Finally, a Real Plan For Our Climate (with John Doerr and Ryan Panchadsaram)
Andy brings clear, simple answers to one of the most intimidating and important questions of our time: is there a plan that can actually solve climate change? John Doerr and his colleague Ryan Panchadsaram join Andy to introduce the most systematic and easy-to-understand plan to solve the climate crisis as the COP26 Climate Change Conference unfolds in Glasgow, Scotland. This episode brings hope to a desperate time.
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Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Get more information on John and Ryan’s plan: speedandscale.com
- Keep up to date on the latest happening at COP26: https://ukcop26.org/
- Read more about Bill Gates’s idea of the Green Premium: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Introducing-the-Green-Premiums
- Read more about the climate provisions proposed in President Biden’s Build Back Better plan: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/10/28/climate-biden-build-back-better/
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- Order Andy’s book, Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250770165
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Andy Slavitt, John Doerr, Ryan Panchadsaram
Speaker 1 00:00
To state the obvious, we meet with the eyes of history upon us and a profound questions before us. It’s simple, will we act? Will we do what is necessary? Will we seize the enormous opportunity before us? Or y’all we’re looking down future generations to suffer. This is the decade that will determine the answer, this decade. The science is clear. We only have a brief window left before us to raise our ambitions and to raise to meet the task. That’s rapidly narrowing. This is a decisive decade, in which we have an opportunity to prove ourselves, we can keep the goal of limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius within our reach, if, we come together, if we commit to doing our part of each of our nations with determination, and with ambition, that’s what COP26 is all about. Glasgow must be the kickoff of a decade, a decade of ambition, and innovation to preserve our shared future.
Welcome to IN THE BUBBLE. This is your host, Andy Slavitt. Lots going on, including COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, which is, I think, without being overly dramatic, one of our final few opportunities to really change the course that we’re on with the planet now. Great, that just sounds just horribly depressing, because how are we going to change the course that we’re on with the planet. And while everybody’s covering the political commitments and everything else, today, we’re going to do something very, very special. I think on IN THE BUBBLE. Today, we’re actually going to present a just released, just released yesterday, the first I think, plan, that in detail lays out how we will recapture the globe and stop climate change in the tracks. It’s not necessarily easy. But it’s super detailed and clear. And it’s been put out by John Doerr and a number of colleagues, one of whom will be on the podcast today. And you have to listen to it, I have to tell you, as you’ll hear me say to John, this is a topic that I kind of shied away from, because it scared me so much. And I didn’t know what the solutions were.
Andy Slavitt 02:46
And I know that he’s been hard at work on this plan. And this plan is just being introduced. And it really lays out how every giga ton of carbon, and methane gets eliminated from the atmosphere with very specific clear actions on what, what needs to be done. And it’s actually quite, quite hopeful to see it all. So I think you’re really going to gain a lot from this episode. I’m really happy with it and proud of it. John, is an engineer from the Midwest, he got excited about technology, because he’s an engineer. In the early days of Silicon Valley, he got excited by what entrepreneurs and technology could do to change the world. And he met people like the founders of Google, and the founders of Apple and the founders of Amazon. And he was kind of a mentor to them and fateful times as an investor. He backed these entrepreneurs, largely when others were overlooking them, including, I think, very famously writing the first check to support a company, that was Google. And he continues to be on the board of Google. He’s a very, very influential person. But you’ll see he’s the Midwestern engineer has not left John.
Andy Slavitt 04:09
And what he’s chosen to do with his life in his time has been fascinating. He is focused really on big things that will help change the world and save the world, including many things in health care, but really, for a long time, including trying to figure out how to attack climate change. He’s been doing this with Al Gore with a number of other people. And he’s the one that wrote this book, that is this plan in this book that’s called Speed and Scale. It’s an action plan for solving our climate crisis now. And you know, I think as someone who brings a level of engineering, thoughtfulness, wisdom, precision, and also clarity, to a problem, it is amazing to see someone like him put his efforts in this place, and I think you’re going to hear on the show, just how transformative this work could be, I really think. And the reason they sound enthusiastic is I really think this could be the turning point or part of the turning point and helping the globe figure out how to do what it’s going to do. It’s tremendously well researched. But it’s also really easy to read and get lots of examples in it. I devoured it.
