The focus on a number is less important than what the real bottom line is, which is about trying to shape our societies, our economies, our lives in ways that enable us to enable as many of us to have a good life as possible, without causing damage, without wrecking the world.
Right, let’s get this show on the road. My name is Daniel Shneider. I’m a senior at Hunter College High School and I’m from Manhattan.
I’m Ajani Stella. I’m a sophomore at Hunter College High School and I’m also from Manhattan.
In our schools, we don’t really get a chance to talk about climate change that much. Maybe you will get it in a biology class or earth science. Maybe we’ll talk about it at the lunch table, but there’s no real dialogue about it. So in partnership with City Atlas, Ajani, Nick and I decided to go on a journey of making a podcast where we interview a few different experts to hear what they have to say about climate change. This project was founded by Kevin, Adam, and Gabriel and this is the inaugural episode of our second season. Our aim is to have a conversation about climate change, among family and friends and especially between young people who are the future of climate action. So joining us today is our guest, Dr. Stuart Capstick. And Stuart, can we get you to introduce yourself please?
Yes, happy to do so. I’m very happy to be speaking with you. So I’m Stuart Capstick. I’m a senior research fellow at Cardiff University, which is a university in Wales in the UK. I’m based in a school of psychology, although I think of myself as a kind of more broad ranging social scientist. And I’m the deputy director of a research center, which is based in Cardiff but with collaborations with several other universities and organizations, which is called the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations or CAST Centre for short. So yeah.
Thank you so much for joining us. Ajani, can I offer you the first question?
I’d like to start with a question on high school curricula and your opinions on that. What would you put into a high school curriculum focusing on a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming scenario? So a curriculum that either takes that target or another target into account. What are some of the most important things to include?
First of all, I wanted to say, to pick up on something I think Daniel said, which is, you don’t get a chance to talk about climate change much at school. It’s not really part of the curriculum. I’m from the UK so I know little or nothing about the curriculum in the United States, but it seems very alarming to me, really, if that is the case. I mean, climate change and the wider ecological emergency is going to shape the way we’re living now, what sort of future we want. It’s in everything, everything that we hold dear is affected by this thing. So it’s worrying in the first instance that this is only picked up in the kind of science subjects, biology or chemistry, whatever. But as your question about what to put in a curriculum that pays attention to this, I think the first thing I would say is that this line in the sand of 1.5 degrees I think is important to pay attention to. It’s arisen for very good reasons. But at the same time, it can conceal as much as it reveals, I would say.
It’s important to affirm why there are these targets, whether that be 1.5 degrees or two degrees. Although these are kind of global averages, and there’s all sorts of noise, and it depends on where you are in the world, we know from the IPCC special report [on 1.5°C] a few years ago that it really matters whether we find ourselves at 1.5 degrees or two degrees, three or beyond. The focus on a number is less important than what the real bottom line is, which is about trying to shape our societies, our economies, our lives in ways that enable as many of us to have a good life as possible, without causing damage, without wrecking the world, in a way that would be the case if we ticked over that 1.5C degrees.
That is so incredibly powerful. I’d love to jump on what you’re just saying about the human dimension of climate change. I think we as students, so much of what we experience is climate change is numbers, statistics and mechanisms of atmosphere, earth and oceans. But what I think is so fascinating about your research is the idea that looking at the humans and the people that are going to be affected by climate change is important. So would you tell us a little bit about your research and your background, and why this social dimension of climate change is so important for getting climate action?
We decided the guiding question that we wanted to ask was, how can we live differently and better in ways that meet the needs of radical emissions reduction? That’s the exact wording. And reflected in that is a recognition that we need to live differently. Well, certainly those of us in the Global North, in industrialized countries. We’re way above our planetary limits. And so whilst there a lot can be done with technology, I certainly wouldn’t want to diminish the potential for excellent technologies and efficiencies, it’s, it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to get where we need to be without living differently.
