Find out more about Liam Bell
Liam Bell, emissions, climate, coal mines, people, reporting, energy, satellite, climate change, risk, methane emissions, global, data, world, ukraine, burning, impact
Dominic Bowen, Liam Bell
Dominic Bowen 01:35
Good morning. My name is Dominic Bowen, and I’m the host of The International Risk Podcast. Today we’re joined by Liam Bell.
Liam works as an advisor for climate change tech startups and is the Chief Technology Officer at hyper vine, a company that helps construction companies build better, faster and greener. Liam’s also the founding member of climate trace, that’s a coalition of organisations harnessing innovative technologies to track greenhouse gas emissions. Liam, thanks very much for coming on the podcast today. lovely to be here. Liam, most of our guests, and most of our listeners on the international risk podcast are aware of the importance of data, you know, if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it. And that’s the old saying, and we all recognise that that’s true. So capturing data, organising it and turning it into Operational Insights, things that can influence our decision making ultimately saves our company’s money, it helps them build better pursue opportunities and be much more agile. So I think there’s a there’s a real recognition certainly now that having access to high quality, real data that’s trustworthy, enables a much more agile approach to business, and it reduces our exposure to risk. Now I understand a lot of the work you’re doing as a CTO with hypervisor is specifically supporting construction industry and combining a variety of technologies, including satellite technology to give your partners an edge over the competition. That sounds like a lot. We’re talking about big data, we’re talking about satellites, we’re talking about better environmental action and climate change responsibility. Can you talk about how the work you’re doing is helping the construction industry de risk some of their operations?
Liam Bell 03:14
Sure. So one of the things that we do I provide is that we are able to digitise delivery tickets and understand where things happen when they happen using technology. So that gives a real time insight you can if you’re a construction industry director, you can log on to our dashboard and see what’s happening on a construction site live, which is the kind of insight that really isn’t available heavily in the industry. It’s an industry that suffers from a lot of issues with reporting. So the culture, especially in large scale projects, is that you will shedule a meeting with a project manager. And they’ll tell you about what was happening two weeks ago. But because construction is a consequential industry, it means that when there are issues that happened on site, and where deliveries are late, that the essentially cascade onto one another like a domino effect. Whereas with the mobile application that we have, we can understand where things are happening and automate the reporting of those issues as they happen in real time. And that that really can allow directors and allow project managers to know what’s happening without relying on this historic culture of manual report.
Dominic Bowen 04:26
And you told me earlier when we spoke about the satellite hub, that that your city is Can you unpack that I don’t think many people realise about the technology that was being developed in Edinburgh and and the huge advances in the huge advantage that this is providing to businesses.
Liam Bell 04:43
Yes. So it’s a story that isn’t talked about a lot actually. But Scotland is one of the global hubs of the satellite manufacturing industry. It’s a legacy that we have over multiple hundreds of years as a centre of excellence in manufacturing, but Now we’re developing high value satellite instrumentation that’s allowing us to do things like faster climate reporting, and also the measurement of environmental issues. So there’s a huge number of satellite data companies and satellite manufacturing companies that are set up in Glasgow on the cloud, where which used to be a global hub of shipbuilding. And there’s also a huge number of satellite data processing companies that are setting up in Edinburgh, particularly around where we have the observatory on black foothills, which is also beautiful.
Dominic Bowen 05:33
Yeah, well, a beautiful view and helping the world that sounds like a lovely combination. Liam, Can you unpack for us? How is Scotland’s high value satellite technology helping cap the highest emitting minds?
Liam Bell 05:45
Well, so the satellite companies that are set up in Scotland, they have a range of instrumentation that they’re building into it for indirectly measuring global emissions. So there are some satellite companies which are measuring, for example, the thermal emissivity of buildings, there’s a company in England actually called satellite view, who are doing that to a very high spatial granularity, which means that, for example, you could work out the capacity that copper Crusher was running, and therefore understand the emissions that are generated due to that type of industrial activity. We also are seeing satellite companies specifically in the domain of methane monitoring, admittedly not in Scotland, but GHG. Set and Canada have developed a rather unique sensor, which is able to understand the atmospheric column of methane emissions, which is particularly relevant when it comes to coal mining, because we don’t really understand to a huge degree what the level of coal mining methane emissions is, because it’s rather difficult to measure. And there’s a huge amount of uncertainty in global methane monitoring, when it comes to the overall emissions inventory for that gas. And that’s particularly concerning because methane gas has a higher global warming potential than co2, although it does dissipate far sooner, of course.
