Today's guest is Dr. Daniel Huppmann, an energy research scholar at IIASA, The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. IIASA is a research consortium based outside of Vienna, Austria, whose member organizations represent countries throughout the world. Its research focuses on urgent global concerns, such as climate change, energy security, population aging, and sustainable development. Dr. Huppmann was an author of the 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15). We had a great discussion about how the report's "Sustainable Development Goals" were created and how the layperson should be thinking of them. You don't want to miss this episode!
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Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to my climate journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Today's guest is Daniel Huppmann an energy research scholar at IIASA.
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. IIASA is an independent international research Institute with national member organizations in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Its research programs focus on issues that are too large or complex to be solved by a single country or academic discipline. This includes pressing concerns that affect the future of all humanities, such as climate change, energy security, population aging, and sustainable development. Dr.Huppmann was an author of the 2018 IPCC special report on global warming of one and a half degrees. His responsibility for SR15 was the compilation of a scenario, ensemble of quantitative scenarios.
And the assessment of the interaction across different sustainable development goals. In parallel to his contribution to the IPCC Dr.Huppmann was also the lead developer of the energy system and integrated assessment framework message I X, which is an open source platform for integrated and cross cutting modeling.
Dr. Huppmann is an interesting guest because he not only understands the science behind climate change, but also is an expert as it comes to scenario modeling, which is such an important topic and one that candidly. I need to learn a lot more about. So hopefully you find this episode valuable. I know that I did.
Jason Jacobs: Dr.Huppmann, welcome to the show.
Daniel Huppmann: Thank you for having me.
Jason Jacobs: Thank you for coming. I've talked to a lot of people, but I have not talked to enough scientists. I've talked to some, but as somebody who is deep in the thick of the modeling and the scenario planning and looking at this kind of from the systems oriented and quantitative side of the problem. Your perspective is just such an important one, so I'm so glad that you agreed to come on the show.
Daniel Huppmann: Well, thank you. I hope that I'll can contribute something useful.
Jason Jacobs: No pressure after that big buildup. What I typically do to kick things off is just take things from the top. So maybe talk a bit about the IIASA what it is, what your role is there.
Just kind of some context for me and for listeners on your background to set kind of a framework for the discussion.
Daniel Huppmann: So IIASA, you can think of it in the U S context as a national lab, but. international. So it's an international research institution situated about 20 kilometers South of Vienna, Austria, where we do systems research, meaning energy, climate, land use, but also risks associated with that research and population drivers.
And a couple of other interesting research questions. The umbrella, I would say is the sustainable development goals that maybe we can talk a bit more detail about later. One funny story about IIASA is how it was founded, so in the late sixties early seventies.
Jason Jacobs: I-I-A-S-A but it's pronounced "IASA,"
Daniel Huppmann: Right? Yes, sir.
Jason Jacobs: Yes, sir.
Daniel Huppmann: Hi. IIASA would just be too long in normal conversation. I think
Jason Jacobs: if we cover nothing else in this episode, that in itself was worth it. Now I know how to pronounce
Daniel Huppmann: IASA.
Yes, sir. Okay, so one funny story about how IIASA was founded is that in the late sixties the United States and Russia said, well, maybe the cold war not too good.
We should find a way to at least that our scientists connect and talk to each other. So maybe. Let's fund an international research institution and Austria heard about that. Austria is a small little, nice country that like Switzerland, everybody kind of likes it. Nobody knows something very specific about it except for the sound of music, maybe, so Austria neutral country between these two blocks that, well, we have this palace from imperial times 250 years ago that we don't really need.
So why don't you put this international research organization into this. imperial palace, which everybody kind of liked. And that's how ended up in Vienna or close to Vienna.
Jason Jacobs: And when was that, by the way?
Daniel Huppmann: That was in 72 that it was founded.
Jason Jacobs: And when did you join?
Daniel Huppmann: I joined four years ago. I'm originally from Vienna.
I did a mathematics and economics masters, Indiana. Then went to Berlin for my PhD in energy economics. Then I spent half a year in the U S in Washington DC working at Johns Hopkins as a post doc. But it was always clear for my wife and me that we wanted to go back to Vienna at some point. So we came back to Vienna after this stint in the U S.
