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The Big Switch

The Big Switch

Author: Dr. Melissa Lott

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To slow climate change, we need to transform our homes, buildings, cars, and economy quickly. "The Big Switch" explains how to rebuild the energy systems all around us. Dr. Melissa Lott of Columbia University brings together historical examples, current events, and incisive analysis to give listeners a deep understanding of the solutions to climate change.
46 Episodes
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This is the final episode of a five-part series exploring the lithium-ion battery supply chain. If you haven’t listened to the first four episodes, we recommend you start there. So far over this season we've traced the global lithium-ion battery supply chain from mining to processing to manufacturing. And we've put it all into a geopolitical and economic context. In this final installment of our five-part series, we come to the end of the road for a battery.  There are a lot of technical innovations on the horizon when it comes to battery recycling. But are we anywhere close to making the battery economy actually circular? When you get rid of your car, there is a profitable industry that takes responsibility for the components inside of it. And that's because we've had many, many decades to perfect this process -- and develop efficient supply chains. The modern battery supply chain is still a work in progress. In this episode, we’ll visit a recycling facility, learn how battery recyclers are evolving into battery component manufacturers, navigate the complexities of turning dead batteries into new ones, and explore the concept of circularity.
This is the fourth episode of a five-part series exploring the lithium-ion battery supply chain. If you haven’t listened to the first three episodes, we recommend you start there.  China has been the world's biggest battery manufacturer for over a decade. Chinese companies got in the game early, building an industry from scratch in the 2000s. By 2022, according to the IEA, China manufactured 76% of the world's batteries. But that’s changing. Battery factories in the U.S. and around the world are running 24/7 to churn out millions of cells – thanks to growing demand for storage all over the world, and government support for local manufacturing. In this episode, we’re exploring the rapid buildout of factories to support the battery economy. We’ll tour a lithium-ion battery factory in upstate NY to see how batteries are made at scale. And we ask where a small US factory fits into a global battery market dominated by China.
This is the third episode of a five-part series exploring the lithium-ion battery supply chain. If you haven’t listened to the first two episodes, we recommend you start there. Batteries can replace gasoline in our cars, or diesel in our generators, with electricity. But batteries and petroleum-based fuels share something in common: they both rely on energy-intensive processes to turn extracted materials into something useful. The middle stage of the lithium-ion supply chain is called processing – and it's a critical one. To make lots of affordable batteries, we have to process a lot of materials. It’s a big, lucrative business with real impacts to local communities and the environment. In this episode, we dig into step two of the supply chain: processing all those minerals into usable ingredients for batteries. Why are countries so keen on building giant processing facilities? And can we process all the minerals we need to fight climate change in a responsible way?
This is the second episode of a five-part series exploring the lithium-ion battery supply chain. If you haven’t listened to the first episode, we recommend you start there. To produce enough batteries to reach global net-zero goals, the International Energy Agency says we'll need to increase production of critical minerals by six fold by 2040. It's a monumental task.  It can feel like a contradictory mission. To save the planet, we have to mine more minerals; but mining and processing those minerals increases emissions and often negatively impacts indigenous communities and the environment.  In this episode, we start at the beginning of the battery supply chain: lithium mining.  We’ll ask why so much rides on where and how we source lithium, and whether we can balance growing demand with local communities and the land. 
We need to electrify much of the global economy in order to hit net-zero emissions by 2050. That means installing a lot of batteries in our cars, buildings, and across the grid to balance vast amounts of wind and solar. The supply chain behind all those batteries could be worth nearly half a trillion dollars by 2030. Whoever controls that supply chain has enormous power – figuratively and literally.  In this episode, we explore the stakes of the battery-based transition. We’ll open up a lithium-ion battery, investigate what's inside it, and ask whether critical minerals will look anything like oil. This is the first episode of a five-part series exploring the lithium-ion battery supply chain. In the next four episodes, we’ll cover each step of the process, from mining to recycling.
This is the fifth episode of a five-part series exploring the European energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you haven’t listened to the first four episodes, we recommend you start there. In March of 2022, European officials unveiled a plan to push their energy transition much further, much faster – and rid their dependence on Russian fossil fuels.  REPowerEU was ambitious, but it raised lots of questions about whether it would lock Europe into new dependencies.  In this episode, we take a step back and ask: what are the consequences of the energy crisis for the entire European region? And how might it influence other parts of the world?  First, we explore the push to supercharge wind and solar – and what it says about the benefits and limits of what they can do. Then, we discuss the abrupt shift in where Europe gets the fossil fuels it uses today – and the vision to reuse gas infrastructure for hydrogen. Finally, we end with a conversation about how Europe’s response influenced other regions, particularly developing countries.  