Dominic Bowen 07:08
Yeah, that’s really interestingly, and thanks for sharing that within the UN reporting framework, I understand that only 28 countries have submitted their stationary combustion emission levels since 2015. Now, I would have suspected that more than 28 countries are burning diesel as part of the process to mine coal. So if this suspicion is correct, why is reporting so slow? And so delayed and so insufficient? And what can be done about this poor reporting to improve transparency and ultimately, de risk mining companies and countries responsibilities as part of climate change action?
Liam Bell 07:41
Well, so I think that’s quite a big question. But I would love to answer it. So the reason why so few countries overall have reported mining emissions is generally because it’s considered a difficult sector to monitor. It’s the same reason why very few countries report construction of emissions is that the best methodologies tend to focus on relying on how much diesel that industry is bought, and assuming that it’s all burned. Now, first of all, it isn’t. And also, many countries don’t actually have access to the data to understand who’s buying the diesel at that sectoral level. And they also don’t have global obligations to report only certain countries have a global responsibility to report emissions in the first place. And I think personally, that the use of satellite data and also any kind of remote sensing and open transparent reporting allows us to unlock that and it allows us to see the level of emissions that every sector is generating not just mining, but also waste burning plastic waste burning, for example, I believe it see Philippines have ever reported any plastic waste burning despite being one of the major countries that are recipients of global plastic waste. And as well as that global mining emissions are quite often they’re not actually very well reported in the first place, because even mining production is not well reported. So one of the things that I’m working on as tight projects in life is I’m doing my master’s in satellite data for UN Sustainable Development Goals at the University of Strathclyde. And my master’s thesis project is focusing on the detection of illegal gold mining in the Amazon. And most of the world’s gold is legally mined in these tropical basins. And the fact of the matter is that no criminal will ever submit an emissions inventory to the UN because it wouldn’t be a very good criminal if the dead and therefore on top of the legally mined concessions. There’s also a very large concentration for every mineral of illegal mining. That happens too. And so we don’t understand overall global mining emissions for that reason too.
Dominic Bowen 09:55
Liam there’s a lot of things I’d like to unpack with you there. That was very, very interesting and you started by saying that the mining industry is difficult to monitor. And you know, the best methodologies are focusing on what diesel has purchased and assumptions about what is burned as well as inconsistent reporting obligations. How accurate is the alternative? How accurate is what you’re proposing satellite monitoring would have been found so far? Can we trust 100%? That if it’s satellite monitoring, we’ve got complete accuracy and complete transparency?
Liam Bell 10:24
Actually, to unpack that question, there’s two pieces there, we’re actually understanding a lot better when it comes to methane emissions in coal mining, because the UN uncertainty intervals, they range up to 200% in terms of global methane emissions from coal mining. And if we can directly measure it, then we can understand within far fewer percentage points what the global mining emissions are. The second piece around accuracy is that for mining, we can understand the rate of production relative to start production levels, and therefore be able to assign good dimension selectors to it that can bring down that level of uncertainty to a much greater degree, and help us understand how much is actually excavated from there. Because one of the problems is that if you give a mining licence to someone, they’ll generally excavate as much as they can get. And so we don’t know how much is being produced at a global level for many of the world’s minerals.
Dominic Bowen 11:23
Liam, you also mentioned that most of the world’s gold is illegally mined, and I’m sure most of our listeners weren’t aware of that. And this seems like a contributor to a variety of both international risks and local risks, Can you unpack the problem or some of the problems around the illegal mining of gold?
Liam Bell 11:42
Absolutely. This is a particular passion of mine, essentially monitoring precious metals and gems, because we kind of consumed them as a luxury in the developed world. But actually, they caused a lot of suffering for people in the Amazon and in Ghana. And if you want to get gold from the Amazon, what you do is that you pump water underneath the riverbed, it brings up the gold particles to the surface, and then you burn that off with mercury. And that essentially creates a lot of water contamination, which means that communities that rely on the water as a natural resource, are unable to use it for drinking and for cooking, or when they do and this is the extremely sad part, it causes the spread of disease that is usually not endemic to that community, such as cholera. And there’s also been a large number of smallpox outbreaks as well, in indigenous communities, because the illegal gold miners are, shall we say irresponsible about their use of the natural resource, they also burn down some of the Amazon to clear the land so that they can build camp. And this leads to deforestation and the reduction of the Amazon as a carbon sink. And the Amazon in particular is so important to the world. It really is a world resource. And since I want to say 2016 When Jairo Bolsonaro came into power, the illegal gold mining or Wildcat mining, as it’s referred to, has largely gone unregulated, and has increased significantly. But this is not just a problem in Brazil, the amount of illegally mined gold in countries that are on the Amazon about 60 to 90% of the gold that comes out of those countries as mine did an illegal or artisanal way.
