Thursday, 23 June 2016

Four wonderful climate science podcasts you need to know

[UPDATE: How is this Buzzfeed headline?]

For some years I was a regular listener of EconTalk, where the economist Russ Roberts would interview a colleague, typically about a recent book or article. Roberts is a staunch libertarian and the interviews with fellow libertarians are worse than listening in on drunk men agreeing with each other in a bar at 4am, but many other interviews with economists who went out in the world and had studied reality were wonderful. I learned a lot about the world view of this special tribe and something about the limits on how we organize society.

Podcasts are a nice way to learn. The debate makes otherwise maybe more boring engaging and you can listen to it while commuting, walking or doing the household chores.

I tried to get a few people enthusiastic about doing such a podcast for climate science and even in the end considered doing it myself. But there is no need any more. Suddenly a wealth of really good climate science podcasts has sprung up.

Warm Regards

The newest podcast is by Eric Holthaus, journalist at Slate. It is called Warm Regards. He has as co-hosts climate scientist and Ice Age ecologist Jacquelyn Gill and New York Times science blogger Andrew Revkin. They are so new, in fact, that I could not listen to their first podcast yet: "How Do We Talk About Climate Change?". They are now also on iTunes.

[UPDATE. While preparing my diner, I listened to the podcast. Really enjoyed it. Good voices. Good sound. Professionally made. They introduced themselves, what they work on and why they care about climate change. The main topic was science communication and they emphasised that a good relationship with the listener is much more important than details that are quickly forgotten. Revkin liked talking to mitigation sceptics, the other two take the more productive route of trying to talk as much as possible to people who are wiling to listen and consider the arguments. The app Block Together is a good way to keep lines of communication open with decent people on twitter by very efficiently blocking harassing accounts. I also use it and can highly recommend it.

Personally I would add that we should not overestimate the importance of science communication. Outside of Anglo-America scientists are much less active in communicating climate change, but we have nearly no problems with mitigation sceptical movements. The difference is a working political system and better press. Talking about climate and science is what I do best, but if you have the option, it is probably better to invest your time in getting money out of US politics and building up a free and democratic press, for example by supporting membership supported media channels.]

Climate History Podcast

The Climate History Podcast is hosted by Dr. Dagomar Degroot, the founder of and co-founder of the Climate History Network. Even if society has changed a lot, we can learn from how humans have responded to the small climatic changes in the past. This initiative is just three podcasts old and the one I listened to, on the little ice age, is really interesting. First three titles are:

1. Climate Change and Crisis: Lessons from the Past
2. The History of Climate Change with Professor Sam White
3. Archaeology in the Arctic: Reconstructing the Consequences of Climate Change in the Far North

You can listen to it on iTunes project and download and listen to the podcast at SoundCloud.

Mostly Weather

The UK MetOffice produces the podcasts Mostly Weather. So officially it is about weather, but most topics are actually dual-use science, important for both weather and climate. (Mitigation sceptics often do not seem to know that meteorology is bigger than climatology.) It is made with love by climate scientists Doug McNeall, Niall Robinson and Claire Witham.

It is aimed at a general audience, but also a scientist can still learn something. I learned from their first podcasts on the history of weather forecasting that this started over the ocean: there it is most important and easier to do. Other podcasts were on the elements: clouds, snow, lightning and about the structure of atmosphere and they just had a series on weather forecasting.


For me as a scientist, the clear favorite is Forecast. It is made by Michael White, editor for climate topics at the scientific journal Nature. He makes it as a private project, but naturally he has access to the best and the brightest as editor and a good understanding of the climate system. This makes for in depth interviews on the science, but he also talks a lot about the serendipitous personal and scientific histories of the scientists. I have the feeling, many non-scientists will be able to understand the interviews, but admit I am not a very good judge of this.

The last interview was with Gabi Hegerl, the woman who discovered climate change (the first to do an attribution study). Other names people may recognize are: Reto Knutti, astronaut Piers Sellers, Chris Field, Bjorn Stevens, Kim Cobb, Mat Collins. Oh and a modeller from NASA GISS. Gavin Schmidt.

Have fun listening. Let me know if I missed something and which podcasts you like most.

[2017 UPDATE. The new kid on the block is Positive Feedback by Australian journalist (The Guardian) Graham Readfearn.]


Elio Campitelli said...

I used to listen to another one called The Barometer, which died some time ago. It seems to me the same crew is behind the new Mostly Weather pod. I gave it a try, but it was too basic for my taste.
I'm subscribing to the others, though. Thanks for the heads up!

John Russell (@JohnRussell40) said...

I also enjoy the 'Radio Ecoshock'[ ] podcast, which is made to high production values and syndicated to over 90 radio stations.

Some featured subjects can be a little hyped at times and the author, Alex Smith, tends towards the catastrophic end of things; but he does have some good guests on, typically scientists and science writers. Recent interviews are with Prof. Kevin Anderson; Dr. James Curran; Dr. Edward Shepherd; Tobias Friedrich; Dr. Thomas Crowther; and author, Michael Brownlee. Well worth subscribing to (it's on iTunes), and then listening selectively.