And that can mean personal level. That can mean at a community level or a city or a societal level. So I’m personally very happy to move between those scales. You often get these sorts of debates about is it behavior, or is it about law, or is it about this or about that. But one way or another, my research is about trying to find ways, or think about ways, or collaborate with others, to address how we’re able to do that. And as part of that we talk about a slightly clunky term, we talk about people as agents of change. So in that sense, although my background is in psychology — I’ve done a lot of kind of behavioral experiments and so on, that’s where I come from — but we’re not just talking about individual behavior, how people fit into this. It’s not just the shopping choices you make, but it’s about the kind of roles we occupy in life. And that varies from person to person.
So myself, I have a family. I have children, so part of my role is about bringing up my children. I live in a city in the UK. So how I live, how I interact with people where I live is important. My job is in my case very specific to climate change, of course, but however, whatever one’s job or sphere of work is, you know, finding ways that we can help to be part of changing things for the better, I think is important. So, in terms of my research, and what drives the Center, some of this comes from a concern, I suppose, that whilst there is there has been excellent research in the social sciences around climate change, including psychology, we haven’t really managed to get to grips with, first of all, just how transformative and radical the changes need to be to properly tackle climate change. And secondly, we need to do much better, I think, speaking across disciplines whether that’s psychologists and sociologists, political scientists, economists, etc. So we try really hard to open those dialogues and find answers or at least better questions.
Meeting our climate goals (without overshoot) requires reducing our emissions notably faster than we historically increased them.
Limiting warming to 1.5C requires cutting them 4x faster than they grew since 1950.
1.8C (66% odds of below 2C) is 60% faster.
2C is 40% faster. pic.twitter.com/9DKwJCWXCo
— Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) June 27, 2022
GRAPHIC AND TWEET FROM ZEKE HAUSFATHER, CLIMATE RESEARCHER AT STRIPE
Agents of change, what a good phrase.
I especially love how you talk about people as individuals as agents of change, and almost redirecting that focus from just high level politicians or government conversations. Because I think it’s so important that we consider the power that individual people have in the climate space in climate action. And I particularly found it interesting how you talk about how we each have our own lifestyle choices, that isn’t, as you said, just buying sustainable clothing, but how we live our life. And it’s almost that bottom-up approach versus that normal top-down strategy. On that lens, I was wondering if you could speak more to your article or to your chapter in the United Nations Environmental Programme Emissions Gap 2020 report, where you talk about the role of an equitable, low carbon lifestyle. What does it mean to have an equitable low carbon lifestyle and why is it important, just building on what you’ve previously been saying?
In the first instance. an equitable low carbon lifestyle is one that doesn’t use more than its share of the carbon budget we have left. So, in order to keep to whatever temperature target we might want to do. One and a half to two degrees, etc. We only have so much, so many more fossil fuels we can burn. And that places pretty big constraints on what sort of lifestyles it’s feasible to have. I’m a pretty idealistic person but the reality is we’ll never get a completely equal world. But an equitable lifestyle is one that ultimately doesn’t use more than a person’s share of what’s available.
And the…you know, the implications of that are really quite shocking. So particularly for those who have high carbon lifestyles, we’re not just a little bit above the limits we need to be within, we’re 20, 30, 40, 50 times that. And there’s sort of no way around this. For those of us in the rich world with high carbon lifestyles, if you use more than your share, then there are two consequences. Either other people who have less, will have less, or your lifestyle pushes climate change further into dangerous territory.
And I think there’s one thing that’s really important to stress here and this comes up in these debates about individual responsibility versus the kind of wider context. And that’s — we tried to stress this in the UNEP chapter, and I’ve tried to stress it in other work — although we can, and I think it’s important to talk about lifestyles, and individual aspects, and so on, the reality is we’re all kind of bound up in so many things whether that’s where we live, or the dependencies we have, we are restricted in our choices, things we have control over. So if you take, for example, someone who is struggling to get by and they need their car to get to work for their job, it’s really important we don’t kind of point fingers and say, you know, that person’s wrong because they’re burning lots of burning lots of fuel, so it’s important to sit whilst I think it’s important to talk about lifestyles and the need for equitable lifestyles, to recognize that often, impact that can be attributed to us actually come from the bigger structures that we live within.
