The Case for Climate Optimism (with Gavin Schmidt and Leah Stokes)
The United States is on the brink of passing a climate bill that could get us closer to making real progress against climate change than we’ve ever been before. Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, talks with Andy about the seemingly insurmountable number of climate catastrophes we’re currently experiencing and how the the Inflation Reduction Act may help finally rein in climate change. We also hear from Leah Stokes, a political scientist and environmental expert who helped craft some of the bill’s climate provisions. She explains how the bill would transition large parts of the economy from fossil fuels to clean energy and get us closer to cutting pollution in half.
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Andy Slavitt, Leah Stokes, Gavin Schmidt
Andy Slavitt 00:37
Welcome to IN THE BUBBLE. I’m Andy Slavitt. Welcome to our Friday conversation. It’s August 5th. Today we’re focusing on how we may be able to turn deep climate pessimism into actual climate optimism. We’ll see if we can. Look, I can tell you personally, climate optimism has not been on my list of things I expected to feel and I haven’t felt in a long, long time. And as I think, hopefully well known to most people, is our efforts to keep global temperatures from rising more than one and a half degrees Celsius is an enormously important target and the work that we need to do in the 2020s has to get us halfway there. And I think up until very recently, we’ve known the goal, I think we’ve probably been able to feel better that we’ve set an ambitious goal. But boy, it’s been a deeply pessimistic feeling to feel like we know it, we see it, it’s achievable. And we can’t possibly manage to get ourselves there. And yet, and yet, sitting in front of the US Senate, as we speak, is legislation that purportedly can get us 80% of the way towards our goals here in the US and potentially have an impact around the world. And I’ll tell you, it’s a really unusual feeling. So I need to commiserate with two very brilliant people who can help us understand whether or not we should be feeling a sense of climate optimism, or what’s going on. And to do that, I’m joined by two people I admire a great deal. First is Leah Stokes. She is a political science professor and environmental policy expert, up the road here at University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s also the host of a podcast called Matter Of Degrees. Welcome to the bubble, Leah.
Leah Stokes 03:09
Oh, thanks so much for having me on.
Andy Slavitt 03:12
And Gavin Schmidt, who is a climatologist, and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Thank you for being here, Gavin.
Gavin Schmidt 03:22
Thank you, again for having me on. It’s a pleasure.
Andy Slavitt 03:27
I want to start with the kind of current state of affairs in the world, Gavin, which is I want to help us understand the effects that climate change are having on us right now, not in 2030, not in 2050. But today, after we’ve seen the 1.1% run up in global temperatures, what has been the impact to this planet and to all of us who call the planet home.
Gavin Schmidt 03:53
So, you almost got it right, the planet has warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius around two degrees Fahrenheit. Since the turn of the 19th century. All of that increase is due to our activities, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 50% now, more than doubling the amount of methane, increasing the amounts of nitrous oxide and CFCs. And adding to the greenhouse effect that naturally exists. And we are seeing the impacts, we are seeing the impacts on melting ice pretty much anywhere you look. Mountain glaciers, the Arctic, Greenland, Antarctica, all of those places are losing ice that’s adding to sea level. We’re seeing warmer oceans, which is also adding to sea level we’re seeing increased heat waves. And this is intersecting with a whole suite of other environmental issues associated with deforestation, habitat loss, and other pollutants. And so even though those numbers that we started with a degree 1.5 degrees, all of those numbers see Small, but they’re large in the context of how much planets warm and cool over time, right. So we know, for instance, that the peak of the last Ice Age, which was about 20,000 years ago, the planet was only about eight or nine degrees Fahrenheit cooler. And that was a radically different world. And the projections that we have, under, you know, kind of scenarios that anticipate increased and ever increasing amounts of fossil fuel use are as warm again, as the Ice Age was cold. And those are absolutely massive numbers and massive consequences. So while we talk about, you know, these changes in like, you know, single degrees, 1.52 degrees, and they seem small, they really aren’t, when you look at them in context, and we’re seeing the impacts right now.
Andy Slavitt 05:55
So plan ahead to the next 25-30 years, we think about 2050. And this goal of taking 59 giga tons out of carbon and other greenhouse gases out, everyone, either one of you, before we get into what we may be doing now, like what the world looks like, with another degree of temperature warming. What is at stake, because now I think we can actually paint a pretty vivid picture of what’s already happened. But if you play it forward, assuming we don’t get anywhere near the goals that we’ve set, what do things look like that?
