The Climate Question

By BBC World Service

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Scott Chambers
 Nov 7, 2020
what a fabulous opportunity to hear about this global challenge from people living on the front line. presented with humanity and humour. looking forward to it!


Stories on why we find it so hard to save our own planet, and how we might change that.

Episode Date
Can indigenous knowledge help us fight climate change?
Indigenous people represent only about six percent of the world’s population, but they inhabit around a quarter of the world’s land surface. And they share these regions with a hugely disproportionate array of plant and animal life. According to the UN and the World Bank, about 80 percent of our planet’s biodiversity is on land where indigenous people live. Global climate policy has however been slow to recognise that indigenous knowledge - built up over centuries - is worth listening to. This is despite the fact that sometimes in very remote areas, where scientific and meteorological data is lacking, this knowledge may be all there is. Indigenous knowledge can provide valuable insight into what adaptations have worked in the past, and so provide an important guide to the future. What are the barriers to bringing indigenous knowledge out from the margins of climate research and policy, and can they be overcome? Guests: Nancy Kacungira, journalist, BBC Africa Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, environmental activist and member of Chad’s pastoralist Mbororo people and Earthshot Prize Council Nigel Crawhall, chief of section, local and indigenous knowledge systems, UNESCO Aida Sanchez, assistant professor at Norwegian University of Life Sciences Presenters: Neal Razzell and Graihagh Jackson Producer: Darin Graham Researcher: Zoe Gelber Editor: Emma Rippon
May 09, 2021
Why can't we crack our food waste problem?
From fruit rotting in fields, to retailers turning down funny shaped vegetables, and consumers scraping leftovers into the bin, food waste is everywhere. It’s estimated that around a third of all our food ends up not being eaten. If we could sort this, total greenhouse gas emissions would reduce by around eight percent. To put that in context, the only countries that are responsible for emissions of that size are China and the US. So, what can be done? Graihagh Jackson and Jordan Dunbar discuss fixes - big and small - and hear from a farmer in Morocco turning apples that would otherwise rot into vinegar. The first thing that needs to happen for change to start is for governments to properly count the climate cost of food waste. And that, it seems, is a long way off. Guests: Dr Tammara Soma - Research director of the Food Systems Lab at Simon Fraser University Dr Liz Goodwin - Senior fellow and director in food loss and waste at the World Resources Institute Mahacine Mokdad – journalist Presenters: Jordan Dunbar & Graihagh Jackson Producer: Olivia Noon Editor: Emma Rippon
May 02, 2021
Is carbon the new calorie?
More companies are rolling out carbon dioxide emission labels on products to help us make greener choices. Unilever, the global consumer goods giant, recently announced it is committing to put carbon footprint information on 70,000 products, while multi-national companies Oatly and Quorn have already started adding labels like this to their packaging. But this is not the first time companies have tried this. In the 2000s, for example, an international supermarket put carbon labels on hundreds of products, but cancelled the project after a few years. Why are carbon labels coming back now, and what does this information really tell us? How do you measure the carbon footprint of a product? And will this drive behaviour change and help the environment? Presenters: Neal Razzell and Graihagh Jackson Producer: Darin Graham Researchers: Zoe Gelber and Olivia Noon
Apr 25, 2021
What does the world want from the US?
President Biden has invited the world’s major polluters to a summit on Earth Day (April 22nd). It may be the biggest climate summit ever organised by an American leader. On the campaign trail last year, Mr Biden said climate change was his “number one issue.” Now, the pressure is on for him to make a big announcement. But while the US has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, it has no official plan to hit the Paris targets. Frantic work is underway in the US to come up with something that satisfies the President’s lofty campaign rhetoric but can actually get through America’s polarised, gridlocked political system. Ahead of the summit, The Climate Question is reaching out to climate diplomats and experts from China, Bangladesh, the EU and beyond, to hear what the world expects from the US on climate change. Presenters: Neal Razzell & Graihagh Jackson Producer: Jordan Dunbar
Apr 21, 2021
Is it time to ditch the plough?