And so, as part of that UNEP lifestyle chapter, we tried to recognize that and say that many of the changes, many of the things that need to happen to enable people to live low carbon lifestyles are fundamentally not about demanding individuals take those steps.
So if we contrast some of the towns and cities you find in the Netherlands where everybody gets about on bike, versus some of the cities in the UK or the USA, where it’s just not like that. Everyone is in a car, there’s no public transport. Is that down to the people getting in their cars, or getting on their bikes? Or is it down to the way that towns and cities are designed and where the money and resources go? So I think, for me, it’s a constant constant interplay between the two. As agents of change it’s important to recognize what agency we have to push to change, and to make changes where we can, but also, part of our role is to help be part of reshaping a different way of living. And it does come down to it does come down often to councils, governments, etc, to do the right thing. Again, though, in turn, will they do the right thing if they don’t, at least in democratic societies, they don’t feel pressured to do so or that their voters expect them to do so. Although if they don’t do the right thing they’ll be kicked out. And so again, it’s sort of iterative thing between citizens and decision makers.
It’s such an interesting perspective. And I’m really so interested to hear how you’re sort of balancing those two sides. I think all especially on the internet, of all places, there is a lot of sort of angst towards climate, especially around the idea of lifestyle changes. And people feel like you could be living maybe the most vegan, most waste free, the most low carbon lifestyle. And you’re still confronted with images on the news of trillions of oil barrels being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico or out of control wildfires. And the conversation often gets shifted to the idea that lifestyle choices don’t matter in the face of corporations and governments that won’t act. So I’m curious to hear you sort of allude to reconciling these perspectives. Do you have an idea of like how an average citizen can affect their lifestyle or can apply pressure to these governments to sort of encourage maybe a more societal lifestyle shift in a way that really does have an impact?
Yeah, really good question and a really hard one to answer. And again, I think I wouldn’t want to be accused of being naive, that there are clearly people with a lot more power than the average citizen. So when we talk about governments and corporations, making those decisions. So we must not be naive, and think that, you know, if we do the right thing in our everyday lives somehow magically everything will be better. And that’s where I think that’s where the idea of the changes, the things we can do in our everyday lives, aren’t just about those consumer choices. They are about trying to be part of something that forges bigger change. So whether that’s being for some people that might mean protests, for others that might be becoming part of social movements, but individuals together trying to bring about change become collectives, become kind of powerful social forces. And sometimes that might be in an organized way and sometimes that might be almost invisible or by accident.
And I think you know, the analogies between, say, climate action and other social movements are fraught, because in some ways, they are similar in some ways they’re not, but we can relate the climate crisis to things like the civil rights movement or gay rights, and so on. No one individual can solve these issues, but being part of a bigger movement that tries to push the changes is what I think is is critical.
There’s some interesting research, I wish there was more of it, but there were some really nice studies out there showing how individual action once it once it combines in aggregate is more than the sum of its parts. By which I mean things like dietary change. So you could say, well, I’m going to try and have a low carbon diet, when I go to the supermarket I will buy all low carbon foods. And you could say, what’s the point just you’re just one person. It doesn’t make any difference there are how ever many billion people on the planet.
Now, one, there’s been an interesting phenomenon that’s happened in the UK, which is a pretty kind of, not, in many ways, not an especially progressive place, although it has its pockets. And that is that over the past 10 years or so, and there’s studies showing this, our diets have changed to the extent that they’ve substantially reduced in terms of their carbon footprint we have in the UK. We have, almost invisibly, been eating less red meat particularly. Yeah, and you can see this in the supermarket. You go in now and there is increasing ranges, increasing options available, the replacements for beef burgers now proliferate all over the shelves. And there’s all different choices. I haven’t tried them all.
Now, that I think demonstrates the relationship between individual action and broader change. From people trying individually to make a change, manufacturers, those corporations have noticed, ahh, there’s more interest in this stuff. Let’s release a couple of ranges. A couple more ranges, people then try those. It becomes a self reinforcing thing. And, yeah, I think that that can happen in other domains, too.