Dominic Bowen 13:29
The tremendously high numbers. Liam, I don’t think most of us are aware on a day to day basis of the significant risks that are caused by Precious Mineral mining. And the process really just as sounds catastrophic. When you talk about you know, pumping water under riverbeds bringing gold to the surface, burning it with mercury leading to water contamination. And then, you know, you talked about a variety of public health risks, and then multiple environmental risks really is staggering. And why do you think that occurs in 2022? Surely we’re much better at detecting criminal activity and the sort of criminal activity you’re talking about is certainly large scale in nature. Why are we not able to better mitigate these risks?
Liam Bell 14:09
Well, I think that in a number of the countries on the Amazon, there was a lack of political will to prevent the illegal gold mining in the first place. Having state level governments are wonderful for this. They care because they are the closest to their people, and they can make the greatest difference. So the government’s in PATA pendant buco in the various states within the countries, there is a lot of appetite to make serious change and to prevent the essential sacking of their natural capital. But I think at federal level in the last decade in particular, in many of these countries, there’s been a real lack of attention paid to it. And also I think that to be honest with you, most of the blame lies lies with us in the developed world because we are in essence consuming materials first like practices that are ultimately unethical that we will pay because we create an artificial scarcity to these materials, it then increases the price to the point where criminal activity inevitably sets in. It’s why if we manage these resources in a way that actually met global demand, instead of trying to make them valuable, that there’ll be far less criminal activity in places like the Amazon, it’s almost like the drugs trade only expensive because we make it expensive, because it’s considered a luxury. And if we were to actually look at this and consume it in a more responsible way, there was an initiative that allowed us to understand where these things come from. And we stopped turning a blind eye to activity like this in the West, because we want to have something shiny, then I think that would be a way to prevent the expansion of illegal gold mining. But I don’t think there is any other way.
Dominic Bowen 15:55
You’re totally right. And demand from consumers for items like gold continues to make these high risk activities attractive and worthwhile pursuing for those that are pursuing them. And responsible consumption from consumers can only occur when there’s greater levels of transparency. And we saw that with various items like cotton produced in the west of China, a lot of manufacturing and retail outlets changing where they were sourcing their cotton from, and perhaps that’s what’s required here. So I certainly think that that things and initiatives like the work that you’re doing with your thesis certainly will contribute to greater consumer awareness about the consumption, and then how they should be purchasing these items more responsibly.
Liam Bell 16:35
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And having as well, that independent sources of data on the provenance of goods is going to be a real game changer. And that includes satellite data in understanding where the things that we consume comes from. And I think that the majority of people when they really look at the impact that they’re having, will make the right decision. And that will drive down the demand for precious metals, for example. Yeah, I think making these things more normal is where we need to get to, you know, I know a couple of times once in Dubai, and once somewhere else, I actually quite silly, perhaps at the time, but I asked I said where are these diamonds from? Where are they sourced? And I was generally interested to know, both occasions I was laughed at and you know, left, left, leaving the store quite red face for asking what appeared to be such a silly question. But wouldn’t it be great if whether it’s the gold or the diamonds or other precious metals, if there was some sort of way that badge that we see on our toilet paper, or toilet paper says whether it’s been said sustainably produced, but one items that cost many hundreds of times more, there’s no way of actually knowing how that was produced or where it was mined from? I’m a person that’s a big technology optimist, as anyone that has ever suffered through reading my LinkedIn posts knows. So for example, I would rather receive a synthetic time and then a real one, I would probably rather receive synthetic gold and real gold. I personally consume synthetic meat over eating meat and meat alternatives. Because I think, well, if it’s just the same, and I don’t have to be involved in the negative supply chain, why wouldn’t I do that. And so I think the technology to create great synthetic materials is also going to lower the demand for precious metals that are artificially created scarce and therefore will create less incentive to, for example, poisoned the Amazon to get those minerals as we currently do it. Well, I think all our listeners would be certainly behind less poison, where of the Amazon and more protection of fantastic resources and parts of the earth like then, if we can change track just a little bit,
Dominic Bowen 18:40
Liam, I’d love to hear more about climate trace one of the organisations that you founded or helped found, and what is climate trace, hoping to achieve?
