Friday, November 17, 2017

Baby it’s Coal Outside!


Hello and welcome to another episode of the Sustainable Futures Report. Yes it's Friday already, Friday, 17th November and somebody told me that it's just over 40 sleeps until Christmas. If you stay awake for the next 20 minutes or so I'm going to talk about COP 23 in Bonn, the future of coal, the Disruptive Innovation Festival, rising levels of CO2 and messages from the Alliance of World Scientists and from the South Pacific.
I'm recruiting researchers to help me produce the Sustainable Futures Report because it does take a lot of time, but I know that a lot of people all over the world like to listen to it regularly. Thank you sincerely for your support. Maybe I'll meet some of you one of these days - at least some of you that I haven't already met. I'll be in Australia in December, so if you live in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and you’d like to chat about sustainability, do get in touch. And if you don't live in any of those places please get in touch anyway and tell me about the things that you think I ought to be talking about. Eric in Canada got in touch recently. Thanks for the suggestion, Eric, we’ll have an episode on hydrogen very soon.
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All Change
There is no doubt that the world is changing and there is no doubt that a sustainable world will be a different world or at least a world in which we do things differently. The scare stories about wearing sackcloth and living in caves, a favourite of denialists, are pretty thoroughly discredited. Some of the foundations of sustainability, such as renewable energy, are based on the very latest technology. Technology will ensure that we will continue to enjoy a good standard of living, possibly even a better standard of living, as we move towards a low carbon future. That said, don't just assume that technology will work away in the background and everything will be wonderful. There are undoubted challenges, not least the rise in CO2 which I report this week, which demand urgent and international action.
Second Warning
Calling for such action is The Alliance of World Scientists (AWS). They say: 
“The AWS is a new international assembly of scientists, which is independent of both governmental and non-governmental organisations and corporations. We submit, that in order to prevent widespread misery caused by catastrophic damage to the biosphere, humanity must practice more environmentally sustainable alternatives to business-as-usual. Our vital importance and role comes from scientists' unique responsibility as stewards of human knowledge and champions of evidence-based decision-making. The main goal of the AWS is to be a collective international voice of many scientists regarding global climate and environmental trends and how to turn accumulated knowledge into action. Other organisations do laudable work toward this goal, but to our knowledge, AWS is the only independent, grass-roots organisation comprised of scientists from around the world committed to the well-being of humanity and the planet.”
They describe their paper as a Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. It runs to just 1,000 words, can be read in 6 minutes, and outlines some of the world's most pressing environmental concerns. It starts off: 
“Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.””

In their manifesto, those scientists showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world, citing a decline in freshwater availability, unsustainable marine fisheries, ocean dead zones, forest losses, dwindling biodiversity, climate change and population growth.

In this latest paper the Alliance of World Scientists concludes:

“To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day- to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”

More than 15,000 signatories from all ends of the Earth have signed this article. As far as is known, this is the most scientists to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article.

So you’ve been warned. If you have a spare six minutes read the article at You’ll probably be thinking about it for a lot longer than 6 minutes.

Message from Fiji
As you know, COP23, the annual UN climate conference is talking place in Bonn. This year it is being chaired by Fiji, a chain of some 300 islands in the Pacific. This is their message:
“We, the Pacific Climate Warriors, are weary from waiting for world leaders to take the necessary action to create a Fossil Free world. So we are taking matters into our own hands, and we need you with us.
Along with people representing 12 Pacific Island nations, we’ve launched the Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change, outlining what needs to be done to avoid further climate catastrophe. We are asking you and people around the world to show your solidarity with the Pacific by signing our Declaration.
This year, Fiji holds the Presidency of COP23, the UN Climate Talks. So, it is a key time to highlight Pacific leadership on climate action. Rising seas and weather changes are already taking a heavy toll in my region, but Pacific Climate Warriors will be in Bonn to make our message clear: we are not drowning, we are fighting.
Pacific Islanders were some of the leading voices to advocate for the commitment to 1.5 degrees of warming in the Paris Climate Agreement. We know that living up to Paris means countries must keep their fossil fuels in the ground and rapidly transition towards a Fossil Free world where everyone has equal access to renewable energy.
That’s why we Pacific Climate Warriors, representing grassroots, indigenous, and frontline communities across the Pacific region, have penned this Declaration calling for world leaders to end the era of fossil fuels and instead build a 100% renewable future for all.
The Warriors and I will be in Bonn to publicly deliver our Declaration and these key demands at the COP23. You can follow our trip and all the action at COP23 here and help us to amplify our voices as part of the #HaveYourSei campaign. A sei is a flower worn behind the ear, and represents the beauty and resilience of Pacific peoples and cultures in the face of climate change. (…)
#HaveYourSei in the global fight for the climate and support the Warriors in our call for a #FossilFree world.”

