Imagining A Brighter Climate Future | Crooked Media
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October 13, 2022
Positively Dreadful
Imagining A Brighter Climate Future

In This Episode

2022 has been an absolutely terrible year for climate disasters. Hurricane Ian, record shattering heatwaves, and catastrophic flooding all served as the backdrop as Congress finally got it together well enough to pass a huge climate mitigation bill. The United States will now implement this new clean energy spending plan as the accumulated effects of all the greenhouse gas pollution we’ve already emitted  continue to pile up. It all raises critical questions: How can we get the most out of the bold climate action we just took? And can we minimize or somehow reverse the harms we’ve already inflicted? David Roberts joins Brian Beutler to talk about how we can use the tools we already have to mitigate the harms climate change will inflict, or better still just stop them before they happen.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Brian Beutler: Hello and welcome to Positively Dreadful. I’m your host, Brian Beutler. It’s mid-October now. And that means we’re climbing down from the peak of Atlantic hurricane season, which runs usually from June through November. And until a couple of weeks ago, you could say 2022 was a pretty mild year without catching any dirty looks, even accounting for Hurricane Ian. You can still kind of ballpark it as a relatively quiet season for major storms. The National Hurricane Center assigns names to storms every year, alphabetically and alternating by gender. So to make up names at random, Albert comes before Bethany, then Carl and then Daphne and so on and so on. And you can tell it was shaping up to be a slower than expected year because Ian made landfall on September 28th. Back in 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall on September 10th. In 2011, Hurricane Irene made landfall in late August. Ike made landfall on September 13th and so on back through Ivan in 2004 and Isabel in 2003. By contrast, in 2020, at this time, we’d already cycled through the whole alphabet and we’re on Hurricane Delta. So that’s all a very long winded way of saying that absent Hurricane Ian, we might call 2022 or we might say that 2022 defied the pattern of storm season in the climate change era. And if we’d made it through unscathed, you can imagine how climate change deniers might have exploited that coincidence, right? The same thing they do when it’s unseasonably cold for a few days in the summer. Or there’s a big snowstorm in the winter. It’s ha ha libs. Guess the globe isn’t actually warming after all. But of course, Ian or no Ian 2022 has been an absolutely terrible year for climate disasters. Ian itself bore many of the hallmarks of climate intensified storms, which are generally wetter with greater storm surges. There were record shattering summer heat waves the world over. There was horrific biblical flooding in Pakistan. And this is all very notable for all the usual reasons, but also because it occurred against the backdrop of the US finally getting it together well enough to pass a huge climate mitigation bill. I think it’s important to consider these things in tandem because it prefigures what the near future will be like. The US will be implementing this big new clean energy spending plan. But as that happens, the accumulated effects of all the greenhouse gas pollution we’ve already emitted will continue to pile up and it will feel like we’re making no progress. And that will mean a bunch of things. It’ll be grist for bad faith actors who will want to discredit the Inflation Reduction Act as a failure. It’ll fuel demands for further action, which will likely not materialize any time soon. And it will, I think, reroute a lot of discussion and energy from questions like, how can we decarbonize industry and society? To can we mitigate or somehow reverse the harms we’ve already inflicted through different means, different kinds of policies, or even just raw human ingenuity? And that latter question, which is basically, can science save us from ourselves, has kind of haunted the climate discourse for as long as I’ve paid attention, and I’ve usually thought of it as a big red flag. For one thing, who could possibly know? And because we can’t know. It’s always been a magnet for these sort of denier, adjacent wonks and pundits, the people who will say, calm down, you’re overreacting, or this isn’t worth putting a lot of government money toward. The prudent thing to do is assume that salvation is not coming and therefore direct our energies towards minimizing the harm we know we’re inflicting. On the other hand, humans are ingenious. We learn iteratively, and we’re many iterative cycles into the climate crisis now. It can’t be true that the odds of engineering our way out of climate catastrophe are zero point zero. So the challenges for the Post Inflation Reduction Act environment are to maximize the good that bill can do, while also being strategic about deploying the tools we already have and thinking through realistically how we can mitigate the harms climate change will inflict. Or better still, just stop them before they happen. All of that is big, complicated technical stuff. And the good news is that for the past 20 years or so, I’ve had a go to guy on this stuff. There’s a lot of great journalism out there on the frontiers of the climate crisis, but much less on these questions, which require both a horizon to horizon grasp of the crisis itself, with a fairly granular understanding of how the politics and the technology and the infrastructure and the unknowns will all have to come together if we’re going to avert catastrophe. He writes the Volts newsletter on Substack and hosts the Volts podcast, which you can listen to anywhere. And so, without further ado, my friend David Roberts, welcome to Positively Dreadful.

 

David Roberts: Hey, Brian. Happy to be here. Love the, love the new pod. Love the newsletter.

 

Brian Beutler: Did did I screw any of that up? Before we get too deep into the conversation?

 

David Roberts: [laugh] Well, you said all these nice things, so I’m certainly not going to I’m not going to correct anything.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay, well, fine. Everything that preceded this point was correct. [laughter] So a mark of how much of an amateur I’ve become on this stuff is that? I don’t know the answer to the question that I’m about to ask or whether the thing I’m thinking of actually exists. But is there like a methodologically sound way to tally up the tax climate change is already imposing on the world? Like in the same way we track hurricanes or know that COVID 19 has coincided with all of these excess deaths. Has anyone tried to put together something similar? But for all the excess harms that climate change causes?

 

David Roberts: Well, yes, people have been trying to do that for a long, long time. You know, the problem is just that you even see the problem with COVID is like it’s very sprawling. There are other health things going on at the same time, other sort of cross pressuring currents. So you have to kind of pick the signal out of the noise and there’s a lot of assumptions involved in doing that. So even in COVID, there some there’s some controversy about the final numbers. So you can imagine something like climate. It’s completely global. You’re measuring against a baseline. You know, it’s just so complicated, which is just to say that, yes, people have been trying to do that for a long time, but numbers range widely. And, you know, depending on small changes in variables or changes in your assumptions, you can have vastly different outcomes of that. So there’s no handy like, you know, national debt clock—

 

Brian Beutler: Right.

 

David Roberts: —Kind of like a tally you could just point to. But yes, scientists have been quite concerned with that.