Liam Bell 18:49
Okay, so what we’re trying to achieve with climate trace is that we want to independently monitor every sector on the planet and understand the greenhouse gas emissions as timely and as low spatial granularity as possible. So at the moment, we have a data set between 2015 to 2020. For most sectors that’s live on our dashboard on the web, anybody can go to climate trace.org and see that and as we move forward as a project, we want to move that temporal and spatial granularity forward to so we want to obviously continually update the data set and we want to do it faster. So for some sectors, that could mean going to even weekly monthly mentioned supporting which would allow you to see the carbon payback of for example, investing in alternative fuels for your steel plant or for your ship or for your mind a lot faster than is currently possible. Also, we want to go down a spatial level and report at a this specific copper mine in Zambia or this specific coal mine in China is producing this much material and is emitting this much as a result of producing this much material, or let’s be a little bit more controversial, this coal mine that we’ve said is closed is not. And therefore it’s still emitting co2 emissions, still emitting methane emissions and also personal level in the mining sector. We don’t cover it now. But we would like to cover abandoned bands, because abandoned mines are a significant issue when it comes to methane emissions to use two specific examples that I think your listeners will be interested in the coal mines that are in eastern Ukraine are not being very well looked after by the occupying Russian forces, and there’s a lack of the watering and if you don’t do water, a coal mine, you’re going to end up with a horrifying toxic sludge that will ruin the nearby community and will also emit significantly methane emissions. So it’s almost like a methane bomb. And this is one of the worst impacts it’s Warren Ukraine could have on the planet, aside from say, some kind of fiddling at Chernobyl, the lack of care and maintenance for older coal mines in Ukraine. And secondly, the other part of coal mining we would love to cover, which doesn’t receive a lot of global attention is coal fires. So for example, there’s been a coal fire burning in coal mine in India for 115 years, it’s been burning that long, and there are nearby communities are feeling the impact of this data that we’ve been told that it would move be moved away, but haven’t. And also, it’s burning rather a lot of coal. And that has a impact on the planet on its own. And that doesn’t just happen in India, that also happens in the US, there was a coal mine burning in Pennsylvania for 35 years. And because there’s a lack of attention to who owns it, and who is responsible for it, when it comes to the older coal mines. More often than not, the companies that would be responsible for rehabilitation and prevention of this don’t exist anymore. So it goes to the hands of state governments. And it’s a big problem, because how do you pull out a coal fire, therefore, it doesn’t get resolved. And it results in a lot of harm and disease and genetic issues with children born in that area, air quality, the acid rain the whole lot. And we want to be able to understand coal mining emissions, not just for companies that exist today. But for all of history. That’s the big stretch goal, I guess.
Dominic Bowen 22:36
Yeah, that’s really interesting. Liam, thanks very much for explaining that. And that’s a really interesting example. As you and I were discussing earlier, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Ukraine over the last few months just before Russian invasion. And after that, my big part of that was in the eastern parts of Ukraine and Donetsk and Luhansk. And they’re, you know, traditional old school mining towns. And, you know, you talk about the lack of care and maintenance of coal mines in Ukraine, and the huge risks that that brings, especially after as Russia’s invasion, when fighting a war, there’s an understandable focus on the here and now and what the military planners need to achieve now, but one of many considerations for military planners is the environmental impact that is something that that military leaders do need to take into account. And it’s something that they do take into account. So when you discuss the potential methane like bomb that’s been created by or been created in Russian occupied parts of Ukraine, what’s the sort of impact? But what’s the practical impact of that on the civilians living in that part of Ukraine, or even more widely across Europe? And what sort of timeframes is is this going to be a problem in 50 years or 100 years? Or is this something that’s going to impact climate change, or the environments in Europe, today or tomorrow?