More  CO2
Carbon emissions are the big issue, of course, as far as climate change is concerned. I reported last week that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached record levels but you may remember that Martin Baxter from IEMA pointed out that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide year on year inevitably the concentration will rise. The worrying news this week is that the annual global emissions are likely to be some 2% higher for 2017 than for the three preceding years. It seemed as though the level of emissions had reached a plateau and would start to decline. Not so. 
According to Carbon Brief the major emitters are China, India, the US and the EU, and the increase in the global emissions is clearly linked to increasing emissions from China. China is still a major user of coal for generating electricity and when economic activity increases China's emissions increase as well. Denialists sometimes say that if China is opening a new coal-fired power station every week then anything we do to cut emissions is a waste of time because we will be totally out-polluted. That's no longer strictly true. Yes, China does use a lot of coal and is now the biggest GHG emitter in the world. However it is also the biggest user of renewable energy in the form of wind and solar power, and this is increasing. China intends to phase out coal, but in a vast country where many people still live in poverty, economic growth is a constant imperative. At least the Beijing smogs are a constant reminder to the government that change is vital.
COP 23 - more coal?
COP 23, the United Nations climate summit currently running in Bonn, is a vast event with a wide range of speakers and topics from all over the world. This last Monday, for example, there were 48 separate side events. During the week topics included Enough is enough: Stopping the Violence Against Environmental Defenders; A transformative response to climate change: Applying the principles of Laudato Si’ (that’s the Pope’s encyclical - his statement to the faithful about climate change); Time for a diet shift: Plant based diet for climate change mitigation; and hundreds of others. One that caused controversy was The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation. This was the Trump administration using its only public forum at COP 23 to promote fossil fuels and nuclear energy. 
"This panel is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system," David Barks, special assistant for the White House, said in his opening speech.
The theme of the presentation was that we are likely to be dependent on coal for some time yet, so let’s look at clean coal and ways of minimising its impact. Preferred option is carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves extracting the CO2 from power station emissions and pumping it away into permanent storage under the sea or into exhausted oil wells. The problems with this are twofold. First, no-one has yet made CCS work on a commercial scale. The second problem is that the extraction and pumping process will require significant amounts of energy, reducing the efficiency of the generating plant and increasing the cost of energy to users.
There was certainly a lot of scepticism at the session. Some protestors were thrown out of the meeting while former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg compared it to a tobacco company addressing a cancer conference.  California governor Jerry Brown, found it simply ridiculous.
"I think the federal government is treading water. They've kind of become like Saturday Night Live, or a comedy programme," he said.
"They're bringing in a coal company to teach the Europeans how to clean up the environment.” 
Meanwhile, a report released on Monday from the California Public Utilities Commission shows that California will get half of its electricity from renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, by 2020, a full decade ahead of schedule.

Michael Bloomberg - less coal?
Michael Bloomberg, who is now UN special envoy on climate change, this week announced a $50 million fund to extend the battle against coal to Europe. He has already invested more than $164 million to fight coal in the US since 2010, especially through Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. The European campaign will be administered by the European Climate Foundation, which is led by Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate change ambassador during the COP21 negotiations in Paris. Mrs. Tubiana commented: “Europe still relies significantly on coal for power generation, but the rapid pace of development in cheap renewables offers a great opportunity”.
“Together with Bloomberg Philanthropies, we can help change the course of history and drive Europe’s shift to a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future”.
Bloomberg told The Guardian: “Coal is the single biggest polluter. If you could just replace coal with any other fuel, you would make an enormous difference in the outlook for climate change”.
Michael Bloomberg also revealed that he is eager to expand the campaign against coal to Asia and that he is currently seeking for partners to proceed. Let’s hope he can make a friend of Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China.
I said earlier that a sustainable future implies change and doing things differently. Once again the Ellen MacArthur foundation is promoting the annual Disruptive Innovation Festival. It runs for three weeks and has already covered things like Furniture That Changes to Fit Your LifeHow The Circular Economy Can Disrupt the Development Paradigm, New Definitions of Food Packaging in the Circular Economy and Will Automation Spell the End of Education As We Know It?  There are links to all of these on the blog at

The Disruptive Innovation Festival runs until the end of next week and you can catch it live or find the archive on the DIF website [ DIF on Demand. ]
And Finally…
And that is it's for this week. I’m Anthony Day and that was the Sustainable Futures Report. There will be another next week. I aim to make every episode new and interesting so please get in touch and tell me what interests you. As I said to start with, I'm now using researchers to help me prepare these episodes and that should allow me to go into greater depth on the topics I cover. Wait and see if you can tell the difference. The main difference to me is that it will cost, so if you've not already signed up at then I’ll be delighted if you do so because your contribution will help defray my expenses.
Once again, thank you for listening wherever you are in the world. Let's work together to protect that world, to make our political leaders are aware of the urgent fragility of our world and the need to protect it not just for our great-grandchildren, our grandchildren and our children, but for ourselves too.
Have a good week, and if Thanksgiving is something you celebrate have a really good one this year.
I'm Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Bye for now-.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Fair COP?