 

Brian Beutler: Is that is there like a sense that the small C like conserve the low end of the range for what that would be like? How much are we already suffering for our own sins? Like trillions of dollars? I don’t know. [laugh]

 

David Roberts: Yes, it’s trillions. And now, you know, there’s a new there’s a new sort of round of this is a some obscure sort of modeling debates. But, you know, previous climate models have not. Really taken climate’s ability to slow economic growth as an endogenous variable. I won’t get into what all that means, but basically new models are showing that, yes, climate change is going to slow economic growth at the cost of trillions. You know, you shave a couple, you shave four or five points off global economic growth. That’s trillions of dollars. So, yes, it’s trillions. But, you know, it’s like with any disaster, you know, this Florida stuff, like there’s bad practices living near the coast. There’s the population growth of Florida recently, too. There’s all these factors that go into how much the disaster costs. So, amidst all that, extracting the signal of climate, saying, you know, the hurricane was X percent larger than it otherwise would have been. It’s just you can imagine it’s very complicated. There’s a lot of math involved. So there’s no clear answer, I’m sad to say.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. And then it’s because there’s no clear answer. It’s easier to dismiss or write off as just like—

 

David Roberts: But I do think just on a crude level, it’s getting pretty obvious, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah.

 

David Roberts: Like, yeah, massive floods everywhere. Every time you turn on the news, there’s massive floods. There’s massive storms. Like it’s pretty it’s getting just qualitatively extremely difficult to pretend.

 

Brian Beutler: I have noticed that even like the climate skeptics or climate agnostic, don’t don’t pay attention to climate stuff like people in my life, older people are like, things are just weird now. The weather’s weird. The weather patterns are different than when I was young. And, and, I mean, I don’t think everyone’s coming to that, like, sort of hazy sense of the change of things by coincidence or that, that, you know, media signals are driving them in that direction. It just really is different than it was even just a few years ago.

 

David Roberts: It’s weird out there. It’s very weird out there. It’s weird out. It’s we’re finally going to the point where it’s weird enough that, like you say, within a life span, you can notice there are noticeable visceral changes that are imposing themselves on people’s awareness. So it’s so it’s interesting now the sort of, you know, the fossil fuel caucus has abandoned more or less outright climate denialism. You rarely hear that anymore. There’s a few sort of holdouts in the in the think tanks here and there. But but by and large, they drop the climate denialism. But instead of switching to sort of, you know, affirming that climate is real and doing something about it, they just stop talking about it. They’re still not doing anything about it. They’re just not talking about it either. So anyone who thought that winning the argument about [laughter] whether climate change exists would win the politics is now, I think, been decisively disproven.

 

Brian Beutler: Think about all the fuckin effort that went in, just like we needed to come up with the perfect arguments and then game over.

 

David Roberts: Oh my God. This was the first this the first decade of I started this in like around to the early 2000s. And my God, like the decades of what is the right argument, what’s the right set of words? What do we do pictures? Do we emphasize this, do emphasize that? Just this, just this bedrock, unquestioned faith that what’s going on here is an argument, right?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, we were so naive.

 

David Roberts: Whats happening here is an argument. And so they won that argument a thousand times over. To what end?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah.

 

David Roberts: Right. Right. Like no one would give a shit about the argument in the first place.

 

Brian Beutler: So it turns out that the only thing that mattered the whole time was just winning elections.

 

David Roberts: Yes.

 

Brian Beutler: However, it’s—

 

David Roberts: Yeah, it’s power. It turns out it always it always came down to power. I feel like that lesson, has sunk in to the climate community at this point.

 

Brian Beutler: That’s good. That’s good. Okay. So let’s talk about the Inflation Reduction Act. Once it got through the sausage making, it was all carrots. No sticks. Right. Like tax credits to make the production of clean energy stuff cheaper.

 

David Roberts: Yes, basically. I mean, it started that mostly that way, too. I mean, it’s been mostly carrots almost all the way through. Part of that, I mean, for a bunch of reasons, part of that is the fact that it had to go through reconciliation. So you can’t really tighten standards or rules or things like that through reconciliation. So it’s just tax, tax stuff. And and part of it is just because, you know, a shift in this kind of political the theory of change on the left and the theory of politics around it has shifted. And so the focus on the kind of punitive stick forward approach that was that was taken like, for instance, back in Waxman-Markey, you know, led with the cap and trade carbon pricing, which, you know, it seems clear in retrospect, like if you lead with a policy that raises literally everyone’s prices and the benefits are emergent in the aggregate and not traceable to any individual human, it’s not a great recipe for political success. You have you’ve made an enemy of everyone and have no friends. So I think the environmental movement learned that lesson. So there’s a lot more just smart political economy in this bill. It’s it’s you know, it’s partially about reducing emissions, but just as much it’s about inducing economic development across the country, including in red states, in creating jobs. And it’s just as much about producing constituents. Right? I think the climate people have gotten a lot smarter about this, too. They realize that part of the function of a bill is to create new constituencies. And every every time you offer a new stream of money to someone, you make a constituent [laughter] out of that person because people don’t like to lose streams of money once they’ve got it. So so I think the sort of carrot forward approach is largely about politics, too, is about if you have a stream of tax equity going to companies in red states, they’re going to be less enthusiastic about the denialism of their elected representatives.

 

Brian Beutler: I want to get to the political economy and the carbon pricing stuff in a minute. But when you take that stuff away and you and you structure your legislation in this maybe politically wiser way, how does it actually work on a nuts and bolts level? Like if you’re a solar manufacturer, you get a tax rebate from the government. Or if you’re an end user and you put solar panels on your roof, you get a tax credit. Like what? How do you how do the constituencies literally how does the bill literally create the constituencies you were talking about?