Liam Bell 23:47
I would say that this is something that’s going to impact very, very soon. For example, we actually already have practical information on this problem, that after the initial invasion of Crimea, there were coal mines in those regions, as we would expect, and we can already see impact on the planet. As a result of that. I mean, the coal mines have already flooded. And when you’re talking about direct impact, the sludge that comes out of these bones, when it floods, towns, it’s poisonous, it’s and destroys communities. This is a really serious issue. And actually, I’m really glad that you mentioned military emissions. Because one of the issues globally when it comes to the reporting of carbon emissions is that most militaries do not report what they emit. And therefore the carbon impact of conflict is a very under discussed topic. There’s a variety of examples of militaries, particularly militaries, which have bases overseas, like my own country, the UK with our military training base abroad in Kenya, where we don’t report the emissions to the Kenyan authorities. Isn’t therefore they can’t complete their emissions inventories. And this, this is a major issue, I think in the way that we do climate reporting. And that’s why I think the work that climate trace is doing is so interesting. But tracking greenhouse gas emissions from nearly every major human cause of any activity is such an enormous undertaking is you know, better than anyone, Liam, or we think that climate scientists have a good understanding of how much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But what I understand from from you and your colleagues at climate trace is that that insight alone isn’t sufficient for informing climate action. I understand that one of the climate trace members transition Xero identified that in q2 of last year, China’s steel related emissions reached record levels. So is that as an example, so what what does that extra insight give us that we could track that China’s emissions have gone up to a peak and a trough and back up to a peak? What does that actually mean? What change? And what difference? Does this extra granularity and extra understanding about greenhouse gas emissions actually do for us? It does a few things. So first of all, I think it allows us to hold them to account and one of the reasons why Chinese steel emissions have increased to the levels that they have is that those steel companies are not meeting the plans of central government, because central government don’t know what they’re emitting until after the fact. And because the way that five year plans work over there, it’s back to what you originally said at the beginning of this podcast is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. And so in planned economies like China, if you don’t have the data to manage at the sectoral level, then you can’t manage in the first place. And so that data is useful for them from that perspective. But also, I think that it allows us to better regulate when it comes to things like carbon caps and carbon pricing at sector level, we can understand the level of carbon pricing that we might need to introduce for those products, because we might understand relatively well the amount of emissions that are in the atmosphere. But for many sectors, we don’t understand the level of emissions that exist at that sector level. To give a specific example, one thing we really don’t understand is the emissions from the plastic waste burning and also from generally from the waste sectors. And governments want to be able to regulate these because they’re so harmful to the economy. And also they’re so harmful to the environment in people. And also it goes back to what I was saying beginning of this at a state level. But when you go below federal when you’re talking about mayors and governors, those people do genuinely care about the natural capital that they are stewarding. Because they are so close to it. And their electorate is so close to it, unlike say, with national level governments who may be more hostile to this type of change. And if they’re given that kind of data, they want to, and I can tell you, they want it they are able to, for example, prevent the licencing of new plastic wastes. So it’s because oh, there’s a lot more than they thought there were or reduce the level of emissions from coal mining by changing the licencing structure. And that itself is very powerful. So now that we can literally see the effects of climate change, and climate damaging emissions using satellite imagery
Dominic Bowen 28:24
Liam, we know this and big elections coming up in a variety of countries over the next two years. Do you think that climate change is now an accepted part of politics? Or do you think there is still climate denying and climate change denial?
Liam Bell 28:40
I think that there’s definitely still climate denial. I actually was recently watching an excellent series by the BBC here in the UK, about denial and about, essentially, the last five or six years of politics. countries like Australia, for example, have historically had a negative relationship with climate. And we saw recently in that election there that there was a significant gain for people campaigning on green issues. I think that climate is undeniable now, but there will continue to be deniers and when it comes to being a political issue, and therefore, I think that even parties that were traditionally opposed to taking action on climate change are going to have to change. I also think that even parties that were historically positive about climate change are going to have to change. I think that in the UK, for example, our Green Party has had an uncomfortable relationship, shall we say, to say the least about its stance on nuclear energy. And I think that the science on that has turned so much and the public opinion on that has started so much that those types of energy are going to have to be embraced by Green parties to I imagine that will be replicated especially in the global energy crisis that we’re currently facing by the German Green Party. For example, which also saw significant gains in the most recent election, I think we’re gonna see this mirror around the world and not just in Australia and in the UK or Germany or France. We’re also seeing it as a wedge issue in Brazil. And I think that populist politicians like gyre Bolson arrow are going to have to worry about that. Because I think that, while it may not currently be a vote winner, loser in terms of deciding who is in power, I think he’s going that way. And I’m very happy about it.
