon dioxide removal as the necessary compensatory mechanism for the remaining emissions.
In terms of which options are most promising, you mentioned that New Zealand has done obviously some large-scale afforestation over recent years, which ultimately is only a small, partial compensation for prior deforestation following European settlement but also settlement by indigenous people, the Māori, of New Zealand.
But afforestation is widely practiced all around the world. It is just not necessarily always treated as a compensation for residual emissions, but it may just be something that happens for timber production purposes or for biodiversity benefits. It is a question of accounting mechanisms but also policies: Do we want to treat carbon dioxide removal via afforestation and other natural terrestrial carbon storage as an equal opposite, which exposes the risks that forests can burn down again, whereas fossil CO2 emissions once emitted remain in the atmosphere and have a warming effect for many thousands of years?
Unless we can commit in our generation today that the forests we plant today will remain intact and in place for thousands of years, they are a distinctly unsatisfactory compensation for ongoing fossil CO2 emissions. So there are those tradeoffs that have to be made, but certainly it is a highly beneficial and practical way of removing carbon dioxide concentrations by afforestation, for example.
Then, of course, there are the more technology-focused solutions which involve generally carbon capture and storage directly from the atmosphere either by crops and then capturing the CO2 that will be emitted by the combustion of those crops and storing that CO2 underground or free carbon capture and then storing that carbon directly underground.
The challenge with the latter, of course, is that it requires energy for the process to run, and we are not in a world that has necessarily a surplus energy, especially surplus energy that would have to be produced at very low emissions. Energy combined with carbon capture and storage raises the question of the land demand to degenerate the energy in those removals at the scale that it looks like we might need to because we are not currently making significant progress on reducing our gross emissions.
In general, what kind of a role do you see in the future for agriculture in the carbon removal, whether, as you mentioned, some of these crops, biochar, or other approaches? What kind of thinking do you see now?
All terrestrial carbon storage, if you like, in the active part of the carbon cycle is highly vulnerable to reversal. Biochar probably would be an exception, but I guess the ability to apply biochar to vast extensively grazed landmasses might be limited.
With agriculture most people think about enhancing soil carbon storage, and often that is a very good thing. Many soils are degraded. If we manage to restore those soils, we tend to increase the productivity as well as increase the amount of carbon stored in those soils, but the problem is that these processes are reversible by changes in the climate and they are reversible by changes in management practice. Again, relying on that as a valid compensation for ongoing fossil CO2 emissions is a highly flawed concept.
The other issue, of course, is that there is typically a saturation level. You may be able to increase soil carbon storage for ten years, but can you continue it over the next hundred years as a compensation for intended ongoing emissions of fossil CO2 for the hundred years? That is quite a different matter, and you have to maintain those management practices over that duration in perpetuity. Perpetuity is a very long time, and that is one of the key challenges with any terrestrial carbon storage in ecosystems.
At the same time, they provide large co-benefits in many cases that go well beyond the immediate climate benefits, so there are good reasons to do it. The question is: should they be viewed as a compensation for fossil CO2 emissions with a goal of achieving net zero or are they simply valid and important actions in their own right? My personal view is that they certainly are valid and important actions in their own right, but we make a mistake if we treat them as an equal but opposite action to emitting fossil CO2.
You touched on this tension between speed of emissions reductions and how much removal can be necessary to achieve net zero. Generally, as this debate has played out in a number of countries in international policy, we are seeing a pushback against carbon removal on the grounds of the moral hazard argument. “Mitigation deterrence” is another phrase.
First of all, to what extent do you think that there is essentially an effect of focusing on carbon removal that could undermine emissions cuts, and do you see any policy mechanisms or ways out there, of accounting or so on, that could basically lessen that effect?
There certainly can be that risk. We are having a conversation in New Zealand right now about whether we are relying too much on carbon dioxide removal by planting more trees and whether it is in fact distracting from the necessary decarbonization of the energy system and of our transport system in particular. It can occur, but it very much depends on the policy framework, on the incentives that you provide for achieving carbon dioxide removal and whether they enable this mitigation deterrence, if you like.
Many countries that are beginning to engage with carbon dioxide removal as part of their climate policies — because they have realized they do need it as part of achieving their own pledged net zero targets — take quite a different policy approach to how they incentivize carbon dioxide removal as compared to how they might, say, price CO2 emissions as part of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax.
There are lots of policy options where governments can act as regulators of the incentive level for carbon dioxide removal and keep a separate incentive instrument in place to achieve carbon dioxide reductions from fossil activities so that deterrence is not a necessary thing from a policy perspective, but really is a question of how you design your policies. Do you make the emissions equal, one for one, where one removal is the same as one emission but just with an opposite sign, or do you provide different policy instruments?
