Not Cool Ep 15: Astrid Caldas on equitable climate adaptation

Despite the global scale of the climate crisis, its impacts will vary drastically at the local level. Not Cool Episode 15 looks at the unique struggles facing different communities — both human and non-human — and the importance of equity in climate adaptation. Ariel is joined by Astrid Caldas, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, to discuss the types of climate adaptation solutions we need and how we can implement them. She also talks about biodiversity loss, ecological grief, and psychological barriers to change.

Topics discussed include:

  • Climate justice and equity in climate adaptation
  • How adaptation differs for different communities
  • Local vs. larger scale solutions 
  • Potential adaptation measures and how to implement them
  • Active vs. passive information
  • Adaptation for non-human species
  • How changes in biodiversity will affect humans
  • Impact of climate change on indigenous and front line communities

References discussed include: 

What people fear the most is the change in their lives. So if we can do the needed changes to address climate change and adaptation without disrupting the routines of people, to a great extent, that makes it a little easier.

~ Astrid Caldas

Ariel Conn: Hi everyone, and welcome back to Not Cool, a climate podcast. I’m your host Ariel Conn. Today, on episode 15, we’ll be joined by Astrid Caldas, a researcher with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who will go into more detail about what’s involved in adapting to climate change, how the ability or inability to adapt will impact biodiversity, the threat of extinction for many species, the role of government in creating more equity in the solutions to climate adaptation, and much more.

Astrid is a senior climate scientist with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Her research focuses on climate change adaptation with practical policy implications for ecosystems, the economy, and society. She also works on policy related to climate change, natural resources management, conservation planning, socio-environmental synthesis, and climate communication.

Before joining UCS, Dr. Caldas was a Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was a climate change and wildlife science fellow at the nonprofit conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. And she was a research scientist at the University of Maryland. Dr. Caldas has advised or consulted on projects with organizations including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. She has a lifelong passion for butterflies and moths, which she has studied for many years.

So Astrid, thank you so much for joining us.

Astrid Caldas: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Ariel Conn: I really want to talk about your ecology background. But before we get there, you focus a lot on climate adaptation.

Astrid Caldas: Correct.

Ariel Conn: And I was hoping you could just start by explaining what that means.

Astrid Caldas: Climate adaptation means being prepared to face the impact that climate change is going to bring to you as a person, to your community, your city, or your state, your country. There are different levels of being adapted. But basically, that’s what it means. Being prepared with all the information, with all the policies, with all the physical preparations and protections, depending on what the impact is.

Ariel Conn: How does adaptation differ between — we’ll start with just different communities. I mean obviously if you live in a desert, how you adapt is going to be different than if you live in a coastal region. So can you talk a little bit about some of the various issues that communities might need to be dealing with?

Astrid Caldas: Climate change impacts a lot of stuff, right? And what it doesn’t impact directly, it impacts indirectly. It can multiply a natural hazard; It can make something worse like hurricanes or extreme precipitation. There is not only the temperature increase, there are all these other impacts that are going to be affecting people.

So if you live in the coast, one of the main issues may be sea level rise or hurricanes, depending on where you are. If you live in the mountains, it may be snowfall. It may be too much snow or too little snow; It may be snow melting too early or too fast. If you live along the river, it may be flooding that is influenced by extreme precipitation that is influenced by climate change. If you are in an area that has wildfires, climate change has made wildfires burn hotter and for a longer period of time. So wildfire season has increased in extent and length.

So depending on where you are, you can already tell that adapting is going to be different. If you are on the coast, you’re going to need to either protect against the sea level rise — you’re either going to have to accommodate the water as it comes in, creating areas that can be inundated without damage — or you may have to move away from areas that actually flood so often that you will not be able to either protect or accommodate anymore.

On the other hand, if you are in an area that has wildfires, you have to work with local government and have local policies to try to minimize the risk for wildfires. And also build better — actually that’s in most areas — to build better, to rebuild better, to have better policies in place for buildings that is more safe and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Ariel Conn: So we can watch the news and see that we’re getting bigger hurricanes. We can see that regions are flooding. We can see that places are burning and on fire. But what are some of the things that either we need to do to adapt, or that could pose a problem, that you think aren’t getting as much attention right now, or that people aren’t as aware of?