Dominic Bowen 30:36
Oh, gosh, Liam, you really raised a big risk issue around nucular. We publications like The Economist are strong advocates for nuclear energy. But some governments like as you said, the German government are strongly anti nuclear power and have been decommissioning many of their power sites. At the same time, as we’ve seen governments across Europe saying to increase and justify coal production, we know that the upcoming winter, the 2022 2023, winter is going to be particularly painful. The European Union recently said that we’re going to need to start rationing energy supplies as we go into winter. We know that last winter even you know, things like firewood were in short supply. In many countries, even in countries like Sweden and Norway and Denmark, people are very concerned about the cost of energy, and the even now the availability of energy. And we saw in the UK there was fuel shortages back in October and November of last year. What is your opinion on nuclear energy? Is it a safe form of energy? Is it a dangerous form of energy from a climate responsibility point of view? Is this a technology that we should be embracing?
Liam Bell 31:44
That’s a brilliant question. And I do love when people asked me about that one. So I am unabashedly pro nuclear. And the reason why I’m unabashedly pro nuclear, is that right on my doorstep, we have two great case studies on nuclear, which is France and Germany. So France has significantly lowered its grid carbon emissions and exports energy to the rest of Europe, low carbon energy, green energy, because nuclear gives us the power to produce more energy than we need, it can meet peak demand. And it can start a grid from zero. Germany, on the other hand, invested in coal power, and also invested in wind. And when this fantastic, I’m Scottish. And so I know how, when the you know, it can be here, but the, it does still have some storage issues that are being resolved through innovation, like sand batteries, and there has been some tests of it in black starting grids, for example. And it’s proven able to do that. But the issue is that from a risk perspective, it’s difficult to measure well ahead of time, what your production will be, on the other hand, nuclear energy is capable of being that baseload and I also think that the thing about safety is an interesting one, because coal power plants, for example, don’t receive anywhere near the level of scrutiny that nuclear receives. But coal power plants kill far more people a year, the nuclear, nuclear, it’s an incredibly safe technology that we’ve invested a lot of money in making safe, and it gets a bad rap, in my opinion.
Dominic Bowen 33:21
Thanks very much for sharing that insight. Liam, and I think that’s really important. When we look at risks, we look at the likelihood and the impact of risk, and then we put it on a rating scale. And so when many more people are affected by coal, it seems quite strange that the risk mitigations around coal are lower than those around the safer technology, like nuclear. And then if we look at it from the other side of the coin, or a different risk indicator around the environment, and the impact on climate change, nuclear continues to come up as a better option. So certainly something that I hope more politicians will be pondering before they wind down or decommission some of their nuclear reactors in the middle of an energy crisis. So how can organisations like climate trace and many other climate groups hold politicians accountable? And how can we prevent? Dare I say it fake news or disinformation, around the facts around climate change, to continue to permeate across the Internet and from our leaders around the world?
Liam Bell 34:25
It’s actually it’s funny because that’s almost the reason I’m here is that I actually have a belief that science communication is sometimes more important than the science. So we do a lot of interesting stuff when it comes to monitoring global emissions using satellites. And we publish our methodologies and doing that in a way that can be understood by the scientific community. But it’s almost more important to do outreach so that we can work with reporters, we can work with state level governments and involve them in the conversation and even with our matters and make partnerships with large ship companies, large mining companies and enable them to reduce their emissions. For me, it’s not about being a cop here. This is this is about being transparent, open Frank, and involving everyone in the supply chain and the global reduction of emissions. And if we publish and is open and honest, and also as open to scrutiny away as possible, and our public about it and engage the various global stakeholders, then I think that’s the best way to reduce the climate denial. And one of the issues there is in the scientific community is in obfuscating and making it deliberately difficult to understand what it is we’re doing for the sake of either appearing to be incredibly intelligent and for a love of ego, or for the sake of being scared of being copied that fuses in the first place. I think it’s the case in a lot of vaccine denial, for example, most of that actually arises from the fact that they’re not transparent enough that they deliberately obfuscate their science. And we will not do that.
Dominic Bowen 36:04
I think that’s a really strong point, Liam about science, communication, and the importance of science, communication, and I encourage all of our listeners to visit the climate trace.org website to understand some of the available data. Liam as an expert on climate change, where do you think action is most needed today?