I applied for a couple of jobs. Yes. I said, well, why don't you join us? And I said, yeah, sure. Why not? So nice place. Interesting research. Great publications. So why not? So now I'm here for the last four years and a bit.
Jason Jacobs: Where does IIASA get its funding?
Daniel Huppmann: It's roughly half, half between contributions from the national member countries.
So similar to a national lab. That's why I think this comparison is quite apt that there is some base funding from the national member countries, which is currently around 25 and then the other half is research projects where we get funding from the European union, from United nations divisions, from philanthropic institutions that say, well, we need somebody to look into this particular research question.
You also go do that. That's about half of our research funding.
Jason Jacobs: So it looks like there's these 2015 UN sustainable development goals. And then from an IIASA standpoint, you're looking at these thorny systems problems that require collaboration across all these interdisciplinary areas that don't typically collaborate.
And of course, climate change is a big one of those. But can you just talk a bit about those UN goals and the work at IASA and how those map to each other or where they might differ.
Daniel Huppmann: The UN sustainable development goals are in a way, the successor to the millennium development goals, which were more or less of a success, but there was a feeling in the international political community that something more needed to be done and then in a more comprehensive strategic way, and that's why they went away from the millennium development goals and replace that by 17 sustainable development goals to map out all the different spaces where work needs to be done. Basically to make a decent living for all mankind. And that goes from very general things like no poverty and zero hunger to climate action to how can we have decent ecosystems? How can we have sustainable cities and communities, circular economy. Obviously clean water and sanitation is a big issue of that. And then also, and that's where my particular background comes in, affordable and clean energy, and this 17 goals linked to a host of different indicators to be really able to measure progress in a scientifically rigorous way.
I think this was what was very cool about the sustainable development goals is that it wasn't just some lofty goals, but it was some lofty goals associated with very rigorous, statistically reliable indicators or these indicators that then could be measured to see if progress is being made and also to measure the interaction between these different indicators.
Jason Jacobs: And so does the work of IIASA then map directly to the sustainable development goals.
Daniel Huppmann: I would say pretty much maybe that's my home bias talking with a couple of the senior people at IIASA were very involved in their creation and they are forming a bit of an umbrella of all the work that we are doing here at IIASA.
Jason Jacobs: And so then that, in terms of the IPCC report, I know that you were one of the authors on the 2018 report. I think it was called SP15. And so where does that sit? The IPCC report, where does that come from? And is it IIASA that was asked to be involved in that, or was it Daniel?
Daniel Huppmann: Now Daniel is too junior researcher to be asked personally by the IPCC.
It was an IIASA thing. If you read the full title of the special report on 1.5 degree, it actually says something about the context of sustainable development. And if you look at the timeline in the fall, there were two big conferences. One was. Does UN general assembly where the sustainable development goals were ratified.
And then a couple of months later, the Paris Agreement, where before there was a lot of push towards limiting global warming to two degrees. And then in Paris there was an over exceedance of the goals set for the meeting, I would say, where suddenly there was this ambitious goal to go to 1.5 degree C as a target.
The interesting thing is that there was not that much research. Prior to the Paris agreement on what does the 1.5 degree target mean? How can it be reached? And in particular, what's the difference between the 1.5 degree target and the two degree target, which was more a benchmark and the workhorse of scientific research prior to that. So then the governments in Paris said, okay, we want to go to 1.5 now let the IPCC tell us what this actually means, how we can get there. What's the difference between 1.5 degrees C versus 2 degrees C versus even higher warming levels? And also how does that relate to the sustainable development goals we just ratified a couple of months earlier, and these are the two basically the big overarching content of the SR15 special report in 1.5 degree. What is the difference between 1.5 versus 2 and what does it mean in the context of sustainable development?
Jason Jacobs: And before we jump into the IPCC report specifically, can you, just for the benefit of context heading into this discussion, talk a bit about your role at IIASA and your role in the authoring of the IPCC report.
Daniel Huppmann: So when I initially joined IIASA, my first task was to rebuild the message integrated assessment model. So message, it's a big computer model that allows you to run scenarios to develop scenarios of how the global human at earth system will develop over the next hundred years. It was started in the 80s.
First, just for energy planning; do we need nuclear plants versus coal power plants. Then adding renewables, and then it grew over time to incorporate land use, food, agriculture, air quality impacts, multiple emission drivers, economic feedback. So if we have a high carbon price, then that has a negative impact on economic activity.