Astrid Caldas: Adaptation is not an easy thing, right, because in many cases it will entail changing ways of life, and that is one of the biggest barriers. People don’t want to leave the coast, the beach house. People don’t want to leave the home in the woods in California that they wanted their whole life and it was so beautiful before the fire. They want to rebuild in the same place. Either the beach after a hurricane or in the forest after a wildfire. They want to rebuild. They want to go back to their normal lives and their routines. And that’s human. That’s just the human spirit. That’s just the human nature.

However, many times that’s not the best way to be resilient because, as a colleague of mine puts it, “If you are rebuilding from flood, you are susceptible to flood.” That’s just basic. If you are rebuilding from fire, you are in an area that is likely to be on fire. Even if a lot of stuff has burned before, climate change can make it worse: make the earth drier, make the plants drier, create more kindling, create more fuel for the fires.

So in a lot of instances there is this fine line between, I want to stay and do the same things the same way I have done my whole life, and this other side of this fine line that is, I need to change something because I don’t want my home to burn again, or I don’t want my house to flood again.

And then a lot of times people just prefer to put it out of their mind and hope that it doesn’t happen again. That’s not the way it works. We need policies and incentives in case of flooding along rivers. We need better flood maps and better insurance policies; better programs to protect people, better programs to protect people before the thing happens.

It is a very local thing and a very specific thing for each location. You see there are some places that whole communities want to move away because they just can’t live there in the way they used to live anymore. And when it gets to that point, that’s the hardest part.

Ariel Conn: You’re talking about the problem being local and the solution to this being local. And yet if we do have situations where an entire town has to move, that becomes a problem for a bigger region. How can policymakers deal with the fact that the regional area of the problem grows?

Astrid Caldas: The solutions have to be local in the sense that the community has to decide what they want to do. But they definitely need federal incentives. And they definitely need federal policies and federal protections. So that’s one of the things that is very important. And as you said, if it turns into a regional thing and whole areas are going to be facing the same problem, then we got to start being creative, bold, and innovative in the ways to deal with this impact of climate change.

And honestly, we will only know when they get to a point where those impacts cannot be dealt with anymore. But we are not at that point. And nevertheless we are not seeing things that could be done right now to avoid getting to that point.

Ariel Conn: Can you give some examples of things that you’d like to see happening?

Astrid Caldas: I would like to see better zoning along areas that flood — not only on the coast but along rivers and floodplains. I would like to see more money, more policies, for pre-disaster mitigation, as we call it, to have people better prepared for when a disaster comes in an area that’s prone to that disaster. I would like to see a better national flood insurance program everywhere, including coastal areas — not just in the floodplains.

There are several things, and I’m talking mostly about water because that’s one of the things that I work the most with. And I’ve gone out to the coast and talked with the communities there that are losing their livelihoods. And the communities are just dwindling. The people are leaving. The young people are gone. So there’s all the old people who live there who are just holding the fort and really not leaving until they can’t stay anymore, and they’re hoping that it’s not going to happen in their lifetime.

Ariel Conn: You’ve talked a little bit about incentives, but how do we get people to embrace massive changes to their lives?

Astrid Caldas: That’s a tough one. The main thing is to try to find a way for them to keep what’s important in their lives, but done in a better way. For instance, you want to keep driving your car: Drive a better car. You want to keep eating some food that you like to eat: Try to get it more local if possible. You want to keep using your makeup: Try to use a better makeup. Anything that’s part of your life that is important to you, if we can find a way to make that thing better with less impact to the environment, that is the way to go.

Because what people fear the most is the change in their lives, right, as you said. So if we can do the needed changes to address climate change and adaptation without disrupting the routines of people, to a great extent — there will be some disruption — but as long as there is not a complete change in life, that makes it a little easier.

Ariel Conn: So we often hear and talk about policy changes that need to happen, but a lot of what you’re talking about actually involves simply helping people be better informed about their choices. Do you feel that that information exists and people just have a hard time finding it, or do you think we need to do a better job making that information available so that they know what the better cars are, so they know what the better makeup choices are, so they know better clothing and consumer habits and things like that?

Astrid Caldas: I think both your options are true. The information is out there, but it is hard to find. So it’s what I call active information as opposed to passive information. To do a better job of telling people what can be done, we have to actively tell them and not to just put it on the website and expect them to go do a search and try to find it.

So for instance, one of the things that upsets me a lot is every single car manufacturer, pretty much, has an electric vehicle or a hybrid vehicle. However, you don’t see commercials for those on the TV. You only see commercials for the regular combustion engine cars because they make a lot of money. That’s the most sales that they have. But we need a sea of change. We need to have … Actually, I think I saw a BMW, or one other brand, have a commercial for an electric car recently. And I was like, “Whoa. This is different.” Because if you look, everybody has an electric car, or a hybrid. Why can they not advertise those cars?