 

David Roberts: Right. Well, for one thing, it becomes more difficult to compactly describe because, you know, when you’re when you have the one the one uber policy, right. Cap and trade or carbon tax, whatever it is, it’s pretty easy to explain. It’s one mechanism. But this policy, the Inflation Reduction Act, there’s 50, 100 policies in it. Right. And they all and they all work in somewhat different ways. But the main but the but the main mechanism here is tax credits, but but a huge array. So there’s manufacturing, there’s a ton of manufacturing tax credits which are meant to induce investment in mining, processing and manufacturing of clean energy materials here in the US. That’s a huge thing. There’s a bunch of tax credits for solar and wind generation along with, you know, hydrogen, carbon capture, electrolysis. There’s I mean, there’s a there’s a million. One great thing about this bill is instead of just concentrating its tax credits on solar and wind, it’s spread them out now to all these new sort of frontier technologies that we need to encourage that the wide range of of producer focused tax credits, and then there’s a whole other set of tax credits for consumers to buy electric vehicles, heat pumps to heat their home, insulation, all this kind of stuff. There’s a huge range of. So so in the spirit of making constituents, I mean, you can get all told as a consumer who’s trying to electrify their home and vehicle, you can get up to 1800 dollars a year in tax credits. And if you and if you, you know, spread your purchases out wisely over the years, you can get 1800 dollars every year for, you know, insulating your windows on and on and on. So there’s going to be. Ordinary citizens are going to benefit from this in a direct way that is impossible for them not to notice which which is good. Yeah. So it’s mostly tax credits, but the tax credits really range widely over other areas and recipients and the ideas and there are also locked in one. One other important thing is, you know, the history of tax credits for wind and solar and clean energy in the US has been one of kind of boom and bust. Like they come, they get extended for a year or two years and then they lapse and then they get extended again, which is, you know, which is terrible for a market. These tax credits are all locked in for a decade, to, through 2032. So it’s not only that you have, you know, money coming in for these producers, but you have predictability in a long runway, which is just which is going to bring in a lot more capital.

 

Brian Beutler: Is it the sort of situation, though, where where there needs to be like a like a whole marketing plan to make sure people are aware of it, like, you know, with health care, with Affordable Care Act tax credits.

 

David Roberts: Yeah.

 

Brian Beutler: Oh, it’s you know, it’s it’s open enrollment and there’s all this money for you to have insurance and and so much hangs on people just getting the message that if word doesn’t get out, then what good is the existence of the tax credit and the tax code?

 

David Roberts: Yes, this is I mean, this is a concern. I mean, obviously, on the business side, like, you know, they employ [laughter] accountants and lawyers to be aware of such things. But for the consumers. Yeah, it’s a worry. I mean, these are big purchases. So I think people are more tuned in than they usually are. Like if you’re going to go buy a car and you have potentially, you know, I forget what the total size of the of the tax credit ended up being, but something close to $8,000, I think. On the line of of tax incentive, that’s that’s a big inducement to pay attention. Right. And it’s the same thing like if you’re buying a new furnace, it’s not like, you know, you’re just shopping at the kindle store or something. Like you’re paying you’re paying some attention and manufacturers are going to be aware of these and and marketing these somewhat. But I do think and I don’t know if this is a role for government or not, but I do think it’s worth I mean, this is already happening. There are a lot of organizations in the climate world who are putting themselves to the task of packaging these things and selling it to consumers, making consumers aware of these things. It’s all going to start in January. Yeah, I think I mean, I think that’s a worry. It’s less of a worry because health insurance is such so obscure and people understand it so poorly and people don’t want to think about it. [laugh] So I think that it’s more fun just to get money back when you’re buying a car. Right? That’s a lot less it’s a lot less dreary. So I don’t think it’s as much of a problem as it was for ACA, but it is something to be aware of.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. I mean, I guess, you know, if if you sell solar panels and suddenly there’s basically free money for people to buy your product with—

 

David Roberts: Yes, yes.

 

Brian Beutler: They’re going to just make sure that they put that on television. [laugh]

 

David Roberts: Exactly. The people selling these things have every incentive to make sure that consumers are aware of the rebates, because it’s going to the whole point is to is to ramp up demand.

 

Brian Beutler: All right. So tax credits to produce clean energy tax credits to buy clean energy. I gather just from reading the news day in, day out, that a big missing piece here is getting the clean energy from the source to the user. Right. The transmission. Is that correct? And why was it not included in the bill, if that’s such an important piece?

 

David Roberts: Well, a couple of things about that. Yes, it is true that building more long distance transmission is an absolutely crucial central piece of the puzzle here. And it’s also true that it’s very, very difficult in the U.S. to build a transmission. We’re very slow at it. These things get caught up in bureaucracies and processes, and partially it’s all administered at the state level. And what you need now is national thinking, right? So you have a bunch of renewable energy up in like your say, your, you know, your desert west and you’ve got these population centers in the Northeast that are short of power. You need to connect the one to the other. That’s not something a single state can you know. And no single state sort of gets enough benefit out of that. So it’s just a tangled mess now. So one thing to say is it was addressed in the infrastructure bill. There is a piece of the infrastructure bill that tries to give FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is which oversees sort of interstate transmission, more power to sort of designate particular corridors as kind of nationally important and override more or less override state objections, sort of take it with, um, just claim the land via eminent domain, stuff like that. So centralize more authority. So that’s a big piece in the infrastructure bill and it’s very important piece. The problem is the transmission thing is all about rules and standards and procedures, none of which can go through reconciliation. Right. Reconciliation can only spend money. So so you can devote some money to that. But solving the bureaucratic tangles that are slowing it down, it’s not something that the Infrastructure Reduction Act could do. So there’s there’s a big piece that’s good in the infrastructure bill. And then, of course, there’s this permitting reform issue, which is floating around. You know, Schumer promised Manchin in exchange for his vote that he would put this permitting reform forward. You know, mentions having trouble getting Republican support for it because you got to get 60 votes, etc., etc.. There’s a lot of argument within the climate community about whether permitting reform is good or not, but part of that permitting reform is further centralizing authority in FERC so it can do more transmission. So that’s still kind of a semi unsolved problem, but it’s not something I mean, money helps, but it’s not something you can solve just by throwing money at it, which is why the sort of Inflation Reduction Act didn’t do a bigger piece of it.

 

Brian Beutler: So I hear three elements are required to get the clean energy from where it’s made to where it’s needed is you need interstate authority to build these long distance transmission lines. You need the money to build them. And then you need regulatory reform so that they don’t get bogged down.

 

David Roberts: Yeah. And one of the biggest regulatory one of the biggest regulatory reform things is how to divide up the benefits. Right. Because everybody sort of benefits regionally. You benefit when you get this new line. But but how do you divide those benefits up is a really complicated question. That permitting reform. You know, the draft permitting reform was also going to go after directly. So, yeah, it’s a it’s a tangle, but the money is there. Like, I’m not sure it’s widely appreciated, but there is something close to a terawatt of renewable energy ready to go in this country. Ready to build. Waiting to get interconnected. Waiting to get permitted. To be interconnected to the grid. So there’s just not enough room on our current grid for renewable energy. And there is a shitload of renewable energy ready to go, ready to get built that is being delayed simply because it can’t get it can’t attach to the grid. There’s no room on the grid to get the power out. So this is a huge bottleneck that it’s going to have to you’re going to have to come at this from a bunch of different directions over the coming years.