How does that feature into this human system and message is a tool that lets you compute scenarios for that. When I joined, they had been working on that tool for 40 years and it was really reaching the end of its software lifetime. I mean, you have some background in software. Maybe you can appreciate that. If somebody has been working on that for 40 years, making gradual improvements, at some point you just say, okay, this is not going to work anymore. We need to throw the entire thing out of the window and start from scratch. You doing the same principles, having a piece of software that has the same features and supports the same research questions in our case, but that is actually implemented according to best practice of open source, scientific collaboration, version control, etc. So the first two years at Yasser for me was. Throwing this old stuff out of the window and reimplementing the software again from scratch, including database connections, interfaces between different programming languages, data curation tools, et cetera. That was the first part of my job at IIASA and then two years ago we released this as an open source software tool, and it's super exciting to see people at a lot of different research institutions picking up this tool and using it for their research.
At that time also, IIASA was asked to, for the SR15 again, host a scenario database. So that's a role that IIASA has been having for a decade or so in previous IPCC assessments to collect quantitative scenarios from the research community and curate them and make that accessible to the IPCC report. And then they needed somebody to actually do that work for the SR15 and because I've been working on this whole software stack beforehand, it made sense that I would also take over that role. And then I came into the IPCC as what's called the chapter scientist. So you have a distinction between lead authors who are nominated by their governments, and then there was a selection process. To get the lead author team of the IPCC report. Then you have contributing authors. So if the lead authors realize, Oh, we need somebody to write a section on a particular topic, but there is none of the lead author that has a deep expert on that, or nobody who has time to write yet another section, then they can ask additional people to join as contributing authors.
And then there is the chapter scientists. So these are people who help in the coordination of the chapter development, preparing tables, figures some of the analysis, compiling the different text pieces that come from the authors into a coherent document, and also managing the references. So managing all the scientific studies that are cited in the IPCC report are actually properly tracked that are properly included in the final report. So that was my role in supporting the authors with the added task of managing this scenario ensemble.
Jason Jacobs: It sounds like, Dan, and correct me if I'm wrong, that before I go and ask you a bunch of questions, you're pretty close to the data and scenario planning that the IPCC report covers, correct?
Daniel Huppmann: Right. That was my life for two and a half years, and it still continues to be a big part of my daily life.
Jason Jacobs: Well, this is a kind of a unique discussion for me because on the one hand you have this report that's hundreds and hundreds of pages that's very dry and long form and necessarily dry. By the way, I'm not suggesting that there's anything incorrect or improper. It's substantive, very substantive. But for the naked, untrained eye, it can be hard to kind of get through and make any sense out of it. And then on the other hand, you have these headlines in the news, like 10 years, 12 years, we're all screwed. Run for the Hills. The battle's already lost, and so talking to a human that was kind of neck deep in the analysis that went into the IPCC report. I feel like this is a special opportunity to get a perspective that you can't find anywhere else.
Daniel Huppmann: We have 10 years. I feel very torn about that because on the one hand, it is a misinterpretation of the science. Let me elaborate on that in a second, but before that, I want to say I think it's also a powerful political message because 10 years is something that people can relate to that's in their personal life planning horizon versus you say mid century 2050 that's something.
That does not engage people as actively. So I think that we have 10 years as a slogan, I think it kind of works, but from a scientific perspective, it's a bit of a misunderstanding and there'll be dive into that for a bit. There are two ways how you can get to that number one is you look at the carbon budget.
How much emissions can we emit? And that's particular CO2 emissions can we emit before global warming passes the 1.5 degrees C threshold. And if you divide the remaining carbon budget by what we currently emit, you arrive at roughly 10 years. I mean, obviously nobody says we should continue at current emission levels for 10 years and then go to zero.
In that timeframe. So if we were to continue as we do today for 10 years, then it will probably pass the 1.5 degrees C threshold. That doesn't mean we have 10 years. You follow?
Jason Jacobs: I'm with you so far.
Daniel Huppmann: Okay, cool. That's one way how you can get to this 10 years number.
Jason Jacobs: So what I heard from you is that it's not that we have 10 years or the world ends, it's that we have a budget to stay within one and a half degrees, and if we keep emitting how we are by the 10th year is when we will surpass that one and a half degree budget at the current pace of emissions.
