Listen: 10 climate lessons we’ve learned in 10 years of Climate Cast

How far have climate solutions advanced in the past 10 years? To celebrate Climate Cast’s 10th anniversary, MPR’s chief meteorologist Paul Huttner talks to an elite panel of experts about how climate change has evolved since Climate Cast began.

When MPR News’ Climate Cast debuted in January 2013, it was one of the few regular programs to address how a warming planet could change life as we know it.

Topics of program:

  • Raising our voices matters w/Katharine Hayhoe

  • Climate change impacts are more expensive than ever w/Bernadette Woods Placky

  • U.S. systems are not built for such extreme climates w/Jason Samenow

  • Weather can solve climate change impacts w/Bernadette Woods Placky

  • There are 5 key truths about global warming w/Ed Maibach


2023 MBJA Eric Sevareid Award, first place in Weather Feature - Large Market Radio category


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[MUSIC PLAYING] PAUL HUTTNER: Hey, everybody. MPR News Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner here. And welcome to our 10-year anniversary Climate Cast special. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since we launched Climate Cast, but here we are and we've created more than 500 episodes now.

Climate Cast started with a simple idea. Let's focus on the latest climate science, news, and solutions every week. And check this out. Here's how we got started on the very first Climate Cast episode with Kerri Miller and then Minneapolis mayor, R.T. Rybak, back in January 2013.

KERRI MILLER: This is a new series we're calling Climate Cast, conversations every Thursday with MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner. We're going to talk about the latest research on our changing climate, the consequences that we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide. Paul is right here in the studio with me, and Mayor Rybak is sitting in. Paul, welcome.

PAUL HUTTNER: Hey, good to be here, Kerri, and R.T. great to see you. We're going to miss you, man.

R.T. RYBAK: I'm not going anywhere. And I'm thrilled that you're doing this because it is-- let's get over the debate about whether there's climate change. Of course, there is. Let's just talk about what to do with it.

PAUL HUTTNER: Fast forward 10 years later, and today I wanted to check in on where we are right now. How much has Earth's climate changed in the past decade? What are the biggest climate change impacts here in Minnesota and around the world? And how far have climate solutions advanced in the past 10 years?

There's so much happening in the climate science, news, and solutions space right now, and we've got an amazing guest lineup today to tell how far we've come and where we're likely headed in the next 10 years.

So let's start with the science. How much has our climate changed right in front of us during our lifetimes, and how is climate science evolving to quantify and predict those changes?

Katharine Hayhoe is widely recognized as one of the world's leading climate scientists. She's a professor with Texas Tech University and the Chief Scientist for the Nature Conservancy. Katharine, thanks so much for joining me on this 10th anniversary edition of Climate Cast.

KATHARINE HAYHOE: Thank you for having me.

PAUL HUTTNER: So we're talking about a lot on the show today. We're talking climate science, news, and solutions. But I want to start with you because you're a real climate scientist, and talk about what has happened to our atmosphere really in the last 10 years but beyond also.

And this is what I love when I hear you say this about climate change. It's real, it's us, and we can fix it. Why does that phrase work so well for you?

KATHARINE HAYHOE: It's short, it's simple, and everyone can understand it. So often when we start talking about climate change, we start talking about heat content of the ocean or millions of square miles of ice in the Arctic, but what really matters is what's happening where we live.

And if we understand this thing is real, we humans are responsible, the impacts are serious but we can fix it, those four things are all we really need to know to get going.

PAUL HUTTNER: So let's break down some metrics and quantify how our atmosphere is changing. Big picture first, and let's start with it's real. We know how much the Earth's temperature is rising because climate scientists like you can measure it, thermometers, ice cores, other proxy data.

We also know globally, the atmosphere has warmed about 1 degree Celsius, a little more since pre-industrial times around 150 years ago. Tell us all the ways climate scientists can measure how our Earth is warming and how we know those metrics are reliable and how we know it's real.

KATHARINE HAYHOE: Well, we use thermometers, of course. We also use satellites, ocean buoys, but we also use what I think of as natural thermometers. And that's what we see in nature all around us. Tree rings, the ice cores that you mentioned, pollen records.

We can go back not only thousands, but millions of years in the past to study how climate has changed. And when we do that, it shows us how unusual what's happening today is. In fact, according to natural factors, we should be getting slightly, slowly cooler right now and instead we're warming faster and faster.

It really isn't about saving the planet itself. The planet will be orbiting the sun long after we're gone. It's about us, humans, and many other living things who are all perfectly adapted to the planet we had, the planet which all of our infrastructure is built for, all of our water is allocated for, but that planet no longer exists.

PAUL HUTTNER: So we know how much atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising because we can measure that too. And we know it's gone from around 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution about 150 years ago to around 420 parts per million recently. So that's a 50% increase. Tell us how we know that increase is us.

KATHARINE HAYHOE: Well, that increase is primarily due to digging up and burning coal and oil. When we burn those fuels, they combine with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

And we can measure how quickly it's gone up and we can actually measure whether it's coming from those fossil fuel sources by looking at something we scientists refer to as the isotopic signature of those gases.