Gavin Schmidt 06:32
Well, it’s not good, the impacts that we’re seeing now are not going to go away, right, we’re not, we’re not cooling the climate in that time period, we are only perhaps reducing the amount of continued warming that we’re going to get, we’re only going to stop warming when we get to effective net zero for carbon dioxide. And that’s a big challenge. And we shouldn’t be complacent about the size of that challenge. But that means that you know, the next 10 years are going to be worse than the last 10 years. And the next 10 years after that are going to be worse again. And so we need to be preparing people to become more resilient. We need to be preparing people to expect things that they have not seen yet. And that is very difficult. Because people just you know, they say, Well, what was it like, you know, the last 30 years, and that’s what it will be like in the future. But that is no longer true.
Leah Stokes 07:26
Yeah. If you think about where we live, right, in Southern California, Andy, the projections from climate scientists are that Mediterranean regions like Southern California are going to become deserts. We’re already seeing that right? Rainfall is so much less in our communities. We’re heating up more and more. A lot of people in Southern California don’t have air conditioning right now. And they’re going to need it because we’re seeing more and more extreme heat waves all across the southeast. And when you have a heatwave that hits a whole region at the same time, that also stresses out the electricity system, which can knock out the power. And that’s not good in the middle of a heatwave when people need air conditioning. So we’re gonna see these cascading events that scientists talk about, like think about in Santa Barbara, we had this horrible fire a few years ago. And then right after that, we had extreme rainfall, which is what climate scientists say is happening, right? Like what’s going on right now in Kentucky and Missouri. extreme rainfall events. Half an inch of rain fell in five minutes in my community. And you know what happened after the Earth had been scorched, it couldn’t retain the water. And then there were mudslides and over 20 people died in like the richest zip code in America. That’s what we’re talking about, in Montecito.
Andy Slavitt 08:44
Well, that’s the question is Leah into this place becomes this pessimistic picture, I should say. Where we have no chance of turning around where we are. We have a piece of legislation that is artfully called the inflation Reduction Act. That’s based on an agreement that’s been put together by, among others, Joe Manchin, and Schumer, but a lot of people worked on this. I know been intimately involved in advising the Senate on this bill, can you tell us a story of your involvement? What you’ve seen up close what the aim has been? I’d love to hear a little bit more about the role you played in the role of senators like mansion and what they’ve been trying to accomplish.
Leah Stokes 09:44
Sure, so, you know, I’ve been working on climate change for almost two decades now. And I’m a policy expert. I have my PhD from MIT in public policy. So that’s what I’m an expert in. And, you know, for a while there, I just wrote academic papers, you know, maybe I did a little local activism. But when the Democratic primary started up, I decided that I would use my expertise to evaluate the plans that the people running for president and the Democratic Party were putting out on climate change. So I thought, let me explain what they are. Let me evaluate them. Let me kind of do some sharing of my knowledge with the world. And that became quite viral. A lot of people started reading what I was writing, looking at what I was thinking about these bills or these ideas that people were putting forward for their platforms. And when Governor Jay Inslee was running for president, you know, he put out so many amazing climate bills. And after he decided to end his campaign, the people involved in that who are people like Sam Ricketts and Jamal Rod, you know, they founded an organization called Evergreen Action, which is a nonprofit who aims to really take the ideas that Inslee and others have put forward and turn them into real legislation, real progress in Washington, DC. And so I, they asked me to join the advisory board for that, before you know it, I was working alongside them to try to pass a giant clean electricity standard program. That was one of the casualties from Manchin early on. But you know, I remember when that died, was actually the due date of my children who had been in the hospital, I was pregnant throughout this whole period with twins. And I had just taken my kids home from the hospital. And then I got a call from the New York Times that mansion had killed this bill that I had been working on. And I was sad. I was very sad. And I swear, I got a text from a friend who works for Schumer. And he said, Leah, why do you think we still can’t do it? We can still do it. And I thought, Oh, okay. And I got up the next day. Saturday was a Saturday right after my kids had come home from the hospital. And I kept working on the bill. And I thought, all right, how can we keep cutting carbon pollution? How can we keep making progress here. And so like, so with so many other folks, also groups like rewiring America who have been out there trying to get heat pumps, you know, basically incentives to reduce the cost of energy for Americans help them get access to electric technologies in their homes, you know, a lot of us have just been pushing to make this bill better to get good provisions in it, to make it stronger. So that’s really been my role. And it’s, you know, quite different from just being an academic. But I’m sure Gavin feel similarly, when you look at the scale of the climate crisis, when you look at how far behind we are, I just can’t morally feel okay. Just writing academic papers, I feel like I have to be out there communicating, I have to be out there acting, I have to be out there doing activism with groups, because we don’t have time to wait, we don’t have time to be, you know, just doing our papers, we actually have to try to communicate and make a difference. And so that’s really why I decided to get involved.