Daniel Huppmann: That's exactly right.
Jason Jacobs: That's much different than the world ending. If we don't clean up our act in 10 years.
Daniel Huppmann: The world is probably not going to end in 10 years. No matter what we do. It just might not be a very comfortable world to live in.
Jason Jacobs: Even within 10 years though, or is it more that our actions within 10 years make it not comfortable to live in in 50 years, a hundred years, 500 years?
Daniel Huppmann: Well, if you look at Australia, if you look at California, if you look at Sub-Saharan Africa, I think that we are in a stage where there are already now impacts of climate change being felt by people making it quite uncomfortable.
Jason Jacobs: It's not a switch that gets flipped on or off. Inhabitable versus uninhabitable.
It's a toggle that slides over time and 10 years is an arbitrary timeframe. Other than, if you take our current emissions on average, that's when we'll surpass one and a half degrees, which is also an arbitrary number.
Daniel Huppmann: Right, and that arbitrariness will be even more stark and focus in a minute when I get to my next point.
But first, what you just said is exactly one of the main points that the IPCC SR15 tried to raise every 10th of a degree matters. And every year and every action matters. So it's not continuous is for a little while and figure out what to do but every action today matters, and every 10th of a degree matters. And with every 10th of a degree, the impacts will become more extreme. And we'll have to somehow deal with them.
Jason Jacobs: Okay, and what's the next point?
Daniel Huppmann: The second point is coming to the scenario ensemble that I led the curation for the sr one five if you looked after the publication of the SR15 at headlines in The New York Times and The Economist that The Guardian, a lot of publications, it said by 2030 we'll have to reduce emissions by 50% and that is something that actually comes out of this scenario ensemble. We looked at all the different scenarios, all the different pathways to get to 1.5 degrees or two degrees, and we looked at what are their emission characteristics in the near term. And then we did some descriptive statistics on that, and the mean reduction is roughly 50% so roughly half our emissions in the next 10 years.
The thing is that the way that these integrated assessment models and energy system models work that feed into the scenario ensemble is that they usually work in 10 year time steps because they are pretty big computer models. You don't want to compute. The emissions for every year. So you do some simplification.
And one common simplification is that you say, well, only give me every 10th year, and that's good enough for a longterm outlook. So when we said this is what has to happen by 2030 this is not that we said, "oh, in 10 years is a really particular relevant date." It's just that this is where the models gave us data to analyze on where we could have picked 2027 or 2032 but the models didn't actually report numbers for these years. So the whole, we have 10 years or 12 years until 2030 is driven by what we call a model artifact is that this is just where the models give us results that we can analyze on.
Jason Jacobs: Well, given that, I think one thing that a bunch of critics would then chime in right after you say something like that, as they would say, well, 10 years is just an arbitrary number. And so it's really just the sooner the better. The flip side of that though, is that when you're picking any goal, so say it's a weight loss goal, a fitness goal, a professional achievement goal, even give yourself enough time to actually make some stuff happen, but not too much time that it's so far out that it's hard to instill any kind of urgency.
And so in that regard, 10 years is actually a pretty good timeframe. So rather than like nitpicking about should it be 10 years or five years or 20 years, why don't we just get moving? That's my perspective.
Daniel Huppmann: I'm fully with you. That's why I also said in the beginning that we have 10 years, I think as a political slogan, something for Fridays for Future in Europe in particular is saying, I mean, they're not saying that anymore. They said it in the beginning, and then some scientists said, well, actually this is not quite true. And then they refined their messaging, so to say, but the slogan still kind of sticks in the general public's mind like, we have 10 years, but I think, yeah, it's kind of right.
10 years is at planning horizon, like if you start a new job, you probably not going to evaluate that after the first week, but then you know, okay, maybe 10 years from now, this is when I'll know I'll need to move on maybe a little bit earlier, maybe a little bit later. If you move to a new place, 10 years is a planning horizon for a person that they can wrap their mind around. And then reducing emissions by 50% in 10 years is something where everybody knows, okay, that's a challenge. It can be done. That's what the scenarios tell us. It is possible to do that with some reasonable assumptions to get down to a one and a half degree pathways, but it will be challenging.
Jason Jacobs: And how much analysis does the work behind the IPCC report? Is it only focused on, here's where we need to take the math and then here's some buckets to do it, or does it actually get into, and here are the types of solutions or policies or areas that need funding or things like that to actually make it a reality?