So it needs the pioneers. It needs the people willing to get on their bikes where everybody else is in a car, not withstanding safety issues. It needs us to kind of go right, I’m not going to wait, I’ll push for change, and I’ll be part of pushing that cycle forwards. So yeah, I don’t think there is any such thing as individual action. We’re always part of a complex, invisible web of relationships with other people that affects things in all sorts of ways that we’ll never know about.
And that’s an incredible success story. And I’m interested to hear about your specific focus on food. I know that’s something that people get so defensive about. When politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk about the Green New Deal, one of the common retorts is, you know, like, ‘get your hands off my cheeseburgers. And I feel there’s like a lot of emotion, that people like to eat what they like to eat. But I’m so curious to hear you use the phrase, low carbon food. I think for so many people, we don’t really think about the sort of the carbon impacts of what we put on our plate. But it sounds like you’re saying that there is a way to reduce that. So what is what does high carbon food look like and what is low carbon food look like? And what are some of the choices that we can make, to all sort of collectively reduce the amount of impact that our food has on the environment?
Good question. You mentioned the ‘get your hands off our burgers.’ Yeah, I mean, this shows how precisely why a kind of social lens on things is so important. You can have as many studies as you like, measuring the carbon impacts, might be more appropriately the methane impact of different foods. But when that’s released into the world it can become part of the culture wars, precisely as you outlined.
I talked about low carbon food, you might talk about plant-based diets. Essentially, it’s complicated because you can always find examples of vegetables which are very high carbon. If you fly a broad bean from South Africa to the United States it’s probably got a high carbon footprint. But overall, on average, diets are which are high in particularly red meat and dairy tend to be higher carbon diets. So technically speaking, ruminants. Animals that burp and fart. Cows and lambs, and the milk and cheese that comes from them.
And so I think if we want to try and have a lower carbon diet, then eating less of those things, and moving towards more plant-based foods, whether that’s, you know, substituting a plant-based burger for a beef burger, or just having a different meal altogether is important.
And what’s really advantageous as well is that lower carbon choices generally tend to be more healthy ones. Again, there are some excellent studies out there showing that in the UK if we were to move from the kind of average diets that we have, simply to World Health Organization recommended diet, so what what is recommended by medical professionals to be healthy irrespective of climate change, we’re already chopping off 20, 30% of the emissions associated with that. So eating healthily is also eating in a low carbon way.
I guess one other way in which this can get bound up in the culture wars is ideas about being kind of dogmatic, and being vegan and so on. And if people want to be vegan, then, absolutely fine, good luck to them. I think for many people, the idea of completely cutting out every single animal product ever, for the rest of your life, is pretty tough, you know.
Who doesn’t love bacon?
Well, exactly. So I think, yeah, I think the more pragmatic response is to move towards plant-based diets, and maybe meat as a treat. We can certainly do better with food and, you know, this is something that doesn’t need to be a massive inconvenience. We can do this in a way which is healthy and enjoyable. Albeit, that the people who really really love burgers may still be unhappy.
I think that’s an excellent thing to pinpoint. I do think it’s scary to think that you’d have to make a dietary change that sort of drastic overnight but I love the idea of a collaborative approach to that. I mean, I something is better than nothing. So if everyone’s taking the time to just eat a little less meat throughout the day, not even cutting it out. That’s still like things add up, there’s still a pretty big impact.
Yeah, I think at some point it’s only I don’t know how much awareness there really is out there about the impact of food. I mean, I guess this these debates have rambled on for years about animal welfare, and so on, but it’s been less recognized that food, diet, agriculture, land use, are part and parcel of, well a big contributor to climate change, and a way that we can do something about it.
I find it really interesting how you’re continuing to talk about food and specific things that we should and shouldn’t do, or somewhere in between those. And I definitely agree that those are super important. And I wonder how important comparatively, and how much impact does this have compared to things like boycotting companies that are not responsibly acting towards towards the planet or shopping sustainably as you mentioned earlier? How can we compare these different methods of individual or lifestyle changes?
