1% Better S4,

Peter Kalmus – Making Climate Change Real & Learning from Coronavirus – EP155

March 27, 2020


Hello there & welcome to this week’s 1% Better interview.

This is the First interview proper of S4. During the off season, following some Climate Change news, I noticed the name Peter Kalmus popping up regularly – when I read more about him I was fascinated by his career story as well as his activism.

When we did record – 2nd March I think things were heating up on COVID19 with Italy getting bad but nothing yet in Ireland, and very little elsewhere in Europe and US. Things have changed since so it was good we had the opportunity to discuss Coronavirus and how we could learn from it in the climate change movement.

Please do share this one broad and wide….if you disagree or would like to add more to it, get in touch too.

Just to note, Peter was speaking on his own behalf and his views and opinions. I’ve shared links to climate activists groups at the end. But for now, here is a summary of the topics covered in the podcast.


Peter Kalmus (born May 9, 1974) is a climate scientist, writer and climate activist based in Altadena, California. He is a data scientist at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an Associate Project Scientist at UCLA’s Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering.

In addition to authoring articles about climate change, he is the founder of the website noflyclimatesci.org and co-founder of the app Earth Hero: Climate Change.

Topics covered in detail:

  • Peter’s background – studying physics, programming on Wall Street and then following his quest of learning
  • Astrophysics and getting a PhD in this area working on waves travelling through space and time
  • In mid-2000s, taking a big interest in the climate crisis and the radical energy imbalance
  • Inspired by Jim Hansen – one of the leading voices on climate crisis
  • Moving into Earth Science with a post doc – switching fields which was a big deal
  • Sitting on the side-lines during the discovery of gravitational waves but it was a worthy sacrifice
  • Dedicating his life now to working to save the life support system of our planet!
  • Now moving toward biodiversity and ecosystem breakdown
  • Getting depression during an undergraduate in physics at Harvard so didn’t have confidence to go straight to graduate school
  • Taking a year to get over this and working in New York during this period
  • After 4 years, the confidence came back to apply for the PhD
  • Depression almost leading to suicide during his time at Harvard
  • In 2006, Peter’s first son was born and this really was a big change in his life and had him start thinking much clearer on the suffering the planet
  • Starting to meditate around this time has helped develop compassion more
  • Emotional Intelligence v Intelligent Quotient
  • Non-Human Intelligence and how smart tress are for example
  • Feeling the darkness at the edges of Peters consciousness and knowing how difficult this is…
  • The Practice more than anything to develop EQ is meditation and having kids
  • Vipassana meditation – observing the reality of change!
  • Working and disciplining the mind to notice change
  • Bio-chemical changes creating sensations
  • Climate Change being abstract compared to the Shark Bite Concern
  • The tangible nature with the Coronavirus is more real whereas Climate Change feeling less real
  • This analogy about fear – Read into why people are more scared of a shark bite than client change?
  • People are responding now as they are in emergency mode as people now believe they could die but with Climate Change, people don’t believe they can die
  • Would calling it pollution or waste – make it more real?
  • Have we faced a similar challenge in the past and overcome it?
  • Bright spots idea – anywhere doing it well and replicate this?
  • Becoming an Activist is not a choice for Peter when he sees what is happening!
  • How Peter takes action in his own life – flying less as a starting point
  • Getting to a Carbon Free environment has to be the goal
  • How quickly Coronavirus has managed to slow flying but Climate Change is not having this impact…
  • The Coronavirus has been very useful for climate activists as they can look at this for new approaches to make it real
  • How to make Climate Change more real and scare people now!
  • 3 Actions to make Climate Change more real?
    1. Create more fear as the current approach is not working! Create more Fear!
    2. Non-violent direct action – the house on fire analogy! Act like it’s an emergency and wake people up! The Greta Thunberg movement is a great start…much more is needed here. Civil disobedience – once enough people do this, behaviours will start to change…but it needs to be in mass numbers.
    3. Taking Action to reduce emissions – Leading climate activists living our lives as this is happening now – again Greta Thunberg got a boat to the US and back. Activists need to stop burning fossil fuel and more. This will send a clear message to the public.
  • Are scientists in general agreement on Climate Change?
  • How to solve this challenge is still to be agreed on?
  • Are there bright spots emerging?
  • How can we get better?
  • What actions can we take to reduce emissions?
    1. Planning out – your day, week, month year – to make the change!
    2. The Flying Less Movement ?
    3. Use the Earth Hero Apps – reduce our emissions
    4. Become more conscious on what you’re using?
    5. Burn less fossil fuel
    6. Become activist – join the movement and take action!!
    7. Lean in more…leads to more learning:

More on Peter

  • The Earth Hero App – download this on all the Appstores
  • Web – Peterkalmus.net
  • Twitter – @climateHuman

Become a Climate Activist ?

  • Ireland – Stopclimatechaso.ie
  • Friends of the Earth FOE.ie
  • Plan-International.org
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