Daniel Huppmann: No. The different scenarios go into quite a little of detail. One issue that is always very controversially discussed is do we need negative emissions or to what extent do we need to do we need bio energy, carbon capture and storage. So do we need to burn trees for electricity, and then capture the CO2 and put it on the ground.
So to actually reduce the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, and what the scenarios tell us is that most scenarios use that. But there are also some scenarios that say, well, if we go for strong societal lifestyle changes we don't need that. We can get to a 1.5 degree world without resorting to technologies like bio energy and carbon capture and sequestration.
Jason Jacobs: Well, one thing I've heard from a number of people that aren't as close to it as you, but that I've heard from a number of people pretty consistently, is that. Why are we still talking about one and a half degrees? Because there's no chance that we hit that goal. How do you respond to that?
Daniel Huppmann: Well, you brought up the fitness question earlier.
If somebody tells you, look, I want to be able to run a marathon next year, are you going to tell them, look, at the moment, you're not even able to catch a bus if you need to run for it. So maybe a marathon is not a good target, or are you going to say, Oh, sure, let me go train with you every weekend. So I think talking about the 1.5 degree target as an ambition level is perfectly valid.
At the same time, we do need to take adaptation measures. So we need to prepare for much worse things going to happen.
Jason Jacobs: Another thing that I've heard is that the models themselves maybe don't factor into the full extent things like the positive feedback loops from the melting of the permafrost as one example.
What's your confidence level in the models as they stand today and are there areas that are known now that we're not factoring in? At the time the models were built for that report?
Daniel Huppmann: There is a slight delay I'll give you that. The IPCC takes the state of scientific knowledge as it exists, basically a year before it's published.
There is a delay already in the writing process of the IPCC itself, but then also to become established scientific knowledge takes awhile. So let's say there's this brilliant PhD student who says, I have a climate model that can take these feedback loops into account much better than any of the other models.
So he'll build the model, he'll do the research. You'll hopefully do it in an open source kind of way, because that's how research should be done today going forward. And then he'll publish a paper, he'll present at some conferences, he'll get feedback, incorporate the feedback. So that takes a while until this becomes part of the scientific cannon.
So yes, the IPCC is maybe slightly behind the curve when it comes to the climate impacts. At the same time, the models are validated over and over and over again. So we are learning more, but let's say the rate of improvement is getting smaller. So maybe when you did the first climate models in the 70s and then move 10 years forward, the change in what they predicted about warming at certain emission levels, there would still be some changes that you could actually see. So it was, "oh, that's two degree," and then they realize, "oh no, it's only 1.7 degrees warming with that." But now the range of error, because there has been so much research on that over the last decades is actually becoming smaller.
Jason Jacobs: So given that we're now, I guess, coming up on a couple of years out from that report, are you feeling more or less optimistic about the path that we're on today versus when that report was written?
Daniel Huppmann: Both, I would say. I have this phrase in my head, I don't know where he got it from, that people tend to overestimate the amount of change that's possible in a year, but underestimate the amount of change that's possible in 5 to 10 years. So we think, oh, next year there'll be 50% electric vehicles, and no, it's probably not going to happen.
But then if you look five to 10 years into the future, suddenly it's 100% electric vehicles. It's a hundred percent renewables because changes often follow these escrows where it has a very slow pickup in the beginning and once the ball gets rolling, it actually rolls very quickly. And my hope is that we are on a curve like that so that in 10 years we'll look back and say, we didn't think we would actually manage.
But somehow all the things worked out in such a way that the worst outcomes were avoided. We actually built a better, more equitable place for mankind. That's my hope, call me unrealistic. But here's hoping.
Jason Jacobs: I'm bouncing around a little bit, but one of the things that also read is that essentially when the math was done.
There was a gap and the gap was kind of a, this is going my over-simplistic view—and so feel free to bash it and tell me all the ways that I'm thinking about it incorrectly—but that the balance we need to do carbon removal because we're not going to get there through emissions reductions alone. And I know you mentioned there are some scenarios where we could, but I guess from your view, so I'm asking, I guess from Daniel and not from one of the many contributing authors of the IPCC report, but do we need carbon removal? And also. How realistic is it that the technology will deliver at the scales that the model say that we need?
