Carbon Sessions Podcast – Climate and Weather - part 1
Episode Summary: In this episode, we discuss our own experiences of signs that the climate is changing.
Today’s contributors are from all over the world. They discuss what factors seem to have changed over their lifetimes. Heat domes, dried rivers and snow storms and disappearing towns are all discussed from real-life experience.
Featuring Carbon Almanac Contributors Jenn Swanson, Leekei Tang, Jo Petroni, Elisa Graf and Rob Slater.
From Langley in British Columbia, Canada, Jenn is a Minister, Coach, Writer and community Connector, helping people help themselves. Leekei is a fashion business founder, a business coach, an international development expert and a podcaster from Paris, France. Jo Petroni is from Cordes sur Ciel in France, she is a Bioclimatic Architect and helps non Architects get back to the basics of what makes a good home. Elisa Grafis from California and living in Germany, she is a freelance writer, editor and podcaster, she has helped develop a cohousing development and lives in an Eco Village. Rob is from Birmingham in the UK, he is an orthodontist, triathlete, coach and podcaster.
For more information on the project, and to pre-order your copy of the Carbon Almanac, visit thecarbonalmanac.org
You can find out more about the topics from today's episode on pages 32 and 33 of the Carbon almanac. And on the website, you can tap the footnotes link and type in 342.
Don’t Take Our Word For It, Look It Up! Please join the conversation by leaving a message using the Speak Pipe tab at thecarbonalmanac.org/podcasts
The CarbonSessions Podcast is produced and edited by Leekei Tang, Steve Heatherington and Rob Slater.
Climate Weather (part 1)
Hi, I'm LeekeiJENN:
Hi, I'm Jenn.JO:
Hi, I’m Jo.ROB:
Hi, I'm Rob.ELISA:
Hi, I'm Elisa.JENN:
So today we're talking about the difference between climate and weather and and I'm going to ask Leekei, what do you think?LEEKEI:
The difference between climate and weather from my understanding is that when we go somewhere, we talk about the climate there: that is our expectations of how your temperature, the rain… etc will be at a certain period of time of the year for the region. Whereas the weather is the actual temperature and rain or sunlight that is happening at a certain place. So for me, the weather is the actual thing and the climate is more about expectations.JENN:
Rob, go ahead. What do you think?ROB:
Yeah, I was just going to say, we often say what's the weather going to be like today? And of course, it's quite hard to answer these days, isn't it? I used to think about summer holidays as being sunny with a bit of rain, whereas now it seems to be lots of rain. And when I go on holiday in Cornwall, it's often T-shirt weather and sunny in February, which seems to be completely the other way around to what it used to be when I was a child. Is anybody experiencing the same thing?ELISA:
Oh, absolutely. I grew up in Northern California in the San Francisco Bay area. And it was like clockwork from November to March. We would have rain. And it was the only time of the year when we had any rain, you know, it's like a Mediterranean climate.the last time I was there in: JENN:
We should probably find out where everybody is. Where, where are you Jo?JO:
I'm in the sunny South of France, where it has been raining for a long, long time now, but I'm actually a digital nomad. So every place I go is new. I never really get accustomed to the weather in any specific place. I'm always the new guy, but I listened to the neighbours wherever I go.
My neighbourg now is complaining about droughts even though it's raining. It's very strange. It's raining consistently, but not enough.JENN:
and Rob, where are you?ROB:
I'm in Birmingham and interested in Jo's comment there actually because it reminded me of, I suppose, I was about six years old, I used to go to Wales on holidays. We'd stay in a caravan and while we had rain on the holidays and I'd be disappointed because I wanted to go out and play on the beach. There was this waterfall that we would go and visit when we arrived in Cenarth and we would walk down to the waterfall. It was this cascade of water and salmon that would jump up and it was very exciting to see. I decided to treat my children and take them there this one summer. And that was about 15 years ago. We travelled down. It took about four hours to get there. And when we arrived, I was standing by the riverbank and my children were looking up at me saying, is this what you are supposed to see? And there was this tiny, tiny trickle of water. My wife is looking at me thinking, what is he up to? And it's exactly what Jo was saying. There's more rain but I couldn't believe how little water was going over this waterfall. Although you can't use it in itself as evidence of climate change, it's that amongst many other things that start to make you feel a bit worried about what's going on.ELISA:
Yeah. That's a really good point.LEEKEI:
I'm very sentimental when it comes to weather. And actually, I think I'm more sentimental when it comes to seasons. I'm very, very attached to seasons because I live in France. I wasn't born in France and at one stage of my life, I lived in Singapore. And I don't know if you know where Singapore is located: it's one degree north of the equatorial line. So the temperature varies between 29 to 31. All-year-round. I spent a couple of years there. I was working there, but I realized I was depressed because it was no season and every day was the same. Every single day was the same. It was either 29, 30 or 31. Oh no, well, actually there's a rainy season. You know, I really like it when it’s cold outside. And I really liked springtime when you see everything's burgeoning, like now, because we're recording April and in France, everything is really green and very beautiful. And I really, really love seasons and I really love four seasons.