Countries undergo their own learning curves and they have different starting points, so those countries that have been more cautious with supporting carbon dioxide removal will have to ramp up their policy support in order to achieve the scale of removal that they need; whereas other countries, like New Zealand, which have historically treated carbon dioxide removal via forestry as exactly equivalent but opposite to carbon dioxide emissions are now engaging in a conversation about whether they have to dial that back because of the inadvertent consequences of overreliance on that and the negative consequences of land use change into forestry that in hindsight may not have been the best use of that land from an intergenerational perspective.
I wanted to turn to another set of approaches, which are controversial, known as solar geoengineering and solar radiation modification (SRM). Essentially, given the growing risks of overshoot, some scientists are exploring the idea of reflecting a portion of incoming sunlight to lower the temperature. It was also originally proposed as a way of thinking about what happens if we reduce aerosols and that takes away the masking effect that the aerosols have, and does it need to be replaced with something else?
Obviously, various approaches have been suggested — brightening clouds or injecting reflective aerosols into the stratosphere. We are seeing growing interest at the policy level in various regions as well as growing opposition from civil society groups and scientists to the research and development of these ideas.
The IPCC has covered SRM research in its various reports, noting that there is a lack of formal and robust governance. You are not directly involved in SRM research, but what are your thoughts on these technologies and approaches?
It is a very difficult subject.
The first thing we have to recognize is that it is different from mitigation in the sense that of course it would not address the other effects of increasing carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, such as ocean acidification, et cetera, and the change in ecosystem productivity arising from higher CO2 concentrations.
Also of course, emission reductions have a global benefit. The effects of climate change do not play out universally, but it does not make a difference whether a ton of CO2 is removed in China, Latin America, Africa, or New Zealand. The effect on the global climate is the same.
But the effect on the global climate from an aerosol injection implemented by a specific country may not at all be the same across the world, so there is a heightened risk of unilateral deployment but also more self-interested deployment, whereas reducing emissions cannot be self-interested. There may, of course, be internal political reasons why you engage in a certain mitigation strategy or target, but the effect on the climate is universal.
The effect of solar radiation modification almost by definition tends not to be. For me, when engaging with solar radiation modification we have to avoid treating it as a technocratic problem. It is not a solution where the barrier sits predominantly in the scientific understanding and technical deployment, but it is something that is inherently embedded in conversations around equity and global governance.
Of course, the challenge, the reason why people are interested in solar radiation modification, is exactly the failure of global governance to achieve the emissions reductions we need, … so my sense is that the only reason solar radiation modification could be meaningfully deployed is if the world is on course for temperatures to peak and then decline and you could then achieve what is often referred to as “peak shaving.” Say we know that we will peak at 1.7°C and then decline back to 1.5°C and it would be good to add something to the atmosphere that limits that peak to only 1.5°C or 1.6°C rather than 1.7°C.
But that is precisely our problem. At this point we have no indication from a degree of global cooperation that we will in fact peak temperatures and reach a decline in temperatures subsequently. If you deploy solar radiation modification in the context of continuously rising global temperatures, then you are very much in an addictive gambling situation. There is no end to it, and the risks then of course escalate from termination, from unilateral deployment, especially in a world that does not manage to achieve a global cooperative solution to climate change.
That is the space that I think is the most challenging in the conversations around solar radiation modification, that often it is led by a curiosity about: “Could we not do something here if we inject, say, aerosols into the stratosphere? What would happen if we had marine cloud brightening, et cetera?”
I am reminded of the current rapid rise of artificial intelligence, which is led by, “Here’s something we can do; isn’t it exciting?” then we suddenly scratch our heads and ask, “Shouldn’t we be doing something about this?”
That is the real challenge. We cannot allow solar radiation modification to be led by technical feasibility with an afterthought about how do we now govern this, but it needs a governance-led conversation in order to make it a solution rather than a problem in its own right.
The “We cannot allow” in that sentence implies what it means to “not allow” and the “we,” which is some form of governance? Given where we are, given all the uncertainty and given the issues you raise, what kind of governance and where do you think might be appropriate now for this topic?
I am not sure that is the short answer, I have to admit personally.
Certainly, my sense is that it is premature to try to think of governance for deployment because we are exactly on a trajectory where there is no end in sight to the rise in temperature, and unless and until we have convinced ourselves that we collectively as human species around the world will achieve globally at least net zero CO2 emissions followed by net-negative CO2 emissions — which we need to bring temperatures back down again and which is the space where SRM would become a meaningful intervention — unless and until we achieve that collective sense of action, my sense is that the short answer is it is too early for a serious conversation about SRM deployment.