Daniel Huppmann: Let me distinguish between carbon removal by forestation reforestation versus bio energy and CCS. The models use a lot of both because that is a relatively cheap and particularly in the second half of the century, easily available option. And if you tell a model, give me a sum of total carbon emissions over the entire horizon, it will push a lot of the pain to the back. I mean, that's what humans do, right? Nope. Don't make me go to the dentist tomorrow. Let me do it next month. And that's also what models do. And recently we had a paper in nature where we tried to map out that space more comprehensively.
So led by your view, particularly where we said, well, actually, if you not just say, let's constrain emissions communicatively until the end of the century, but let's say, okay, we have to reach let's say, Europe by 2050 and after that, no negative emissions. How does that look different from a scenario that reaches net zero by 2070 and afterwards uses a lot of backs?
So the models go for the easy way. But you can also push them and constrain them in a way that they give you a more comprehensive analysis. Now, that's the sciency part. The personal Daniel answer is, I don't think Bex is going to happen anytime soon because if you look at people reacting to storing something that is perceived as dangerous in their backyard.
They usually don't like that. And my PhD advisor had a very interesting figure on map a couple of years ago where he showed this is where the storage sites in Germany for nuclear waste could be, where geologically it's possible. And which hasn't been built forever for the last 30, 40 years. And then next to that, you showed the map saying, okay, this is the geological formations that could be used for carbon sequestration.
And it was pretty much the same regions. So I think that if people don't like there are nuclear waste stored on the ground, they won't like their carbon there either. And then you have technical solutions of pumping it out into the ocean. So doing it in formations that are under the ocean, but that is a lot of investment.
That's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built. And I'm skeptical that this will happen within a timeframe that is relevant for the topic we're talking about because as we discussed earlier, we have 10 years.
Jason Jacobs: Wow. With an asterisk. When I asked you if you were more or less optimistic, you said both.
So what are some specific examples you can point to that gave you the greatest cause for optimism?
Daniel Huppmann: I do think that the European Green Deal is a good way forward. So the incoming European Commission, which is the closest thing we have to a federal government, federal at the European-level, at least the noises they are making, it's going in a good direction.
If you look at the U.S. there are a lot of states, a lot of cities, that are taking very good measures. To combat climate change, and this brings me back to my escrow thing. As soon as people realize that, no, you don't need to have that much of a life-quality decrease by living sustainably more and more and more people will jump onto it.
We had this nice experience a couple of years ago in Vienna when they wanted to make the biggest shopping street into a pedestrian area. It was the green party in Vienna for the first time joining the city government, and that was their big signature project. Let's take this big shopping street, which also had a lot of traffic, make it a pedestrian area. And people were furious and said, no, there'll be congestion; it won't work. Local businesses will suffer, and now these kinds of pedestrian areas are springing up all over the city because people realize, oh, it's actually really nice going out shopping on a street where you're not in danger of being run over by a car. Maybe you're being run over by a kid with the skateboard, but that's a lot nicer than being run over by a car.
Jason Jacobs: So the optimism that you're deriving is coming from seeing the federal and local governments in different places around the world start to do things from a quality of life standpoint to integrate sustainability more directly.
Daniel Huppmann: Absolutely. And people starting to like it.
Jason Jacobs: Okay. And do you think that that in itself will lead to, since you're a math guy, well, that in itself leads to changes in the math or, and if not, then how do we get to those changes that the model say that we need?
Daniel Huppmann: By itself it won't be fast enough. That's the biggest problem. So if we just wait for people to start liking it, we might reach a two degree target, but that might not be good enough. So I would counteract that with a little bit more medicine in the sense that people don't like medicine usually cause it tastes icky. But I would think that we should start adding things like a carbon price at the regional state level, adding bands on polluting cars, building infrastructure for bicycles, shared mobility, public transport.
So I do think we'll need to do more than it's currently being done. Along a whole range of different measures.
Jason Jacobs: Is your hope that by changing the consumer sentiment, that that is the tip of the spear and the most important thing to lead to these other changes?
Daniel Huppmann: That's my hope at least. And if you look at politicians, I mean they have a job in the sense that the want to do what people like to do and then tweak that maybe slightly in the direction of their values and ideology. But once they realize that people are okay with having a small carbon tax, if that means that other taxes are being reduced, then maybe more and more politicians will fall into that kind of reasoning and we'll start implementing it.