Yeah, really good question and actually much do something I was gonna pick up on earlier and forgot to do. So I’m glad you asked that.
It’s really hard to do a like for like comparison. We’ve talked about this in our research group, but you know, how do you, how can you put a number on these things. Some things you can put a number on. Like if I fill up my car with petrol, I know how many liters, and if I burn it all, I know, roughly speaking, how much CO2 I’ve released into the atmosphere. When it comes to those more, well we call them in psychology, public sphere behaviors, whether that’s a boycotting companies as you suggest, or lobbying and so on. It’s really hard to kind of say well, which is more which is more useful. And my sense is that if done well and organized well and targeted well, then those those public sphere actions are absolutely critical.
So things like the divestment movement has pushed billions if not trillions of dollars, from harmful places to others. I think also setting the sort of social mandates that action if it’s, again, we mustn’t be naive that politicians are simply waiting for us to say what we want to see happen and then they’ll do it, because there are lots of other forces going on. But unless there is, unless policymakers recognize that there is an upswell, a groundswell of demand for these things, we’re not going to see them.
Now in the in the UK — I think this has permeated in the United States a little bit, probably not as much as in the UK — we had Extinction Rebellion emerge as a social movement, pre-pandemic, a few years ago now. Friday’s for Future, Greta Thunberg, and so on. Those have been critical for changing the public conversation. And I wouldn’t sideline any other organizations that have done good work in this area too, the Sunrise Movement, Green New Deal, and so on.
Changing the public conversation, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, putting things on the agenda and making them important, is absolutely critical. And I remember an interview with Angela Merkel, the former German chancellor at the COP 26 climate talks. And she was asked about young people and climate strikes and she says I tell them keep piling on the pressure. She was asking that young people in Germany pile on the pressure and unless we do that, whatever ways we can, we won’t see change too. So again, I think we can divide the actions we take into things that seemingly are about how we consume; the food we buy, how we travel, etc. Or the things we do in a social sense, boycotting protests, etc. I think the boundaries between them can be quite blurry too.
So changing how we eat or travel is itself potentially a political act. That can shift the context as with that example in changes in diets, in the UK. So it all matters, basically.
I love the idea of like, public perception. Because there it really is incredibly dynamic, I think if we had this conversation even five years ago, these questions would have very different answers.
Yeah. Just a comment on that, some work I’ve done in the past is looking at, so one of the things I do is kind of measure public attitudes, perceptions towards climate change. And it’s curious because it can follow a trajectory that you kind of look at it, what is going on there? It’s going up and down, up and down. And it doesn’t follow the science it follows all the other things going on in the world.
And so public opinion in the United States and elsewhere has fluctuated according to politics, the economy, the extent to which the media are interested in climate change, and so on. But one thing that has happened that I think is genuinely unprecedented, is the last few years, from sort of 2018, ’19 onwards, we have seen a real move upwards into much higher levels of public awareness concern, and placing a priority on addressing the climate crisis.
So in the past, it was kind of you ask someone why you concern most people say, yeah I think it’s a thing, I’m kind of concerned, I’d like people to do something about it. But it would be still pretty far down people’s list of priorities. But in the UK, at least we’ve seen that actually this is this is high on many people’s priorities now. We can’t take that for granted because things could change. You know, the world is messy, dangerous place. But that is encouraging, I think that a lot of this has broken through.
That’s really interesting what you’re talking about with the public perception. And I definitely think that when you put pressure on politicians and companies that we can make a difference. We’ve seen it work through social movements throughout history, the US Civil Rights Movement. As far back as the American war for independence against Great Britain. And I do worry though, sometimes as an observing the social conditions, that we’re not having as much of an effect as we have in the past or that we can. For instance, we’re still seeing very limited corporate action, very limited governmental action, even the companies that are making climate plans are make making not very good ones, promising Net Zero something like 2050 or 2070. So how can we account for this disconnect in in public pressure and actual corporate and political action and what can we do to fix it?