This Week

COP 23, the annual climate conference, is running in Bonn, Germany. We have a report from a man on the ground. The US is not participating, at least not in a positive way; the UN is warning of an emissions gap while levels of CO2 and methane are racing ahead. Should we be driving electric cars? They’re clean, aren’t they? Some claim that they are just as dirty as combustion engined vehicles. Client Earth is still trying to get the UK government to clean up the air, water fountains are fizzing in Paris, Juliana seems to have new friends and how precious is plastic?

Hello. Yes, once again it's me, Anthony Day. And here's the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 10 November. I hope you enjoyed last week’s report. It's a change for me to be interviewed rather than doing the interviewing. Having said that, at the conference that I was running last weekend I was interviewed by another podcaster and if you're really interested - it’s nothing to do with sustainability - you can find a link to that here. 
Remember that the blog is at  and I try to include as many links as possible so that you can find exactly where I've got my stories from. Let me take a moment to remind you about . You can sign up there to support my work from as little as a dollar a month. (Yes I know, but it’s an American site.) I'm very grateful to those patrons who already support me, from the UK, from the Netherlands and from Canada, among other places.

Let's start today with the Fourth National Climate Assessment issued by the US government last week. Let me quote from the Executive Summary:
“The climate of the United States is strongly connected to the changing global climate. The statements below highlight past, current, and projected climate changes for the United States and the globe.
“Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.
This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”
Later on it says:
“Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet [around a metre] by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet [around 2.5 metres] by 2100 cannot be ruled out. Sea level rise will be higher than the global average on the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.
“Changes in the characteristics of extreme events are particularly important for human safety, infrastructure, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to increase. (…)
Heatwaves have become more frequent in the United States since the 1960s, while extreme cold temperatures and cold waves are less frequent. Recent record-setting hot years are projected to become common in the near future for the United States, as annual average temperatures continue to rise.”
It goes on:
“Humanity’s effect on the Earth system, through the large-scale combustion of fossil fuels and widespread deforestation and the resulting release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, as well as through emissions of other greenhouse gases and radiatively active substances from human activities, is unprecedented. There is significant potential for humanity’s effect on the planet to result in unanticipated surprises and a broad consensus that the further and faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of such surprises.”
The Donald Disagrees
All this, of course, is in conflict with President Trump’s rejection of climate science. He has already said, and subsequently confirmed, that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Only two countries originally rejected the agreement: Nicaragua and Syria. Nicaragua’s objection was on the basis that the agreement didn't go far enough, but it changed its mind and has now signed up. At COP 23, the climate conference taking place this week in Bonn, Syria announced that it would also sign up. That leaves the United States on the outside, as soon as it can extricate itself. Unsurprisingly, President Trump is the only world leader not invited to the climate conference which will take place in Paris later this month, after COP 23.
According to the Independent, some are calling for the US to be excluded from COP 23 altogether. 

USGCRP, 2017: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 470 pp, doi: 10.7930/J0J964J6.

The Paris Accord demonstrates a near universal acceptance of the need to manage carbon emissions. However, in its annual review, the UN says the gap between carbon cutting plans and the reductions required to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius is "alarmingly high”. It re-iterates the point that current pledges are insufficient to keep within the temperature limits agreed in the Paris climate pact.
More Emissions…
According to the BBC, emissions from human activities involving burning fossil fuels have stalled since 2014, caused by a reduction in coal use in China and the US, as well as the rapid rise of renewable energy sources. Nevertheless, concentrations of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Last year's increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.
Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El NiƱo weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years, and they say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

The World Meteorological Organisation reports that levels of methane and nitrous oxide are also at record levels. You’ll remember that methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2.