Jason Jacobs: So given that you said you're both more optimistic and less optimistic, I'm not going to ask you about some things that make you pessimistic because I think there's no place for pessimism and the climate fight or in life for that matter. It's just not productive. So I'll ask it a different way, which is, what are some of the biggest barriers you see that are inhibiting our progress and keeping up at night.
Daniel Huppmann: Well, need to think about since you asked that question with the unexpected twist, the thing that most concerns me is obviously the U.S. leaving the Paris Agreement, because that was a milestone, not so much for the actual steps that were promised, but in the sense of, look, we are coming together and everybody does as much as they can to solve the problem. And by pulling out of Paris, that goodwill between the nations has been compromised.
Jason Jacobs: Within our nation as well,for what it's worth, the goodwill within our nation has been compromised in the same way.
Daniel Huppmann: But that's a topic for a different discussion, I guess.
Jason Jacobs: And so the U.S. Pulling out of Paris is one concerning thing. Anything else that's been particularly concerning to of late in terms of our ability to make progress on the timelines that are required?
Daniel Huppmann: I wouldn't call it particular concerns, I would say it's just, it takes a long while to get things started. But I also think that over the last year with Greta Thunberg and For Future and a lot of these activities and initiatives springing up, there is a lot of push and a lot of momentum growing. It takes longer than anybody would have hoped. Who is concerned about the issue. And I guess that is the biggest concern is the push going to increase quickly enough.
Jason Jacobs: So if you could step outside of yourself or outside of me or outside of anybody in their specific function for that matter, you're just looking down on the systems nature of this problem. If you could change one thing to accelerate progress against this problem, what would you change and how would you change it?
Daniel Huppmann: Well, number one would be Paris being rejoined by the United States. The second part would be the European Union stopping their free trade agreement with Brazil. As long as Bolsonaro doesn't do more against the Amazon fires, because that would be a huge leverage.If they say, look, we're not going to give you preferential trade agreements. If you don't get your act together, then he would probably be forced to do more about it. And the third would be China doing more to reduce its imports of coal.
Jason Jacobs: And what about from a dollar standpoint or euros or whatever currency you choose. But if you had 100 billion, call it dollars, and you can allocate it towards anything to maximize its impact in the climate fight, where would you put it and how would you allocate it?
Daniel Huppmann: So I need to make a little detour here because there was one thing I wanted to bring up but didn't get to yet. So bear with me for a minute.
One thing that we did in the IPCC as a one five was look at the impacts between different climate mitigation options on different sustainable development goals. So if you have a much more efficient, sustainable lifestyle versus you build more coal power plants, but with carbon capture and storage. So we looked at how does that fit over all the other 16 the sustainable development goals?Are they positive? So are there synergies between climate change mitigation with this particular option? And a sustainable development goals, or are there countervailing tradeoffs? And what we found is that actually mitigation options is focused under the demand site have far more synergies and far less adverse tradeoffs.
Then if you look at it from a supply side, a figure that did not get as much attention as I think it should have, because it's a really insightful picture saying, okay, if you go for the demand side, you can do a lot more positive synergies with the other sustainable development goals with reducing hunger, reducing poverty with better ecosystems, et cetera.
Now coming to your question about the 100 billion, what I would do is flip that assessment around, and I don't think it's been done yet, at least I haven't seen anything in this regard saying what are options for the different sustainable development goals that actually have a positive impact on climate change. Because if you look at climate change, there is a lot of money being spent. There is a lot of technologies that are out there ready to deploy it. I don't think we need much more funding to get the ball rolling. We just need a little bit of nudging with the carbon price or some more policies. But it doesn't require this kind of parachuting from the sky $100 versus if you look at the other SDGs there, you can really have a big impact with a little bit of extra funding, but you should do it in a way that it mitigates climate change. And one example that I know of because a colleague worked on that a lot, is clean cooking fuels. So we know that there are a lot of countries subsidizing fossil fuels as a social policy. So they know poor people they need access to food to cook, so they need access to cheap cooking fuels and we'll give them coal or something that is dirty and we can't reduce the subsidies for these fuels because that would be a social problem. If you make available clean cooking fuels to these groups the whole policy rationale for subsidizing fossil fuels falls apart, so you could reduce fossil fuel subsidies as a second order effect of making people have access to clean cooking fuels, which would have beneficial impact on indoor air quality, which would have beneficial impacts on hunger. Well, the ecosystem, if you think about poor people in the village going out into the forest to collect wood. If they don't have to do that anymore, that increases the ecosystem quality. So this would be my approach. Looking at the other SDGs, what can you do here in a way that it has beneficial side benefits for climate change mitigation?
