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In this episode of Thought Café Today, Jon and Hank Green tackle the issue of climate change. Following the September NYC UN Summit on Climate Change, Hank talks about his hope for the future of the climate, the reluctance of many world leaders when it comes to addressing their country’s emissions, and the sense of urgency we should feel when it comes to implementing concrete measures to deal with this issue. Plus, we find out what grades Hank and Jon give President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper on their climate change policies! (Hint: they're not so good…)

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Host:
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Music Composition by:
Allan Levy

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Additional Images:

Not only our island nation that is sinking by Nattu
https://flic.kr/p/71DpBy

Climate Justice by Linh Do
https://flic.kr/p/9AsY6f

Sunset in the Arctic by NASA Goddard
https://flic.kr/p/ccpiVy

Climate Rally Placards by Richard Potts
https://flic.kr/p/9Fmzy7

Long Beach Island Sandy Restoration by US Army Corps of Engineers
https://flic.kr/p/eXtz7J

First Rockaway Beach Restoration Contract by New York District US Army Corps of Engineers
https://flic.kr/p/fUHQbY

Global Warming in USA by Andrea Della Adriano
https://flic.kr/p/3WY5df

Drought 2011 by Kecko
https://flic.kr/p/9zDZ4g

Drought by Bert Kaufmann
https://flic.kr/p/6jb1Bk

Chinese coal mine photos by timquijano
https://flic.kr/p/aLxmAM
https://flic.kr/p/aLxknK

Hurricane Sandy Flooding Avenue C 2012 by David Shankbone
https://flic.kr/p/dpgUwZ

windmills-25 by dfbphotos
https://flic.kr/p/9Vut8c

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John: Hey everyone, it's John, I'm here in Missoula again with Hank Green, and-

Hank: We're wearing the same shirts!

(intro theme)

John: We're going to get a little serious, and we're going to talk about something I talk a lot about, and you talk a lot about, and that's climate change. There was a big meeting this week. United Nations sort of emergency 1-day summit with world leaders. Thoughts on that.

Hank: It's nice to see that people agree that we need to hit a target, without which, we're looking at spending a lot more money fixing infrastructure than we would be spending solving the problem of climate change.

From my perspective, I don't see the conversation being controlled any more, at least in America, by like "Is this thing happening?"

John: Right.

Hank: Which is nice.

John: Yeah, that is nice.

Hank: I stopped having that conversation like 10 years ago, where I was just like, I'm not gonna engage in that, because like, it's clear to me that the posit- like, the place you're coming from, it's "I don't want this to exist. So let's pretend it doesn't." Which is a position I understand, like, it's nice to have business continue as usual. But, it's also frustrating when a city is underwater, and when the climate changes so much that it messes up agricultural production and people starve to death.

John: At the meeting, Obama said we are recognizing this as a huge threat and we are going to come to the table in 2015 in Paris with the actual treaty and actually sign something.

Now, people don't realize this, but this is the first time that the world leaders actually got together since Copenhagen, but that was in 2009. There's been climate summit every single year since then, yet the world leaders don't seem to think it's important enough to go.

Hank: I think they honestly individually realize it's important. There are political reasons why you don't necessarily want to be aligned with it, because- economically, for the most part. Why should I have my country be held back, you know when we need those things for our economic output. Obviously America was built on coal. Like we have a great country, it was built on coal and gasoline. That is where our economic opportunity came from. So that is where we're talking to like developing countries, and we're saying, well, you guys

John: You can't have that.

Hank: need to maybe not burn all that fuel, it's like, well, I mean, it would be nice if we had, like, a growing and robust economy like you guys had for 100 years, based on this cheap source of energy.

John: Absolutely.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper- I'm gonna give him a- like a score, like a test score, and I'm gonna get you to give Obama a test score on his climate change policies.

Hank: Yeah.

John: So, Harper is essentially expelled from this school, he gets

Hank: He doesn't get a grade

John: No, he doesn't even get a grade because if he did, it would be the lowest grade possible. Uh, it's actually really embarrassing, and really pathetic ,and this United Nations meeting, he didn't even show up, apparently he was going to go for like the dinner afterwards. But no pledge, no discussion, and that's how he's been at all the climate summits, so he fails, he's terrible- Obama.

Hank: You gave me a point of reference that makes Obama look quite good.

John: Right

Hank: If I had my choice, I think that Obama would have been talking a lot more a lot sooner. And that there would be more actionable items already in place. Uh, and I think that there are a lot of great ideas that are economically and politically difficult to pull off. But we're talking about taking the leadership role in a global situation that is probably going to end up being the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, and it would be nice to get out in front of it.

John: Yeah, absolutely.

Hank: So I'm gonna give Obama a C. C used to mean average, and I'm going to say that he's doing average.

John: So do you have hope for the 2015 Paris summit where all world leaders announcing this is when a new treaty's gonna be signed, kind of Kyoto 2.0...

Hank: I do have hope. I have hope not just because I think that people recognize that it's a legitimate problem that it we don't face now, we're going to face worse later.

I also have hope for it because technologically, we are in a place where we weren't with Kyoto, where there are actually opportunities to decrease emissions without decreasing economic output. If you look at the costs that we might be dealing with, like building a wall around New York City, the costs start to not look so prohibitive. We are late to the game, but I think that humanity's fairly used to being late to the game. But we act fast when we act.

Here's my hope. By the time I'm dead, fossil fuel emissions will have been decreasing for a long time.

John: Well there you have it. Hank Green on climate change.

Hank: The hope is for once I'm dead.

John: Thanks a lot, and we'll see you next time.

Hank: Yeah. Great to talk to you. Thanks for all of your amazing work.

John: Of course.