This is the fourth episode of a five-part series exploring the European energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you haven’t listened to the first three episodes, we recommend you start there. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many Germans and Poles installed heat pumps and residential solar panels to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels.  But do the countries have the skilled workforce they need to meet rapidly growing demand? In this episode, we examine the role of these technologies in building the net-zero economy—and how supply chain problems and a shortage of trade workers has hindered the mobilization of clean technologies.  Then, we look at the efforts to solve these bottlenecks with campaigns to recruit a new wave of electricians, engineers, and other craftspeople.  
This is the third episode of a five-part series exploring the European energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you haven’t listened to the first two episodes, we recommend you start there. Even with a plan to phase down fossil fuel use, Poland still gets 70% of its electricity from coal. Can a country so dependent on coal make the transition to green energy effectively—and quickly? In this episode, we explore the consequences of Poland’s historical reliance on coal. It's a story that begins at COP24 in Poland, where a coal miners marching band welcomed climate negotiators from around the world in 2018. From there, we visit a historical coal mining town in southwestern Poland, where we meet a man who digs for coal to sell on the black market in the wake of the Ukraine invasion.  Then, we take a look at the energy source that could help Poland cut the cord with coal: nuclear power. In an effort to gain energy security and reduce emissions, Poland is building its first reactors. But with Russia controlling much of the nuclear supply chain, is Poland trading one dependency for another?  
This is the second episode of a five-part series exploring the European energy crisis in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you haven’t listened to the first episode, we recommend you start there.  Germany has grown its wind and solar sectors dramatically over the past 20 years. And yet, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an energy crisis, Germany fired up idle coal plants and began importing natural gas from around the world. So why couldn’t renewables in Germany—and in Europe more broadly—meet the energy gap in this time of need?  In this episode, we cover the origin story of Germany’s renewables boom—including a nuclear disaster and an anti-nuclear political movement. Then, we examine the implications of the shutdown of nuclear power and the rise of renewables for the power sector. We look at the long-ignored part of German energy—gas heating—and how electrification could help Germany make better use of its strong wind and solar industries.  And finally, we discuss the role of hydrogen, batteries, and other low-carbon technologies in balancing renewables on the grid.  
Putin’s assault on Ukraine triggered an energy crisis that sent Europe’s economies into a tailspin and put the European energy transition to the test. But how did the European Union, a leader in climate action, become so dependent on Russian oil and gas to begin with?  This season, we look at the energy systems of Germany and Poland. Both have very different energy systems, but both became dependent on Russian energy for heating homes, firing power plants, and fueling businesses. In this episode, we look at the immediate impact of the Ukraine invasion on that dependency and the historical influences behind it – from Germany’s pursuit of natural gas to Poland’s centuries -long relationship with coal. Then we ask whether Europe's initial response to the crisis– leaning more heavily on fossil fuels – will accelerate or slow down the region's push toward green energy.  
Batteries are finding their way into everything – from cars to heavy equipment to the electric grid.  But scaling up production to meet the demands of a net-zero economy is complicated and contentious. In this 5-episode season, we’re digging into the ways batteries are made and asking: what gets mined, traded, and consumed on the road to decarbonization?  Season 4 of The Big Switch drops Feb 28th. Listen on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
This week, we’re running an episode of Degrees: Real talk about planet-saving careers, from our friends at Environmental Defense Fund: “The fastest electric vehicle fleet makeover in the west”. Degrees is an action hub for green job seekers to find career guidance and connect to a community of mentors, especially now that green jobs are among the fastest growing jobs globally, surging over 237% in the past five years.  The new season of Degrees, “How to Green Your Job,” is out now wherever you listen to podcasts. Make sure you check out other Degrees episodes about how the green jobs transformation is shaping the future. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. And as for The Big Switch, we’re working hard on the next season. And – spoiler alert! – we’re looking at the supply chains behind lithium-ion batteries. It’s a technology that could transform the global energy system. In this season, we examine the trillion dollar question — can we make batteries fast enough to put us on track to meet net-zero climate goals? Enjoy and stay tuned for more!   Degrees home EDF Green Jobs Hub
Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked supply shortages, fears of blackouts, and a scramble to find new sources of energy. In this season of The Big Switch we’re trying to answer the trillion-dollar question: Will the energy crisis speed up or slow down Europe’s clean energy transition? And what will it mean for the rest of the world? Over the next five episodes, we’ll look at Poland and Germany specifically to figure out how they’re navigating supply shocks, and planning for the future. This show is all about trade-offs. This season, we’re talking about tradeoffs on a grand scale. Because the decisions Europe makes now in response to this ongoing crisis have consequences around the world. Season 3 of The Big Switch drops June 28th. Listen on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Geothermal energy doesn’t get near the attention that wind and solar do. But to decarbonize our energy systems, we need a team of net zero technologies. And despite geothermal’s low profile, it’s an always-on, zero carbon technology that can complement intermittent renewables like wind and solar.  So could geothermal become a bigger player on the net zero energy team? In this episode we go to Kenya, a country that built its geothermal energy from scratch in the 1980s and now gets nearly half of its electricity from geothermal power, with plans to double its geothermal capacity by 2030. Kenyan geoscientists Drs. Nicholas Mariita and Anna Mwangi explain the process of exploring for underground heat, drilling wells, and building geothermal power plants.  Melissa and show producer Daniel Woldorff discuss geothermal’s strengths and what’s holding it back from wide scale expansion. Jamie Beard, executive director of the geothermal non-profit Project Innerspace, talks about how techniques first introduced by the oil and gas industry could help geothermal grow.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Daniel Woldorff and Alexandria Herr. Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey.  Special thanks to Jen Wu, Natalie Volk and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