…can mean More Ill Health
Medical journal The Lancet added its concerns about climate change to the debate this week. It says:
“Climate change is commonly discussed in the context of its future impact, but the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change by Nick Watts and colleagues, published on Oct 30, exposes the urgency for a response as environmental changes cause damaging effects on health worldwide now. The comprehensive Review describes the first results of a global initiative, which will annually report on indicators of climate change and its effects on health. One alarming finding is how rising temperatures have influenced the transmission of infectious diseases. Vectorial capacity of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus [I think those are mosquitoes] has increased since 1990, with tangible effects—notably, the doubling of cases of dengue fever every decade since 1990.”
Find the full text at: 
What to do?
The eternal question - what should we be doing about it? Well maybe we should cut our personal emissions by all driving electric cars. But it’s not as simple as that. Some people questioning whether electric cars are truly cleaner than conventional internal combustion vehicles.
The Dirt on Electric Cars
The Financial Times (FT) reports that a large electric car can have much greater emissions than a small conventional car. This of course is taking into account life-cycle emissions. In other words the emissions involved in the manufacture of the vehicle and its final disposal, as well as any emissions created during its operational life. Low emission cars are commonly defined by the volume of emissions coming out of the exhaust pipe. Electric cars don't have an exhaust pipe so they are classed as 100% clean. The study quoted by the FT takes into account the emissions involved in creating the electricity to charge up electric cars. If this is coming from coal there are significant indirect emissions. The other major source of emissions is the actual production of the vehicle. Producing the battery for the electric car leads to emissions and there are also ethical doubts about the source of materials for the batteries. We have already spoken about conflict minerals such as cadmium and tantalum which come from mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: mines which are defended by child soldiers. Remember falling whistles? Go to and maybe donate something for Christmas.
Tesla's gigafactory in Nevada plans to rely on wind and solar alone to provide all the energy needed for its battery production. A serious problem with electric cars is range anxiety. The majority of people drive short journeys, rarely more than 80 or 100 miles per day. Nevertheless they want to be able to do those occasional longer journeys, which is why a 200 mile range is rapidly becoming an industry minimum standard. This means bigger batteries, more conflict minerals, more emissions in the production process and more weight for the car to carry around.
According to the American Union of Concerned Scientists 42 percent of US households could use a battery-electric or plug-in electric vehicle, and all households could use a hybrid-electric vehicle. Doing so would save drivers billions in fuel costs and greatly reduce the amount of global warming pollution emitted.
In fact, widespread adoption of electric cars and trucks could save 1.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2035. To get there, the US needs smart government policies that incentivise investment in clean vehicle technology—helping move America toward a cleaner, safer, future.
The on-line journal Shrink That Footprint firmly defends electric cars in a detailed report. You can find it at The authors do admit, however, that the key factor is the source of the electricity and that in some places an electric car is no cleaner than one that runs on conventional fossil fuels.
Scientific American magazine gets in on the debate as well, with the headline: “Electric Cars Are Not Necessarily Clean”
Some manufacturers are clearly aiming for the greenest of the green. The body of BMW’s i3 electric car is made from carbon fibre using hydroelectric power in Washington state. It is assembled at a wind-powered plant in Leipzig, where it is fitted with seats made from recycled bottles and coloured by dye from olive leaves. The door panels and dashboard are made from kenaf plants and eucalyptus wood. Even the key is made of castor beans. (Kenaf? Yes, I had to look it up too. It’s a vegetable fibre like jute.)
The overall consensus seems to be that it's a good thing to drive an electric car as long as it's a small one and you recharge it from your solar panels or from another source of renewable energy.

Scintillating Paris
There’s news this week that the city of Paris plans to install sparkling water dispensers in every one of its 20 arrondissements. Sparkling water will be freely available to all. There have been eight dispensers in the city since 2010 but this expansion comes in order to keep the citizens of Paris hydrated and to discourage the use of plastic bottles. Will your city follow where Paris leads?

Precious Plastic
Talking of plastic bottles, how precious is plastic? I've just come across a website called . The aim of the organisation behind it is to build neighbourhood plastic recycling units in old shipping containers which can be installed almost anywhere in the world. Some are already up and running and they take scrap plastic donated by the public, sort it, shred it and recycle it. They can make filaments for 3-D printers, they can make poles and bars, they can make hand grips for climbing walls, they can make plates and dishes. All this from material which otherwise would be burnt or landfilled as rubbish. The website goes into great detail to explain exactly how to site a container and to set up your own plastic recycling plant. Looks quite tempting to me. I'll find out more and keep you informed.
Clearing the Air
Another organisation trying to clean up is Client Earth. I’ve mentioned Client Earth before. It describes itself as “activist lawyers committed to securing a healthy planet.” Client Earth is taking legal action against the UK Government for a third time over its persistent failure to deal with illegal air pollution across the country. Anyone following UK politics will probably not be surprised that the government has not been effective on this issue. With a minister having talks with a foreign government and keeping them secret from both her own department and the prime minister, (whoops -she’s just resigned!) with the foreign secretary making unguarded remarks which could double the sentence of a UK subject imprisoned abroad on political charges, with the defence minister forced to resign for sexual impropriety and open disagreement in the cabinet over the approach to Brexit, it is surprising that anything gets done at all. That doesn't change the importance of the air-quality issue. 40,000 people die prematurely in the UK as the result of bad air quality. I reported recently on the T-charge introduced by Transport for London as a surcharge on the congestion charge to be paid for older and dirtier vehicles entering the central area. I commented at the time that Transport from London had used the phrase, “London's dangerously polluted air.” They are certainly taking it seriously. Client Earth firmly believes that the government is not. It is a matter of concern that the judicial system can issue an injunction against the government and the government can simply choose to ignore it. If the government does not respect the law how can it expect others to do so?
Juliana’s new friends
Do you remember the Juliana case? It’s been rumbling on for some years now. It's an action against the US government by a group of children and young people who want to hold it to account for prejudicing their life chances by allowing industries such as the coal industry to create dangerous pollution. Ruling on the next stage of the action is expected early next year. Meanwhile other litigants are following a similar path. 
Two Philadelphia-area children are suing President Donald Trump and two of his climate skeptic cabinet members, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, to try to stop them from rolling back existing environmental protections including the Clean Power Plan.
The plaintiffs, ages 7 and 11, are backed by the Clean Air Council, Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-profit. The complaint alleges that the Trump administration's reliance on "junk science" to undo climate regulations are a threat to the young plaintiffs and other U.S. citizens. 
This one too, will probably run and run. Didn't somebody once say that justice delayed is justice denied?