Cities, money, roads, beef burgers and telephones, in fact pretty much all of human civilisation as we know it, would probably not exist were it not for one simple invention. The plough. This humble yet revolutionary tool enabled us to cultivate vastly greater amounts of food than our hunter gatherer forefathers giving rise to villages, cities and empires. But it has come at a cost. Nearly 10,000 years of cultivated agriculture have released billions of tonnes of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere. Just within the EU, it’s estimated 5% of current greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural soils. That’s more than aviation and shipping combined. Around the world an increasing number of farmers are adopting new methods without the plough to restore soil health and lock more carbon into the ground. But some scientists are questioning whether the potential for carbon sequestration into the soil is being over hyped. What’s more, for millennia the plough has been a crucial ally in boosting yields and in the coming decades we are going have to produce lots more food to feed the growing global population So the Climate Question is; Is it time for us to ditch the plough?
Apr 11, 2021
Is science fiction holding back climate action?
For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change. This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good - causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action. So for this week's climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back? Graihagh Jackson is joined by: Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change. Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television. Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.
Apr 04, 2021
What can we do about climate migration?
Bangladesh is a country that is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change. With a low elevation and high population density, as well as poor infrastructure and an economic reliance on farming, it is naturally susceptible to extreme weather. The intensification of conditions due to climate change means more people are being driven from their homes and land by sea level rises, storms, cyclones, drought, erosion, landslides, flooding and salinisation of the land. It's estimated that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will become a climate migrant. But Bangladesh is far from being alone. Across South Asia, it’s estimated that more than 40m people will be displaced; worldwide, the figure runs into the hundreds of millions. Climate migration is coming. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Guests: Akbar Hossain - reporter, BBC Bengali Service Qasa Alom - presenter, BBC Asian Network Dr Tasneem Siddiqui - founding chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit in Bangladesh Dr Kanta Kumari Rigaud - lead environmental specialist at the World Bank Presented by Graihagh Jackson and Neal Razzell Produced by Alex Lewis Researched by Zoe Gelber Edited by Emma Rippon
Mar 28, 2021
Climate justice in the courtroom
A Peruvian farmer is suing a German fossil fuel company, the city of Baltimore has filed a lawsuit against 26 oil and gas firms, and a Polish coal mining company was taken to court by its own shareholders. Activists, investors and everyday people are increasingly pursuing climate litigation as a means to exert pressure on companies and shift our societies onto a more sustainable trajectory. But success is far from assured. Our climate question this week is: Can companies be held accountable for climate change? Guests: Saúl Luciano Lliuya - Peruvian farmer Florence Goupil - freelance journalist Rupert Stuart Smith - DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford researching climate change litigation and attributing climate change damages to individual emitters Sophie Marjanac - climate accountability lead at Client Earth Presented by Graihagh Jackson and Neal Razzell Produced by Zak Brophy Researched by Dearbhail Starr and Olivia Noon Mixed by Tom Brignell Edited by Emma Rippon
Mar 22, 2021
Must our future be cast in concrete?
As the world becomes more populous, experts say we’re likely to use 25 percent more concrete in the next decade. But concrete is also responsible for eight percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. There are concerns that the industry isn’t taking its carbon footprint seriously enough. So our climate question this week is: Must our future be cast in concrete? Guests: Arpad Horvath, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkley Professor Karen Scrivener, head of Laboratory of Construction Materials at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland Anupama Kundoo, professor of architecture at the Potsdam School of Architecture, Berlin, and working architect Sophia Yan, China correspondent for The Telegraph Presented by Graihagh Jackson and Neal Razzell Produced by Alex Lewis Researched by Zoe Gelber Edited by Emma Rippon
Mar 15, 2021
What will happen to the fossil fuel workers?