And now I feel like I understand this topic. And I want to convey that to you in this conversation. Joining him is Ryan Panchadsaram. Ryan was the deputy CIO of the US government. He worked out of the White House in the Obama administration. He is technologist, but also someone who has just a tremendously creative person. Back at the time, when the CDC wasn’t putting out any data about COVID-19, he started a website that became the definitive source for how different parts of the country were doing, relative to COVID over the course of 2020. He’s just super creative and super great. And I think you’ll just hear that come shine through in the podcast as well. So let me just get to my conversation with John Doerr and Ryan Panchadsaram.
Andy Slavitt 06:15
So I have an admission to make to start out this podcast with which is, I am very intimidated by the concept of climate change. I’m worried about it. But I don’t feel like I understand it. And I don’t feel like there’s much I know to do about it. So as a result, I don’t ignore it. But I, when I read about it and hear about it, I tend to be intimidated, because I feel like I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how big the topic is. I don’t know where the issues are. And I don’t, I don’t really know if there’s a plan to fix anything. And then I see this book by our guest today, John Doerr, and Ryan Panchadsaram and that’s changed everything. In one moment, from when I picked up this book, my entire attitude towards climate change has gone from, it’s mysterious, and indeed too big and too difficult to understand, particularly for someone who’s not sciency like me. Two, I get it, I see it, I see what needs to be done. And there actually is a path to fixing it with a lot of context. And a lot of stories. I don’t normally do this. I don’t think I’ve ever done this on this podcast before. But as I welcome John and Ryan, I would tell you, this is a book you’re gonna want to read. And if you’re like me, you may want to read it twice. And it turned me to cover to cover and then cover to cover. I mean, read a paragraph, read it again, because there’s just so much in here. So this is a real tour de force, John and Ryan, welcome to IN THE BUBBLE.
Well, thank you for having us coming from you. That means an enormous amount. I’ll confess to your audience that I first met Andy, when he and Ryan were rescuing healthcare.com. The website. And I know of no more patriotic and capable leader in the healthcare industry than our interviewer, Andy Slavitt. So to hear from him that this book is useful means a lot.
Andy Slavitt 08:25
Well, thank you, John. And I would love to spend the hour talking about me, of course, because, you know, that’s how I am. But we’re not. We’re going to talk about you guys. Ryan, welcome to you and indeed, as John said, Ryan, and I are not only old friends, but old colleagues. Ryan was in the Obama administration, overseeing a lot of the technology, and now works closely with John and worked very closely with him and putting this book together.
Thanks, Andy. It’s great to be here. It feels like we get drawn to crises and trying to figure out ways to fix them.
Well, that’s a perfect place to start. John, why did you write this book? What did you intend to do? What purpose do you think it’s going to serve?
Well, Andy, I wrote the book because my now 30-year-old daughter, some 15 years ago, watched Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth with me. And at the end of it, she said, Dad, I’m scared and I’m angry. Your generation created this problem, you better fix it. And so I set out with my partners to find, fund and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. And we toured the world. We crawled through all the labs, we convened top scientists, we advocated for policies. I met with hundreds of entrepreneurs, Kleiner started to invest more in this field. We invested a billion dollars in over 100 Ventures and I developed a lot of scar tissue. Many of these ventures failed but we stood by these innovators and today that billion dollars is it about $3 billion. But even more important than the economic successes, or what we learned from it, which is that innovating in this field costs a lot of money. And it takes a lot of time and the horizons are longer than most folks will stand for. But this the success stories, whether it’s a Tesla, or beyond me, or Sunrun, those are the change agents. And they’re bringing part of what we need to do to avert catastrophic, irreversible climate crisis. I mean, in the end, this is about us having a habitable planet, for our kids and in for our grandkids. And this is the decisive decade, the time to act on this is now in fact, we are fast running out of time.
Andy Slavitt 10:52
So John, and Ryan, of course, jump in here as well. Talk a little bit about the steaks, you know, we often hear about a degree and a half of temperature increase. And I wonder if you can just help us understand. What does it mean? And what does the world look like with even a degree and a half of temperature increase, which I think we’ve all heard is sort of baked in? And what does it look like if it’s not one and a half, but two, or three or four? And then I think we can begin to talk about what we might do to influence that outcome. But help people who are kind of living here today in the 2021, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what the world looks like in 2050. What might that look like?
