Rising sea levels? Burning forests? 12 years to disaster? Climate change may be the issue that comes to define our time – but it’s a hugely complex problem.

Returning for its second series, the University of Oxford’s Futuremakers podcast is the ‘fly on the wall’ to the debates between our academics and leading experts from around the world around what, and how, climate action should be taken.

Each of these longer conversations features four of our academics at the cutting edge of research and at the forefront of their profession – but for this new series we’re also joined by other key voices in the debate, such as politicians and student activists. Join host, Hertford College Professor of Philosophy Peter Millican, as he explores the existential threats from climate change, and how we can help to prevent them.

You’ll find Futuremakers on:

Apple Podcasts at: http://po.st/Futuremakers

AudioBoom at: http://po.st/futuremakers

Google Podcasts at: http://po.st/Futuremakers_GO  

Spotify at: http://po.st/Futuremakers_SP

Stitcher at: http://po.st/Futuremakers-st

RadioPublic at: http://po.st/Futuremakers_Radio


Episode 1: Twelve years to climate disaster?

The IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C broke into the public consciousness through media reporting that we only had twelve years to limit climate change catastrophe. 

But was this really the conclusion of the report? If it was, do we really only have twelve years to fix our climate, and if not, how soon should we take action?

Join Peter Millican as he explores this topic with Professor Myles Allen, Coordinating Lead Author on the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees, Professor Helen Johnson from Oxford’s Earth Sciences Department, whose work focuses on understanding ocean circulation and the role in plays in the climate system; and Dr James Painter from the Reuters Institute at Oxford, who focuses on the portrayals of climate change in online and offline media.

Episode 2: Climate change and politics - why haven’t we done more?

As we heard in our first episode, it’s clear that we need to act sooner rather than later. This may be why we’re seeing increasing public action from the likes of Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strikes for Climate, but what action have we seen from governments in the UK and beyond since this stark warning was delivered? What confidence can we have in our leaders to bring about the changes we need over the next decade? 

Join our host, philosopher Peter Millican, as he explores this topic with Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party politician and Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, Dr Ryan Rafaty, a political scientist at the University of Oxford working with our Climate Econometrics project, and Tristram Walsh, President of the Oxford Climate Society, a student society dedicated to developing informed climate leaders.

Episode 3: How do you build a greener country?

What does the current infrastructure in the UK look like, and how far is it from where we need to be to meet our international commitments, or even our own challenge to be Net Zero by 2050? 

How much do our working practices and lives contribute to how ‘green’ the country is, and how can we promote and preserve biodiversity across the globe?

How do we compare to other countries, and what can we learn from them? Finally, how do you build a ‘greener’ country?

Join our host, philosopher Peter Millican, as he explores this topic with Professor Cameron Hepburn, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, who has provided advice on climate policy to a number of governments; Alison Smith, a senior researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, who’s worked on a number of EU climate projects and is the author of ‘The Climate Bonus: co-benefits of climate policy’; and April Burt, who has spent the past eight years working in conservation management in the western Indian ocean and is now part of Oxford’s Environmental Research team. 

Episode 4: Climate change: do individual actions matter?

With a lot of Government work relying on geo-political understanding between nation states and large multinational corporations, is there still potential for actions on an individual level to shape the future of the planet? Do actions such as changing our diets, varying how we commute or even joining in with mass demonstrations, have the possibility of being anywhere near as effective as changes that can be made on an international level? Can one person save the planet?

Join our host, philosopher Peter Millican, as he explores this topic with Professor Susan Jebb, a nutrition scientist who is co-director of the Livestock, Environment and People (or LEAP) project, Dr Tina Fawcett, a senior researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, who works on the ECI’s energy programme, and Tristram Walsh, President of the Oxford Climate Society, a student society dedicated to developing informed climate leaders.

Episode 5: What did the Paris Climate Agreement change?

On the 12th December 2015, at the 21st COP in Paris, representatives of 196 states reached an agreement to combat climate change that was celebrated around the world. With the long-term goal of keeping global temperature to below two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, and covering areas such as nationally determined contributions and global stocktakes, Paris was heralded as a huge break-through. But four years on, and against the backdrop of the United States announcing its intention to withdraw from the agreement, what did the politicians at Paris actually achieve?

Join our host, philosopher Peter Millican, as he explores this topic with Fredi Otto, Acting Director of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and a lead scientist on the World Weather Attribution project; Richard Miller, a Senior Analyst for the Committee on Climate Change, whose research spans the physical and economic consequences of climate policy; and Sugandha Srivastav, a researcher on the post carbon transition, who’s previously worked at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

Episode 6: Should nuclear power be part of our energy system?

Nuclear energy is still a controversial idea for many people, with dangerous accidents and destructive bombs being at the top of their minds when they hear the words, yet other renewable energy sources are not without their critics, and arguably are not yet at a place where they can entirely replace our current energy systems. So what role can, or should, nuclear be playing in the UK energy sector as we move towards a sustainable future?