 

Brian Beutler: Well, yeah. And I mean, apart from filibustering legislation in the Senate, is there some analogous way in which conservative interest Republicans might try to thwart the the deployment of the transmission piece in the same way that the like climate activists will try to stop a pipeline from being built?

 

David Roberts: Yes. In that for many utilities, the transmission constraints are keeping prices high. Right. So if you ease transmission constraints, you’re going to lower average prices across the board, which is bad for the utilities immediate interests. Right. Like they like high prices. So there are lots of utilities pushing back against this. And insofar as utilities own legislators, then, yes, legislators will push back against this, too. There’s no I wouldn’t I mean, there is, of course, NIMBY. You know, there is, of course, the NIMBY pushback to transmission, which is definitely being stoked by right wingers. Right. That like your Alex, your groups like that. There are right wing groups now fanning out across the West, handing propaganda to landowners about how transmission will destroy their land and give them weird cancers and all this kind of stuff. So. So it’s not as direct as like laying down in front of a pipeline. But yes, there are moneyed interests that don’t want more transmission. And where there are moneyed interests, there are Republicans there to to serve them. So, yes, it is sadly somewhat polarized, but not completely polarized in that, you know, if you’re one of those population centers whose power prices are high because your grid is congested and you can’t import enough power, a big new fat transmission line that is bringing super cheap solar power from from the west into your grid, you’re going to lower power costs for all your constituents. So there are cross pressures, right? Like it’s good for consumers to have more transmission. And there are red state consumers, too. So. So, at the very least, there are cross pressures going on here.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. Well, so it sounds like Manchin is trying to push a bill. I don’t know anything about the bill, to be honest. Really.

 

David Roberts: Yes. He’s pushing permitting reform. And the big debate over permitting reform is there’s a big piece on transmission, which is great, which is absolutely huge and important and thrilling to transmission, transmission, community.

 

Brian Beutler: The transmission community. [laughter]

 

David Roberts: There is a transmission community, believe it or not, and uh there are also pieces that make it easier to to build new pipelines. Right. I mean, it makes it easier to do both. So the question of how that balances out is very divisive in the climate community. It may end up being an academic question since [laugh] since he can’t, like, try to find something that ten Republicans in the Senate and the entire Progressive Caucus in the House can both sign on to. Turns out to be quite difficult, and Manchin has not succeeded.

 

Brian Beutler: How much of that how much of it is that that he hasn’t been able to, like, get the details quite right to get 60 votes? And how much of it is that Republicans are are like in boycott mode. They’re like, we got to sabotage the effectiveness of the Inflation Reduction Act. And so he can’t support this bill.

 

David Roberts: Well, you know, the answer to this Brian [overlapping talk]

 

Brian Beutler: Look, just because I’m asking doesn’t mean I don’t know the answers, but I want to hear it from you.

 

David Roberts: [laugh] You know, they’re not pouring over the policy details here. They’re just it’s peak. They’re pissed. I mean, remember this glorious episode we have? There’s so few wins these days that we should not let this one go. Remember, Manchin said, I’m done with the IRA. It’s dead. Put it aside. Everybody thought it was dead. Schumer’s people thought it was dead. Everyone thought it was dead. And so then McConnell agreed to pass the CHIPS Act. Right. Sort of. Sort of on the premise that the IRA was dead. And so then they passed the CHIPS Act. And then like a week later, Manchin comes back is like, oh I actually want to pass the bill after all. And then they ended up passing the Inflation Reduction Act. That was more or less on the climate and energy stuff as as robust as it ever was. So so McConnell and Republicans very much feel like they got rope-a-doped there and they’re very pissed off about it. So aside from everything else, they’re just pissed at Manchin and do not want to give him a victory here at the end of the session. That’s the that’s the main thing.

 

Brian Beutler: So how much is Manchin sort of like lying in his own bed, right. Because before all that that that like dust up where he pulled out of the Build Back Better stuff and then and then and then kind of got Republicans to support this unrelated bill on semiconductors and then was like, psych, okay, that was great. Fine. But, but before all that, he basically vetoed the only sticks provision in what was then the Build Back Better Act, the the Clean Electricity Plan. Right?

 

David Roberts: You almost got it. I can never remember this. It’s the Clean Electricity Performance Plan.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay, okay,

 

David Roberts: I think CEPP. It’s dead now, so we don’t really have to memorize the name it doesn’t matter. So, yeah, that was an effort to remember, you know, standards. You can’t put standards in a reconciliation bill, right? It’s only spending. It’s only taxing and spending. You can’t change rules. So that was a sort of elaborate effort by wonks to recreate what’s called a renewable energy portfolio standard. You know, we have a lot of those at states which just tell utilities you have to get X amount of your power from carbon free sources. It was an attempt to replicate that at the national level, but you can’t do it with standards, so you have to replicate it just using fees and subsidies. Basically, it was like an elaborate system of fees. Fees if utilities don’t meet the goals and subsidies if they do, to sort of replicate the effect of what a national clean energy standard would be, is very clever from wonky point of view. But Manchin just stomped on its neck.

 

Brian Beutler: Right. Right. So so basically you tell utilities, clean up your act, you’re going to have to pay it if you do. But if you do clean up your act, you will get paid.

 

David Roberts: Yes, exactly.

 

Brian Beutler: How would that have affected this transmission question that like given that all we’re doing is trying to get clean energy from from where it’s produced to where it’s needed. If you have incentive structure like that, does it obviate?

 

David Roberts: It doesn’t obviate. I mean, all the all the bureaucratic all the weird rules and procedures still in place, it does somewhat shift the incentives, like if you’re a utility and you have to be cranking up your percentage of clean energy, you’re going to be out looking for cheap, clean energy. And the cheapest clean energy is the kind that is, you know, basically like sign out of the west or wind out of the Midwest that is transmitted to you like that’s the dirt cheap, clean energy. So it does somewhat shift the incentives. But basically, as long as you I mean, there are, as I said, state level, but it’s also a utility level and in some cases is down even to like the the homeowner landowner level. Like there are some like a I think it’s Oklahoma. I forget one of those North Midwest states where literally any landowner that the transmission line crosses can veto the thing. There’s just a million veto points. And it’s and as you know, from covering politics, it’s very difficult to get everyone to get a wide variety of people on the same page such that no one has an incentive to veto. If everyone has the ability to veto, somebody is going to end up doing it. So so you can change utility incentives, but you also have to deal with the NIMBY thing which changing, landowner incentives changing. So the whole thing basically needs to be federalized. There’s no way around that, I think. And that’s so FERC can do some of that on its own. The infrastructure bill did a little bit of that. Permitting reform would have done a lot more of that. But that’s the only real answer here, is because even if utilities want more clean energy, they don’t have any incentive. And no state has the incentive to take a national perspective on this or even to take a regional perspective. I mean, it’s even difficult to build regional power transmission lines. So it’s just those mismatched perspectives. There’s no way around that other than federalizing it. I mean, it’s a little ridiculous that the that FERC can override states and permit natural gas pipelines. Right. But they cannot do that with transmission lines. There’s no coherent policy justification for that situation. It’s just an accident of history. And so it’s very easy to build natural gas pipelines and it’s super difficult to build transmission.