These are the types of changes that we need. And just like the cars, there are many other things. We have here at UCS a book that was published back, I think, in 2012 or 13. The title was Cooler Smarter. And it is about what you can do in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint. Because at the time, the calculation was, if every person in the United States reduced their carbon footprint by 20%, it would be the equivalent of closing half the coal fired power plants that exist in the United States and remove all those emissions from the atmosphere. I think the number is like 300 power plants — at the time there were 600, so closing down 300 power plants. Reducing your carbon footprint by only 20%, it’s still totally doable for most of us.

There are these types of information that they are not life changing in a way, but they can be life changing because they will change the future of your life. So I am all for active information: finding better ways of telling people what’s out there that can do the same things that they do, and the incentives to make these things not as expensive. Some electric vehicles are not very expensive at all, but some are very expensive. Solar panels, the price has gone down. Renewable energies, all of these things. You need incentives for people not to have to spend more to save the environment.

Ariel Conn: I am really interested in the example of advertising for cars because this is not something I’ve thought about. Is this the type of thing where we could establish incentives for companies to advertise their vehicles? Would that help?

Astrid Caldas: I don’t know if they could get incentives for car manufacturers to advertise their products, but certainly the more incentive to improve their electric vehicles and make them more affordable and just as good and reliable as the regular combustion engine cars — that’s something that definitely policies can do. And once that exists, I mean why stay with something that’s an older technology, that pollutes the environment, when you can have a much cleaner option that does exactly the same thing.

Ariel Conn: So as I mentioned at the very beginning, you have a background in ecology as well. And we’ve been talking about what climate adaptation means for people. But what does it mean for plants and animals and for biodiversity overall?

Astrid Caldas: That’s the very interesting part about climate change. People can adapt to using external devices and technologies; They can adapt by changing the technologies that they use. But plants and animals do not have that ability. They live as nature around them allows them to.

So evolutionarily, over millions of years, plants and animals have adapted to an environment. Well, with climate change, plants are fixed in one place. When they throw their seeds, and their seeds disperse, they are finding other areas that in the past were not appropriate for them to germinate and to grow, but now they are.

So there are these plants changing their range of occurrence and disappearing from some other areas where they can’t take the heat anymore, or there’s too much flood, or there is salt water intrusion. A lot of areas along the coast that used to be hunting grounds for lots of tribal communities are not there anymore. They can’t hunt in those areas anymore because the trees are dead, there’s no more grasslands or whatever.

So this is with the plants. And the animals also follow because nature is always interacting. A lot of the animals depend on animals or on plants, right? Depending on what they eat and their life cycle. So animals are also changing their range and changing their habits sometimes.

There are studies that show that some things that we thought could only happen in an evolutionary scale, which is over thousands of years or millions, actually starting to happen much faster with certain organisms. They are able to adapt in the evolutionary sense, which is different from adaptation that we use — technologies to adapt to climate change. They are able to change themselves to take better advantage of the new environment that they are living on.

On the other hand, lots of species are disappearing and are slated to disappear as temperature increases because a lot of the interactions that they depend on and a lot of the other things in nature that they depend on are either more sensitive or changing. Plants that this animal eats can not stay here anymore; It moves away. Well, that the animal doesn’t have that plant here. It either dies or it follows the plant. Well, if where the plant is is not an area that they can live well, they are not going to thrive there.

So all of these systems are getting disrupted, and we don’t know where they are going. Lots of studies are trying to determine the future of a certain species, certain groups of animals, certain groups of plants. There is that uncertain part, which is, what processes are going to be lost? What interactions are going to be lost? To model one species and temperature is one thing. To model all the things that it depends upon in the environment, nature, is a completely different thing and much more complex.

Ariel Conn: So I have a lot of questions. I guess I’m going to start with the easy one. Well, the easy one for me to ask; I don’t know that it’s easy to answer. Why should people care about either biodiversity loss or biodiversity migration? How does that impact people? Why should we be concerned about this happening?

Astrid Caldas: Well, first and foremost, we are part of nature. There’s a lot of services that nature provides us for free that we don’t realize, right? Filtering water, replenishing groundwater, providing food for a variety of small animals that we don’t use, but they are food for things that we harvest or that we fish. There’s this direct dependency on nature.