How I realize that there is a change in the weather pattern is… I think my memory is related to snow because I was born in Hong Kong in Asia, and there was no snow there. And when I came to France when I was a child in the 80s. It was snowing in Paris, every winter. There was snow EVERY single winter, but I think for the last 20 years there was no snow anymore.
No, I mean, there's sometimes some snow, but it's the kind of snow that will melt in a couple of hours. So not like, you know, this thick, thick layer of white snow. Covering the streets and everything. I really miss that. I mean, it's not a change of weather to me. It's a change of climate because, you know, 30 years ago, well, actually 40 years ago now there was snow every winter in Paris and that stayed!JENN:
when I was little, I was living in Winnipeg, which is on the Prairies in Canada. And I remember one day we woke up and it was strangely dark and couldn't figure out why. I was only a five or six. And I remember my mother going to open the front door and she opened it and it was a wall of white. The snow was all the way up, past the top of the door and we couldn't see out the windows because we were completely snowed in. We had to go up to the second storey of the house to be able to see out. And my uncle had to come with somebody, a snowmobile, I think, and start digging. So we could at least open the door in case there was something, you know, a case we need to get out. But I remember thinking that was a grand adventure and I don’t think it's been quite like that since. Although they've had some really wild weather out there of late, but, for many, many years, it wasn't like that.
But I remember regular snowbanks on the side of the road taller than I was. They were always fun to play in.LEEKEI:
So what did you do? Your uncle opened the door, so did you have to dig a tunnel?JENN:
He had to dig to get to the door. So it took a long time and we didn't have cell phones or anything, you know, a long time ago.ELISA:
I live in Germany and actually the first year we moved here in 2010, there was a big snow storm that dumped probably a meter of snow. And I thought, oh cool! Because I was coming from California where I'd lived for 10 years before that we'd lived in upstate New York. And so we had snow before when my kids were small.
I really thought, oh, good. Okay. We're going to have four seasons. Well, ever since then it's changed so much Northern Germany doesn't get snow every year anymore. I mean, if we get any it's a few inches. And then it basically melts within a day. So it's always exciting to look out and see that it's snowing, but you know, it's not going to stick.ROB:
One of the things that I've noticed is that the wineries in England used to be, I think, laughed at, by people in Northern Europe, France. Germany. Whereas now there are French people that are actually saying this English champagne tastes just like the champagne that I used to try in Champagne 50 years ago! So there are comments like this sorts we are hearing, but so it's clearly getting warmer. And then some parts of the UK, there's very similar soil to areas in Champagne. So another sign, I suppose, that there could be this warming.JENN:
We have a burgeoning wine industry here on the west coast of Canada. And even in the town that I'm in, there are 17 or 18 wineries and a cidery and all these other things now. And again, it used to be: “oh, you know, BC wine is haha” and now it's winning awards because it's getting hotter and hotter and hotter here.LEEKEI:
Well, I was totally unaware that there's wine in England and in BC.ROB:
Yeah. It's not that bad actually, pretty nice, but it's worryingELISA:
Well, if you want to have wine in the world, obviously you’ve got to move up north. I've come from California where there's a lot of wine. The wine industry, they're really struggling because there's no water and they're having fires. And maybe it's a good thing on some level that there's still someplace that can grow grapes.JO:
Whereas here in the South of France, we have late frost last year that wipes out cultures around. Last year there was no wine in the area. No grapes.LEEKEI:
I think that this year, the wine growers, are they call wine growers? What do you call those people?JENN:
Wine producers. They are better prepared this year. Now, I think that the damages are not as bad as last year in France. And you’ll tell me Jo, if I'm wrong, but because now that we know that they are late frosts in France now. But the wine growers are better prepared. So now this year they manage to reduce the damage, right?JO:
Yeah. The probably made fires in the vineyards. I don't know of other ways of doing it than the traditional way. Very impressive fires in the vineyards to keep the vines from freezing, but it takes time. It takes effort. So. It's not an easy thing to do.LEEKEI:
But what I witnessed is that, you know, the effects of climate change has become, you know… it's affecting something that is traditional. So now we have to find new ways to deal with.JENN:
We had a tremendous climate change here, last year. I've never heard the term ‘atmospheric river’ before. We had an atmospheric river. We had a heat dome and we had a crazy wildfire season. So our atmospheric river was like lots and lots and lots of rain that actually caused immense flooding in the Fraser Valley, which is just like down the road. And the Fraser Valley is where there are lots and lots of farms. There were thousands of farm animals, drowned. People were out in their boats trying to pull animals into their boats. It was an unbelievably heartbreaking time. People lost their homes. There was a pump that was at risk of breaking down. So all the community came out. And sandbagged, and it was a river from the US that was threatening to over overflow its banks, which would have been more massive devastation. Anyway, there was a lot of tense moments. There was one night where we were all on Twitter and up late waiting to hear if that pump station was going to hold, because if it didn't, the whole area was going to be gone because it used to be a hundred years ago, a lake and they drained the lake and turned it into farmland.