Now, some people might say, well, we've always had natural levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. What's the big deal? Of course, we have had natural levels and we need natural levels of heat trapping gases to keep us just the right temperature for life.

But just as too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, that's exactly what's happening here. We are putting more carbon into the atmosphere more quickly than any time that we can go back in the paleoclimate record millions of years.

And some people might say, well, sure, but carbon dioxide is just a tiny part of the atmosphere. Why would a tiny part of the atmosphere make such a big difference?

And the answer to that is when you get sick, you don't take ibuprofen that's the size of your body. You just take a tiny little pill. And because it's so strong, it's enough to do what needs to be done. You could say the same thing about poison as well. That's why something so small can still be so powerful and can affect us so much.

And then the other thing I often hear people say is, well, it's just a 1 degree Celsius or a 2 degree Fahrenheit warming. What's the big deal between where I am right now and 10 feet away, especially if it's outside? It's a much bigger temperature difference than that.

Well, the difference is we're not talking about weather. We're talking about climate. Climate is the average of weather over at least 20 to 30 years. And over the course of human civilization on this planet, the average temperature of our planet at climate timescales has been as stable as that of the human body.

So over the course of a day, our body temperature goes up and down by a few tenths of a degree, and that's totally normal. Over human civilization, the average temperature of the planet has gone up and down by a few tenths of a degree. That's normal and natural.

But imagine if your body temperature goes up 2 degrees Fahrenheit? You feel chills, you feel achy, you're taking some medicine, you're starting to get worried. That is exactly where we are with our planet today.

PAUL HUTTNER: Katharine, as somebody who works in this space, I'm an optimist by nature, but I'm really a realist also on climate change. Given where we are today, what's your message to our audience about climate change, about where they should be in terms of the work we still need to do and the optimism and hope for the future?

KATHARINE HAYHOE: Often when we think about climate change, we're worried. When I talk to people, I often start by simply asking, how do you feel about climate change in one word? And the answers I get are scared, depressed, paralyzed, overwhelmed, angry, guilty, anxious, frightened.

And I say, yes, those are entirely reasonable, rational responses to what's happening to us. But unless we recognize that our choices make a difference, we're not going to fix this thing.

Too often we picture climate action like a giant boulder sitting at the bottom of an impossibly steep cliff with only a few hands on that boulder, mine and Greta Thunberg's trying to push it up that hill and it isn't budging an inch, right? And that's what we think. And so we think, well, why should I add my hand to that boulder? It's not going to move. It's hopeless. It's pointless.

But here's the thing. When we look around and we see all the cities, all the schools, all the states, all the companies and organizations, all the churches, all the nonprofits, all the people, kids, students, parents, grandparents, when we see all the action that's already happening, we realize that giant boulder is already at the top of the hill.

It is already rolling down the hill in the right direction. And if I add my hand and if I use my voice to encourage others around me to add theirs too, it will go faster.

So that's why I think one of the most important things I did this year was I started a newsletter. And you might say, well, there's a lot of newsletters out there and there certainly are.

But this is a bit different because every week I share one piece of good news about somebody or some organization's hand that is on that boulder rolling it down the hill even faster.

I share one piece of not so good news because we need to understand how climate change is affecting us, and then I share one thing that people can do to make a difference, because as Joan Baez famously said a very long time ago, the antidote to anxiety and despair is action.

And we can't fix this alone but together, I'm absolutely convinced we can do it. And it all begins when we use our voices to call for action wherever we live, wherever we work, wherever we study, wherever we worship, wherever we play, whatever part, whatever group we're part of. That's where we can use our voice to work together to really tackle this thing for what, for a better future for us all.

PAUL HUTTNER: It's a great message, Katharine. Action cures fear. I love it. Katharine Hayhoe with Texas Tech University and the Nature Conservancy, thank you so much for your great insight today on Climate Cast

KATHARINE HAYHOE: Thank you for having me.


JEFF MASTERS: This is Dr. Jeff Masters with Yale Climate Connections congratulating Paul on 10 years of Climate Cast.

PAUL HUTTNER: OK, so now we've heard how the science of climate change has progressed in the last 10 years. Now, how about the impacts of our newer, evolving climate? I'm really excited to talk with this great team about it.

Bernadette Woods Placky is an Emmy Award winning meteorologist and the director of Climate Central's Climate Matters Program. And Jason Samenow is the Washington Post's weather editor and the popular Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. Bernadette and Jason, welcome back to Climate Cast.

BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: Thanks for having us. Excited to be here.

JASON SAMENOW: Yeah, really excited to be here. And it's good to talk to you again.

PAUL HUTTNER: And thank you for doing this. I feel like you guys have climate superpowers. So this is a great team to talk about this today. Thank you. So it's hard to believe that we've been doing Climate Cast here for 10 years. And it got me thinking, so much has changed actually in the past decade.

If you would have said to 10 years ago, Paul Huttner, that we would have seen the number and intensity of all these billion dollar hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, I probably would have been skeptical at the time.

But it feels like we're witnessing climate change happen right before our eyes every week, every month. Bernadette, what stands out to you when we look at these climate change impacts over the last 10 years?

BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: It's hard to summarize just how profoundly they are impacting communities in not a good way, right? We're seeing the number of climate-related weather events just skyrocket.

We're seeing them compound and accelerate. So where a community used to have a little bit of time to recover from an event and prepare again for the future, they're not getting that time.

It's costing a lot of money, it's costing lives, it's costing livelihoods, and it's putting a big toll on people's mental health and the ability to confront future events, and how they could be hitting them in just the next year or next couple of months once again.

PAUL HUTTNER: Jason, same question. What are the biggest climate impacts that you're writing about in the past decade?

JASON SAMENOW: It seems like the number and the frequency, the intensity of all of the weather events we're covering now is just more extreme and it's incredible. As Bernadette mentioned, it seems like there's not a break. It's an onslaught.

And especially during the summer months, I think that's one of the more challenging times of the year because you're dealing with an increase in extremes in the flood events, you're dealing with more rapidly intensifying hurricanes.

You're talking about more intense, prolonged, and frequent and bigger heat waves, and it just seems like you can't catch a break from this. And on top of that, you've got the wildfires, you've got the drought. So the summers in particular are just grueling.

And when you see the toll that these weather events are taking on different communities, especially vulnerable communities, it becomes exhausting and it becomes emotional to have to continually report on this and to see these compounding effects and seeing these events with such regularity.

PAUL HUTTNER: And I know we all work in this space every week. And here on Climate Cast, I really try to make this real for people in their daily lives. Bernadette, here's one way I do it.

Let's talk about how we're already paying for climate change. These billion dollar extreme weather disasters we're talking about are actually already costing each one of us. Insurance is kind of an interesting example.

Insurance rates in Florida now often between 5 and 10,000 per year. And that's for people that live inland. Here in Minnesota homeowner's rates have more than tripled in the last 15 years. How do we connect the dots, Bernadette, between climate change and our bank accounts?

BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: Well, I think your show does a lot of that in some great ways, but this is where Jason's doing it. Media across the country is now finally making those connections in real ways.

So we experience an extreme event. Some of the impacts are obvious for the costs, for the immediate toll on lives and our health, but it doesn't end after the event ends, especially in these communities that don't have as many resources and the most vulnerable among us.

And so that's where we have to continue making these connections of, yes, this storm is connected to climate change, but it is also connected to what you're already paying to recover, how that factors into your future costs.

As you said, insurance, the flood insurance program has gone through some major ups and downs. California and parts of the West are really trying to figure out how they're going to cover people with wildfire insurance, especially when affordable housing is already a massive issue.

Then you add all these extra pieces on top of it with the economy and COVID, and it's driving people who have really worked hard most of their life and done everything right out of homes.

And so the actual cost is pretty tremendous and what we're already paying. And we've gotten to a point now where the cost of taking action and leading toward climate solutions is more affordable than what we're paying in the impacts.

PAUL HUTTNER: And Jason, you touched on this. Let's talk about the pace of climate change. I mean, we're only at about 1 degree Celsius of global temperature rise since pre-industrial times. The pace just seems to be increasing this onslaught, as you called it.

How is this amplified 21st century climate and water cycle that we go from flood to drought to fire kind of outstripping our systems, our infrastructure that was built for a 19th and 20th century climate?

JASON SAMENOW: Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, you know, when you think about it, you're right. We've seen about 1.2 degrees Celsius of change, but the increase in extremes is increasing disproportionately.

In other words, we're seeing a bigger change in extremes than you might expect for that amount of warming. And that has climate scientists particularly concerned because if we go to 1.5 Celsius warming or even 2 degrees Celsius of warming, we're going to see these extremes continue to proliferate.

And you're absolutely right that our systems are built for a climate which was a degree cooler. And so the cost of trying to adapt to these extremes is going to be profound.

So it makes it incumbent in planning decisions to think about where we're headed in terms of the different extremes that we're facing and how they're changing, whether it's a flood system in New York City.

When we saw Hurricane Ida go through and you saw 3 inches of rain or more or 4 inches of rain falling in an hour, the systems there weren't built to withstand that.

And so if we see these extremes continuing to get worse and you see 3 to 4 inch per hour rainfall rates, you see the wildfires increasing the speed at which they spread, you see hurricanes rapidly intensifying and bringing these tremendous storm surges onto the Coast-- we saw that with this past hurricane season with that 15 foot surge in Southwest Florida around Fort Myers. I mean, that was phenomenal.

And you add sea level rise on top of that, there's just a lot of thought that needs to be put into planning across the different economic sectors, whether you're talking about agriculture, whether you're talking about health, whether you're talking about water. All of these different systems are very vulnerable to extremes and they are just proliferating before our very eyes.


BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: Paul, I'm going to jump in for one second on that one, too, because I live in New Jersey and Ida was a personal one. And Jason is so correct. That was a really well forecast storm.

The 3 inches of rain in an hour, I mean, was very known. However, more than 30 people in New Jersey lost their lives and even more in New York City in basement apartments.

So we had this very well forecast storm that-- there was some breakdown in understanding of what does that even mean. People don't know. We haven't experienced 3 inches of rain in an hour.