On the other hand, there is also the cultural value, and the beauty of nature; the fact that a lot of people like being in nature — they value it. It’s a part of their being. If you live in an area that has always had these beautiful tall oaks and the oaks are dying, it turns into a completely different thing. Some people take that very, very hard. And in fact, there is a new term called ecological grief, which is the mourning of ways of life that are no more. People would just get depressed. They don’t feel the same. And their livelihoods change.

With the Bay water and the Chesapeake getting warmer, the fisheries are changing. The fisherman are not harvesting the way they used to or what they used to. So there’s all these things that we really depend on nature, and we are a part of it in so many ways.

Everybody should care. I don’t think if you ask anybody, “Oh, if all these woods, and the beach is gone, and everything in the lake, would you care?” I don’t think anybody would say, “I don’t care. I have my house.” Right? It’s a lake. It’s a place where they fish. It’s a place where they run. A beautiful park, or to go to the beach. They hunt in the forest. So many ways that we appreciate and depend on nature. So yeah, now you’re depressed. Okay. I am too.

Ariel Conn: Yeah, you mentioned eco grief, and I’m like, yeah, I’ve got that.

Astrid Caldas: I think a lot of people who are really connected with nature feel that to one degree or another. And even people who don’t think about it, if they sit down and start looking around and thinking about it, they will get a level of it too.

Ariel Conn: I hope so. I very much hope so. So you mentioned that some species are actually finding ways to adapt quickly, whether that’s adapting to new situations or figuring out ways to move. But most of what we hear about is biodiversity loss — so, the idea that most species aren’t doing this. Are you finding that’s the case, that most species are not able to adapt? Or do you think we’re going to be surprised by how many species do manage to adapt?

Astrid Caldas: From the literature, I do believe that we are going to get a great loss if we don’t stop global warming and climate change. What exactly is going to be lost, and what can bounce back, and what can find other ways to survive, is really not known.

But I would say it’s pretty much certain that things that depend specifically on temperature for instance, like corals: there’s no way that they can live above a certain temperature. They just die. And the seas are getting warmer. They are absorbing most of the energy from the atmosphere that comes from global warming. It’s going to keep getting warmer if we don’t reduce the amount of emissions.

So there are things that are certain. And there are things that we expect that they will happen, but we may not know exactly how it would happen and to what degree. But biodiversity loss — it’s pretty much well established that it is going to happen to one degree or another.

Ariel Conn: If we’re using this example of an amphibian or a fish that’s in a stream that’s getting too warm, how do you address a problem like that? Do you have to capture the animals and try to move them someplace else to try to come up with ways to cool down the stream? What does the solution look like? Or do you just recognize that it’s a problem and try to then do more research?

Astrid Caldas: A little bit of everything that you said. There are species that have been moved to other areas to be protected. And this may have not been done because of climate change, but it has been done because of loss of habitat, or land use changes, or stuff like that. But yeah, it would need to be done because of climate change in the future.

So for instance, there is — I think a trout is a big problem because trout likes a certain temperature. And there are lots of species that are not doing really well because the creeks and the places where they occur naturally are getting warmer. A lot of these may be locally extinct, but they may be thriving elsewhere. So that’s where the research comes on. Where is it that it still occurs and is it thriving there, or is there a decline in the whole range of occurrence of this species?

There are lots of things that need to be done, including interventions in nature that are intended to protect. One of the things that they do is try to increase the vegetation along the edges, along the margins of the creeks and the rivers, to create more shade so that there is less direct sun and the water doesn’t get as warm. That’s one of the strategies that I have read about for instance. But if the ambient atmospheric temperature keeps going up — the water has a surface in contact with the air; and if the air is warm, it will warm up the water.

I just heard from a tribal policy expert, and he was telling me about shallow inundation. At UCS here we did a study that we call chronic inundation. The title of the report is When Rising Seas Hit Home. And in that report, we identify locations along the coast of the lower 48 that will be chronically inundated, which means inundated only by high tide at least 26 times per year — because of high tides alone, which are the highest tides twice a month, give or take.

So we identified the areas because we did the projections, and sea level rise, and the whole thing. But this tribal policy person told me, he said, “For the tribes, the shallow inundation, this water, the tide that comes and floods, even at the very low inundation level, like just a couple inches, it comes in and it floods the ground for part of the time. That water gets very hot in the sun. And that’s starting to change the system. That’s starting to change the species there. Starting to change the environment.”