Join our host, philosopher Peter Millican, as he explores this topic with Professor Nick Eyre, Director of the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, who in 1997 wrote the first published study on how the then Government’s 20% carbon emission reduction target might be achieved; Dr Sarah Darby, Acting Leader of the Energy Programme at Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute, who has a particular interest in how energy systems might develop in more environmentally and socially-benign ways; and James Marrow, James Martin Professor of Energy Materials, whose work is focussed on the degradation of structural materials.

Episode 7: Can we be green AND capitalist?

Many of our panellists in season two have described barriers that are standing in our way if we hope to restrict global warming to the 1.5 degrees C limit that the 2018 IPCC report outlined, and some have advocated how our current economic system could be used to overcome them.

But can markets really provide a tool to promote necessary action? In this episode we ask; can we be green AND capitalist?

Joining Professor Millican on this latest episode of Futuremakers are:

Thomas Hale, Associate Professor in Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Charmain Love, ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at our Saïd Business School, and Ben Caldecott, Associate Professor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and founding Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme.

And at the end of this episode there's a bonus conversation between Peter and Johan Rockström, joint director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, who in 2009 led an international group of twenty eight leading academics, in proposing a new framework for government and management agencies as a precondition for sustainable development on the planet Earth.

Episode 8: Climate change: Who should we sue?

To date, there have been climate change legal cases in at least 28 countries. From Greta Thunberg leading a group of young people in filing a lawsuit against five countries at the UN, to the Hague Court of Appeals upholding a historic ruling against the Dutch government, increasing numbers of people are taking legal action together to demand governments do more.

And with various oil and gas companies being sued by US cities for costs of climate-related damages, today on Futuremakers, we’re asking: what does this rise in litigious climate action mean for society as we race to meet climate targets?

Joining Peter Millican on the panel today:

  • Fredi Otto, Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, and a lead author on extremes in weather in the ongoing assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC)
  • Liz Fisher, Professor of Environmental Law at Oxford and General Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law
  • Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, and a lead author on the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 degrees.

Episode 9: Is climate conflict inevitable?

In 2010, Jeffrey Mazo outlined in his book 'How global warming threatens security and what to do about it' four ways in which climate and environmental change could produce security threats:

  • a general systemic weakening, 
  • boundary disputes,
  • resource wars,
  • and by multiplying instability in already fragile or weak states. 

Yet so far in our second series, with conversations around energy use, international treaties and individual choices, talk of conflict has received much less attention. 

Is this a fair reflection of the relative threat, or should people be paying far more attention to these potential future developments?

Is global conflict due to climate change inevitable?

With Peter to discuss this are; Kate Guy, from the Centre for Climate and Security in Washington DC, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford specialising in International Relations, who focusses on the intersection of climate change and national security; and Dr Troy Sternberg, from Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment, whose research has explored how environmental and climate changes in the Gobi region of northern China and Mongolia, have impacted on security in the Middle East.

Episode 10: Solving climate change... nature or technology?

Solving climate change can involve either mitigation – reducing the greenhouse gases we're putting into the atmosphere – or adaptation – the process of adjusting to our changing environment. In the last episode of series two, we wanted to learn more about how these solutions are developing, what form they take, and where we should be applying them. We were particularly interested in the contrast between two climate change solutions: engineering approaches (such as technical methods of carbon capture, novel methods of building, or physical climate defences), and natural approaches (such as reforestation, changes in farming patterns, or restoring wetlands). With the stakes so high, how far can we harness nature to help tackle climate change, or will technology provide a solution?

With Peter to discuss this are; Nathalie Seddon, who having trained as an evolutionary ecologist is now Professor of Biodiversity and Director of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative, Jim Hall, originally an engineer and now Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks, who is an expert on climate risks to infrastructure, and who for ten years sat on the UK independent Committee on Climate Change, and Dr Helen Gavin, Oxford Martin Fellow, an environmental scientist and sustainability professional bringing 18 years of experience in both industry and education.

Mark Carney on Climate Change

In this special bonus episode, originally recorded on 25th November, Professor Millican travels to the Bank of England to interview its Governor, Mark Carney. This episode was recorded before it was announced that Mark Carney will become the UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance in 2020.

The interview covered a range of topics, but focused in particular on the challenges that markets may need to overcome if we hope to restrict global warming to the 1.5 degrees C, how federal banks are working to prepare for these, and if an even more fundamental change to our economic and political system is needed.

Can markets provide a tool to promote necessary action? Is it possible to find a middle ground of sustainable economics? Can we be green, and capitalist?

COP 25 – what happened? 

In this bonus ‘reaction’ episode, we chat to several Oxford academics who were either at, or closely following the recent events at COP 25.

We ask them what (if anything) was decided at the meeting in Madrid, whether enough action was taken, and where we might go next - ahead of COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland (2020).

Interviewed on this episode were Professor Fredi Otto, Professor Nathalie Seddon, Dr Helen Gavin, DPhil students Alex Clark and Lisa Thalheimer, entrepreneur Charmian Love and lawyer Bill Clark.