I mentioned earlier, when I referenced civil rights and other social movements. You have to be careful with making the analogy with climate action. I think one of the reasons is, in some ways, there are a lot of parallels, but in some ways, it is different, in as much as the things that cause climate change are completely wrapped up in everything. Fossil fuels underpin just normal life. You walk out the door, wherever you guys live. Look around you, everything you see. Well, maybe you see trees growing out of the ground. But, the difficulty I think, is that we have we have built our entire societies and ways of life upon burning fossil fuels. And it’s really hard. And, you know, I’m not saying that other things, like the civil rights movement, have not been extremely hard as well. Of course, that is the case.
But it seems that turning around the fundamentals of societies is, is really, really difficult. And I think we just have to keep pushing. The solutions are there. I don’t know whether I’m optimistic or hopeful or not, as to whether they will come about. But we can do this. The technology is there. The will is there. Most people I think don’t want to wreck the planet. We want to have good lives, but we want to leave the world in a good place and not harm other people. So I think, there is, yeah, I mean, back to your original question about whether we’re making enough progress, clearly not.
Whether you look at that at an international level, through the COP process, whether you look at that, in terms of what companies are able to do or are willing to do, etc, etc. You know, this is this is a very difficult, very difficult thing to shift. And, you know, that’s important to recognize.
So what do you think are the biggest obstacles towards achieving climate action? In even in the face of so much like radical public shift in in climate and climate change opinions? There still seems to be a lot of inertia on the part of corporations and government and so what’s holding them back?
Yeah, I mean, some of this we picked up on…I was one author among many on a paper in Annual Reviews, which asked, why have we not managed to do this? Why have we failed to bend the emission curve? And there are there are lots of answers to this. I mean, we came up with with nine ways of explaining things, but you could choose others and I’ve had other people suggesting some. So I think the first answer to that is, there are lots of answers to this question.
You can answer that in terms of power. So who has power, how they use it? How power is embedded in sort of government and political structures. So to give one example of off the top of my head in the United States, it’s clear from an outside point of view that whoever is president, that one person has a lot of power. That’s just one example, among many, you know, for a time you have Donald Trump wielding a lot of power, who I don’t believe was someone who was interested in climate action.
But even there, you know, power, political power doesn’t exist in a vacuum either. It’s wrapped up in who pays for that? The money, the finance, the lobbying interests. So I think, one set of reasons why it’s been hard to choose action is because of the structures of power and who pulls strings, and where the vested interests lie. And maybe related to that, the kind of economic systems and expectations that we’ve assembled through that.
But at the same time, you know, going back to this idea of what’s normal, what’s routine. At the very mundane, everyday level, living unsustainably is effectively normal routine in the rich countries in the West. And so I can’t wake up in the morning say, right, get rid of all the carbon emissions in my life because I have to heat my home, I have to heat my food, I have to travel to work. So I think the routinization of compromise is important. And then moving past and moving beyond that, I think one of the most interesting and possibly more hopeful parts of that paper was about what we called in the paper social imaginaries. Imagining better, imagining different, is something we need to get better at, I think. Perhaps we have had a collective failure of imagination. The status quo we have, we’ve assumed that it must always be like that. Well, actually, modern industrialized societies have only been around for a pretty short time in human history, and even then, for many people around the world and for many people through human history that’s certainly not been the norm.
So I guess we want to be asking ourselves, if we’ve had a failure of imagination, then how do we imagine better. How do we imagine good ways of living that aren’t also wrapped up in those higher level emissions? And I don’t have the answer. I think it’s something that it’s important for us to find ways to sort of have those conversations, to deliberate about. This has been formalized in the sense of climate assemblies, citizens assemblies, and so on to sit down with people and say, Okay, well, what better future do we want?
We do some of that within the CAST Centre. We call it our visioning work. We sit down with members of the public trying to talk through the situation we have and ask, okay, what’s an alternative? So, trying to overcome those failures of imagination and ask, push at, something better.