As I mentioned earlier, COP23, the UN climate conference started this week in Bonn, Germany. Martin Baxter, chief Policy Advisor of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment is there and he told me what's been going on. This interview was done by phone. Apologies for the sound quality.
[audio only - sorry, no transcript this time]
And that's it for another week. 
I’m Anthony Day, that was the Sustainable Futures Report . Thanks again to my patrons and if you're not yet a patron just go across to and sign up.
There will probably be another Sustainable Futures Report next week but as we go into December I may reduce the frequency. This is partly because I've got a lot on, and partly because I'm sure you'll have a lot on as we run up to Christmas. 
Anyway, thanks for listening to this episode. 
That was the Sustainable Futures Report, 
I'm Anthony Day 
and that's it for now.

Friday, November 03, 2017

What's it all about?

Find the podcast here.

Manda Scott interviews Anthony Day

ANTHONY DAY: Hello, it's Friday, the 3rd of November. This is Anthony Day, this is the Sustainable Futures Report, but this one is different.
MANDA SCOTT: Indeed it is, thank you Anthony. This is in fact Manda Scott standing in this week for Anthony while he's away hosting a conference. We thought that as the podcast nears its  200th edition; it would be interesting to hear from Anthony himself; who he is, what he does when he's not presenting report, how he got here and where he's going. Don't forget, if you like the report you can support it on . And then in the meantime, I interviewed Anthony last week, and my first question was; Anthony, who are you and what do you do when you're not presenting the sustainable futures report?
ANTHONY: Well, that's two big questions; I'll tell you what I do when I'm not actually presenting the sustainable futures report. Of course, writing it, researching it and talking to audiences whenever I get the chance about it. The other things I get involved in is our local community energy organization. I keep my bees, we have an allotment, so I won't say we're self-sufficient, but we do like to grow a few things like that. I’m involved in Toastmasters which is the ''International Speaking and Listening and Leadership Organization'' and that's taking a lot of time. I'm actually a director of their autumn conference which takes place in two weeks, which is taking a lot of my time just at the moment, and I we have grandchildren. I shouldn't really say that some of them are in Australia, because if we go down there as we will in December, there's a carbon footprint, that's the sort of things that I do. But if you say who am I, what have I done?
MANDA SCOTT: Perhaps it is better to let's go back to how did you get from there to here? What led you to being the kind of person who would set up the Sustainable Futures Report ?
ANTHONY: I've always being interested in sustainability and the environment for a very long time. In fact, I'm going to show you this is the Ecologist - Blueprint for Survival - which I bought it when it came out in February 1972. The interesting thing is, it says to start with an examination of the relevant information available has impressed upon us the extreme gravity of the global situation today. For if current trends are allowed to persist, the breakdown in society and irreversible destruction of a life support system on this planet, possibly by the end of the century, certainly within the lifetime of our children are inevitable, that's 45 years ago isn't it?
MANDA SCOTT: I just did the calculation, that’s exactly 45 years ago, and they are right. We just have to look around the world and find that they were right. So, what were you doing then 45 years ago that led you to be reading the Ecologist?
ANTHONY: Well, what I was actually doing is, I was working at a water meter factory as an organization and methods officer in Yorkshire. But I was interested in environmental issues, in low-impact living and that sort of thing, I don't know where it all came from. But it's an interest which I've had at the back of my mind for a very long time. And what actually crystalized it was much more recent when I read a book called ''The End of Oil’’; I'm talking about peak oil. And I realized that there was going to be a problem there if we were totally based on ''fossil fuels'', and we were using it faster than we were replacing it with new discoveries, it was going to be really serious. Of course the world has changed an awful lot since then, well fracking has revolutionized oil and gas in the States, and there have been techniques which mean that we can recover far more fossil fuels. But we’ve also realized the dangers of using fossil fuels and we’ve developed renewables.
I went back actually to 2007, when I started doing the sustainable futures report. At least I started doing  the podcast - we didn’t call it that then, and it was quite interesting to listen to myself talking about what went on in 2007. The Carbon Trust had just launched the carbon footprint label, and I don't know whether you remember that. But Walkers Crisps got in on that, and on every packet there was a little carbon footprint label which said; this 37g of crisps have caused emissions of 75g of CO2. And the idea was that we put that on every product and people would realize what the impact was. Carbon Trust still exists, but I don’t think it does the carbon label anymore partly because the methodology is extremely difficult to create on a consistent basis. I mean things like, if an organization is totally vertically integrated, if it owned the farms which grew the potatoes, it owned the lorries which transported them as well as the factories and all that sort of thing, then it could identify the carbon at every single stage. But if it didn't, then it got messy and difficult and I think that's why it never took off.