Gavin Schmidt 12:54
That’s an attitude that was really well expressed by Sherry Rowland, who was one of the Nobel Prize winners for the discovery of the chemistry behind ozone depletion. And 1he said, in an interview in, in the New Yorker, what’s the point of having made a science that’s good enough to make predictions, if all you’re going to do is sit around and wait for them to come true? And it’s this dilemma that everybody who is working in the climate field feels right, you know, we’re supposed as scientists to be happy that, you know, we’ve taken information from the universe and encapsulated it in our theories and made predictions. And look, the predictions have come true, how clever are we? But with the predictions that we’re making, and not what we want, we don’t want the predictions to be true, we’d much rather be wrong because we’re not sociopaths.
Andy Slavitt 13:55
Well, I think the audience is going to decide whether you’re sociopaths or not. Leave it to them. We’ve still got about 40 minutes for people to decide that. But Leah, since I think you’re most likely not to be a sociopath.
Leah Stokes 14:11
Gavin, the jury’s still out. But for me, it’s looking better.
Andy Slavitt 14:14
You know, I’m not prepared to commit yet, but things are looking good. Help us understand the major components of the bill and obviously doesn’t have every single thing you want in it. Tell us what the major pieces of the bill are?
Leah Stokes 14:31
Well, it’s about $370 billion in clean energy and climate investments. And that’s a lot given that some programs are only like 34 million or 3 billion. So there’s like hundreds of programs here. So it’s easiest to understand it if we put it into buckets. The first bucket is the consumer facing incentives, basically helping to fight inflation. 41% of inflation is actually driven by high fossil fuel costs. Think about it, right? You go to the pump to fill Love your car, it’s $4, $5, $6 a gallon. That’s a huge part of what Americans have been feeling pain about. And if you have an Eevee, guess what, it costs about $1 a gallon to fill up your car. So what the bill does is it makes it a lot more affordable for everyday Americans to get an electric vehicle to get a heat pump, which is this amazing technology that both cools and heats your home really efficiently without fossil fuels, a heat pump, hot water heater, an induction stove, solar panels, all of these things, save you money. And what the bill does is make it cheaper for you to get them. So according to rewiring America, if you were to go out and get all those technologies, with the help from the bill, you could save $1,800 a year on your energy bills. And that’s every single year. So it’s going to reduce the costs of people’s energy bills. So that’s the first bucket these consumer facing incentives. The next bucket is really cleaning up our electricity system, which is my personal, you know, life’s mission. So there are long term extensions of these tax credits, it sounds really boring, but it’s actually very important. These are the policies that we’ve had for decades that allow wind and solar to be deployed really fast. And in this bill, we’re going to have a long term extension for 10 years for those policies. And we’re also going to apply them to batteries, grid scale battery technologies for the first time. That’s amazing, you know, these tax credits have tended to kind of be around for a year or two and then go away, and then the industry collapses. And it’s just terrible. So the long term certainty there is extremely powerful. And we’re going to combine that with an additional $30 billion in clean electricity incentives. So it’s going to clean up the grid. And keep in mind that President Biden has a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. So that’s the second bucket cleaning up the grid. I got more buckets for you, though, are you ready for some more?
Andy Slavitt 16:55
I want to clarify one thing when you talk about the grid, to people who don’t know that this is the energy sources that go into the grid, you’re talking about becoming? Let me just make sure we’re clear renewables like solar and wind, nuclear, other clean sources, as opposed to today, where they come from fossil fuels like coal, is that? Is that what you’re talking about?
Leah Stokes 17:19
Yeah, right now the grid is about 40% clean. And so this would be trying to like get to 80%, clean by 2030.
