A Matter of Degrees

By Leah Stokes, Katharine Wilkinson

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 May 3, 2021

Description

Give up your climate guilt. Sharpen your curiosity. This show is for the climate-curious people who know climate change is a problem, but are trying to figure out how to tackle it. We’re telling stories about the levers of power that have created the problem -- and the tools we have to fix it.

Episode Date
How Gender Equality Can Save The Planet
00:52:23

This episode is a collaboration between A Matter Of Degrees and the Gimlet podcast How To Save A Planet.

Take a look at many of the spaces where climate-related decisions are being made — from government to business to media — and you'll notice a numbers problem. Despite being roughly half the people on the planet, women rarely have equal representation in critical climate decision-making spaces. This isn’t just bad for women. It’s bad for everyone. 

In this episode, Dr. Katharine Wilkinson (our host) and Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (host of Spotify's How To Save A Planet)  take a deep dive into the data behind this idea. They speak with two sociologists about how gender inequality in climate leadership can deepen the harmful impacts of climate change, and also hinder policy changes. 

They also speak with someone who has seen firsthand how women can transform an entire nation when they lead on climate.

This episode features Dr. Christina Ergas, Anne Karpf, and Wanjira Mathai.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes, visit our website.

Sep 29, 2021
Paid in Blood
00:35:08

In the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon, groups of farmers and their families get by on what they can grow with the land beneath their feet. They're known in Brazil as “landless workers,” a social movement with the goal of increasing land access and ownership for the country’s rural poor. 

These landless workers -- sometimes called land guardians or protectors -- are a symbol for the power imbalances that have destroyed the Amazon.

Atmos Climate Editor Yessenia Funes brings us a story about one landless worker named Fernando dos Santos Araújo.

In 2017, Fernando witnessed the massacre of his fellow landless workers on a small farm in Pará, Brazil. His story illustrates the violent tactics that the government and wealthy landowners use to protect their power.

This episode features Ana Aranha, a documentary filmmaker in Brazil, and Ivi Oliveira from the nonprofit Frontline Defenders. 

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes, visit our website.

Sep 16, 2021
The ‘Win-Win-Win’ Strategy To Retire Coal
00:41:32

This episode is a collaboration between A Matter Of Degrees and the Gimlet podcast How To Save A Planet.

Coal-fired power plants are closing at record rates. But many are still scheduled to remain operational for the foreseeable future -- despite losing lots of money every year.

How do we shut these uneconomic coal plants down faster? One answer: coal debt securitization.

Coal debt securitization is like refinancing a mortgage. States across the country are considering policies that would make it easier for owners of coal-fired power plants to restructure their debt.

In this episode, A Matter Of Degrees Host Leah Stokes and How To Save A Planet Host Alex Blumberg team up to explore how securitization would work -- and why utilities are getting behind it.

This episode features Ashok Gupta, a Senior Energy economist for the Natural Resources Defense Council and Jason Klindt, the Senior Director Of Government Affairs for Evergy. 

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes, visit our website.

Aug 30, 2021
The ‘Bond Vigilante’ Exposing Fossil Fuel Risk
00:42:37

Since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015, banks and large investors have dumped $3.8 trillion into fossil fuels.

It's a staggering number. This is why writer and activist Bill McKibben calls money the "oxygen" that fuels the fire of global warming. While the wildfires burning around the world are getting worse each year, it’s like the world's bankers are blowing on those fires, making them even bigger.

For this episode, we have a story about two people who are trying to cut off that supply of oxygen to global lenders and the insurance companies backing them. It comes from our executive editor, Stephen Lacey.

We’ll hear from Ulf Erlandsson, founder and chief executive of a non-profit called the Anthropocene Fixed Income Institute. Ulf is a former bond trader who calls out deals in corporate and government lending that would be a disaster for the climate. He’s helping bond traders “short” these bad investments.