But at the same time, I had forgotten all about this, Ed Miliband was saying that everyone in the country should have a carbon allowance, and the idea was that everybody was given carbon credits. So if you want to fly off to Australia and you haven't got enough carbon credit, then you buy them on the market. And this was a way of redistributing income, because people who wanted to go on exotic holidays would buy the credits from people who hadn't got the means or the interest in going on these exotic holidays and they would make money out of these carbon credits which the government had given them for nothing. That's an idea which...
MANDA SCOTT: It might be worth reviving, and one of the reasons I think some of us thought that Ed Miliband  would make a good leader of the Labour party was, he was an exceptionally good environment minister.
ANTHONY: He was, yes.
MANDA SCOTT: Honest innovative ideas. The hierarchy of the party didn’t let him do anything at the time, and obviously when he became the leader that all evaporated, which is incredibly sad. Do you think either of those, the carbon footprints label or carbon credits might be something that would be worth reviving now, or is it too late?
ANTHONY: I think there are too many difficulties for the carbon label for it to actually be introduced, but I think carbon credits is quite a good idea. I've talked on the podcast a few times about the universal basic income and there is quite a lot of chat about the universal basic incom.e That might be a way, or it might be something which is done in parallel with the basic income. It's a way of giving benefits to the less fortunate people in society.
MANDA SCOTT: Yes, and it's a way to create a currency ''a parallel currency'' in which the banks one hopes they can change the trading rules, so it wasn't something that could be shuffled into Panama accounts. So that it became something that effectively was a national, but a global counter-currency and then if you were to link it to ways of producing energy that were such a renewable system I suppose, it would give everybody a sort of panel that they could put on the roof and that way they can generate their own carbon credits by creating their own energy. Then you begin to have ways of currency and trading that are not linked to things that the banks created out of nothing, then that would be quite exciting.
ANTHONY: Yes, well maybe that's something that could be done, but there's no political appetite at the moment, everybody is unfortunately totally focused on ‘’Brexit’’. I don't want to talk about that because we could talk about that all afternoon.
MANDA SCOTT: We could, and we would lose a lot of time and bounce our heads off the walls.
ANTHONY: But all I would say is, it is taking an enormous amount of government time, of civil service time and money, both of which could be used better elsewhere.
MANDA: Yes, and every sense a catastrophe anyway. So how did you come to set up the sustainable futures report? What was your aim and how did you get to do it?
ANTHONY: Well, I think the aim was to raise my profile, also to develop credibility. And I think it has done that, in that I can now turn around and say I've done nearly 200 episodes. I was wrong when I said on the latest episode that it was number 224, I thought I'd done more podcasts than blogs, but in fact it's the other way around. It's 196 so far, but it does seem to be raising the profile because I've had people approach me and say that they want to appear on the sustainable futures report. I've got an interview with the international copper association which will come out on the first of December. I've got an organization which wants to talk about the sort of challenges from sustainability in the  humanist context. I've also got an organization which is in ''nuclear fusion'' and they want to talk about things.
MANDA SCOTT: Magical technology that is always 40 years away, that would be really interesting.
ANTHONY: Yes, but I've had somebody else who contacted me about that a while ago and I’m very remiss that I haven't actually followed up on him. Because I went back with that response yes, it’s the one that's always been 40 years out. He says no, hang on, things have changed. So I need to read up on what he sent me, because that could be interesting. The whole nuclear field is very interesting, because while Hinkley C, which is going to be the most expensive building site in the world and isn’t guaranteed to work…
MANDA SCOTT: And it will cost us electricity and twice the current rate.
ANTHONY: Yes, but the other thing of course is, ''the neighborhood nuclear reactor''. Now the average person is probably not going to like that idea. But we in the UK apparently are leaders in producing compact ''nuclear reactors'', the type that run submarines. And people live in nuclear submarines right next to nuclear power plants, and they don't suffer any ill effects. So I feel if we put something like that in a few shipping containers at the end of the street, people wouldn't know what it was at all or why it was there, but that might be a way forward.
MANDA SCOTT: It would have to be very much protected in terms of being a terrorist target, wouldn't it? Can you imagine a shipping container at the end of your street and what happens when somebody decides to run a car bomb into it?
ANTHONY: Oh yes, you'd have to take precautions. But of course it would be so much smaller than a traditional nuclear power station, but obviously one has to think it through.
MANDA SCOTT: Nuclear fusion I think, I feel really its closer, it's a lot safer.
ANTHONY: Yes, it is. And then the ''thorium reactor'', that also is safer I believe, insofar as apparently the waste from a thorium reactor loses most of its potency in 100 years, whereas other reactors it’s thousands of years.
MANDA SCOTT: That will be interesting, because there was a report in the Guardian this week, so we're in the middle of October just now saying that; effectively the civilian nuclear program was being used to supplement the military nuclear program. And that if it wasn't the case, that the military UK nuclear program was surviving on the back of the civilian one, then the civilian one probably wouldn't exist.