So it was very tense. We had a heat dome that killed 500 people in Vancouver area and it was just this wild, wild year where all these things happened that we had never had before. We'd never heard of heat domes. We'd never heard of atmospheric rivers. And then the fires, or also we'd lost an entire town, an entire town burned down. The town of Lytton (BC) is gone because the fire came through and the town was gone. So we're all a little scared of what's going to happen.LEEKEI:
So that was my question. Do you think you would happen again? It could happen againROB:
It happened in Germany last year, didn’t it?ELISA:
Yeah. Last year there was a incredible, unbelievable and down in the, also the wine region of along the Rhine or I guess one of those tributaries, yeah, it was unbelievable. I don't remember what the numbers were, but it wasn't time for people to escape. It happened so fast. You know, they knew there was rain coming, but they didn't expect this. Cause it was like more rain that had fallen in a hundred years. And it was a huge amount of rain all at once. And if you've seen the videos, the power of that force of water really was unbelievable to watch. It was terrifying. So, yeah, I don't think anybody is really prepared for these kinds of scale of events. I'm thinking though right now, so about the fact that I just read a headline that, in parts of India, it's 47 degrees Celsius. Yes. And I know I've been to India before in Southern India, especially from starting around March, it starts to climb really fast. You know, it starts to get hot. So you need to take three showers a day. Cause you're just sweating all day long. My daughter used to live in India. You know, I can't even fathom 47 degrees, like now in April. That's just hard to imagine. How do you live in 47 degree weather? Right?LEEKEI:
I've read something about that yesterday. Apparently we cannot live in this regions anymore. If it goes up to 50 degrees every year, because our human bodies cannot cope with such a high temperature because when we get to this high temperature, our bodies start to dysfunction. Our body is not able to create sweat. Which is supposed to, which is designed cool down our body. It will kill our coping mechanism. It's so hot it would not be able to function. So humans will not be able to live in this regions anymore.ELISA:
Yeah. I mean, the roads actually melt. It's incredible to see that in India, in parts of India, the roads, literally the roads melt. Yeah. None of us are prepared for this.LEEKEI:
Yeah, I think that Jo mentioned that because of climate change we will not build houses and roads the same way we used to.JO:
Yes. Well, we should really start building differently. Of course, flood zones are starting to really see the benefits of building differently.
Also on a day to day basis, as an architect, for me, it's hard to gauge the patterns of weather in an area where I'm going to build. When you're going to build in a place, there's two ways of going about it. You check the examples of local architecture or you check the weather patterns and all the microclimates and/or all the other characteristics of that place. And build up a strategy around that. Right? Well, our graphs and our data is all mixed up now and we don't really know what to think about it. And the examples of vernacular architecture, they were adapted to a weather that is not what we're having now. So for example, considering the heat waves in the Southwest, the houses now in France, they're not prepared for the amount of heat that is coming now for the length of, and the intensity of these heat waves. They were good 50 years ago, but now they're starting to reach their max, sort of.ROB:
the extremity of, of weather in the South Coast of England. Really interesting to watch for the last few years, there's a rail line, that is one of the main routes into Cornwall that runs through Devon. And one of the pieces of line is run very close to the sea for decades, and a storm took this rail line out completely. And so this arterial rail routes into one of the largest, well, two of the largest counties in England, it was completely disabled and took months to put right. And from personal experience, one of the storms that hit some more is where we go often, things that were coming out of the sea and onto the road, we're taking the road up. One of the landlords that one of the pubs was saying that he could see the tarmac on the road being rolled up, like carpet during this storm and he'd never experienced anything like it in his life before.JENN:
We had a major highway called the Coquihalla highway, which is a sort of a commuter highway that makes it faster to get from the lower mainland part of British Columbia to the interior, to other parts and parts of it were completely gone. The footage is quite dramatic. They worked very, very hard to get that up and running because people couldn't move. There was supply chain stoppages like food. It was quite something, but entire sections in the mountain areas were gone from the water.ROB:
There was a village in the Southwest of England that was cutoff in that way through flooding. And so this village could only be approached by boat. In these villages because the infrastructure wasn't there, we're having to have teams come in from the fire service on rigs to bring them supplies and to the village.JENN:
So I wonder if there are ways we can, you know, what can people do individually to prepare or what can we, what can we do to change, to make a difference?