And you know how tribal communities are so attuned to their environment. And they plan on them, and they have things planned according to their environment for thousands of years. So this is one of the impacts that people don’t think about. You see that’s happening. How are those changes going to affect not only the environment, but also the people who depend on that environment for their livelihoods and their culture?

Ariel Conn: I guess I want to ask you more generally about what else you do. So you work with the Union of Concerned Scientists, and you do a lot with climate adaptation and trying to get various groups and policy makers to take action. I was hoping you could talk just a little bit more about anything else that you’re working on that you think is important for people to understand?

Astrid Caldas: One of the things that I think is very important is to get to know the people who are suffering these impacts firsthand. A lot of times those are what we call “front line communities.” They are the ones that are hit first and hit worst by the impacts of climate change. And they have been hit in the past by pollution and, you know, gas plants, oil plants, refineries.

They are all in certain neighborhoods where these people who are mostly low income and minorities live. And it’s like, they are there, they cannot live, and people keep using their area to build more polluting stuff because it’s already there and the land is cheap. So there is this cycle that keeps repeating itself. So to get to know the people who are living in those areas, and seeing their problems, and try to bring that to the policy makers is a very important thing.

Recently, I’ve been doing some work on the eastern shore of Maryland in very old communities. Some of them are black communities. Some of them are white fisherman. They are losing a lot of land to sea level rise. The eastern shore of Maryland is second only to Louisiana in loss of land because of sea level rise. A lot of these people are losing their livelihoods, they’re losing their land; The sea level rise is eroding their land, and the water is getting closer to their house.

So one of the things that I do is go there and ask what they are seeing, and ask why they think they are seeing that, and what they would like to do about it. And with that knowledge, we can come in and tell them, “This is happening right now, but the future looks like A, B, or C. It may get worse here or better here and you have certain amount of time before this or that happens.” And that can be very helpful for them to start planning their lives.

One of the senators of Maryland went to meet with one of these communities on the eastern shore of Maryland. And later on, I was talking to the senator, and I mentioned that to him, and I said, “You know, the National Climate Assessment went to great lengths, in this version that just came out last year, to show the impacts on people, on communities, on livelihoods — put even a price on it, what the economic impacts will be of unchecked climate change.” And yet, people think that the National Climate Assessment is this document that is pure science out there. No. I told the senator, “Every single thing that you saw at that community meeting and that you heard from that community is described in the National Climate Assessment. Everything is there.”

So the National Climate Assessment is a huge resource to see what can happen. And it’s not policy prescriptive, but it tells you what would happen if climate change didn’t go unchecked. What could be better. What could be saved. What could be protected. It doesn’t tell you what policies are needed, but it is a great resource that is not being used as it should.

So one of the things that I tried to do was try to make these connections, particularly for these frontline communities. Climate justice, Environmental justice. Communities that are forgotten. After Hurricane Harvey, lots of people are still trying to get back their lives. Where’s the help? People who are more wealthy, they have insurance, they have everything, they have the means to rebuild. But the people who live day to day, they don’t have the resources. They lose their money because they are not working during the flood. So I tried to bring up the importance of equity in climate adaptation. That’s one of the big things that I do, also.

Ariel Conn: That one’s really interesting to me. I mean, we talked earlier about the idea of what happens if you have a community that does have to move. And part of what happens is the wealthier people of the community are more likely to be able to move. Whereas people who have less are going to find moving harder. Or making all of the other little changes — I mean, a lot of instances the more environmentally friendly options are more expensive. Buying local is usually more expensive than cheap canned food. How do we address that?

Astrid Caldas: That’s where we need the government. That’s where we need the incentives. I think that I mentioned before, to make these things that are better not be more expensive or more onerous on the people who need them most. So subsidies, different policies, protective policies, financial policies, all these things that would help a lot. If only people put their minds to it.

Ariel Conn: So we talked earlier about how it can be difficult to find information about the choices people can make. And you mentioned the National Climate Assessment being a good resource. But that’s probably more for policy makers; I’m guessing the average American probably isn’t going to just sit down and read that. Are there resources that you recommend people use to try to improve their decisions?

Astrid Caldas: Well, the National Climate Assessment is not that bad if you read just the summary. You don’t need to read the whatever, 500 pages. But there are lots of organizations that are dedicated to bringing the information. My organization is one of them. We have lots of good resources for the general public, giving information in a digestible way that relates to climate change.