MANDA SCOTT: So, if we move to thorium or a nuclear fusion, then they don't have any impact on the military and it will be really interesting to see how much the government suddenly loves nuclear if it didn't have the department of defense behind it saying come on guys we need this too.
ANTHONY: Yes, but it’s not as though we're using up our armoury, is it? Every nuclear bomb that has been made since the war has not been used. And I would have thought if they need to restructure and start working in a different way, they could use the existing stock. But then, I’m no expert on that sort of thing.
MANDA SCOTT: Yes, that's interesting isn't it? We need to look into what we're actually using it for.
MANDA SCOTT: So, when you set up the sustainable feature report, it was to raise your profile?
MANDA SCOTT: And obviously your reach is extending across the world and it's growing every day. What are your aims now? Your profile is raised, and it is increasingly rising, where are you heading with it?
ANTHONY: I'm looking for the opportunity to actually go and stand on the stage in front of an audience and present the ideas. To be honest I haven't done any sustainability related presentations for quite a long time. And the thing is, every time I do a presentation, it's different, because the world is changing. I have a lot of colleagues and friends in the professional speaking association, and many of them have a theme and they're producing the same presentation again and again, because their truth is constant and it's what they do. They are the person who talks about ''better presentations skill'', or they are the person who talks about ''improving your sales'' and they are very good at it. Now, I talk about sustainability, and a lot of people don't want to hear about it, because it is bad news, obviously it is bad. And it changes all the time, so the big thing with commercial presentation is the audience says at the end of your presentation; when I walk away, where is the benefit?
Now, a sales person can say, “Your sales force will go out, reinvigorated and you will see those numbers rise.” I can't say that, all I can say is, if you do things this way, you might not actually suffer damage or loss of business. I can't offer you anything that's actually going to be better, but I can help you stop things getting worse. And of course it is completely difficult and impossible to measure how you've actually prevented somebody from making things worse. It's a bit like, somebody who was saying something about the man who invented the locks on aircraft doors  -didn’t get any recognition for it. But who can say what terrorist attacks he’s prevented.
MANDA SCOTT: So, do you think having got a podcast which has clearly got a wide reach, do you still want to stand on the stage and speak to people? Is that likely to have more impact or is it simply something that pays better?
ANTHONY: Well, hopefully it pays better, yes. It's also a partly that I enjoy interacting with a live audience. Anyway, in the meantime, I'm going to follow your lead and go back to school. I've applied to Leeds Beckett University to do a PhD.
MANDA SCOTT: Fantastic, in what?
ANTHONY: In sustainability, at the institute of sustainability. Now apparently the first 6 months or so is spent refining the actual scope of the thesis, and what I want to examine is the method of promoting the sustainability message; things like why denialists are getting all the attention and why in fact even though this is one of the most serious issues in history, even though the ways that we change things will actually keep people's standard of living where it was and possibly better, making it more comfortable, people are totally resistant against change. And of course there are the vested interests, because if you're an oil company, you want to sell oil. So, that's what I want to study over the next few years.
MANDA SCOTT: Interesting, and is that full-time or part-time?
ANTHONY: It will be part-time.
MANDA SCOTT: And how many years would it take?
ANTHONY: It would probably take five years.
ANTHONY: I really haven't got my head around why it should take such a long time. So, once we get a bit further down the application process, and I hope to actually meet more of the academic staff and know exactly why it does take so long. I think it does involve quite a lot of interviews and surveys and censuses and things like that which will take quite some time to publish and then gather the data from and analyze. But it’s early days, but I wanted to do that partly to focus what I do on sustainability. You look at the sustainability futures report, every episode has got at least half a dozen very different topics in it. And am I an expert, well in what? Because it's so broad, maybe this will narrow my field a bit, but we'll see. It will also give me two things which I'm looking forward to; It will give me access to online academic journals. And quite often I chase stories down I come up against a paywall. Now I can't afford to subscribe to all these things obviously. So as a student I should be able to get into a lot of these things like Nature for example. Yes, that's one of the things.
And the other thing is a bit of; I'd like to get some sort of academic credit for what I believe is a large body of knowledge which I have built up at quite a long time.
MANDA SCOTT: Yes, so in this as you're building towards the PhD, who are your role models in the world of communicating sustainability?
ANTHONY: I think we've got to say Al Gore. He has worked very hard, I wasn't impressed with his latest film, it was too much of a movie about Al Gore, rather than about the sustainability agenda. But he’s stuck with it and I understand that he’s even gone vegan, which I think is quite a challenge. Incidentally, I'm going to, when I get time; get hold of the vegan society, because if you look at their website, it says sustainability all over it. So, I'm going to get hold of them and say look, explain to me why I should be vegan. I'm not saying I would be, but you know…