We’ll also hear from Elana Sulakshana, an energy finance campaigner with the Rainforest Action Network, about why insurance companies are enabling trillions of dollars to pour into new fossil fuel infrastructure. 
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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes, visit our website.

Aug 16, 2021
The Devious Plan to Keep Us Hooked on Gas
00:57:11

Advocates are turning their attention to a new front in the climate war: the fossil-gas hookups in our homes that fuel burners, boilers, and other household appliances.

If we want to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to electrify the hundreds of millions of machines inside our homes and buildings as fast as possible. But the gas industry won’t go down without a fight.

Gas industry front groups are infiltrating neighborhood groups, hiring social media influencers, and barraging citizens with messages in order to stir up controversy around local bans on new fossil gas connections. That’s exactly what happened to the residents of Santa Barbara, California last year. 

This week, we'll hear from activists, reporters, and industry professionals who are following the gas industry’s battle to keep fossil fuels in our homes. 

How far will gas companies go to stop electrification? And where does the electrification movement stand?

Leah Stokes speaks with Sierra Club's Santa Barbara Chapter Chair Katie Davis; EarthJustice Senior Attorney Matt Vespa; Earther Staff Writer Dharna Noor; and Former BlocPower Senior Strategist Associate Rose Stephens-Booker.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Aug 09, 2021
A Farming Solution for a Hotter, Less Stable World
00:42:30

When Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit Puerto Rico in 2017, they destroyed the island’s fragile food system. Farms of all sizes were battered, with around 80 percent of the island's crop value wiped out.

But a group of Puerto Rican farmers practicing an old way of farming, called agroecology, saw their operations bounce back much faster than conventional farms. What does their experience tell us about how to build and protect food systems in a rapidly warming world?

Producer Dalvin Aboagye brings us a story about a collective known as Guakia in Puerto Rico working to clean up the food system as a part of a larger worldwide movement to adapt farms to local ecosystems. 

We’ll also talk to an expert about how agroecology works as a climate solution. At scale, agroecology could help us shrink the 24 percent share of global emissions attributed to food, agriculture, and land use. And it's an important line of defense in protecting our ability to feed people as extreme weather makes food systems more vulnerable. 

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Aug 02, 2021
Green Jobs...For All?
00:43:14

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan promises big investments in the clean-energy economy, including clean energy workforce and education programs. Economic progress and clean climate action are inextricably linked. 

But how can we make sure that those dollars go to communities of color who have already been most impacted by climate change and consistently shut out of past federal programs promising transformational change? And to gender minorities who are underrepresented in certain green fields?

This week, we hear from folks in government, the nonprofit sector, the renewable energy space and academia about what it will really take to usher in a just transition.

Katharine Wilkinson speaks with solar entrepreneur Bob Blake; The Partnership for Southern Equity’s Chandra Farley; New Jersey Deputy Secretary For Higher Education Diana Gonzalez; and Brooking Institute Fellow Christina Kwauk.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Jul 26, 2021
Healing the Soil, Healing Ourselves
00:37:19

Abuse of soil, the atmosphere, and communities of color have gone hand in hand. Through reclaiming ancestral connection to the soil, Black farmers are healing the entangled harms of colonization, capitalism, and White supremacy and moving agricultural climate solutions forward in the process. 

In this episode, we feature an audio essay that wrestles with these themes. The essay is titled “Black Gold” by Leah Penniman, an activist, farmer, and founder of Soul Fire Farm. 

As Leah puts it: “In healing our relationship with soil, we heal the climate, and we heal ourselves.”

This is an excerpt from the audiobook version of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, an anthology of essays, poetry, and art co-edited by Katharine Wilkinson and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

The audiobook version of this essay is read by award-winning audiobook narrator Bahni Turpin. 

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Jul 19, 2021
‘Let’s Go Get Us A Clean Electricity Standard’
00:57:46

Baked into the American Jobs Plan is an ambitious proposal to set a federally-mandated Clean Electricity Standard of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. It would put the US on track to get emissions under control and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. That is, if it gets through Congress. 