 

Brian Beutler: Well, so I mean, unless that that changes and I mean, I guess it could change, right? Because like. Things happened quietly in Congress. And this is one of these sorts of like small technical things that you can imagine making it into an appropriations bill at some point without generating a lot of muss or fuss. But if it doesn’t, I mean, I feel like you already said that there’s like this glut of clean energy that’s waiting to be distributed. And, like, have we have we passed a bill whose main legacy will be adding to the glut without, you know, and then but there’s no way to get it where it’s needed.

 

David Roberts: Well, that’s. I mean. It’s not going to be binary, right? It’s not going to be one or the other. But that’s definitely a worry. That’s definitely a worry. So we need to think about that. I mean, this is part of a larger thing about part of it is nationalizing it. But part of it is just. A big part of building renewable energy is going to be it takes a lot of land. You know, and so you have to deal with a lot of landowners. And there’s no we have no good procedures. You know, the way we sort of plan these things now doesn’t consult with communities in advance. And so communities get presented with these half with these plans, and then they panic, you know, and people don’t like change. So the whole procedure from start to finish needs to be rethought about how to overcome NIMBY resistance. That’s true on transmission. It’s true on housing. I mean, it’s true on it’s true on everything in America. Like, we just don’t we have a serious NIMBY problem and do not have good ways of overcoming it on any really on any dimension. And so you see this sort of analogy in housing, like what California is trying to do. California has realized that if you make these housing decisions at the neighborhood level, you’re just fucked, right? Like you’ve picked the level most likely to contain people who don’t want it to happen. So they’re just moving authority up the chain to the state level right. And the state is saying you have to up zone, you know, land that’s X far away from a transit stop. Right. Or you have to allow accessory dwelling units on every just sort of overwhelming. All those objections at a stroke, something like that needs to happen with transmission. You got to move the authority up the line and just kind of like use the use the heavy hand of government to sweep away some of this shit. We don’t have time.

 

Brian Beutler: Is there a way to ballpark what the effect will be between, like, not getting this right and getting it exactly right? Like back way back in the before times when when we used to write together at Grist, most of the climate climate legislation that went nowhere in Congress, everything from like when John McCain was a senator and writing climate bills to the to the Waxman to the Waxman-Markey bill that you already mentioned it would they didn’t include a pricing element a tax or an auction system. And and based on where the price was set. Supporters of the bill, the authors of the bill would be able to project what its effect on emissions would be like. Can we do that with the Inflation Reduction Act and and how much of its potential is squandered if we don’t get the permitting and transmission piece right?

 

David Roberts: Well, it’s a very good question. Yes, we can model. And yes, there has been extensive modeling done since then. I mean, one of the things the sort of this sort of happened in my world between then and now is that the tools for modeling have gotten much, much sophisticated, more sophisticated and much, much faster now. So now you have this sort of thing where, like, they can release a plan and and a fairly detailed model of its impact can be out days later. So it’s really it’s a it’s a it’s a fascinating evolution. So, yeah, I did a whole podcast with Jesse Jenkins at Princeton, who has led the team who’s modeled this to it within an inch of its life. And as with any model, there are error bars. Right? There’s these are all estimates and they’re all based on a lot of assumptions. And so I sort of asked. Him. You know, like what’s best and worst case scenario here? Like, if everything goes right, it’s not just the transmission. There’s a lot of different things that could go [laugh] that could go right or wrong. There are a lot of different pieces. I mean, just for instance, like how much are fossil fuels, how much oil and gas going to cost? Like, if they get super expensive, obviously it accelerates everything the Inflation Reduction Act wants to do. Right, obviously accelerates all this or if they’re low, then they slow things down. So there’s a lot of different kind of pieces like that that you can’t totally predict that give you your kind of range. So, you know, if everything goes wrong, we’re still going to reduce, you know, between now and 2030, still going to reduce US emissions. You know, something along in the realm of 30 to 40%, just because of momentum, just because of current momentum and current economics and current policies. And just, you know, there’s a certain amount of momentum built in at this part, you know, and at the high end, you can reduce emissions enough to get on track for our target, which is zeroing out the electricity sector by 2030 and getting on a road to net zero by by 2050. As a matter of fact, there’s a report from Credit Suisse that came out, the analysts, the analytic wing there at Credit Suisse a week or two ago, which said that the models and estimations of the bills impact have all been understating it badly, because the thing about these tax credits is they’re not capped. There’s no there’s no you don’t run out of the money once you spend it in a given year. So so if it turns out there’s lots more demand for those tax credits than anticipated, then, you know, they could you could like the headline spending number on the bills, like 375 billion. I think Credit Suisse estimates that. Based on their assessment of of market circumstances, there’s going to be a lot more demand for these tax credits than the sort of conservative models have shown, and that the bill could end up spending around $800 billion, which is more than twice the headline number. And needless to say, like if you’re spending $800 billion, you’re going a hell of a lot faster and doing a hell of a lot more than estimated. So. So, yes, there’s wide error bars and there’s a lot of things that could either go wrong or right. And we’re probably going to come out somewhere in the middle. But basically, I think that kind of take home from the modeling is that given a reasonable set of assumptions, this is going to get us within striking distance of our 2030 target, such that if you supplement it with state, you know, state action, if you supplement it with executive actions from Biden, you know, if you supplement it with with corporate action, which is turning out to be weirdly a big a big player here, then you could basically get to what the US pledged in Paris. So so I mean, it really cannot be overstated if this bill had not passed, we would have been. Disastrously failed on our Paris goals. And that would have sent a very loud signal to everyone involved in international negotiations and in having passed this bill we are now. Within striking distance of it. And if you’re an optimist, you know, on track and going to hit it, which is just like I mean, you rarely get binaries in politics, but this bill really was the difference between total fucking failure and something that looks like success wildly more than anyone in my world anticipated or would have hoped for. So it was a very big deal.