So one-and-a-half-degree world, according to the latest UN report, gives us a 60% probability of averting a runaway climate crisis, 60% chance that we’ll get there. And only in the most recent UN reports, are we beginning to factor in something very hard to model. And those are the tipping points that the prospect that Tundra and Permafrost might melt, or we lose the Arctic ice year-round to tell you the truth. What we have, and families I think can relate to it is a carbon budget. We’ve already warmed the planet by 1.2 degrees Celsius compared to pre industrial levels. And that warming we know comes about because we’re burning things. When we burn fossil fuels. We emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Andy Slavitt 12:39
This is carbon, methane, things like that?
Exactly. Carbon, methane, are the two largest offenders, nitrous oxide from fertilizers, there’s about eight or so greenhouse gases, they all get combined into a formula called the greenhouse gas equivalents. And what we know now is we can emit another 400 gigatons, that is our greenhouse gas equivalent carbon budget to stay under 1.2 degrees C. Now, there’s three numbers I want you to remember, the world is emitting greenhouse gases at the rate of 59 giga tons per year. And that break with business as usual, is going to grow, there’s more people, there’s more economic activity, we have to take that 59 giga tons, and cut it to a net zero by 2050. And even more urgently, we have to cut it in half by the end of 2030. Now, if our budget is 400, and we’re emitting it 59 giga tons per year, according to my rice mathematics. If we don’t begin immediate and drastic reductions, we’re gonna blow through that carbon budget in just eight years or so.
John Doerr 14:05
What does a world that’s one and a half degrees, or even two degrees warmer look like? Well, remember, we’re talking two degrees Celsius, a degree and a half of Celsius is 2.7 degrees, I believe of a Fahrenheit. And even that may sound like a small number. But we can imagine, in fact, the science would predict a world where the kinds of devastating hurricanes and wildfires that we’ve recently experienced the droughts, that those aren’t the new normal. That’s a step along the way to a truly horrific abnormal, where there would be 100 million climate refugees, where the developing world will experience really mass starvation, where we’ll lose control of the climate system that has given us for millennia, a Goldilocks kind of planet, a place where the human Anthropocene was able to flourish and leave a great impact on our Mother Earth. Ryan, how would you describe the 2-degree outcome?
Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, all these numbers, the fear of climate change, the crisis, the warming, any I don’t think it’s meant to paralyze, right, like they focus on the number one and a half has meant to say, that is the point where things get warmer in the world, to a degree where things get worse, right, we have to accept, the world is warmer because of all the emissions we’ve already put out. And the idea is, if we drastically cut those emissions, that UN report says, We’ve got 400 Giga tons left, or across the one and a half. But let’s say with all our effort, we emit more than 400, we still have to try to keep it to 450 to 500, to 600, because a warmer world is something we can’t accept. So if we end up at being 1.6 degrees or seven degrees, we have to see that as a success, because there are a lot of folks saying, Well, you know, that budget, we’re gonna blow through it, we don’t have to do anything about it, the world is going to be the world. And I really, really reject that we have to cut emissions as fast as we can. We have to prevent the world from getting warmer than we’ve currently, you know, placed it on.
Andy Slavitt 16:29
I want to come to that, which is the plan, which is really the bulk of Speed and Scale, the book you’ve put together. But before I do that, if the temperature and the planet warms by two degrees Celsius, is it recoverable? Or is wherever we land as good as it’s going to get?
My answer to that question is where we land is as good as it’s going to get. This is a particularly wicked problem, where the warming effect of the greenhouse gas emissions is the sum of all the emissions over time, it takes hundreds of years, to some degree a millennia to remove a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere using today’s technologies. Now part of our plan calls for aggressive innovation, and means to take giga tons out of the atmosphere. But there is no substitute for drastically cutting emissions, ending the use of coal, ending the use of gas, ending the use of oil pursuing, in parallel, all hands-on deck, the four major elements of our plan.