In this episode, Co-host Leah Stokes speaks with a variety of guests who are part of the broad coalition supporting the proposal. What would this ambitious policy mean for America's energy system and climate movement?

The episode features Jamie DeMarco and Quentin Scott from Chesapeake Climate Action Network; Lauren Maunus from The Sunrise Movement; Hip Hop Caucus CEO Rev. Lennox Yearwood; and West Virginia Rivers Coalition Director Angie Rossers. 

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Jul 12, 2021
The ‘Prestige Problem’ Making Fossil Fuels Powerful
00:49:21

Fossil fuel companies are tapping into America’s “best and brightest” at top banks, public relations and advertising firms, law firms, and strategy consulting firms.

These organizations supply critical services to keep the fossil fuel industry humming: creative work, strategy, legal representation, financing. They’re services that oil and gas companies need to remain powerful.

In this episode (our first of the second season!) Dr. Katharine Wilkinson and Dr. Leah Stokes explore the different ways this “prestige problem” influences America’s white-collar workforce. And they’ll explore efforts to push back.

Katharine speaks with Camila Bustos, the co-founder of Law Students for Climate Accountability. She also speaks with Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Jul 01, 2021
Biden's Climate Plan Could Reshape America (Live w/ Julian NoiseCat)
00:43:16

We're back with another live edition of the show! So much is happening in the Biden era. We didn't want to wait until our second season to unpack all the activity.

This week, we feature a conversation with Julian Brave NoiseCat that we recorded at the Crosscut Festival. 

Julian is a writer, activist, and policy expert with a deep understanding of Washington climate politics. Julian was actually a guest correspondent in season one — go episode 7 from our first season: “Changing Woman: One Navajo’s Fight for a Just Transition."

The protagonist of amazing episode, Wahleah Johns, is now working in the Biden Administration as a senior official at the Department of Energy!

Julian is the Vice President of Policy & Strategy at the think tank Data For Progress and a Fellow at the Type Media Center. He’s also a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Vox, Vice and many other outlets.

In this episode, we look at all the action happening in Washington on climate change: big-name hires, big-ticket policies, and the potential high-impact outcomes.

May 13, 2021
The State of Global Climate Talks (Live w/ Mary Robinson)
00:30:58

As we work on season 2, we're sharing a live episode of the show that we just recorded  at the Bloomberg Green Summit.

The conversation is all about where things stand in the lead-up to global climate talks in the fall. 

We were fortunate to get Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, to talk about this topic with us. Mary served as the President of Ireland from 1990-1997 and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002. She’s now the chair of the Elders.

Mary has dedicated much of her career to solving the climate crisis. She’s the author of two moving memoirs, “Everybody Matters” which was from 2012 and “Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future,” was published in September 2018. She is also co-host of a podcast on the climate crisis, called “Mothers of Invention.” 

In this episode, we go deep with Mary on what we can expect from this year's international climate negotiations.

May 02, 2021
The ‘Darth Vader’ of Electric Utilities
00:51:56

In 2013, a series of attack ads blitzed television sets across Arizona. They warned of a dire threat to senior citizens. Who was the villain? Solar energy.

These ads came from front groups funded by Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility. It was part of a years-long fight against rooftop solar that turned ugly.

“I mean, for Star Wars fans, APS became the Darth Vader of electric utilities in America. I mean, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a utility that behaved as badly as APS did in the last decade,” explains former regulator Kris Mayes.

But APS isn’t alone. It’s a prime example of how monopoly utilities abuse their power to influence regulatory decisions and slow clean-energy progress.

What happens if your electric utility starts doing things you don’t agree with? What if they start attacking solar and proposing to build more and more fossil gas plants? What if they actively resist clean energy progress? 

Well, you don’t get a choice. You have to buy electricity, and you have to buy it from them. As a customer you’re funding that. 