Liam Bell 36:22
I think that when it comes to making the biggest impact on climate change, energy is always a big one, maybe an unpopular view as a climate activist. But I believe we need more energy, I believe the world needs more energy because the UN bodies that measured it will tell you that there is no greater equaliser for all the wonderful things like poverty reduction, and for the increasing of girls education and for health care than the introduction of more energy and that energy should be clean. I think global cooperation on energy is probably the biggest impact that we could make. If we could have super grids that, for example, use the winds of Bonny Scotland to power France, while occasionally dipping into the sons of Morocco, when we’re oddly sunny here, which is quite often, I think that building these super grids would be the best investment we can do. And I think it would be a brilliant financial investment. It’s why octopus energy, for example, are building this solar farm that they’re building in Morocco. To feed energy to the UK, it’s because it’s a good financial investment. I also think that urban policy is needed to reduce the requirement for having a car and most of the developed world transportation emissions accounted for about 25 to 30% of overall emissions. And as well as the provision of EVs. If we had autonomous EVs that are available on demand for people that need cars really like me, then we could reduce the need for parking, and therefore the construction of large scale infrastructure like that, that we don’t actually need, that would have a significant multiplier on our emissions reduction capabilities.
Dominic Bowen 37:59
Yeah, I totally agree with your energy is certainly a big area. And whether we like it or not, the world does need more energy. And we’ve actually had a couple of previous guests on the show. And they’ve talked about some initiatives about improving development in countries that are still growing, still learning that have very low levels of human security and poor public health indicators, energy and providing clean energy is a big step forward for some of these communities, but also like your point that it’s not just far away. It’s urban planning in cities like Stockholm, like London, like Oslo, and Paris, where we can limit the need for transportation and the huge infrastructure and the huge footprint around creating that infrastructure. I think, two great areas, Liam, if we look forward, what are the what’s the some of the biggest areas that cause you concern? What are the risks that you worry most about them? For me, when it comes to potential risks and climate change?
Liam Bell 38:54
I’m concerned, first of all, that the current energy crisis is going to take away some of the attention from the paring down of coal mining and coal plants rather, that will lead to significantly more methane emissions. And we even understand we’re at the cusp of understanding methane emissions at an asset level, but we don’t know the full history of it. And if we’re going to continue expanding coal mines, where we have such high uncertainty and holes in their emissivity already, then I think that creates too much What if I’m concerned because nature it like construction, to go back to an earlier reference nature is consequential. And I think that we get over a certain point and then we have natural disaster after natural disaster. That means the because we need energy and we need things that the scarcity of those resources, mitigates the action that we’re currently taking against climate change. And I think that domino effect this game. and pretty close, we had our hottest temperature ever recorded on Tuesday in London. And in Edinburgh, to be honest with you Monday was worse. But it was awful because we haven’t built this country to deal with these temperatures. And I think that we’re going to have more of that. And I think that the impact of that is going to potentially take away from some of the wonderful zeal that we have for dealing with climate change as soon as it starts to affect us negatively. And this is typical of the developed world, unfortunately, because let’s be honest, here, a lot of Africa is already facing the impact of climate change. We’ve had drought in Madagascar, and Nigeria, again, also regular drought, landslides in Brazil, floods in China, I mean, 10% of the Chinese population is incredibly at risk of losing their homes due to flooding. And these things all have at least to a point a climate impact. But the problem is that taking the mitigation action may be balanced against making people’s lives easier, because that’s a very human thing to do. And so for me, that’s the greatest risk.
Dominic Bowen 41:07
Well, that is a very significant risk. And you talk about 10% of a country with a population of 1.4 billion, that’s a huge number that’s larger than most countries in the world, isn’t it?
Liam Bell 41:18
Absolutely, absolutely. And actually, to come full circle and talk about satellite monitoring, one of the very cool things that we’ve been able to do because monitoring floods is one of the oldest use cases for satellite data is that we have understood the increase of that risk over time, so we can see it ahead of time. And we can model for an insurance companies are actually very good at it these days, or at least the technology companies that feed into insurance companies are very good at this. But the issue is that we are going to abandon some communities, it’s an indelible fact. Because to use a specific example, the UK is already telling people in low lying coastal towns from this year would be that 2050 2070, we’re not going to invest in flood investment, your home will be flooded, find somewhere else to live. And that’s going to become more of a reality. For a lot of people around the world, China being one example where I think that there will have to be a significant replanting of the Chinese urban and rural policy to mitigate for that. But I am hopeful because we have all this very timely data and transparent global initiatives, that we’ll see it coming. And we’ll do something about it, pretending like this isn’t going to be hard.