It's very difficult to think of a role model, but one person who impresses me is ''Elon Musk’’; do you know who I mean?
MANDA SCOTT: Yes, absolutely, Tesla Tiles, Tesla cars, yes.
ANTHONY: Yes, well, Elon Musk actually started, I believe setting up PayPal and he made his money there. He set up Tesla yes, which markets electric cars everywhere in the world as far as I can see. And in the process of launching his mass-market car, he also is chief executive, and in fact this is more than a name. He's chief executive of ''Tesla cars’’; he's chief executive of ''Space X’’, which is the company which has successfully launched missions to the space station and  has supplied the space station. They have developed a rocket which will actually come back and land. And the sort of technology that he is stimulating, and I think it's amazing and he's only 46. And if you read the account of how his working week goes, it's quite incredible, so that's somebody to watch I think. And the lot of things he's doing is very green, but I'm not altogether sure that I agree with ''space tourism''.
MANDA SCOTT: Or with the idea of an exodus to Mars, so those who can afford it or those who are chosen will be able to get to Mars when this planet finally is uninhabitable and that’s the aim of Space X.
ANTHONY: But that's interesting, yes he's talking about a colony of a million people on Mars and Steven Hawking is also saying that the future of human race is on Mars. I think people have got to realize that's the future of the human race as a species. He’s not suggesting all seven and half billion of us will actually go there.
MANDA SCOTT: No, and what's amazing, I think is that they’re look at Mars and thinking “that could be inhabitable.” And not looking at planet earth and thinking; “well it's pretty inhabitable now and we can stop it becoming uninhabitable without needing to send everybody off to Mars which currently is significantly less inhabitable”.
MANDA SCOTT: So where we were going was, we're not going to talk about Brexit, we're not going to talk about Trump. But the world is in the state that it’s in. Denialists have some very strong arguments to which a lot of people are listening, and our culture is not giving everything that it has to reversing the impacts of climate change and to mitigating further carbon losses. How do you see the world progressing in the next 5-10 years, first as it is? And second, what if we were to get it right, what if everybody was to listen to the sustainable futures report and believe it?
ANTHONY: Well are people going to make radical changes in the next 5-10 years? I think not, you know. Because looking back at 2007, an awful lot of books had been published at that time about climate change and environmental issues. There was a ''May Day'' conference which was led by the ''Prince of Wales'' and that was a conference across the whole of UK, I mentioned that in a podcast recently. It was networked with video links to 20 different places across the United Kingdom. And the following year they did it again, and the year after that they did it again, and each year got smaller and smaller and they don't do it anymore.
We've seen George Osborne change the rules on car tax, because we did have a whole range of different car tax bands dependent on the amount of CO2s which the cars emitted. Every car is exactly the same unless it is pure electric. So, people have just sort of thought, well, they didn't think about it anymore. You're going to buy a new car, you concerned out emissions? No, not at all. But why not? There's a long way to go, and I think we can only make people change if we can make them see that it's in their interest and that is the conundrum which, well I think everybody would like to know the answer to how you can influence people to accept change.
MANDA SCOTT: So, final question then. Do you have a message for those of us who listen to the sustainable futures report week-in, week-out? What would you have us do besides listening? If you had a message just for listeners, what would it be?
ANTHONY: Tell me what you like, tell me what you'd like to hear more of, let me focus it on what you think is important. Because I'm sitting in a vacuum, I'm looking at the press, I'm listening to the media, I pick up things which I think are interesting. But, it's got to be something which helps you develop your understanding and I'm here to do that for the people who listen to it.
The other thing I think I would say is a practical thing you can do, ''check your carbon footprint''. I'm going to check my own, we had Professor Coplan the other day, talking about how he has got a 4 ton carbon footprint as against 22 tons, which the average American does. I bumped into somebody the other day, he said he won a prize a few years ago for having the lowest carbon footprint in the UK, and he reckoned it was 1 ton. So, I think what we'll look at is not only what our carbon footprints are, but we'll look at the different measures with different algorithms on the internet to see whether one measure gives us a different result from another. And maybe we should challenge each other to review our carbon footprints every year and to see how we're doing.
MANDA SCOTT: Fantastic, so Anthony Day; creator of the sustainable futures report. Thank you very much for coming along to answer questions, and I hope our listeners have enjoyed it. And if you have guys, then you need to write in and let Anthony know whether you like this or not, whether you'd like more things like this and particularly do tell him what it is that you'd like to hear, so that we can focus in more closely on that. Anthony, thank you.

ANTHONY: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.