The rise of renewables is good news for the climate, but for millions of families who rely on fossil fuels for a paycheque, it means big changes. People have been talking about a “just transition” for decades. The term was first used in the 1990s, when US unions were demanding help for those who'd lost their jobs because of tightening environmental laws. Now it means looking at how we decarbonise our economies around the world, without leaving certain people behind. Neal and Graihagh hear from Craig, Colorado, as it plans for the shut down of its coal mines. They also hear from the Middle East and North Africa, where countries have relied on oil and gas for their economies. The money from fossil fuels has kept an instable region together in the past, so what happens when that money runs out? Reporter: Sam Brasch, Colorado State Radio Experts: Laury Haytayan, Middle East and North Africa director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute; Professor Paul Stevens, Distinguished Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme at Chatham House. Producer: Jordan Dunbar Researchers: Olivia Noon and Dearbhail Starr Editor: Emma Rippon
Mar 08, 2021
Can we be ‘nudged’ to act on climate change?
Drastic change is needed to limit the increase in the global temperature caused by climate change. More than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions come from how we live our lives. But the behaviours that drive these emissions tend to be deeply habitual and hard to shift - the way we heat our homes, what we eat and how we travel to work. And our behavioural good intentions all too often fail to translate into action. So our climate question this week is how we can be nudged, or even shoved, to change? Guests: Elisabeth Costa, senior director, Behavioural Insights Team Erik Thulin, behavioural science lead at the Centre for Behaviour and the Environment at Rare Professor Martine Visser, behavioural economist at the University of Cape Town Mo Allie, BBC reporter in Cape Town Presented by Graihagh Jackson and Neal Razzell Produced by Alex Lewis Researched by Zoe Gelber Edited by Emma Rippon And if you’ve got a climate question, then email the team:
Mar 01, 2021
Have we planted too much faith in trees?
It seems we all love trees. Politicians, celebrities and big businesses love trees too. They’re seen as a natural climate fix because they eat carbon dioxide, one of the main gases that cause global warming. The number of trees pledged in the coming years runs into the billions. Pakistan wants to plant more than three billion trees in the next couple of years. Ethiopia claims to have planted 350 million in one day! Neal Razzell and Graihagh Jackson try to see the wood from the trees amongst all these claims, and discover that a ‘forest’ planting campaign doesn't always end up creating the natural woodland we imagine it to be. And to add to the urgency of the climate crisis, there's a new problem - a warming world may mean plants can’t suck up our carbon dioxide as effectively. Have we planted too much faith in trees? Experts: Dr Kate Hardwick, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew Prof Pedro Brancalion, professor of forest sciences at the University of São Paulo Dr Ben Ben Poulter, NASA Goddard Space Centre Rafael Bitante, SoS Mata Atlantica Project Producer: Jordan Dunbar (London), Jessica Cruz (Sao Paulo) Researcher: Soila Apparicio Editor: Penny Murphy
Feb 22, 2021
Does big money really believe green is good?
When a man sitting on nearly $9 trillion dollars of funds speaks, CEOs, investors and politicians listen. In late January, Larry Fink, boss of the world’s largest hedge fund, BlackRock, announced in his annual letter that "climate risk is investment risk. But we also believe the climate transition presents a historic investment opportunity.” He's not alone in championing big money's green awakening, but the titans of finance remain invested in the fossil fuel industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. So does the rhetoric marry with reality? Guests: Caroline Le Meaux - Head of ESG Research, Engagement, and Voting policy at Amundi Jeanne Martin - Senior Manager at Share Action Vishala Sri-Pathma - BBC business reporter
Feb 15, 2021
Can the internet ever be green?
The big tech firms of the world have reported record profits during lockdown. These firms are some of the industrial titans of the digital age. Their ability to manipulate vast quantities of data is revolutionising, well, everything. From streaming games and movies, to automating mining operations, controlling medical devices and even simple emails, the internet has brought incredible advances right across the globe. But we now know that previous industrial revolutions placed a huge burden on the planet. Our climate question this week is: Will this one be any different? Facebook has pledged to use only renewable energy by the end of 2020, not 2030, as we stated in the programme. Guests: Dr Rabih Bashroush - IT infrastructure expert, The Uptime Institute Dr Stephanie Hare - Author and tech researcher Mats Lewan - Tech reporter, Stockholm Presented by Graihagh Jackson and Neal Razzell Produced by Jordan Dunbar Researched by Soila Apparicio Edited by Emma Rippon
Feb 08, 2021
Will Africa really leapfrog to renewables?