We can talk about policies that would be good to have and things that communities can try to fight for and can start asking of their elected officials at all levels. So I would start of course with my own organization. You know, our website is full of resources. But there are lots of other good organizations out there. Universities have programs that are related to climate change — Yale has a good program, George Mason University has a good program — that have websites that talk about how people react to climate change science, why they react like that. It’s kind of interesting. People can look at that. They have bubbles and stuff, you know, and it’s kind of an easy read. But then you kind of, “Oh, I relate to this person here that has this type of reaction to climate change.” And then you can read why likely they have that reaction and what are the reasons. And it’s kind of interesting.

Ariel Conn: I think we’ve touched on most of what I was hoping to get into. Is there anything that you think we missed that you think is important for people to know?

Astrid Caldas: Well, there are lots of people — lots of information that people should know. I can talk for hours, but I think one thing that I’d like to mention — because I talk a lot, I go to lots of different audiences to talk about science, and climate science in particular. And one of the things that people ask me a lot is, “Why do you think a lot of people in the United States do not accept climate change?” They say “believe in climate change,” but I don’t use “believe” because climate change is not a belief. It’s a matter of science and data. But why they don’t accept.

And one of the things that I have been studying and reading a lot in the social sciences: the idea of confirmation bias. The person will seek information that confirms their preconceived views. You have that idea, and you try to avoid anything that disrupts that idea. So that only reinforces more and more your ideas.

So from the beginning, if your peer group — well, some of your peer group, or one of your social groups, or your church, or your whatever — everybody thinks that climate change is a bunch of baloney, you don’t want to be the one that’s going to say, “Actually it’s not a bunch of baloney. It’s actually true because the data.” They are going to look at you and not invite you to the parties anymore.

So if people want to belong, they want to belong, they want to be part of something. And that’s one of the things, that people tend to listen to news that confirm their views. And that’s for everybody. I do that too. On both sides we do it. I always like to mention that to people because it’s not that people are bad. It is people’s nature to try to belong to a group that they value. Core values are things that are more ingrained in us and things that go against our core values are things that we fight. Climate change, believing in it or accepting it, is not a core value. It can be changed, but the only way to change it is if we can make it appeal to one of our core values. Ethics, honesty. Yeah.

Ariel Conn: I find the psychological element to accepting and addressing climate change really interesting. Confirmation bias is a big problem. But I often wonder if some of it is also accepting climate change as real means that you do have to make these lifestyle changes that people don’t want to make. And it also implies that what we’ve been doing is wrong and bad. And I wonder if people have a hard time accepting that their previous actions, no matter how well intentioned, were bad.

Astrid Caldas: I’m sure this factors in in a good segment of the population. I’m sure this factors in. Yes.

Ariel Conn: Probably lots of psychological elements to this.

Astrid Caldas: It’s all interconnected, right?

Ariel Conn: Yeah. So my very final question for you then is, are you hopeful? Do you think we can address this?

Astrid Caldas: I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we can address this. We may not be able to address it the best we could and keep it at 1.5 warming as we would like to. I think there are ways of us keeping under two if there is global political will, and the technologies, and the innovations, and the policies, and the incentives. It is a huge undertaking, but I believe it can be done.

However, not all is lost, but a lot is lost already. We have a lot of stuff that we cannot avoid anymore. And that’s the part of the “climate despair” that we call here sometimes. How is the climate despair level today? Because sometimes some things happen, some news come out that it’s like, oh crap.

But yeah, I am hopeful. I’m not completely hopeless at all. I’ll keep fighting, and I think that the youth movement has huge legs. I mean, pressure from the people can lead the governments to do great things — has always been, historically. So if we realize how powerful we are in the change we can effect, it can happen. We can avoid the worst of it. Let’s put it that way.

Ariel Conn: All right. That’s a mostly optimistic note to end on.

Astrid Caldas: Yeah. I try always to lift up.

Ariel Conn: All right. Well, thank you so much.

Astrid Caldas: Oh, thank you. This is great. A great conversation.

Ariel Conn: On the next episode of Not Cool, a climate podcast, we’ll launch the first of two episodes in which we hear from many of the authors of this summer’s big paper, Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning. 

David Rolnick: The project has really involved a lot of people coming together, not just from the machine learning field, but also many other fields relevant to this interdisciplinary work. Because to have an impact on problems related to climate change, one really needs a lot of expertise coming in from many different areas.

Ariel Conn: As always, if you’ve been enjoying these episodes, please take a moment to like them, share them, and maybe even leave a good review.