How can we make any shifts in this?JO:
We are pattern recognizing machines, humans, it's our innate best quality, right? To understand what's going to come and by analyzing what has been done before. My hope is that we're gonna be able to adapt to this chaos and find patterns even in this thingLEEKE:
Yes, I hope so. But I think that what is happening is that the temperature is increasing. I mean, there's more changes in climate. So we don't even have time to get used to a certain pattern that it changes again. So it's really hard.ROB:
I suppose, in the short-term, putting a plaster on it approaches like putting up these barricades to stop rivers, flooding areas and building houses on top of hills or away from water. But of course, then there's the longer approach of trying to deal with climate change itself. And of course that's a much bigger question and very much more complex, isn't it? And I think that's what sort of overwhelms people, isn’t it? how do we start? What can we do? And so people end up doing nothing.ELISA:
Yeah, I'm always amazed when you look at the US and what happens every year with the hurricane season, you know. We know there's hurricanes that will come and they seem to get worse every year. And there seems to be no movement to change anything that might perhaps make it easier for people to bear the situation. I don't know what they can do other than warn people in and give them enough time, but it just seems to me not much has changed over the years in the last decade that there've been severe storms every single year, hitting places like New York City and causing unbelievable mayhem. It's kind of interesting. We don't seem to see the writing on the wall.LEEKEI:
I think as an individual, it seems so mighty, you know, the climate, the changes. It's so mighty that as an individual, there's nothing much we can do, but I think there's an opportunity for us to get organized and tell our representatives, you know, those people are supposed to fight, to create a better life for us today and for tomorrow, to tell them that we want the direction to change, because if we're not taking action and we know that individual actions is not enough, I mean, you can drive an electric car, you can do small things, but it's not enough. And it's very stressful. You feel very disempowered, but I think we need to request, to demand changes in regulations. I think this is the only way we could do to make things change.JENN:
I kind of think it's both. I think it's because we can if you have to put in a new heating system, can you put in a heat pump? a cooling, heating and cooling system. Can you fireproof your, your property? you know, in some places you can't have wood chips or you can't have certain products that might catch fire. You know, if you're going to move, consider where you're moving, are you near water? Are you near a forest? I think there are things that we can do, but it isn’t enough. I think you're right. You have to also talk about supporting the systems that can help us to create policies. That will keep people safe.LEEKEI:
Yeah. For example, you know, I'm just taking the example of France. When I first arrived in France, there was no air conditioning and, now because it's getting hotter and hotter. People are adding air conditioning everywhere in restaurants, in hotels and also in people's home. And the problem is that, you know, we talking about coping mechanism, but this is making things worse because first, you know, the way, air conditioning works is that sputes out hot air when it works. So for people walking on streets, it becomes hotter. And on the other side, it requires a lot of energy to make it work. So, and I mean, there are a lot of bad things in air conditioning, so it's making things worse. So maybe, you know, if nobody is saying that we should maybe stop using air conditioning or using, I don't know, yeah air pump systems, which is less bad for the environment, I don't think there's any way to end this bad cycle.ROB:
I think it's like voting really. You feel powerless in a country where you have one vote, but it's important. You go out and vote, isn't it? It's something that people have fought for.