Africa has an electricity crisis. Hundreds of millions of people lack cheap, steady supply, crippling lives in countless ways. Every other continent has electrified off the back of fossil fuels but Africa, on the face of it, has the opportunity to do it differently. Researchers found that some 2,500 power plants are planned across the continent. But the majority are expected to run on fossil fuels threatening to lock Africa into dirty energy for decades. In this edition of The Climate Question, we ask: What would it take to bring clean power to every African? For answers, we have one of Africa’s leading experts on power. Damilola Ogunbiyi ran the Lagos power authority before taking over efforts to electrify Nigeria’s rural communities. Today, she’s the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. We are also joined by Tony Tiyou, the Cameroonian CEO of the firm Renewables in Africa. And we hear from a community in Nigeria where people just want the lights on, now.
Feb 01, 2021
How can we live with the SUV?
Lockdown saw historic drops in global emissions in every sector, except one: sports utility vehicles, or SUVs. They are among the best-selling cars in markets around the world, from India to China, South Africa and Germany. But these vehicles pollute much more than a normal sized car, and require more fuel to move and energy to make. Seen as a status symbol and wrongly thought of as safer than other cars, what can we do to wean ourselves off this polluting vehicle? Featuring World Service India reporter Arunoday Mukhardji; New York Times Shanghai editor Keith Bradsher, author of High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV; Jillian Anable, Professor of Transport and Energy at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds; and Jim Holder, editorial director, Haymarket Automotive.
Jan 25, 2021
Does Africa have a voice on climate?
Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate is on a mission to make sure Africa is listened to on climate justice. In early 2019 she started taking to the streets of Kampala to protest about climate change. It was a lonely pursuit. She was often on her own, or at best with a couple of her siblings or friends. But she quickly started gaining recognition, and has since spoken at the UN and Davos. However, a year ago she was thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when the Associated Press cut her out of a photo with four other white youth climate activists at an international climate conference. That painful experience has since informed her activism and role within the climate movement: "We will not have climate justice without social and racial justice", she says. So, of all the problems the African continent is facing, why did she choose to raise her voice on climate change - and is anybody listening?
Jan 18, 2021
Jakarta: A warning?
As sea levels rise due to global warming, what does the future hold for our coasts? Already threatened by rising tides, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is in a perilous situation - it is sinking. We join reporter Resty Woro Yuniar on a crumbling sea wall to hear the reality of living under sea level, and speak with the engineer responsible for fighting flooding from both the sea and the mountains. We hear about plans to abandon the city as a capital, and try again on drier land. Author Jeff Goddell describes being next to the glacier that could show just how high the oceans could rise. Solutions in the past have involved building our way out of this problem, but some locations will be too expensive to save. Is Jakarta a warning to us all?
Jan 11, 2021
A year to save the world
Five years ago, there was widespread celebration after world leaders signed up to the Paris Agreement. However, despite pledging to pursue efforts to limit global warming to just 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, emissions have continued to rise. Many are saying the COP26 conference in late 2021, where world leaders will meet again, is a make-or-break moment to turn words into action. What needs to be achieved? What is the cost of failure? And where are the signs of hope for success? Justin Rowlatt and Navin Singh Khadka talk to Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF), who was previously France’s climate change ambassador and special representative for COP21, and a key architect of the landmark Paris Agreement. They are also joined by Christiana Figuerres, who was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) between 2010 and 2016, and Dr Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, and reader in environmental data science at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. Producer: Zak Brophy Researcher: Soila Apparicio Editor: Ravin Sampat Sound Design: David Crackles
Jan 04, 2021
2020: A year of extremes
Not only has this year been one of the hottest on record, but there has also been a catalogue of record breaking extreme weather events. From the unprecedented bush fires in Australia to the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, we pick apart how climate change is impacting weather systems and the lives of millions of people around the world. Justin Rowlatt, the BBC’s Chief Environment Correspondent, and Navin Singh Khadkha, the multi-lingual environment correspondent for the BBC’s World Service, are joined by Dr Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and an associate professor in the Global Climate Science Programme; Prof Adam Scaife, the head of long range forecasting at the UK's Met Office; and Laura Meller, a Greenpeace spokeswoman on board their ship the Arctic Sunrise. Producer: Zak Brophy Researcher: Soila Apparicio Editor: Ravin Sampat Sound Design: David Crackles
Dec 28, 2020
Are Catholics ignoring the Pope on climate change?