Jason Jacobs: You would do that because you feel like by looking at just climate change in a vacuum, that there is sufficient resource going to that, but in order to sustainably solve the problem, it requires marrying the other sustainable development goals so that these things can be in harmony with each other.
Daniel Huppmann: If you think about it, there is a lot of money and attention and activism going into climate change mitigation, but it's going to where it's easiest.
So there might be a lot of low hanging fruits that are inaccessible because of other concerns like the energy poverty and no access to clean cooking fields. So if you remove these barriers, the whole activism and attention to climate change mitigation is getting, could be a lot more effective.
Jason Jacobs: And so what does that mean? If I'm listening to this show, I mean, typically our listeners are not necessarily just kind of people looking for tips to make their windows more efficient or things like that. These are people who are really looking to kind of put this problem front and center. With their professional time and motivations and their capital, if they have access to philanthropic capital or things like that. And so I guess addressing them for a minute, addressing me for that matter. What advice do you have for us on how to be most impactful in our efforts to help with the problem of climate change?
Daniel Huppmann: Well, I think you are being pretty impactful by talking about it, by getting a platform and raising awareness for issues and bringing together a very diverse range of different people. Just by listening to your podcast, I started being aware of efforts in areas that I would not have been aware of just by being a researcher sitting in a beautiful imperial palace south of Vienna. So talk about it. If you are concerned about it, go vote and then find a job or a calling that is aligned with your values.
If you have any means to do that. I mean, a lot of times you don't have the luxury of choosing a job that is aligned with your values. But if you do have the luxury, then go for it. Talking specifically to young scientists, because that is maybe the part of your audience that I'm most familiar with.
Jason Jacobs: And they are there as well. It's a very diverse audience. So certainly there are some young scientists in the audience for sure.
Daniel Huppmann: I really hope so. So at the IIASA, we have something called the Young Scientists Summer Program, which is a scholarship for PhD students from around the world to come to IIASA and work with us for three months and the deadline just closed. I'm really sorry for bad timing, but if you are a young researcher wanting to make an impact, then next December, put it into your calendar to send me an email and say, hey, I want to apply for the Young scientists summer program at the IIASA. What do I need to do? How do I get in? And then come to IIASA and do cool research with us, get published in high impact journals. And make the world a better place.
Jason Jacobs: Right. Well, Daniel, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show. Is there anything that I didn't ask that I should have or any parting words for listeners?
Daniel Huppmann: No, I think we've covered plenty of ground and really thank you for your interest in the nitty gritty details of the quantitative assessment.
It's really cool to talk about it. Well, maybe one final parting thought. So at the moment there is a lot of push in the research community going towards open source and fair data. We're fair means find-able accessible, interoperable, and reusable. So making your research in a way that others can actually build on it, not just by reading your paper and guessing what you did, but by actually looking at the source code, looking at the data, looking at your methods.
And I feel slightly conflicted about that because at the one height, I think that this is exactly the right thing to do. Either we need to do more of that, but at the same time, what we need to get the ball rolling faster is more activism and the kinds of science that we do is a good support, but it's not the main act.
Jason Jacobs: Does that mean that you don't think there's benefit in the open sourcing of these efforts or only just that it shouldn't distract from the important activism efforts as well?
Daniel Huppmann: I think there's huge benefit in this whole move towards open source, mostly because it's more fun to do it that way. It's just far more fun collaborating with people around the world and having open discussions than sitting in your office by yourself for a couple of years and doing your PhD thesis without interaction.
Jason Jacobs: Got it. So it's not, don't open source, but it just makes sure to also be an active.
Daniel Huppmann: Right. Go out there and talk about it. Go vote, and also change your lifestyle if you can a little bit.
Jason Jacobs: Okay. Daniel, thanks again. Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at MyClimateJourney.co. Note that is dot C O not that com.
Someday we'll get the .com, but right now dot C O. You can also find me on Twitter @jayjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes.
The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.