 

Brian Beutler: That’s also promising that I almost like hope that no one sends this episode to Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump [laugh] it’s like it’s like it’s like a guidebook for how they could screw it all up.

 

David Roberts: Well, it’s an interesting question, how they could screw it up in the one of the interesting parts of this bill, like I said, you know, back to the political economy stuff is this bill is structured to be much more difficult to fuck up, right? Much more difficult to reverse, much more difficult to sabotage than, say, Waxman-Markey.

 

Brian Beutler: Oh, I mean, they would fuck it up by by by offsetting the costs of a corporate tax cut with repealing these tax credits, for instance. I mean.

 

David Roberts: But most most renewable energy in the U.S. is in red states. The majority of it comes from red states. So the majority of the recipients of these tax credits, these producer tax credits are going to be red state constituents. So, you know, we know that like the MAGA cultural stuff can make Republican officeholders behave in ways that are counter to their own constituents best interests. I think that’s a that’s a well-known fact. But there’s going to be a lot of money on the other side this time. Right. So if DeSantis wants to screw it up, he’s going to have to do it in the face of a pretty big corporate constituency that is now flourishing based on this bill.

 

Brian Beutler: Here’s a narrower political question for you. And obviously, like, these are questions that don’t have like clear right or wrong answers. But given the given the importance of the of the transmission in permitting piece to the success of the overall bill, is it something that it would be productive of? Progressives, liberals, Democrats in Congress to make a lot of noise about in order to get it. They put it higher on the on the national agenda to get done. Or is it something that everyone should just be quiet about so that. People in Congress who who aren’t like just out to screw everything up can slip it into the right bill and it gets done without much muss or fuss because it hasn’t been become this political football.

 

David Roberts: I think that’s the right instinct. Like this is not this is not the kind of thing that’s going to stir the blood and passions of your average, politically engaged constituent. And as you say. One thing we’ve learned is drawing attention to a subject these days almost inevitably polarizes it. So this does seem like the kind of thing quiet Congress can do, right? Just do it. Get it passed. And that’s kind of how it went in the infrastructure bill. Right. I mean, you heard a lot of stuff about the infrastructure bill and I doubt there was very little public hoo ha about the transmission elements in that which were a huge deal. So, yes, I think the the the people in Congress who are attuned to this issue and who are geared up about this issue, you know, widen like the White House, the people who are running the relevant committees, the people who are engaged, they have this transmission bug in them now they get it like it’s well known within the community. I don’t think it would be fruitful to try to make it any kind of national rallying point because it’s just complicated to explain.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay.

 

David Roberts: The reforms are technical. So yeah, just like tweak FERC rules, no one will ever know and we’ll get more transmission.

 

Brian Beutler: Don’t call your congressman. Don’t call your Senators. [laughter]

 

David Roberts: Exactly.

 

Brian Beutler: Okay. All right. So the amount of good we’ll be able to wring out of the Inflation Reduction Act will become clear over the months and years. In the meantime, climate still warming. And we’re going to keep emitting. We’re going to keep emitting in an optimistic scenario through most of the rest of the century. So help me understand the frontiers of first mitigation, which is large scale efforts to make a warming climate less disruptive for societies. And then second, climate engineering, by which I guess I mean similarly large scale efforts to to unfuck what we’ve already fucked up.

 

David Roberts: Well, that’s complicated. I would take a step back and just say one thing that’s underappreciated, I think, is that we have, you know, if you go back in time, 20 years and look at the models about what could happen to the climate, the range of possible outcomes was very wide, partially because of the current trajectories of emissions, but partially because of the state of science at the time. You know, just more precision was not possible. So, you know, 20 years ago, if you’re looking at the range of possible outcomes, it was within the realm of possibility for sure that we could go up to four, five, even six degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. And like once you’re past four, you are very much within the species as a whole. You know, the on the ongoing persistence of the species as a whole coming into question. Right. Like, like you can easily find climate scientists who will tell you past four, there is no such thing as adaptation. It’s just not going to be a world that is fit for advanced human society. So so the apocalyptic scenarios were on very much on the table. So what’s happened since then is, one, science has got a lot better and more precise. And two, we’ve acted like it’s hard to keep this in mind with all the frustration and all the you know, all the failures and all the pushback and everything else. But but slowly but surely, people are getting their shit together and acting. So there’s been legislation, there’s been advance of clean energy. There’s been you know, so we have actually shaved off basically some of the more apocalyptic scenarios. And now the models show us coming in somewhere between two and three degrees. Optimistic now if you’re an optimist. I think it’s still at least on the table possible that we’ll stop short of two we’ll stop short of two degrees. You know, the two degrees is sort of the mark where where scientists see things start getting apocalyptic around, two. So, you know, it’s like it’s not going to be. Existential for humans, probably. I mean, that’s those those possibilities are not completely off the table, but they’re much, much less likely than we once thought they were. You know, it’s not all going to be rosy either. We’re going to muddle our way through somewhere into the middle where things are like a lot worse than they otherwise could have been, but a lot better than they otherwise could have been. And it’s very difficult to see how that’s going to to shake out. But I just wanted to make the point that sort of like. We have made progress and we have more or less foreclosed some of the very worst possibilities. So progress is possible. We can we can and are doing something about this problem. But, you know, there you can also find climate scientists that will say going above two is is is horrific. I mean, that’s what the IPCC, one of the recent IPCC reports was about the difference between 1.5. You know, I think we’re currently at around 1.2. And 1.5 is sort of the ambitious UN target and two is kind of the absolute must have UN target. And the whole report was about the difference between 1.5 and 2. And it’s a very large difference. There’s a lot of additional suffering that’s going to come. You know, every every fraction of a degree brings a lot more suffering. And there you can find sciences that will tell you that over two is absolutely unacceptable. But will that cause us to panic and resort to these wild schemes of trying to directly control the Earth’s heat? That’s what geoengineering is about, like like shooting up sulfur particles to deflect the light, hitting the surface of the earth or seeding seeding algae or plankton so they’ll absorb more CO2 in the ocean. Like all these grand schemes. I’m very. Like one of my lessons from following politics for a long time is that nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing. And it’s amazing that things work at all. [laugh] The closer you get to anything, the more you think, my God, how does this thing keep going on? How is this not just falling apart? So the idea that we could like globally coordinate to tweak the dial of the global temperature in a way that doesn’t spiral off and produce some unforeseen disaster is just very, very low to me.