So it's hard for humans to even process what that means, let alone the water rushing into the subway system, the water swamping the roads in Philly with the Vine Street Expressway, which runs across the city, just becoming a swimming pool. And then our wastewater treatment plants not being able to wash the water away in time and just getting overwhelmed.

So as Jason said, it's not just updating our systems that keep us safe and clean and prepared from the past, but preparing for a changing climate that hasn't settled into a normal. It's still accelerating in it's changes.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, and I always like to say it's not always by heat, but by water because this warmer atmosphere amplifies our hydrologic cycle and our cities are just not ready for the kind of rain and snow that we're seeing.

We're all meteorologists here. So how about a little bit of a forecast, if you will? Bernadette, what will you be watching for in the next 10 years? I mean, what's the next level of climate change impacts and solutions that you think we'll see?

BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: There's a lot of ways we could take that answer. But since you teed it up as us being meteorologists, I'm going to really focus in on the fact that weather is one of the ways we're solving this, wind and solar.

This is weather and this is dramatically shifting how we get our electricity. And as society can move as much as possible over to electrically driven cars and transportation and within our home units and our businesses and our buildings, then we power that by multiple forms of renewable energy.

But again, I'm honing in on the forecasting aspect of this. This is weather powering our future. And so that's one of the areas where we're already seeing tremendous growth, but we'll see even more.

PAUL HUTTNER: Jason, how about you? Where do you think we'll be if we're having this conversation in another 10 years?

JASON SAMENOW: Well, I'm hoping that we're going to evolve from being scared about climate change to being prepared about climate change. And I think obviously right now is a really scary time when we see the escalating climate change impacts and we see the projections for a fairly dire future.

But the solutions are there. And if we're able to work together at all levels from the individual to state, local, federal governments to international cooperation, and we're able to get this under control and we're able to finally get to the point where we're saying that we can limit global warming to some level, whether that's 1 and 1/2 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius, hopefully not above 2 degrees Celsius, then we can really start to focus on, OK, how are we going to get there and how are we going to get this to level off so we no longer have to worry about the most extreme, the most dire scenarios and really focus instead on how do we solve the problem, how do we become more resilient, how do we deal with the consequences and the changes that are in the pipeline so that we feel better about the future we're leaving behind for our children and our grandchildren.

PAUL HUTTNER: Well, that's a fascinating conversation, the two of you, to check in at this 10-year mark of Climate Cast. I appreciate you being here today.

Bernadette Woods Placky with Climate Central, Jason Samenow with the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, thanks so much for breaking down the impacts of climate change and taking a look ahead to the future today.

BERNADETTE WOODS PLACKY: And congratulations on 10 years.

JASON SAMENOW: Likewise, congratulations. And thanks again for having us.


MARK SEALY: Hello, this is Mark Sealy here. I wanted to offer my congratulations to Paul Huttner for giving us 10 years of great education and awareness when it comes to climate change and climate impacts on our world, especially here in Minnesota. Nothing but the best wishes to Climate Cast and all its staff.

PAUL HUTTNER: So we've talked about how climate science and weather patterns have changed in the past decade. But what about public opinion? Ed Maibach is a distinguished university professor and director of George Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication. Hey, Ed. Thanks for joining us on this 10th anniversary edition of Climate Cast.

ED MAIBACH: Hey, Paul. Thanks for inviting me.

PAUL HUTTNER: Hey, I wanted to talk to you because one of the things that has actually changed a lot in the past 10 years is climate change opinion. So give us a little inside baseball methodology here, tell us how you've been tracking climate change opinion for the past decade plus, and who are you asking?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, so with my colleague, Tony Leiserowitz, at Yale, we have been conducting a poll that we call Climate Change in the American Mind every six months since 2008.

And the way we conduct the poll is essentially we have a method of randomly selecting American households. This is people who say they are willing to take our surveys and we contact them via email.

And it is really since the beginning of this poll, more than 10 years ago, it's always been the case that most Americans accept the reality of climate change, but they have tended to see it as a distant problem.

Distant in time-- so maybe 2100, but not 2008 when we started. Distant in space-- maybe Bangladesh, but not their hometown of Boston. And ultimately, distant and species. Polar Bears for sure, but not really so much people.

PAUL HUTTNER: So let's dig down into the numbers a little bit because I see the overall opinions on accepting climate science has moved forward a lot. What do the latest numbers show about how much climate change opinion has changed in the last 10 years?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, we track a whole raft of different measures and the change is different depending on the measure. But one of the things that we've learned from our research is what I call the five key truths about global warming.

And the reason why they call them the five key truths is, one, because they're all true, but two, because people who understand all five key truths are much more likely to be engaged in bringing about solutions, doing something about the problem.

And those five key truths are the fact that it's real. Global warming is real. That it's us, it's human caused. That the experts agree, that there's really no disagreement among the experts, no matter what you hear about it on some news stations. That it's bad. It's bad for people in a whole variety of ways. And finally, that there's hope, that there are actions we can take that will make a difference.