Andy Slavitt 18:09
When I think about 59 giga tons of fossil fuels being emitted. And I think about how can we’ve sort of known this for some time, I think a bellwether book was in Inconvenient Truth about two decades ago. And we fail to act. It creates a sense of in the public, that we’re just not able to, we just don’t know how to. There’s no path there. And this is where I found that I think, your book, at least for me, and I think for everybody I know who looks at it, is the next turning point that we need, because what it does, is it basically takes that 59 giga tons. And it breaks it down into a series of activities that you line out. And you describe what people might call goals, which you refer to as objectives in a few different categories that it tells us where that 59 comes from, and what steps we need to take, or what are the key results we’re looking for that add up to 59 billion. And I will tell you that I got a warm, fuzzy feeling, just knowing that there’s some math that adds up to 59 Giga tons. And seeing that and seeing where it comes from and seeing that there are steps we can take, before I even begin to put on the notion of what’s realistic, what’s not realistic, was very comforting. And then you know, the book lays out the work that very, very smart people are doing and have been doing for some time, in a very gettable way. So can you just talk us through the plan? What are the major elements of the plan, now we’ll tell the audience that you don’t have to take notes. This is at a website called speedandscale.com. There is a very handy print out, that shows the math and really get away for people like me. But talk people through the 59 giga tons, and what the action plan is for solving the climate crisis?
John Doerr 20:22
To plan, simply, and starkly put is to transform society. This is a monumental effort. And I want for a moment to compare it to the mobilization for World War Two, because, in my view, the stakes then were existential. And they are again, here. And now. You remember for four years during World War Two, we stopped making automobiles, we stopped making appliances. We turned out 268,000 aircraft, we turned out 10s of 1000s of ships, and we amassed the weapons and the tools to stand and fight and defend democracy. Well, we’re fighting for the future of the planet this time. And we’re doing that in six simple, but big realms. The first element of the plan is to electrify transportation. And that’ll take eight of those 59 gigatons down to two.
So you’re talking about electric cars, electric buses, things of that nature.
Exactly right, and the batteries and the charging infrastructure to go with all transportation electrify. The second, and the biggest opportunity is to decarbonize the grid. And that’s to take globally 24 Giga tons of global electricity emissions down to three Giga tons. That’s a net reduction of 21 Giga tons.
John, I want to stop in each one to make sure that at each one I punctuate something that someone like me can relate to. So what you’re talking about there is replacing one of the things you’re talking about replacing coal, with things like renewable energies, like solar and wind, is that really what you’re talking about when you talk about the grid?
John Doerr 22:12
Exactly right, decarbonized grid using wind, solar and safe nuclear. The third thing, the third big objective is to fix the food system. And that’s going to be by eating less beef and dairy, wasting less food, and improving soil health or agricultural processes. The fourth big objective is to protect nature, our oceans, our forests, our wetlands, our grasslands, stop deforesting the Amazon as an example.
The role that forests play, I want to make sure that as you get I get a little bit in here as to understanding why, you talk about their six giga tons of benefit to stopping deforestation in places like the Amazon, could you talk about the role that trees and forests play?
Trees are the most powerful and natural way that we have to take carbon out of the atmosphere, sequester it in the tree itself in its roots underground. And it’s a remarkable, large, easy to achieve. In theory, source of cutting emissions, it’s six Giga tons per year of savings. According to our plan.
Six out of 59.
And the powerful piece there Andy is like for ending deforestation is the clearest way to get their six Giga tons, right? You know, we talk a lot about planting more trees, we have to protect the ones that are currently there. Like when you think of the tropical rainforest, the density of the foliage, the amount of life, the amount of soil, that’s all carbon, that’s why the plan is very specific around and the deforestation. But later on, we also talked about adding more trees. But really, if you had to pick $1 between saving a forest or planting one, we’ve got to save what we have, because those are our current natural carbon sinks.
Andy Slavitt 24:05
So you’ve gone through fourth, what’s next?