In this episode, we’ll detail how it happened in Arizona -- and how public pressure forced APS’ to come clean.

Featured in this episode: Ryan Randazzo, Kris Mayes, David Pomerantz

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. 

For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Jan 07, 2021
Presenting: How to Save a Planet
00:48:28

We're pleased to introduce an episode of "How to Save a Planet," produced by our friends at Gimlet and Spotify. The show is co-hosted by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg. 

"How to Save a Planet" has a lot of similarities to our own, so we think our listeners will like the stories they tell. In this week's episode: a story about the Black Lives Matter Movement and how the fight for black lives connects with the struggle for climate justice.

Find more of their episodes here. And stay tuned for our final episode of the season, coming soon.

 

Dec 22, 2020
The Stages of Black Climate Grief
00:39:11

This week, we have a special episode featuring activist and researcher Nikayla Jefferson.

Most of us are in the first stage of climate grief: denial.

But what does it feel like to enter the stage of grief? And how is that grief different for black people?

Even if you’ve seen the impacts of climate change up close, even if you’ve felt the tropical winds whip your cheeks, stood in floodwater knee deep in your own home, watched a fire come down the ridge line, said “wow, I can’t remember a summer this hot” -- you are likely stuck in some state of denial. 

In this episode, Nikayla shares her journey breaking through denial and into grief. She also talks with 

As a black person, grieving for the planet can look different, feel heavier and more immediate. 

Featured in this episode: Nikayla Jefferson, Jacqueline Patterson, and Princella Talley.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. 

For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Dec 15, 2020
Changing Woman: One Navajo’s Fight for a Just Transition
00:45:29

This week, we have a special episode about the long and winding energy transition in an often overlooked place: the Navajo Nation—the largest Indian reservation in the United States.

Journalist and climate policy expert Julian Brave NoiseCat is our guide.

Ten percent of Navajos lack access to electricity. Some spend up to $700 per month on fuels to travel to places with electricity, or charge electronics in their cars and trucks.

But the Navajo Nation isn’t exactly an energy-poor place. In fact, until recently, the reservation was home to two of the largest coal strip mines in the world. In recent decades as many as five coal-burning power plants surrounded Navajo lands. For many Navajo, power lines connecting coal to major cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, have come to symbolize this vastly unequal system.

We’ll look at the deep history of energy extraction and colonialism that led to the current clean-energy transition for the Navajo people.

Featured in this episode: Wahleah Johns and Andrew Curley.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. 

For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Dec 08, 2020
Cleaning Up the Carbon Mess
00:43:12

We’ve made a carbon mess. How do we clean it up?

Imagine the atmosphere as an overflowing bathtub. The water keeps gushing from the tap. Clearly, we need to turn it off. We have to bring emissions of heat-trapping gases down to zero, stat. 

But even after we do that, we still have a mess on our hands. So, we need to open the drain, let some water out. 

In this episode, we’ll explore the different ways we can manage carbon emissions with natural and technological solutions. What are their benefits and drawbacks? And how do we think about them in our broader solutions toolkit?

Featured in this episode: Lisa Song, Judith Schwartz, Jane Zelikova, and Etosha Cave.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio. 

For more episodes and transcripts, visit our website.

Nov 19, 2020
After Trump: The Silver Linings Playbook
00:51:43

It’s official. Joe Biden will be the next president. And he ran on a platform that put climate at the top of the agenda.

There’s still a lot of tension. What will happen to the balance of power in Congress? Can we make progress on climate, even with Democrats losing down-ballot races?

Even with so much uncertainty, there's actually a lot of good news. In this episode, Leah and Katharine dig into what this moment means for the future of the planet.

We were joined by two heavy-hitters this week: Heather McTeer Toney and Sam Ricketts.

Heather is the Senior Director at Moms Clean Air Force. She’s a former EPA regional administrator. And she was the first African-American, first woman, and youngest person ever elected mayor of Greenville, Mississippi. She knows the ins and outs of what a Biden Administration could do to pursue a “just” climate agenda.