And so with regard to its real, the proportion of Americans who understand the climate change is real hasn't changed all that much in the past decade. It was about 6 out of 10 Americans a decade ago, and now it's about 7 out of 10. Although that one big change is that the proportion who say they are very sure it's real has increased pretty dramatically.

PAUL HUTTNER: That's significant to me. And I know another thing that you've worked on with Anthony at Yale is these Six Americas on climate change opinion. What are those specific categories about how people think about climate change and how are those changing?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, the idea there is that there's really no such thing as the general public. It's a term that we all use a lot, the public or the general public, but that never really does justice to the way people really think and feel about issues.

So we used our survey data back in 2008 to identify distinct ways of seeing the issue out there among the American people. And what we found was six distinct ways, which is why we call them the Global Warming's Six Americas. And the proportion of people who are in each of those Six Americas has changed dramatically over the past decade.

So, for example, the one group of Americans who are most alarmed, most worried about the problem, in fact, we call them the alarmed, 10 years ago, that was about 1 out of 10 people, 13% to be exact. And as of last fall, it was more than 3 out of 10 Americans, 33% to be exact.

PAUL HUTTNER: So it tripled.

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, well, 2 and 1/2 times.

PAUL HUTTNER: Just about.

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, right. And I mean, that's a huge change in public understanding of an issue in a decade. And the gratifying thing about that or the reassuring thing about that is pretty much all of the people I know who are experts on climate change, they are alarmed. They are extremely worried about this problem.

So the fact that an increasing number of the public is catching up to them in terms of understanding the severity of this issue that we're facing, I think that's an important step forward.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, and let's just talk about some of these categories. You've got the alarmed. On the other end, it's the dismissives, right? What are some of the categories in between?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, well, I'll give them to you in order, OK? Think about it as a continuum from left to right. So the first is the alarmed, which we've talked about.

The next group is a group we call the concerned. They like the alarmed, they're absolutely convinced that climate change is real, but they tend to see it as being a little bit more distant, distant in space, time, and species than the alarmed.

Then next to them is a group we call the cautious. And again, they tend to understand the realities of climate change, but they see it as even more distant, even more distant than members of the concerned segment.

And then a very small group called the disengaged, who just really haven't had time to think about the issue because they're working 2 and 1/2 jobs just to pay the rent.

And then a group that we call the doubtful, who, because they've heard doubtful comments, skeptical comments about climate change through the news media channels they pay attention to, they also have doubts. And that's currently about 1 out of 10 Americans.

And then the other group that you mentioned on the far end, on the right end of the continuum, we call them the dismissive. And they are also about 1 out of 10. And the two groups that feel most strongly about the issue are the two groups at the ends of the continuum, the alarmed and the dismissive.

PAUL HUTTNER: And those top two categories, the alarmed and is it the concerned?

ED MAIBACH: Correct.

PAUL HUTTNER: Do they now make up the majority of climate change opinion in America?

ED MAIBACH: They do.

PAUL HUTTNER: And what's that number between those two categories?

ED MAIBACH: Well, as of last fall, it was-- let's see, let's see if I can do my math, 53%.

PAUL HUTTNER: OK, so that's pretty significant. Well, let me ask you this, because we do Climate Cast every week and I feel like I'm not really talking to the dismissive because I don't know if there's any payoff there.

The alarmed, I'm probably preaching to the choir. I feel like I'm talking to people in the middle. Is that an effective way to communicate about climate change these days?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, so if you think about the Six Americas as a continuum, the one group on the left, the alarmed, these people are ready to take action. They don't necessarily know what actions are most important for them to take.

So there's a very important role that you're undoubtedly playing, Paul, in terms of helping those people understand which actions are going to be most consequential, which actions are going to be most helpful.

The segments in the middle of the continuum, the concern, the cautious, the disengaged, and really to some degree even the doubtful, I think the most important service you can provide them is just, frankly, teaching them more about the realities of climate change as a here now us problem in our community.

And the group on the far right, the dismissive, I'm pretty sure they're not listening to you. And even if they were, I'm just not sure that they would actively be listening as opposed to yelling back at you through their headsets.

PAUL HUTTNER: And I like to talk about solutions, too, because, A, it's an exciting space to watch evolve, and it does give us hope. And there's a lot happening there. And we're talking about that in this hour to.

Let me ask you this. You did a recent study on why people's opinions are changing. How are extreme weather events and people's own experience changing minds on climate?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, Paul, I'm so glad you asked that question, especially given that you're a meteorologist. That is one of the indicators-- I didn't even really fully appreciate that until last night in preparing to talk to you, but that's one of the indicators of climate understanding that has changed the most in the past decade.

So 10 years ago, fewer than 3 in 10 Americans felt that climate change was changing the weather here in the US and now it's almost 2/3. So more than 6 in 10, a doubling of the proportion of people who get the fact that the weather isn't what it used to be and it's really as a result of climate change.

And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense because in fact, climate, as you know all too well, it's the average of weather conditions over a very long period of time, typically thought of as 30 years or longer.

So we can't really directly experience the changing climate unless we've been in the same place for three or more decades and we've got a good attention span, but we sure can experience the weather.