We’ve got to clean up industry. And that’s how we make essential materials like steel, and concrete, very dirty processes. And these will save or net us some eight gigatons. But at the end of those five big buckets, there’s going to remain carbon in the atmosphere, and that’s emitted in the atmosphere. And so for that we’re going to need to be innovative and find nature based and engineering-based ways to remove carbon to and direct air capture is often mentioned as a promising area for innovation. Right now it costs around $600 per tons to remove through direct air capture a single tons of carbon emissions. So you can see that applying this to 10 gigatons would cost $6 trillion per year, I want to emphasize not only the speed, but the scale at which we’ve got to proceed to do this. And because the number is so large, we’ve got to move out on all of these fronts at once. And we’ve got to use what the book describes as accelerants to go faster to get it all done in time. And there’s four accelerants winning the politics and policy, turning movements into real action, such as the anxiety that our children, my daughter, […] feels. Greta Thunberg is an example of impassion youth leading a movement. But we also must innovate, I’d like to say that deployment is a powerful form of innovation, we already have cheap enough wind and solar, that in most places in the world, it can outperform and outcompete dirty coal. And in […] cases, natural gas, but we still need to find ways to build better batteries to get to green hydrogen, to remove carbon. The fourth and final accelerator, Andy is investment. And we have to invest like crazy, our governments have to invest more, the private sector must invest more, we need more, and we’re getting more venture capital and philanthropists have to invest more. But I want to return to where you started. This plan can and will work. It’s a tall order. But it shows all the major steps, all the numbers adding up. And therefore I think it’s I found doing the work to be inspiring, and motivating.
Andy Slavitt 26:49
There are a number of things in this book that you very honestly call out. It’s things that have to change for this to be successful. And some of them, it feels like if they do change, things get much, much, much easier. And so you point to policy issues, you point to other things that need to change innovations, extended battery life, so forth, I want to focus on one of them, because I think it’s one that the audience will entirely appreciate and understand, which is something you talked about called the Green premium, which is how much more it costs to take the more planet friendly option. So in other words, how much more will it cost me to heat my home? If I do it through solar and wind? Versus if I do it through what’s on the grid today? How much more would it cost me to buy a Chevy Bolt versus a comparable car. And you talk very explicitly about the fact that you believe that as soon as the best option for the planet becomes the cheapest option. It’s a massive accelerant. And that as long as it’s a premium, there may be some limited number of people that may be willing to pay the premium. But there may be many people who would pay that premium if they could afford it, but that most of the planet just won’t be able to afford it. And you put a fine point on this by saying you not only have to have an electric car that’s cheaper than a cheap car in the US. But you got to have an electric car that’s cheaper than a cheap car in India, where you can buy a car for eight to $12,000. So I wonder if we can drill down into this one thing, eliminating what you call the green premium? And how important is it? How do we make it happen?
John Doerr 28:36
It’s vitally important in lowering the green premium, is the most important kind of innovation that we can invest in encourage and support. I first heard of the green premium from Bill Gates. And it’s a measure of how far we need to go. In some sense how hard the problem is either a problem of deployment, or fundamental problem of innovation. And in some cases, we’re getting close, like the green premium for electricity, depending on where you live in the world is in the book, two cents per kilowatt hour or about 15%. But the green premium for a zero-carbon aviation fuel is 400%. It’s $7 a gallon. And when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of gallons of aviation fuel, you can see we have a long way to go. The emphasis of the book is not to say that the green premiums are an impossible challenge. It’s to call out what we’ve got to do to turn a green premium into a green discount so that the sustainable scalable planet friendly approach is the most economic approach. Or as I think I like to say in the book, we need to make the right outcome, the profitable outcome. So it’s the probable outcome.
Andy Slavitt 30:04
And so is it innovation alone, creating cheaper batteries and cheaper solar power? Or is it policies which creates subsidies, that creates some bridging so that people can afford to make the investment because as I think about it, you know, I may save money over time with an electric car by not having to buy gasoline. But if I have to pay more upfront, I have to have that money in the bank. So is it an all the above we need policies and innovation. And this really gets to the accelerants part of your book, where you really say, okay, if you want to do this plan, here’s the stuff we got to do.
It’s both, it’s all the above, it’s all hands-on deck, we need greater R&D to fund innovation. We need companies to step up and pay the premium in the early years, so that we can bring these costs down. And we need policies to make those solutions more attractive to adopt, all of the above. At the same time.