Whether that means a moratorium on deployment and then means for “but shouldn’t we do research on it,” is a question that we have to scan very carefully the space for good-faith and bad-faith actors, I guess, because there are always people exploiting near-term gains without recognition that ultimately SRM comes back to a fundamental global equity question about who has access to it, who benefits from it, who is able to deploy it, who controls the rules for deployment, who carries liability for if things go wrong, but also how do we manage perceptions.
Imagine that a country deploys SRM and then there is a large-scale drought in another country. In an age of rising disinformation, it does not matter whether the science says that the drought was or was not related to the SRM deployment. The risk of fueling societal fracturing at the global scale is very, very large unless and until we manage to shift ourselves into a space where we can have a mature conversation across countries about how we deploy such things for collective benefits.
I am very nervous about playing with the potential without recognizing that it is ultimately human actions that make it worthwhile and not whether we understand the effect of aerosols in the stratosphere.
Two more quick questions on that. With regard to the understanding, do you think there should be more research on SRM, or is that one you stay out of?
I am close to staying out of it, in the sense that I believe there are a lot of things that we learn are relevant for SRM without undertaking purposeful SRM research in the sense of better understanding the climate effects of different types of aerosols in the atmosphere. It is a very live, very important, and very actively researched area. We may not benefit from the research question “What if I deployed?” We just need to wait for the next big volcanic eruption to get some more insights on that.
So I am hesitant about saying there should be more research right now. As I say, my concern is that it could lead to a further fracturing of the need to understand that we need to make progress in a global cooperative space, including recognizing [crosstalk].
One more question on governance. This framework you propose — whereby we should only start to consider deployment if we have certainty essentially over a trajectory toward reducing temperatures and then peak shaving — makes a lot of sense. But for an individual country or region which is just seeing temperatures rise and might not care about that and might go for some form of unilateral or minilateral deployment anyway, first of all, do you think that is a risk; and, secondly, if that is a risk in the median term, shouldn’t there be some governance structures in place beforehand to deal with that rather than suddenly panicking to deal with it when it happens?
I certainly think there is a risk of unilateral or minilateral deployment. Personally, I would be quite open — it is not my area of expertise, so I am hesitant to portray my views as wisdom or expertise born out of IPCC here. There would be great value of developing a shared understanding of those risks and therefore setting a very high threshold for deployment; but at the same time, if a country feels it has been let down by the international community because of the lack of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if it feels let down by the lack of finance to help it adapt to the impacts of climate change, will that country pay heed to a UN Resolution that says, “Thou shalt not deploy SRM?” I very much doubt it.
That goes back to how we can best foster conversations that enable countries to engage with SRM in a way that fosters global cooperation but not assuming that we can somehow make rules that countries will then feel bound by if the very same countries feel that they have been let down by the lack of other countries being bound by the rules that they feel they have actually accepted under the Paris Agreement to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and to undertake collective efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C and they have failed on that.
So there is a question of: What is the right mechanism that would actually have bite in a world that is driven by a risk of fracturing of global action? I think that is again where action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions has the greatest chance of actually building and rebuilding trust, supported by finance and consideration of equity and development rights and supporting sustained development, rather than trying to see SRM as a valid solution at this point. What governance conversations could foster such an approach is beyond my area of expertise.
Perhaps we can finish on a personal note. It is difficult to work on climate change over the years. Especially, the more you get to know about the consequences of insufficient action can wear you down. How do you stay motivated? Where do you find sources of hope to keep working in this field?
You keep motivated because you have to. It is not a question of motivation sometimes. There is no Plan B where you stop working on it.
What gives me hope is a whole range of things in fact. The most inspiring thing is always talking with young people — which by now no longer includes me — who are prepared to take action, who have inspiring ideas, and who come with vision and engagement. Often it is the young people who are the adults in the room compared to other conversations that I have witnessed.
We have to recognize that by now the collective long-term pledges of governments around the world in theory put us into a world where we would limit warming somewhere below 2.0°C — there is a large question mark about the credibility of those pledges, but still five years ago we were not at all in that space. So, with government action supported by actual implementation that has a chance of delivering that, combined with businesses increasing taking it seriously as a business opportunity but also as a business risk from failing to engage in it, there is a lot of momentum underway. It does not look hopeful that that kind of momentum would limit warming anywhere close to 1.5°C, but it is a positive signal, and it is encouragement that we must continue working and must work harder because, as the IPCC says, every tenth of a degree matters and every tenth of a degree is worth the effort of avoiding that level of warming.
Andy Reisinger, on that note thank you so much for taking part in this C2GTalk.