And so the most direct manifestation of the way climate change touches our lives is through an increase In the severity or the rate of extreme weather events that are happening in our community.

PAUL HUTTNER: Yeah, and you're right. I mean, there are long timers here in Minnesota, myself included, who do know that our winters are very different than they used to be 30, 40, 50 years ago. There is that portion of the population that understands that, I think.

Hey, let's look ahead. What will you be watching for, what should we be watching for with climate change opinion in the next few years? What trends are you seeing?

ED MAIBACH: Well, one important trend is that in the most recent election, which just played out, we really didn't see Republican candidates talking about climate change.

And I would contend that that's actually a good thing because normally when Republicans-- in prior election seasons, when Republican candidates talked about climate change, they were speaking out against climate change, against the belief in our human caused climate change and against taking action on climate change. But that didn't happen in the most recent election.

And I think the reason why that is, is because young conservatives in America, that doesn't play with them anymore. They actually would like their leaders to acknowledge the realities of the problems that we face.

So I think that's a really important step forward and I hope it continues to play out. America will be a much better country if we can take climate change out away from being a prisoner of the culture wars in America.

One other thing that I think everybody should keep their eye on, and that is the fact that Congress did pass the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which despite its name or in addition perhaps to its name, it's a major climate solutions bill.

So a whole lot of money is going to be flowing through federal agencies to help Americans, homeowners, renters, business owners to start to participate in the clean energy revolution at a much more affordable price than they could have previously participated.

So my guess is that public enthusiasm for climate solutions is about to skyrocket because as more families, households, businesses, small businesses are enabled through good public policy to participate in the clean energy revolution, more and more will see the benefits of doing so.

PAUL HUTTNER: And we did see in the last midterms that the Gen Zers apparently are a surging part of the vote. And you're the data guy on climate change opinion.

So correct me if I'm wrong here, but climate change support grows as you skew younger. How does that booming, burgeoning young millennial and Gen Z generation affect climate change opinion and potentially policy going forward?

ED MAIBACH: Yeah, no, that's exactly right. Young people care about this issue much more than their parents and their grandparents, on average. The split, the age split is bigger among conservatives than among liberals because, frankly, most liberals in America, they're pretty darn worried about the problem and very supportive of government taking action to address it.

But as I said before, it's this divide among conservative Americans and the fact that their youngsters, young conservatives are-- they just don't want to hear that nonsense, climate denial anymore.

So I think it's going to play a very beneficial role in helping to-- I'm about to use a French word that I'm not sure I can say quite right, but it will create a rapprochement between liberals and conservatives because the young liberals and conservatives really are of much closer to being of one mind and wanting to see government move forward and deal with this problem.

PAUL HUTTNER: Well, Ed, your French is much better than mine. So we're going to let you have that one. You know what, thank you so much, Ed Maibach with George Mason's University Center for Climate Change Communication. It's a great conversation. Thanks for making us smarter on how people think about climate change.

ED MAIBACH: My pleasure, Paul. Thanks for having me.


KEVIN TRENBERTH: I'm Kevin Trenberth. I'm a distinguished scholar at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. And I congratulate Paul and Minnesota Public Radio on their efforts over the last 10 years in dealing with climate change. They're actually ahead of the game. Congratulations, Paul.

PAUL HUTTNER: So when I'm out and about, I love talking to all of you about weather and climate. And many of you ask me, Paul, what's the most effective thing I can do to support climate progress? So let's talk about that. What's the pace of climate solutions? I have two well-versed guests today who work in that space.

Jamie Alexander is the director of Drawdown Labs, and John Foley is the executive director of the bigger umbrella of Project Drawdown. Jamie and John, welcome to Climate Cast.

JONATHAN FOLEY: Thanks for having us.

PAUL HUTTNER: So let's start with Project Drawdown. Jamie, what's the big picture of your work in the climate solutions space?

JAMIE ALEXANDER: Yeah, so Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that really exists to research and then communicate to the world what the biggest solutions to climate change are, and to change the narrative from one of focused on the problem and the doom and gloom to one that's focused on the solutions. And hey, we already have these solutions at our fingertips, and to really kind of empower people to act on those solutions.

PAUL HUTTNER: And John, we like to talk about solutions here on Climate Cast because that space is exciting. And a lot has happened in the last 10 years or so. What can you add about your work and perspective?

JONATHAN FOLEY: Well, so Project Drawdown is, again, like Jamie said. We exist to serve around climate solutions because we've all heard so much about the problems for years and years and years about how the planet's warming up, we're causing it, it's going to be bad. But when we get to what can we do about it space, it seems to be kind of underwhelming. But that's all changing now.

In fact, I've been working in climate change for close to three decades now, and I've never been more optimistic about our opportunities to address climate change than I am now. Even though we've still got a big hill to climb, we have more tools and more ability to address climate change than we've ever had, and those are growing exponentially every day.

PAUL HUTTNER: So let's talk about that because here's a data point that jumped out at me. Minnesota has achieved 25% of our electric generation from renewable resources the past few years. So John, is this growth in renewables, is it happened faster than many thought it might have just 10 or 20 years ago?