The urgency and the scale of this is often overlooked. I think it’s come through more in recent years. I’m talking about emissions need to fall off a cliff. This is almost vertical drops we’re talking about. It’s never too late. 1.5 is an arbitrary number, it’s useful for politics and as a benchmark. But we won’t ever get to a point where it’s too late to do something about it, and the more we can do and the quicker we do it, the better. So, in one way I think these kind of lines in the sand, the 1.5 and the two, are unhelpful because they can make it seem like, ahh, it’s too late, we’re not going to do this. But the this in that case is something that’s a bit arbitrary.
On the point about wealth and speed of change, yeah, in a sense the good news is that the people with the highest emissions are also those with the most capacity to do something about it. And much, if not most, of their emissions is discretionary, is entirely optional, you don’t have to do it.
And so, borrowing from some work, I think from Ivanova and Wood, 2020, we looked at — and I think this may be mentioned in the UNEP chapter — when you look at what actually comprises the carbon emissions of a top 1% person who’s on about 55 tonnes of CO2, that’s in Europe, a huge amount of that is from air travel. People getting on planes for fun, essentially. Compared to a middle 40% person, just the emissions from air travel from a richer person exceeds the entire emissions from a middle class person.
And I think this is one of the reasons why, and I didn’t mention air travel in the podcast previously, but this is why it’s such an important touchstone issue. Traveling by air is something most of us don’t have to do. It’s also one of the most destructive things we can do, and it comprises a big part of richer people’s carbon footprint. So that is one area we should be focused on.
On the question of levels of emissions reduction annually, Jag said 8%, I have a number of 10% in my mind. Whether it’s 8 or whether it’s 10, this is not something we’ve ever done before in the West. Jag mentioned about consuming like mad when you were younger. And this is the whole assumption and expectation is we will consume more and more and more and more and as much as possible. And the richer you are, the more you consume, the better you are as a person, the more you’ve achieved, the higher your status. And so often that’s why I often revert to discussions about culture and what’s normal, because this is not something we’ve ever imagined doing, far less have been able to achieve before.
Of course, people have had to live with privation, with having less of things because of circumstances forced upon them. But in this situation where we can say we need to do this, but we’ve never done it before without having to be absolutely forced to do so. The consumer as king and the freedom of choice in countries like the US and the UK is a real problem here. So when the UK Government put out its net zero strategy, Boris Johnson took it upon himself in his foreword to say, there won’t be a hair shirt in sight. Our cities will still be full of cars, we will still be flying everywhere. It’s all going to be technology. The very idea that we would make different choices or live different lives is just so far from the agenda of decision makers and politicians that, yeah, it’s staggering. So increasingly, I think it’s just important to keep stressing that, this is what the CAST Centre is premised on, unless we find ways to live differently, we’re not gonna get there. Because technology isn’t going to magic this away. Certainly not at the scale and in the timeframes we’re talking about.
I am so excited by your work. I hope that it is inspiring us to think about how we can collectively as a society imagine a better, brighter future. I see we’re running out of time a little bit so I wanted to thank you so much for coming on, and taking the time to share this perspective with us. We appreciate it. And I think it’s going to be incredible to continue to follow your work and see how the public continues to shift and change. Any final words that you might want to give on how sort of an average listener might be able to continue to impact climate action or inspire others to have a more healthy reset on how to approach climate?
Thank you very much for inviting me. I’m pleased and humbled to have been invited on. I definitely don’t have all the answers. No way. Like many other people I sort of feel like I’m fumbling around trying to come up with something better. But I guess with the average listener, shall we say? I think one thing that’s really important, something I’ve got wrong in the past is that we need to look after ourselves and each other. Those of us who work in this field will be alert to and concerned about the climate crisis. Because this is this is hard enough, massively overwhelming and we are all of us frail individuals trying to do our best so let’s not let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Let’s not get wrapped up blame and moralizing. Let’s recognize that we need to take care of ourselves. And I would just say, yeah, keep fighting the good fight. However you can.
I encourage anyone who’s listening to look up Dr. Stuart Capstick and the center he mentioned, the CAST Centre is the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation. It’s an incredible website with a lot of related programs. And thank you so much for tuning in. I am again Daniel Schneider.
I’m Ajani Stella.
And thank you for listening to Bridging the Carbon Gap.