 

Brian Beutler: I want a sense of weather like is that. You know, creating carbon sinks that don’t currently exist to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Is that like is that research that we should root for? Is it more promising looking now than it was earlier in the sort of climate era? I just I don’t know. And I also, as much as it like the schemes that found their way into the press always seemed so crazy and high risk and fraught like the concept doesn’t seem like it’s unamenable to like a, like a solution that is low risk and that just helps us undo some of the damage that we, we thought we’d already done kind of irreversibly.

 

David Roberts: I’ll just say this there’s already the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is already higher than is safe and healthy for humans. Right. So already past where we need to be to ensure a stable climate. So one way or the other, even if we eliminated all our emissions tomorrow with clean energy and better agriculture and everything else, we would still need to pull some CO2 out of the atmosphere. So but that’s but there’s a lot of different ways to do that. You can do that with there are natural ways to do that with with plants and agriculture and soils and things like that. There are mechanical ways to do that with what’s called direct air capture. Now you have these just giant fan apparatuses that you put out in the desert and they just pull CO2 out of the air.

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, more of that stuff. [laugh]

 

David Roberts: And bury it. That’s I don’t know. But but I don’t know why. I mean, here’s an enduring mystery to me. Like if you’re looking ahead and hoping for tech breakthroughs, I don’t understand why people look to that stuff. So like the carbon capture stuff has been going basically nowhere for ten years. The grand geoengineering schemes for all the talk about them have not really gone anywhere, proceeded very much in the last ten or 20 years. Meanwhile, you’ve got clean energy technology, which has consistently defied expectations, consistently gotten cheaper, faster, better than anybody predicted. There are even now I’m covering on my podcast. Even now you look around everywhere, there are breakthroughs in how to manage energy, how to store energy, how to use less energy, how to you know, how to digitize energy so we can manage it at a more granular level. There’s just all sorts of amazing technological shit happening right now on the clean side. So it’s just weird for me to people, for people always to be sort of looking to these. Future weird sci fi schemes for their tech salvation. When we have tech salvation unfolding around us right now on the clean energy side. Like I just did a podcast about this a couple of weeks ago. Some new research basically shows that for the four key clean energy technologies that solar, wind, batteries and electrolyzers to make clean hydrogen, those technologies are all on what’s called learning curves, which means when you double deployment costs reliably fall by a certain percentage. And that’s been true now for decades. Very stable learning curves. These things are on. So we know now or we have a very good reason to believe. If we just continue doubling the deployment of those technologies, they will continue falling in price at a very predictable rate. And if we and this is what the research found, if we deploy them at the level we need to deploy them to hit net zero by 2050, which is our which is our shared target, that will involve enough doublings that they will just be dirt, dirt cheap like orders of magnitude cheaper than fossil fuels. Settle the argument no contests left cheaper than fossil fuels. And one of the things, if people want to go having wild technological speculations and utopian dreams, just think about what can human society do with solar energy that is so abundant and so cheap that the main challenge is figuring out what to do with all of it? If we just what happens when we enter a period of energy, clean energy abundance, when we have more clean energy for cheaper than we know what to do with what could you do with a bunch of extra clean energy you could desalinate?

 

Brian Beutler: You can power you could power all the fans to suck the carbon out of the—

 

David Roberts: You could power, you could power direct air capture you could, you know, you could do like let your mind run like, hey, humanity has literally never been in a situation. Energy scarcity is a core feature of human life on this planet for our entire history. So the idea of abundant, cheap energy that we’re literally going out and trying to figure out new uses for like that could go all sorts of fascinating directions. Like you can make all the clean hydrogen you want, you could make all the clean water you want, you could power your factories for basically nothing. Like, I mean, let your mind go. So if people. My point is just like if you want to speculate about future tech, like it’s happening all around you in the clean energy space, you don’t need to resort to solar geoengineering or whatever. Like, there’s amazing shit happening.

 

Brian Beutler: I guess there’s something revelatory about the fact that that in the last quarter century of of investing and tinkering and innovation, that all these strides were made on the energy abundance side of the equation, renewable, clean energy in all the ways you just described. And like no progress has been made on the sci fi, just, just undo what we did with tech, with technology stuff where like the incentives are about the same, right? Like, like it would pay off really handsomely for somebody to invent the safe way to like suck all the carbon out of the atmosphere that we’ve already belched into it. And the fact that there’s been basically no progress on that front, even though there’s been so much progress on the other side of it. I mean, it’s not dispositive, but it tells me that like there’s a big feasibility question.

 

David Roberts: You look at it, the sort of center left pundit bro community. They all love nuclear. They’re all they’ve all become nuclear bros now. And this is like one of the weird things, like if you look back at the last four or five decades. Nuclear has not gotten on a learning curve. Right. It’s not much cheaper now than it was when we started doing it in like you can argue about the reasons for that. But on the other hand, these other technologies are galloping down the learning curve. And I’m just like, where is the I don’t understand the reticence to bet on the horses that are winning. You know what I mean? To like to just say, like, we’re winning. We’re we’re we’re doing it with these with these technologies we have. We don’t need some grand, you know, we don’t have some grand need for some mysterious new breakthrough. It’s very weird to me. You know, you and I both know it probably has something to do with the cultural association of those technologies, with the left, with environmentalists, with with the fuzzy headed—

 

Brian Beutler: Flannel wearing, yeah.

 

David Roberts: If you’re a center left pundit bro, you can not say, oh, the left was correct about anything. Really. You’re just not allowed to. So you’ve got to have some new angles. So, like, nuclear has somehow become that new angle that all these people have. And like, nuclear is fine, whatever. But like, we are having massive, stunning historical breakthroughs in clean energy technology happening all around us now. And we’re still kind of like musing about these weird alternative technologies, like pay attention to what’s happening. It’s a really exciting time.

 

Brian Beutler: All right. So I want to close on on geopolitics, the in this highly uncertain future with promising aspects that we’ve just talked about. Other politics won’t just stop on their own. And I’m wondering, based on what we’ve seen globally over the past decade or so, what your sense is of how the effects of climate change that’s already baked in will shape politics as we get more fires and worse heatwaves and strong fire? Is it necessarily a boon to strongmen assholes who will tell everyone that we live in a zero sum world and we need to crack down on this and that? Or is the is the picture more complicated than that?