And in this regard, we can time and again, we can make our own little vote. Each time we do something like attempt to reduce our milk or meat intake or walk to the shops instead of drive to the shops or whatever we do. It's a little vote each time. It's the same as democracy. You don't feel like you necessarily making a big change by just putting your vote in and putting an X on a card. If we all do that in our own small way, it can at least help to change things that way.JENN:
And that's what this is all about. Right? That's what the Carbon Almanac is all about. Us having these conversations and with more and more people. So that eventually all those votes add up.ROB:
And then by demanding change, by going to a source or ground source or companies. The more people do that, the more people are going to say, well, we're going to need to make some more of these things. Whereas at the moment it seems a bit niche. And the service that you get from these companies is perhaps not as good as it could be.LEEKEI:
Yeah, I think individual actions are good, but not strong enough, not impactful enough.ROB:
It's as if though people in authority will only respond when there is a demand there, isn't it? And it has to be more demand before people change. Otherwise people won't make a product if nobody's going to buy it.JENN:
One of the things that the governments around here have been doing is offering grants to anybody who makes that change. So there, there are thousands and thousands of dollars worth of grants that you can get. If you decide to change your home to the more sustainable heating and cooling systems, which is progress. You can get them at the provincial and at the federal level, so that something's happening. It's slow, but something's happening.ROB:
And Birmingham, we have this great recycling system. So when I moved to Birmingham, I put everything in the trash, whereas now, I'm ‘filing’ my rubbish, sorry, various places. And then we put all these different bins out and it's great, but I go to my business and it's completely ignored. So, and there are a lot of businesses in the town. So everything just goes into this one thing. And I think that's an opportunity that's being missed at the moment.LEEKEI:
Yeah. I think there are a lot of opportunities, but maybe people are not aware of them.JENN:
That's our job.ROB:
We think about this on a daily basis, the more we can make change.ELISA:
In the end, of course it's a very difficult subject all the way around because there's so many facets to it, right? So you do feel disempowered a lot of the time because there are things that you feel that really are beyond your control. You know, so much of industry, for example, what it's producing in terms of carbon emissions and such, it doesn't feel like I have any choice about that, right? And it feels like politics doesn't change fast enough to get those things under control.JENN:
What are you thinking, Jo?JO:
I think there's even more and more people that are eager to do something about it and get involved in collective action for doing something about it. And I think that's our strength as a species when we gather and collectively try to find solutions to problems. I'm hopeful there's a magical moment, a tipping point, where that's gonna really start happening. And I hope that the Carbon Almanac may be the driver in this beautiful work that is ahead of us.LEEKEI:
So, what is our conclusion for this conversation?ELISA:
Climate change is real.
I read yesterday, my husband read yesterday that Spain is starting to add bisons to their forest and lands to fight wildfires. Because it seems that the passing of these big herds through forest, especially, pine and eucalyptus is doing something to the land and to the brushery, to the forest that is helping them resist fires better.JO:
And I think there's beautiful solutions that are simple like this. That can be found or found again.ROB:
It's like the introduction of beavers into the UK as well. And of course, they'll make dams and it changes the ecosystem in some areas and is helping in a small way to just change the environment. I think those sorts of those sorts of projects are really nice to see.JENN:
I think we got ourselves into this mess, but we're resilient and creative. And if we can, if we can work together, I think we'll get there.LEEKEI:
I think that’s what we need to do and I think that because I'm very optimistic in general, so I think there's a lot of opportunities for us to create new solutions. I think what we could do, and this is what I'm going to do, and actually, I'm already doing it, is to talk about the topic. I don't think there's this one solution that… one's one size fits all kind of solution, but there are lots of different solutions and people can come up with different sorts of solutions to solve different problems. So my commitment or my way of helping fight climate change is to initiate informed, structured discussions for people to feel not good, but feel less hopeless and start thinking of a positive aspect of it and see it in terms of opportunitiesROB:
When I was at work today, one of my nurses said to me, what are you doing this weekend? So just a simple comment like that. And I talked about what we were doing this evening and she became quite interested. So I started talking about why I was involved. And then we started talking about some of the changes that we can make. And as a result of that, she’s starting to look up different businesses that can actually supply things to the practice now. So just that conversation with the people in the real world. It's part of the solution, isn't it? Because she was quite inspired by that. And, so as a result, I think we can roll out to the rest of the practice and soon we'll see quite a few changes happening.LEEKEI:
Yeah. And may I add something? I think that our discussions will not resonate to some people because, you know, there are they have to worry about all the things in their life. So climate change is not something they want to deal with right now. And they have their own reasons. Before my attitude was try to convince them that they need to do something and it's really hard. And I decided that now it's fine. You know? I'm okay: i f you don't want to do anything, that's fine. I'm not going to try to force you to get involved. That's fine, but so many other people that could be interested or want to get into this discussion. So it's really by creating different conversations with various people. And there are some people that this message, this kind of ideas will not resonate with. Then, we'll talk, just talk to the next personROB:
when I'm listening to some of the conversations that have been had already prior to this discussion, there've been a few things that I've talked to. One of them was about compostable jeans and I've mentioned it to a few people actually since, and everybody becomes quite interested. And I think the more of these conversations that are made, the more people are kind of saying, ‘oh, I hadn't really thought about that’. And then it just becomes ingrained. Then it's not like you're trying to persuade somebody, it’s more like, I hadn't realized that I can feel a bit more empowered when we know something going out here.ELISA:
There are options.JENN:
It's not too late.