Sam Ricketts is a senior fellow for Energy & Environment at the Center for American Progress. And he was climate director for Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. He co-founded Evergreen, an organization at the forefront of developing detailed, progressive climate policies.

Resources mentioned on the show about the Georgia runoff:

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio

Nov 08, 2020
The Big Fossil Fuel Bailout
00:45:12

In July, the FBI charged Larry Householder, Ohio’s Republican Speaker of the House, with a conspiracy to pass a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money. The racketeering was allegedly orchestrated by Householder and the utility FirstEnergy to kill Ohio’s renewable energy law and prop up aging coal and nuclear power plants.

What’s happening in Ohio is part of a broader story playing out under the Trump Administration. Fossil-fuel companies like FirstEnergy have used their ties to the Trump regime to push massive bailouts for dirty energy. And the pandemic was the perfect opportunity for the industry to grab more money.

In this episode, we’ll detail how these companies are raking in billions of government dollars in the wake of the $2 trillion covid stimulus package -- while millions of Americans struggle financially from the pandemic. 

Featured in this episode: Neil Waggoner, Antonia Juhasz, Alexis Goldstein, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Tamara Toles O’Laughlin.

Don't forget to read the climate change voter's guide before casting your ballot.

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Oct 29, 2020
An Electric Number: 2035
00:56:08

When talking about climate change, we often get deep into the weeds quickly and throw a lot of numbers around. And these numbers can feel really disconnected from our lives: Two degrees, 415 parts per million, 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

In this episode, we've got one number we really want to focus on: 2035. It’s a date that carries a lot of hope and opportunity. If we can make progress by 2035, then we can actually make a lot of changes to our energy system and really our entire economy. 

And guess what? We have nearly all the tools to achieve that aim. In this episode, we’ll detail the reality of climate solutions -- they’re right here, right now.

Katharine and Leah will explain: why 2035? Where did this date come from? It’s a radical departure from what the clean energy community had been talking about. Up until last year, most people were planning for the electricity system to be cleaned up by 2050. And suddenly, that number has been pulled 15 years forward.

Featured in this episode: Tim Echols, Donnel Baird, Sonia Aggarwal, Jesse Jenkins, Bracken Hendricks and Sam Ricketts.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio.

Oct 22, 2020
Give Up Your Climate Guilt
00:44:35

The biggest climate stories blame “all of us,” or cast solutions as “impossible.” These narratives leave people feeling hopeless and confused about what we actually can do.

In our first episode: individual actions versus structural change. What’s the right way to think about the role they each have in addressing the climate crisis? We’ll explore the nuances and misperceptions. 

Leah and Katharine dig into their own personal histories and revelations. Plus, we’ll hear from Bill McKibben about why plastic straws and lightbulbs do very little about the problem. And we’ll hear from Dr. Shahzeen Attari about how individual behavior can have an impact on the climate crisis.

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A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio.

Oct 15, 2020
A Breakthrough Moment?
00:54:20

Climate change is no longer a far-off scenario. It’s happening now. It’s getting more intense every year. And young people are seeing a scary future play out right in front of them.

In recent years, the youth climate movement has gained unprecedented strength. Borrowing from the civil rights movement and early environmental activists, young leaders are forcing politicians to grapple with climate change in new ways. Are we truly at a breakthrough moment? Or a breaking moment?

In this episode, we’ll hear stories from Erin Bridges, Isha Clarke, Varshini Prakash, and Mary Anne Hitt.

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You can also contact us on our website.

A Matter of Degrees is a production of Post Script Audio.

Oct 15, 2020
Introducing 'A Matter of Degrees'
00:03:27

People don’t often hear the real story about climate change: it’s happening now; fossil fuel companies with money on the line have lied about it; and it doesn’t have to be this way. 

This show is for the people who know climate change is a problem, but are still trying to figure out how we tackle it.

Oct 07, 2020