 

David Roberts: Oh, my God, it’s so complicated. I mean, the only intellectually credible answer to questions like this are I don’t know—

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah.

 

David Roberts: No one’s going to say that. But like, you know, there are just off the top of my head some global forces acting right now. You have this sort of global reactionary backlash, right, with the hard right on the verge of power in several countries. You can easily and then you got the climate crisis going on, which you can very easily imagine exacerbating that. Right. I mean, they talk about, you know, green fascism, the idea that like it’s going to exacerbate this sense of scarcity, right? So everybody’s going to put up walls, reject immigrants, become more nationalist, become more fascist. You can imagine that happening. But at the same time, these clean energies are getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. And 80% of the world’s people live in energy importing countries. So they don’t have a huge stake in maintaining the fossil fuel lock on the global energy system right, they’re they’re paying to import energy. And so here comes clean energy, which opens the possibility of most or all countries becoming energy self-sufficient. And like, what would that do to global geopolitics? We don’t even know what global geopolitics, without the imperative to secure oil supplies looks like. We have no idea how that shakes out. And, you know, you can imagine a much more peaceful world in the future when everybody’s got their own energy supply and it’s clean. But between here and there, like the declining fossil fuel hegemons like Russia, are not going to go quietly as we’re as we’re seeing. So how is that going to play out in the next ten years? I have no idea. There are so many big, broad global forces converging in the next decade that like, who knows how they’re all going to collide and spin out.

 

Brian Beutler: My instincts on this were until fairly recently actually pretty doom oriented like that, that, you know, that before we were able to—

 

David Roberts: Same.

 

Brian Beutler: —To reach the abundance point, we’d have resource wars and that would lead to the rise of a new generation of strongmen. And maybe that’s already kind of happening.

 

David Roberts: Totally possible. That’s definitely one possible route.

 

Brian Beutler: But but then like if you think about how Europe has responded to the invasion of Ukraine, like Vladimir Putin has tried to create the scarcity that creates resource wars. Right. He’s tried to crush the resolve of Europe by making things more expensive, imposing real resource constraints on them, making energy more expensive going into winter. And like, on the one hand, Italy went and elected a fascist. So that’s bad luck. [laughter] That’s not a good sign. On the other hand, the alliance has actually tightened and grown and the continent has seemingly set down a path to de-russifying its energy needs.

 

David Roberts: And it’s just like, well, there’s an alternative now. Right. I mean, that’s the thing. Like there’s an there’s a glimmering alternative to the geopolitics of oil and gas scarcity. So Europe doesn’t have to just make some other nasty deal with some other fossil fuel exporter or the US doesn’t have to build a bunch of liquid natural gas terminals to supply all that gas that Europe was getting. Europe can reduce its need for gas and oil. That is an option now. And I just think all these global forces are aligning. To give Europe that option. Right. Like to get out of that scarcity mindset. So at least, you know, I totally see the scarcity, fascism, global collapse story. And I absolutely could not and would not rule it out. It’s very live possibility, but the whole point of clean, domestic, inexhaustible energy that does not require these kinds of geopolitical compromises is now glittering in the distance off in the other direction. So at least there’s an alternative now. At least there is something to like row for.

 

Brian Beutler: Right, right. And like it happened so fast that I think that if we woke up tomorrow and Putin had found an off ramp and was going to pull all his troops out of Ukraine, I don’t think he could necessarily count on just restoring the energy status quo ante—

 

David Roberts: Oh, no.

 

Brian Beutler: Right. Like that. And like like the silver lining might be that the world is permanently cleaner and not that that makes the war justified in any way. But like. Like the Pandora’s box he unlocked is not. It doesn’t necessarily tell one simple, awful story.

 

David Roberts: Right? No. No. And we have all very viscerally learned the lesson that it is not good to be reliant on a single hostile power for your energy. So. So that imperative to avoid the next one, right, to avoid the next crisis like this is going to linger on. And the only way to do that is to stop using fossil fuels. I mean, you know, you’re seeing the oil and gas industry and you’re seeing a lot of right wingers around the world try to try to frame this crisis as an illustration of the dangers of moving too quickly to green energy. I’m sure you’ve seen that, that, that kind of thing. But the beautiful thing is that there is a reality in the world. [laugh] So this is not just rhetoric of rhetoric, and it is a fact that clean energy is rapidly, rapidly getting cheaper and advancing and and that the possibility of freeing yourself from dependance on imported oil and gas is real. And I just don’t think once people have recognized that possibility that there’s any like you say, that there’s really putting it putting it back inside the box. I mean, I think the transition away from fossil fuels, I think fossil fuels have probably hit their peak peak demand, peak consumption, and are going to plateau for a little bit and then start declining. And I think all this crisis is going to do is move forward, that whole process.

 

Brian Beutler: All right, David, I have kept you from your yoga for longer than I wanted [laughter] so I’m going to cut you loose here. But this was super informative. I learned a ton, and I’m more than almost all the conversations I have on the show, like leaving it feeling a little, like, brighter about the future than when I went into it. So I have to thank you for so much.

 

David Roberts: Yeah, all the politics stories are horrific and and filled with dread. But this is there’s this one thing, this this this explosion of innovation and advance in clean energy that is like my life, boy. It’s like my life jacket. It’s the only thing keeping me afloat in this sea of dread. So I try to share it a lot.

 

Brian Beutler: All right. Thanks for spending so much time with us. Come back again soon. You can read David at Volts on Substack and listen to Volts wherever you get your podcast. [music break] That strange sensation you feel is that for once, the outlook is rosier than you imagined. Or maybe that’s just the strange sensation I feel. The truth is, I drifted away from the climate beat several years ago for many of the same reasons that the democracy beat often feels so oppressive today. It was a constant drumbeat of bad news, some intermittent positive developments that didn’t match the scale of the problem. Major tests looming on every horizon that we didn’t seem prepared to pass. Bad guys who had an easier job than the good guys did and more enthusiasm for it. But what I took away from David, who never drifted from the beat, is that over time the outlook brightened a bit. The bad guys lost some of their verve. The good guys passed a big, big test. And so, for once, if we squint, we can see our way clear to a future that’s pretty exciting. Even if it would have been better still if we’d gotten our act together just a little sooner. [music break] Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez and our producer is Olivia Martinez. Veronica Simonetti mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.