Andy Slavitt 17:26
Okay, all that sounds really reasonable. But we actually have a third bucket we haven’t even talked about yet. So after the break, we’re gonna come back and talk about maybe the most potentially exciting component of the new legislation. Okay, so we’re back. So we’ve talked about two buckets already. A set of things to affect us as individuals and leaning greater lives and a set of things to affect businesses to make the grid and the economy cleaner. With bucket number three?
Leah Stokes 20:01
Okay, so bucket three is a very exciting bucket. And I just want to say when we thought the bill had died, I was very devastated. I literally held my infant children and cried, I just felt terrified. And I wrote an op ed in the New York Times about what Joe Manchin had cost us. And so many of us felt devastated. And then we turned to executive action. We said, okay, President Biden, you’re going to do what Sheldon Whitehouse Senator Whitehouse called beast mode on executive action. And that would have been great, we would have had a lot of sticks. And we’re still probably going to do that. Don’t get me wrong. But what we would have missed was building clean energy industries in the United States, there is over $60 billion in this bill to build clean energy manufacturing here in the United States, we’re talking about electric vehicle manufacturing, solar, heat pumps, wind, batteries, the list goes on. And so what the bill is going to do is actually create 1.5 million new jobs in these industries all across the country, that’s according to energy innovation. And that is a total game changer, not just to make sure that we have the 21st century good paying jobs, you know, here in America, but also to change the politics. Because when we have people employed in these industries, in every district, in every state across the country, the clean energy industry is going to be more powerful. And we’re really going to start to be able to take on the fossil fuel industry from a political perspective, because they have really captured the entire Republican Party, when it comes to, for example, the Senate and the House.
Andy Slavitt 21:33
So paint a picture, maybe overall, these buckets, if you flash forward for us to what life is like, if this passes in, let’s say it’s 2030, what will be different in our lives, in terms of what powers our homes, what we pay for energy, the cars we drive, how factories work, how agriculture works, and any other changes? What does the world look like differently? In this case?
Leah Stokes 22:01
Well, I’m happy to start out and then I’ll have Gavin, tell us how it’s gonna be awesome for the planet to me. But, you know, I think a lot of people sometimes think that solving the climate crisis is about sacrifice, you know, so much of the messaging sometimes can be like that, but actually, not that much is going to change, okay, like, you’re going to save money, that sounds good. And you’re still going to have a lot of the same technologies, they’re just not going to run on dirty fossil fuels. So you can have a car, if you want to have a car, go for it my friends, it’s going to be an electric vehicle, not one that you got to put dirty oil into, and it’s going to be a lot cheaper to operate. You know, you want to heat and cool your home. Me too. Guess what, you can use a heat pump to do that one, stop shopping, you don’t need an air conditioner, and then a gas powered furnace, you just have a heat pump. It’s a really efficient technology, it heats and cools your home. And that’s awesome. You’re gonna have a hot water tank that just runs on electricity rather than running on fossil fuels, you know, that we’re not actually talking about a lot of sort of sacrifice, which is what the right wing folks and the fossil fuel industry want us to think that this is about.
Andy Slavitt 23:07
Gavin, what would you change or add to that.
Gavin Schmidt 23:10
So, let me throw in something about co-benefits. One of the things that we that we see, when we have a lot of this fossil fuel infrastructure around is very bad air quality, we see bad air quality because of internal combustion, particularly in cities, nitrous oxides, leading to ozone leading to particulates, particularly along big arterial freeways and the like, that has impacts on the health of hundreds of 1000s of American and millions of people around the world. And so moving towards electric vehicles, moving towards a better funded and more efficient public transport, moving towards bikable and walkable communities moving towards electric bikes, which didn’t get a big shout out in this bill. It really don’t really should have worked. I’m a big ebike fan.
Andy Slavitt 24:03
I love our e-bikes
Leah Stokes 24:05
A sad loss between build back better and this one we did with the e-bikes.