The idea that the green thing is going to be the most expensive thing is I think something that has to that conception has to change, Andy, right. As John says, the green premium has to become the green discount. As these, you know, we scale up, things become more affordable. In every one of these categories, the cheaper thing will be the green thing. And that’s going to be that powerful moment. But the reminder that we kind of share right now is if you can afford it, you know, if you’re making a purchasing decision to buy a new car, and you can afford an electric vehicle, right now is the time to make that switch. And actually, and if you can afford it, and you can wait, don’t buy that fossil fuel vehicle because it’s going to be on the road for another 14 years. And from a policymaker point of view, remember, not everyone can afford these things. And so what policies can be put in place to make these more affordable, because as we scale up production of EVs and panels and so forth, the cost will continue to come down. And then it’s inevitable that, as John says, the right choice will be the clean choice.
Andy Slavitt 32:34
So let’s talk about some of the realities and some of the politics. And there’s a couple of tricky things here. One is we have this notion that I’ll call intergenerational politics, whereas we are being expected to take on some costs. That won’t benefit us while we’re alive, but will benefit the next generation, they’ll benefit your daughter, they’ll benefit my son’s, Ryan, and you get a little baby. Of course, I think everybody cares about that. But not everybody can afford to make an investment or promote a policy that doesn’t benefit them directly. And then there are many people who quite frankly, just may not be willing, you know, we’re going to have entrenched interests that have more immediate concerns than saving the planet. And how do we address the very real political will issues?
I want to go to another country for starters. And that’s in Germany, where the High Court in April ruled that the federal government was not doing enough to assure a habitable future planet for German use. It was remarkable declaration and immediately, the legislative branch or the German government began enacting policies to bring it in line with that judicial decision. I can’t imagine that happening in the US constitutional system at this moment in time. But that’s because we do not yet have the climate crisis as a top two voting issue in the US. And there’s been no meaningful climate policy enacted in the US in the course of two decades, despite efforts to try. So we have entrenched incumbents that for years have funded misinformation campaigns, they’ve funded the pockets of politicians. And so the largest and most effective tool that we have to overcome this handy is described in the book as movements, youth movements, pick business movements, investor movements, and not just protests, but action voter sentiment. The key result in our plan is to get the climate crisis to be a top two voting issue in the 20 top emitting countries. by 2025, and you know what that’ll take? That’ll take organizing that’ll take funding that’ll take leadership.
Is it already for kids? If you’re under 30? Is that a top to issue for people under 30?
It’s top to issue for people under 30. And that’s why the youth movement, I think we’re seeing a real turn in Young Republicans in the US, they care about climate. So they’re putting pressure on their party to take this issue seriously. But Biden has only the narrowest of democratic margins of 5050 Senate. And so a single cold state senator, like Senator Manchin, can pull really powerful elements of the Biden plan out of the reconciliation bill, and leaving the administration to scramble to find ways through EPA regulatory authority, or action at the state level.
For it to be a voting issue for everybody above 30, it’s got to tie to the economic reasons, right, jobs, prosperity and pieces like that. And one of the really sad things happening domestically in the US this idea that mentioned doesn’t want to support the 100 $50 billion that are going to go towards, you know, the CEPP the Clean Energy Program is that that’s going to help communities that are currently using and, you know, fossil fuels for energy to transition, this might actually be the last moment that there’s money on the table to help these communities transition away. Right, this is an economic race from by countries, right? To figure out who can deploy cleaner energy faster and cheaper, and there will be a winner. And I think one of the messages that John and I are trying to carry is that the United States can win and lead on this, we can be the innovators on this. But if you look around the world, you can see that in Europe, Germany, you look in Asia and China, these countries want to be leaders in this space, too, because it is the largest economic opportunity, transformation opportunity of our lifetime. And that’s perhaps the piece that makes it a voting issue for everybody, not just our youth for the future, but really for the jobs in the next one to five years.
Let’s talk about other countries. And I happen to know you, John, and as I explained in the introduction, you’re far more than an author, you’re a doer, you’re an engineer, you’re a risk taker. And you and Ryan, have a history of seeing problems that are global in nature and figuring out how to solve them. And we can’t talk about every country. But let’s talk about China, because it’s so big. And because I want to help people with this feeling that I have, and that I hear from a lot of people that we could do all this stuff right in the US. And even taking the point of there being your economic benefit to justify doing these things. But if China doesn’t act or less developed countries, which have more pressing needs, then going green don’t act, then we can’t win. And I happen to know that you are pretty active in thinking about how China makes progress. Can you tell us where the Chinese are, in terms of getting this setting the right goals, taking action and what can be done there?