In 2015, Pope Francis asked Catholics the world over to protect our planet. But five years on, with emissions and extinctions rising, what difference has it made? And have any other religions followed suit? For answers, Neal and Graihagh are joined by two leading voices on the environment: Christiana Figueres, who helped the world reach the Paris Climate Agreement, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope’s leading climate advisor. They’ll hear evidence from Poland, a Catholic country that runs on coal and where Church leaders are not always in step with the Vatican’s teaching on the environment. They’ll also assess the global impact of the Pope’s green push, and talk about the role of faith in fighting climate change. Produced by Anna Meisel and Eleanor Biggs Editor: Ravin Sampat. Sound Design: Tom Brignall
Dec 21, 2020
The secret solution to climate change
If we educate and empower girls and young women, they are likely to have more control over their fertility. And with fewer people on the planet, it becomes the number one climate change solution. But it’s more complicated than it sounds, and not without controversy. Experts: Christina Kwauk, a fellow in the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, and Paul Hawken, founder of Project Drawdown Reporter: Ashley Lime Producer: Jordan Dunbar Researcher: Eleanor Biggs Editor: Ravin Sampat Sound mixer: Tom Brignell
Dec 14, 2020
How to hurricane-proof our world
The record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season has devastated parts of the Caribbean and Central America. We’ll hear what it has meant to one neighbourhood in Nicaragua. In a speech this week, the UN Secretary General said that “apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal.” What, if any, is the link between hurricanes and climate change, and should we be preparing for even stronger storms? Presenters: Neal Razzell, Graihagh Jackson, Alfonso Flores Bermudes Researcher: Zoe Gelber Studio manager: Tom Brignell Producer: Anna Meisel Editor: Ravin Sampat
Dec 07, 2020
A degree away from carnage
Climate scientists have shifted the definition of what they believe is the "safe" limit of climate change. Researchers argued the global temperature rise must be kept below two degrees Celsius by the end of this century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But what are those worst impacts in reality? What does it mean to people, communities and the world we live in? In this episode, we go to the people who see the effect of the rising temperature in their daily life. Produced by Eleanor Biggs & Jordan Dunbar Edited by Ravin Sampat
Nov 30, 2020
The war on trees and what it means for disease
Many people have worried that the Covid-19 pandemic meant the harm of climate change was being ignored. But could the opposite be true? Neal Razzell and Graihagh Jackson look at the links between both emerging pandemics and deforestation. We’ll be on the ground in Nigeria, with BBC reporter Nkechi Ogbonna showing us the reality of farming and land use change in the tropics. While in the bush, she meets an illegal logger to find out their take on climate change and pandemics. Professor Thomas Gillespie studies emerging infectious diseases, the types we don’t even have a name for yet. His work has shown the problems of land use change for mining and agriculture and the emergence of diseases that jump from animals to humans, like Covid-19. The more we cut down, the closer we get to diseases we’d never encountered before. We also hear about global solutions from World Service environment correspondent Navin Singh Kadhka, and how we can help in the fight to save the rainforests.
Nov 23, 2020
America v China
Will a Joe Biden presidency be better for the environment than President Trump’s policies? Is China really set to take the lead on tackling climate change? And can the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases work together for the good of the planet? We're joined by former governor of California Jerry Brown, now with the California-China Climate Institute at Berkeley, and Daily Telegraph journalist Sophia Yan. Presenters: Neal Razzell, Graihagh Jackson, Vincent Ni Researcher: Eleanor Biggs Producer: Anna Meisel Editor: Ravin Sampat
Nov 16, 2020
Introducing The Climate Question
Not just a show about climate, it’s also about how we can change. What’s stopping us from stopping climate change? Finding new ways of understanding what is happening to our world and the solutions that are out there.
Nov 02, 2020