Gavin Schmidt 24:09
You know what, we’ll have another go with that at that particular cherry, I think. That that technology is not going away. And you know, you’re going to be seeing reductions in methane leaks, right, you know, that mean that most of the methane leaks that are coming out are because of oil and gas infrastructure. And those methane leaks lead both to higher ozone, which is an atmospheric poison, but also, you know, higher volatile organics, like, you know, benzene and ice cream, and all of those things come along with that. And then they add, and, you know, and you shouldn’t be breathing that stuff in and people shouldn’t be bringing that stuff in. So as we move away from these polluting technologies that are terrible for the climate, but they’re also terrible for air quality. We’re going to see cleaner air, we’re going to see more livable more spaces, and we’re gonna see hopefully arising in happier and healthier communities.
Andy Slavitt 25:05
What you’re talking about here, it creates, it sounds like a series of incentives to make renewables and other clean sources of energy. We haven’t talked about nuclear. But I think that there are things to keep nuclear facilities ongoing. And that those incentives over time will allow us to keep up the quality of life and maybe even improve it in some of the ways you’re talking about. And at a lower cost. That’s an incredibly optimistic picture. Now, I think it’s interesting the way that this bill and some parallel legislation that mentioned wants to see doesn’t actually pull the rug of fossil fuels out from people. It doesn’t appear to until such time as we have a renewable system in place. And politically, it has the benefit of not creating winners and losers, not saying to coal miners, or people are, you know, working in natural gas or whatever, hey, you’re bad your jobs are going away. It seems like it’s a more gradual and inclusive way to get there, let’s make it cheaper to do renewables as opposed to let’s put coal miners out of business. And from just a purely political point of view, that feels smart.
Leah Stokes 26:17
You know, fossil fuel workers are also on the frontlines of pollution, they their health is quite impacted. And so actually, the United mineworkers was for passing this bill, because there are key benefits for workers who have been injured, their health has been damaged by working in coal mines, for example, the black lung disability trust fund is one of the things that is funded in this bill. And there’s also a program called 48. C, which is about creating clean energy jobs in former extractive communities. So you know, I think what you’re saying, in some ways, Andy, I agree with which is that like, we want the workers in the industry to not be left behind, we have to make sure we take care of their health, we have to make sure we take care of their jobs and their families and their communities. And there are really important investments in this bill that do that.
Andy Slavitt 27:10
Maybe I should ask you, Leah, what do you think of the provisions of this bill, promoting continued production of dirty energy? I mean, look, the 50 of vote for this bill came from West Virginia. So, you know, for that to happen, there had to be something in it for those industries. What do you make of those provisions? Do they damage the build? Are they a necessary evil? Is it part of the theory of change?
Leah Stokes 27:37
You know, a few weeks ago, before mentioned, blow up the negotiations, the latest time, I was thinking to myself, you Manchin has to want this bill. I mean, of course, we all knew that on one level, but it was really sinking in for me personally. And I thought, well, he has to get his lump of flesh or whatever. Not only killing things that we wanted in the bill, like the clean electricity performance program that I worked on, and other programs, but also adding things that are not good. And the things that he added are not good, they are just not good. I think we have to ask ourselves how bad they are, and kind of take an analysis approach of that. And so let’s talk about one of the key things that he added. So he added a provision that put requirements on leasing on public lands. He said that every year the federal government has to auction a minimum of 2 million acres, onshore and 60 million acres offshore, they have to make it possible for people to develop in those areas. That was required if we wanted to do clean energy developments also on public lands. First of all, tying those two things together is just not good public policy. But that’s what he wanted to do. And he had the 50 votes, he was able to do that. So what does that mean? Well, if we look at the 10 year average, before the pandemic, on average, there were 5 million acres offered onshore and 80 million offered offshore every year. So this is lower than the historic average. But it’s also a requirement that you have to do it every single year. And what does it mean to offer leases? Well, it means that a company could bid to develop a project, they could get the lease, and then they would have to propose a project go through environmental review. It’ll take years and then they’ll develop a project. Generally, when you have lease sales, what experts say is that something like 1% to 3% of those acres are actually bought so we’re not talking about like all these acres being bought. And you know, there’s more that gets lost in the development process. And I will also say the bill does another thing, which is that it increases the royalty rate for developments in these areas. So that’ll cut into the profits a bit for these companies. And what I am seeing the fossil fuel industry doing right now is making record profits. They are just hand over foot and making so much money. They’re not helping out Americans. And what are they doing with those profits? They are largely giving them back to shareholders through dividends, which means that they’re not holding on to this money for a rainy day to like build some giant new project.
Andy Slavitt 30:11
Or investing in sustainable, right? Well, their TV ads would make you think that all they do is sustainable.