John Doerr 38:20
So the Chinese are leaders, they are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. They are the largest maker of cheap solar. They are the largest deployer of solar energy. They’re also still the largest deployer of coal fired power plants within their own economy. They set a goal to be net zero by 2060. That’s not good enough, it needs to be 2050. Or we’re all screwed. They did recently decide to stop funding, coal fired power plants outside of China. And they’re exquisitely aware of the pollution and mortality impacts of the climate crisis. China has 2 million people that are coal miners. It’s a vast part of their economic opportunity. I am hopeful about China, that we need them to be more aggressive about the targets that they set. Because when China makes a plan, it filters into their five-year plans. And these are not used to win campaigns. They’re used so that the leaders of provinces and cities get promoted or not promoted, and climate goals are part of those plans. But this game, this battle that we’re in is going to be won or lost largely on what happens in China, in India and in Malaysia. Now the book calls for an exquisite focus on the gigatons going for the biggest emitters, the biggest sectors of their economies, and lays down the status of each of these major emitters. China, the US, the EU and UK, India. And then finally Russia, a rogue nation.
Ryan Panchadsaram 40:18
Andy, the feeling, right? It’s like the angst that the developing world and countries like China are going to be the ones that are going to race with emissions is one that’s, I think, a false, you know, contention, right? Because the truth is, we are the alpha emitters in the United States, we are the alpha emitters in Europe, as well, too, we have omitted the most historically, which I think from a point of equity means that we’ve got to go first in decarbonizing one, because it’s not only the right thing to do. But as we do it, we make going clean and green cheaper for the rest of the world. And not just that, the selfish reason is if the United States builds all the companies that tackle each one of these objectives, we get to have that prosperity here in the United States. Right? This is an economic imperative.
The things that I was left with as a reading the book, and I spent more time than I thought it was capable of actually thinking about making this happen. You will know that with my very limited abilities, if you can make me do that. We have real hope that we can get everybody thinking about this. And I felt like can we invest? Yes, we can invest. Can we innovate? Well, based on some of the things you described, and examples you’ve made in the book? Yes, we can. And so I was left with this question. And I very much related to this notion of building a movement, and making this relatable to people and getting people on board. And I, I felt like, boy, if everybody in the country, let alone the world could read this book. And it sparked something that ignited us. Heck, if everybody printed out, it just pulled out what’s on the one-page action plan. I feel like the movement begins. And I so I ended up thinking, perhaps a little strangely, how do we make this book really, really, really big? How do we make it part of sparking a movement? How do we educate people who are starting where I was, which was close to zero, and make them feel informed and empowered, because I think the book lays out a lot of the steps we can take. And so I’m wondering if we might just close with some of your thoughts on what we can do to turn this into here? And now the issue and how to use your book to do that?
John Doerr 42:37
Oh, well, that’s such a great question. And I’d love to hear your ideas on what we should do. And hear from your audience about that. So we can continue this conversation by email. I’m John@speedandscale.com. Ryan is Ryan@speedandscale.com. But we view the book as the entryway into the stories of people who are devoting their lives to this issue, and, and the book and the website together become a platform, we will be tracking the progress against each of these goals, these key results for years to come. We will be adding stories for years to come. I expect to update the book every year. This is a global problem, we’ll create a version of this targeted with stories from India, a version targeted for China will create a version of the book for high school students. But in the end, I want us not to get distracted by bright shiny objects. This is the decisive decade, we’ve got to go for the gigatons, and individual action is necessary. It’s appreciated, but it’s not sufficient. I really wrote this book for the leader inside of every reader, your inner self. So think clearly about how you can influence others to action, whether it’s electric buses for your school board, or getting your employer to pull forward their net zero commitment. Or I’m an advocate of civil disobedience. The time to act is now and the stakes, I think couldn’t be higher. What speed and scale is, is a plan. And it’s not the only plan. But it’s a plan where the numbers add up. And someone who is concerned and capable and committed as you and your audience, I think can take some comfort in this being a good way forward.