JONATHAN FOLEY: Yeah, absolutely, because we've seen a couple of things. Actually, at the national level, this surprises a lot of people. But the United States as a whole has actually been seeing a decrease in all of our emissions overall as a country by about 20% since 2007.

Most people don't expect that to be true, but it is. Even though our economy has grown, our population has grown, our emissions have been going down since 2007. That's true in Minnesota, too.

And what's also really interesting is the price of especially solar photovoltaics, but also wind power has fallen more than anybody ever expected. Even the optimists have been caught off guard by how cheap solar and wind have gotten.

And solar today is now the cheapest form of energy humans have ever had in our entire history. So no wonder it's finally winning. It's beaten coal and it's going to beat natural gas in the marketplace really, really quickly. And that's great news.

PAUL HUTTNER: Jamie, what's your perspective here? How far have these climate solutions advanced in the last 10 years, and what are some specific examples that you're watching?

JAMIE ALEXANDER: Yeah, clearly, as John said, our emissions are falling. But we do need to put the pedal to the metal even more and see much faster and bigger action.

And so the thing that I'm looking at is what the big actors in society are doing to help us move much, much faster than any one individual can. So I'm really looking at what large corporations are doing.

We have a lot of big business in the Twin Cities, who have a lot of cloud and influence and can really help us move the needle much more quickly than any one individual.

I'm looking at what big investors are doing to help move money into climate solutions. So really looking at these big actors in society and how they're helping us shift away from the source of the problem and toward the solutions.

PAUL HUTTNER: John, what about transportation and our food systems? Is that kind of the next low hanging fruit for reducing carbon emissions?

JONATHAN FOLEY: Yeah, I mean, as you mentioned before, electricity emissions are going down because we've been phasing out coal. Soon we'll be phasing out natural gas. And renewables are picking up the slack and accelerating. That's good news. So electricity, we're on it. We got a lot of that going and a lot more to do, but the momentum is there.

The next big shift will be around transportation. And now we're seeing some very exciting and kind of long overdue changes in transportation. Americans still love big cars. We didn't go for the small, tiny cars that got 40 miles per gallon, but we are going for hybrids, we are going for electric vehicles.

And for the first time, electric vehicles now comprise about 5% of the vehicles sold in this country. And when other countries hit that kind of magic 5% number, it seemed to shoot upward all of a sudden because people saw more and more electric cars around, they got excited about them.

The charging infrastructure is getting better exponentially. And now due to the Inflation Reduction Act, we're going to have big tax breaks for electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrids come 2023. So I think we're going to see a huge acceleration in plug-in hybrids, regular hybrids, and electrics that are going to help a lot.

But of course, we also need to pay attention to mass transit, light rail, buses, just walking, bicycling. E-bikes are really exciting. Those will really help quite a bit too.

Food is going to be a little bit more of a challenge. Globally, about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions we emit as a whole planet comes from food and agriculture. But that also means doing things like cutting back on food waste.

Also, this is uncomfortable for some folks, but shifting our diets a little bit towards more plants and a little less red meat and dairy. Not 100%, but what can we do to mix it up a little differently?

But also grow food better, more kind of regenerative practices that are called, things that put back the carbon in the soil and in the vegetation while we're still farming the land.

All those things together can make a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, but nothing more than protecting rainforest would do, which is probably the number one thing we can do in agriculture is prevent the clearing of rainforest areas for beef, for soybeans as animal feed, for palm oil and so on.

That's the number one priority. But that's not something Minnesotans can do much about directly, but Minnesota firms sure can in the global marketplace. Companies like Cargo and General Mills and others can play a big role in this.

PAUL HUTTNER: Interesting to hear you talk about the EVs. I had the opportunity to jump in a Ford F-150 Lightning at the Minnesota State Fair last year.


PAUL HUTTNER: It was kind of neat. And the waitlists are through the roof. The demand is there. So it's very interesting to see these trucks electrify, too.

JONATHAN FOLEY: Well, it's funny. There's a funny ad that Ford put out that showed a bunch of guys piling it up in an electric Ford F-150, driving off to the mountains with their amps and guitars to go set up for a concert. And they get there and the power is out. So what do they do? They power the whole concert from their truck and put on a big concert--


JONATHAN FOLEY: That's talking to real, everyday rural Americans. It isn't just the Priuses and the little cars for city folks. This revolution is going to include pickup trucks, minivans, SUVs, and small vehicles all across the board. It's just a better way to build a car.

PAUL HUTTNER: And everyone's invited to. That's the--

JONATHAN FOLEY: Absolutely. Yeah. Red or blue, small town or big city. It's all of us.

PAUL HUTTNER: Jamie, we are making progress. That's the good news, right? We need to move much faster as far as the atmosphere is concerned to change or to stay at that 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius of global temperature change. What are you seeing? What are the challenges here? What are the rays of hope? How do we fix climate change and maintain economic growth?

JAMIE ALEXANDER: Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the most important learnings that for me over the past few years has been, a lot of this, we're still learning in real time, especially inside corporations.

Like, what are the different leverage points that we have at our fingertips to move things faster, things like our banking practices? There are new things that come to light it seems like every day.