Leah Stokes 30:19
No, you know, there’s a funny story that the company’s I can’t remember which one maybe it was Exxon, that they actually spent more money promoting a biofuels program they actually spent doing the biofuels program. And I have a colleague here […] who’s oil and gas expert at UC Santa Barbara. And he has done a study looking at the sort of rhetoric from these companies versus their actual investments. And they’re not the same at all. They don’t actually invest. So, you know, it’s greenwashing. And, you know, I think that this goes back to something that the UN Secretary General said recently, which is that new fossil fuel projects are moral and economic madness. Like it actually doesn’t make sense, even for a fossil fuel company really to build new projects, because they’re not going to operate for very long. And I think that the industry is starting to understand that. So I don’t like these provisions. They are not good. But just to tie it all together. What do they mean, in the grand scheme of things? Well, energy innovation, which is not a left leaning group, they’re just a modeling group. They just do models about what happens when you do X or Y, they have said that the bill would have 24 times as much good stuff, climate benefits as climate costs. So this is on the climate cost side of the equation, and it’s not good. But when we compare it to the overall package, there’s still a lot that’s great in this bill. All right.
Andy Slavitt 31:43
Coming up after the break, we’re going to do a sanity check on my level of optimism, and we’re gonna find out how optimistic you all feel about our climate future. If we get this bill passed. Let me just ask you both. Let me just ask you both as to sum it up. And you look at what’s in this bill. And I want to ask you how optimistic you’re feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. Should this bill pass? Gavin, you’re a climate scientist, you’ve painted a very clear and pessimistic picture of where we’re headed. If this bill passes on a scale of one to 10 rate your optimism.
Leah Stokes 34:36
I’ll just answer the question. How about that, Andy, I’ll do it for you, my friend. I’ll give you an 8 out of 10 and I’ll tell you why. I’m an 8 out of 10 Because we’re gonna get 80% of the way to President Biden’s goal which is cutting carbon pollution half right, we’re gonna get to 40% so that makes me an 8 out of 10.
Gavin Schmidt 34:56
There’s the expert. I’m just gonna go with what she said.
Andy Slavitt 34:59
Gavin, I will give you another shot at it. And I do want to ask the question and in the conditional if it passes, because I want people in this very important week to know whether or not this is something they should be vocal about. So you don’t have to answer it, obviously. But compared to where we sit today, if this does pass, I know we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride. How optimistic does this make you, does this make you a better climate future?
Gavin Schmidt 35:24
Yeah, I mean, I think 8 out of 10 is right. I mean, this will be the first substantive federal effort to reduce emissions in the US. And there’s been lots of other efforts at the state and regional and company level, but this will be the first substantive federal effort that would actually be commensurate with the size of the problem. And that, and that is brand new, and unprecedented.
Leah Stokes 35:54
I got to answer your question to again, Andy, because I do want people to be vocal right now. And I even have a way they can do it, which is that people can just go to callthenumberforclimate.com. And there’s a phone number, you just dial the number, and it will patch you through to your senators and your representatives. And you can tell them that you are excited about this deal. So it’s really simple. It’s a callthenumberforclimate.com.
Andy Slavitt 36:18
We’re gonna put a link to that. I want you to know, I asked the question of John Doerr, who’ve just as you may know, along with his wife and founded the Stanford door school of sustainability, send them a text this morning on a scale of one to 10 what he feels about this bill, and he said, it’s more than a 10, Biden is famous for African American and open mic that Obamacare was a BFT, it was, the IRA as an even bigger FD.
Leah Stokes 36:44
It is, it absolutely is. This is a BFD underline bold, font, italics, exclamation points. This is a BFD.
Andy Slavitt 36:53
May be the last opportunity, given that we’re heading into November and who knows what Congress is gonna look like, I want to close. And I want to ask you to give any final words to leave us and I’m hoping that at least one of you could comment on the role that displays not just for the US, but the role of this could play in upcoming climate meetings. And what difference will it make to for the US to show up at those meetings, having passed this bill, and made this commitment and taking these steps, versus showing up with this bill not passed? And what the spillover effects are on nations like China and India, and other countries, which we know are today’s rising energy users? We’re the ones that have admitted the most carbon here in the US into the atmosphere. What difference does it make in any other closing thoughts? And maybe we’ll start with you, Gavin. And Leah will offer you the last, last word.