That’s great. And as you think about this, Ryan, I’m wondering if you could just upon that one connected piece, which is the work that’s being done around COVID. How does this tie to that what lessons and connections are there?
Ryan Panchadsaram 44:56
Andy, we have a choice, right? We have a choice to either treat the system Symptoms forever actually go after the disease for COVID and the pandemic in the beginning, all we could do was treat symptoms, right with mandates, with masks, with social distancing, and then comes along a vaccine, something that actually goes after the root cause the disease and virus itself. You know, for climate, that’s a similar thing that’s happening right now you look at the damages from Hurricane Ida, the flooding in Europe, and these are billion-dollar price tags that we continue to get hit with, the world keeps getting warmer, we can’t forever go after the symptoms when it comes to climate, we actually have to go after the disease. And that is our emissions. And so the North Star for anybody listening is for this crisis, the vaccine we have is switching to cleaner ways of getting energy and using energy. And the plan really shows the leverage points. And John and I and the team, we wrote this book for truly leaders, and any type of leader if you’ve never picked up a kind of book. And if this is your first, you’re gonna understand this problem better than anybody else. If you are a climate leader today, this book should be a rallying cry that says what you are doing is so important. We’ve got so little time left, and we have to get it done.
John Doerr 46:11
It was not so long ago, Andy, that many of us were really pretty optimistic about the prospects for getting worldwide herd immunity. But today, that future, frankly, seems, at least to me, pretty remote, having been compromised by uneven leadership, extreme inequalities in vaccine availability, and the strength of our medical support systems. The science told us that we should get prepared and we didn’t. The same is true for the climate crisis. The science has been telling us, we need to get ready for this. But I think inadequate leadership, uneven leadership, have left us square, we still have a path. But we’re fast running out of time.
Well, and I think we also learned a lot about how much disbelief in science that there is that that’s been affecting this issue as well. I’m so proud of you guys. So inspired by this book, but I have a more important question, which is, how does Mary feel? Is she proud of her dad?
She’s pleased to see the book. But she’s still angry. We’re not doing enough. So what I’ve done in my latest set of conversations with Mary is, is to say, you know now, it’s no longer just up to my generation, we need you Mary, your generation to take the lead. And she’s up for that.
Thanks for coming on and explaining this. Let’s watch for it. And then we’ll have you back at some point, and maybe we’ll get a sense of the bigger issues that we’re facing. Thanks for being on.
Thanks for having us handy. Thanks for not only all you do, but who you are and what you stand for. You’re a hero of mine. And Ryan, I know.
Andy Slavitt 48:06
Well, I hope you got a lot out of that conversation on climate, and what’s really works, what it’s going to take from two really thoughtful people. And I hope it made you at least slightly more optimistic, or at least capable of engaging in the topic because I was not even capable of engaging in the topic very effectively. Then that’s what we hope to do on IN THE BUBBLE. Let me tell you what’s coming up. The next two episodes, one is Bob Wachter, you might recall, he is the head of Internal Medicine at UCSF. He was my guest host when I was in the White House, that will be fun. He is going to talk to us about a piece he’s recently written on, kind of moving back away from the pandemic. I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about that. But he’s going to talk about that. And then Hugh Hewitt, I have gotten some feedback that people are surprised that I’m having you do it on my show. So let me just say that I will get in a room with anybody, even if I disagree with him on many things, who want to help vaccinate the country. And Hugh Hewitt wants to help vaccinate conservatives, and so got to have some people on who I disagree with, or I’ll never be able to connect with people who I don’t agree with. And, you know, I will say when I was in the White House, he was very kind in being willing to share conservatives perspectives and how I could be introduced to me and tried to talk to conservatives about getting vaccinated, which was my job. So glad he’s on the show. That’s why he’s on the show. And it’s end of the day will be Wednesday night. Then tomorrow’s Thursday, tomorrow’s Friday, depending on when you’re listening to this. So I hope you have a great rest of the week. And we will talk again Monday on IN THE BUBBLE.
Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. Hope you rate us highly. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen produced the show. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev and Veronica Rodriguez. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs are the executive producers of the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, and additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter or at @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you like what you heard today, please tell your friends and please stay safe, share some joy and we will definitely get through this together.