We can shift our banking practices, and large corporations can do this as well, shifting our finances away from those banks that finance the sources of the problem and toward climate solutions. So there are new strategies we're learning about every day that we can apply. And when bigger actors apply them, it helps move things much faster.

And one of the things that I'm looking at up here in Duluth, where I live, is how we're going to work to transition workers in the iron range, for example, and how mining is going to shift and that transition.

And I think that's going to be a really, really important thing that we get right and can really bring communities up here in the Northland together across the mining community and the environmental community. And that's what we're going to need to move things forward.

PAUL HUTTNER: So John, we're talking a lot of large-scale problems and solutions. And that's important, of course. But I get this question all the time. For folks who are listening, they ask, what are the biggest one or two things that I can do in my life to support climate progress?

JONATHAN FOLEY: Well, that's a really great question. One of our colleagues, a woman, Katharine Hayhoe, who's just a wonderful climate scientist and communicator at the Nature Conservancy, she says the best thing we can do about climate change is talk about it because a lot of what we need to do is change the larger systems we're all part of.

We get to change the way our politics are working, the way our economics work, the way our communities are organized. And we do that in democracies by talking about these things, by debating them, by sharing them on MPR and things like that.

And so the best thing we can do, of course, is talk about climate change and make sure that we talk about the solutions as much as the challenges. In fact, I'd like to hear a lot more about solutions and benefits of climate action because this is going to be good for us.

These things that we need to do for climate change are going to make us save money, create jobs, improve places across Minnesota and beyond, and it's going to be great.

Jamie mentioned she lives in Duluth. I live in Owatonna. Strangely, we both lived in San Francisco just two years ago. And prior to Drawdowns, four of our senior staff have moved to Minnesota, even though we're a national nonprofit.

But we can do a lot of things in our backyards at home, too. A lot of things that save us money, like retrofitting our homes when we have the chance. Now taking advantage of tax breaks, insulating and weatherizing our homes, improving our heating and cooling systems to new, efficient, made in America heat pumps, for example.

That would be great to. Getting more efficient vehicles that save us money at the gas pump when gas is $5 a gallon. Then you don't have to go buy it anymore. That's fantastic.

Or small things like reducing food waste and eating our leftovers. Make sure we take home the doggy bag or make sure we can take home our leftovers. And also shifting our diets to things that are a little bit more climate-friendly when we have the chance.

There are so many different things we can do, but talking about it and engaging in a larger conversation, not just in the voting booth, but every day about what we buy, how we talk, what we post on Facebook, what we listen to, how we chat about it, and even at work asking questions about our retirement funds, what our company is doing about climate change, and so on.

We can be part of a larger democratic conversation as a society that really brings climate change to front and center, but also all the benefits climate solutions bring to us too.

PAUL HUTTNER: So John, you're in Owatonna. I'm in the Twin Cities. Jamie, you're in Duluth. I think we have I-35 pretty well covered here. That's the good news. Jamie Alexander and John Foley with Project Drawdown, thanks so much for sharing some solutions with our Climate Cast audience today.


JAMIE ALEXANDER: Thanks for having us.


MARCELO MENA: I'm Marcelo Mena, the CEO of the Global Methane Hub, and I'd like to congratulate Paul Huttner and his team putting together the Climate Cast podcast for over 10 years on Minnesota Public Radio.

PAUL HUTTNER: It's hard to believe we've been doing Climate Cast for 10 years now. In 500 episodes. I've talked with many of the world's leading climate scientists, and I've also heard perspectives from Indigenous leaders, policy makers, and a certain former vice president.

You came within a whisker of the presidency in 2000. How would climate policy be different in the United States had there been a President Gore?

AL GORE: Well, I like to think it would have been completely and totally different. The pace of technology is amazing, and I'll never bet against it.

PAUL HUTTNER: Ben Fowke, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of Xcel Energy, thanks for sharing your insight today on Climate Cast,

BEN FOWKE: Paul, it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

KATHLEEN PADULO: Walk softly today and take what you need, not what you want, and to share that responsibility.

PAUL HUTTNER: Chiefs of Ontario Environmental Director, Kathleen Padulo, thanks for being on Climate Cast today. US House District 3 Representative, Dean Phillips, thank you for your perspective on Climate Cast today.

DEAN PHILLIPS: Thank you, Paul, very much.

PAUL HUTTNER: They're here all week, ladies and gentlemen.

SPEAKER: All week.

PAUL HUTTNER: Everyday. Thank you so much.

SPEAKER: That's right. Thank you,

PAUL HUTTNER: Mayor Melvin Carter.

SPEAKER: Thank you.

PAUL HUTTNER: Mayor Jacob Frey.

Now, we look ahead to see what the next 10 years will bring. How fast will the storms and droughts continue to intensify? How will climate science, news, and solutions evolve? And what new climate, technology, and progress will we see?

Thanks for listening. And you know what, thanks for all you do to make our climate and weather and our planet more sustainable. For Climate Cast producers Kelly Gordon, Megan Burks, and Ngoc Bui, that's Climate Cast. I'm MPR News chief meteorologist, Paul Huttner.


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