Gavin Schmidt 37:49
So you know, I mean, I talk to people from all across the world, and they pay an enormous amount of attention to what happens in Washington, to the exclusion quite often of what’s happening at the states and at the local level. But they have seen that we have just been like doing nothing at the federal level for decades, you know, since Byrd–Hagel and the Kyoto Protocol, you know, 20 odd years ago, and that has ramifications. People think that we don’t care, people think that we’re not doing anything, people think that if we’re not going to do anything, then why should they bother? Because we have the historical attribution to most of what’s happened. And so actually getting something done and being able to turn up in international fora, and say, No, you know, these are our commitments. And look, we are putting things in place. It isn’t just people talking without there being action, or behind those words. And that is what is needed, right? There is a lot of talk around the world, and not that much action behind it. This would cement our role as leaders in putting the resources behind the targets, and that’s something that’s sorely needed.
Andy Slavitt 39:09
And that is likely to trigger action in India and China and Brazil and other parts of the world?
Leah Stokes 39:16
Yes, because guess what, it’s going to reduce the costs of clean energy technologies. There is a very ironclad law, right from engineering, learning by doing the more we make something, the more the costs fall, whether that’s cell phones, or electric vehicles, or computers or solar panels. If we make more heat pumps in the United States, the costs are going to fall that isn’t just for the United States. It’s for countries all around the world. So we are going to bring down the cost of clean energy technologies by making this huge push here in the United States. And that’s going to make it cheaper for countries all around the world to start, you know, tackling the climate crisis and do it in an affordable way. And that’s really what we need to deliver.
Andy Slavitt 40:01
I so appreciate having you both in the bubble. I will say, what I appreciate about both of you, is you bring your brilliance, you brought a feistiness, a level of interest, and engagement. And you have confirmed my sense of optimism. And I can’t remember the last time, I’ve had that sense, and it’s a very good feeling to your very good point, Gavin. This needs to get across the finish line. It’s not there. We’ve had the ups and downs; we’ve had the promises before. This needs to get there. And if it does, it will be with great thanks to the work of both of you and your colleagues.
Leah Stokes 40:35
Well, thanks so much for having me on.
Andy Slavitt 40:52
Okay, so look, I suspect many of us will be spending the next few days of the weekend obsessing over getting this bill passed the voter […] all the other high jinks that could be pulled. But you know, we’re as we come back to you on Monday, we could be sitting there either having taken a vote or about to take a vote on this legislation that we just talked about today. I wonder if you’re feeling optimistic top, give to others to feel optimistic about a great set of shows next week. Patton Oswald, a really funny comedian, who’s been out there in the real world, touring around, meeting with people traveling and we’re gonna get his observations. Wednesday is our Paxlovid rebound episode. For those of you know, I just went through, not Paxlovid, but monoclonal antibody treatment, and I came face to face with this decision about what the right therapies are. And this happened the same time that Joe Biden had his rebound for Paxlovid. So I know a number of people have a question about what’s the right treatment? Should I get pecks? Love it? Is there a rebound? Should I get monoclonal? What about some of the other drugs? So I’ve got two great physicians by Wachter, who many of you know and Dr. Tyson Bell, we’re going to be talking about COVID treatments. Coming up later on in the month, a few more great episodes for you. Anthony Fauci from the NIH, and we’re going to be talking about his work. They’re both on monkey pox and on the new set of COVID vaccines. Jamie Raskin from the January 6, committee, Christian Anderson, who’s a scientist on COVID We’re gonna be talking about elements of the pandemic, including what we’ve learned about whether or not this thing comes from a lab or in the wild. All kinds of good stuff, crush your fingers, stay optimistic, call the phone number, if you so feel like it, that we just heard about from Leah, and have a fantastic weekend.
Andy Slavitt 42:52
Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kathryn Barnes, Jackie Harris and Kyle Shiely produced our show, and they’re great. Our mix is by Noah Smith and James Barber, and they’re great, too. Steve Nelson is the vice president of the weekly content, and he’s okay, too. And of course, the ultimate bosses, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, they executive produced the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, with additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia where you’ll also get the transcript of the show. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter. If you like what you heard today, why don’t you tell your friends to listen as well, and get them to write a review. Thanks so much, talk to you next time.