There’s been a pretty major shake-up in the world of transit decarbonization. This summer, the California Air Resources Board – a state organization that regulates air quality – approved a rule mandating that by 2035, all new cars sold in California will be zero-emissions.    This rule will transform California's car market; and deliver some huge climate and health wins along the way. Between now and 2035, the regulation will result in 9.5 million fewer gas-powered cars on the road. California’s not alone in cracking down on gas cars – soon, as many as seventeen other states may follow suit, resulting in a wave of regulation that could change American transit forever.    This week, we’re talking with one of the state’s most influential environmental regulators, Mary Nichols, about how this ban on gas cars came to be, and how it will help the state make the big switch to a net-zero transit future.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Daniel Woldorff and Alexandria Herr Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Jen Wu, Natalie Volk and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
In this episode, a former oil-and-gas man named Efrem Jernigan catches the solar bug. Inspired by the potential for lower energy bills and green jobs, he looks into bringing solar to the neighborhood he grew up in, a historically black part of Houston called Sunnyside.    But for many Sunnyside residents, the technology is out of reach: Many are renters. Others lack roofs with sufficient sun. And still others simply don’t have the money to purchase expensive solar systems.    And it’s not just Sunnyside. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that less than half  of American homes and businesses can install rooftop solar. So what are the solutions?     One answer, at least in Sunnyside, involves a controversial landfill that gets new life as a solar farm—specifically as something called a community solar project.   Matthew Popkin, a researcher at the energy thinktank RMI, talks about how community solar projects get around the barriers of rooftop panels. Also in this episode: how do we turn former industrial sites—also known as brownfields—into renewable projects? The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Daniel Woldorff and Alexandria Herr Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Jen Wu, Natalie Volk and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
On this show we talk a lot about the “big switch” to zero-carbon energy sources. But there’s another kind of switch that needs to happen, too. You might have heard the term “just transition” before – the idea that as we make the switch to new energy sources, we also have to help transition the workers and communities that produce that energy to new sources of employment and revenue. Planning for a just transition isn’t easy, but in Colorado, a group of state officials, coal workers, and environmentalists are trying to get it right. Colorado is the first state to officially create legislation and an office dedicated to just transition planning. This week, we take a look at how Colorado is  trying to make the just transition a reality for coal communities across the state.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Daniel Woldorff and Alexandria Herr Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Natalie Volk and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
Frogs. Bees. Finicky software. There are a lot of things that can cause an electric vehicle charging station to break. We need to replace fossil-fuel powered vehicles with EVs as soon as possible—but if the stations don’t work, it will slow the adoption of EVs.   In Los Angeles, two Black women have started training a small army of technicians to fix broken charging stations, and they’re taking their model around the country. They couldn’t have started at a better time: The U.S. is investing hundreds of billions of dollars in EV charging infrastructure.    But as they’re fixing these stations, they’re asking an equity question: who benefits from this rapidly growing industry? Will cleantech remain a field dominated by white men?    As part of their business model, they’re training a diverse, inclusive workforce to be a part of the industry. In effect, they’re solving a carbon emissions problem and an equity problem at the same time.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Daniel Woldorff and Alexandria Herr Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Natalie Volk, Kirsten Smith and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
Clean heat for all

Clean heat for all

2022-09-1523:061

We’re switching things up a bit for the next few weeks. Instead of continuing our sector-by-sector decarbonization tour, we’re taking you to the front lines of the energy transition – to communities where the big switch to a zero carbon future is already underway. We’re starting with New York City, where there’s a project underway that’s tackling decarbonization and equity at the same time. Residents in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments have long lived with dangerous heating and cooling conditions — especially in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Ida. Now, NYCHA housing also has to decarbonize – and fast – in order to meet the city’s climate commitments.  So New York City and state government agencies launched the Clean Heat for All competition. The challenge? Get the heat pump industry to design a technology that didn’t exist yet: heat pumps that fit in an apartment window. The winning design would replace aging boilers, allow residents to control the temperature in their own units and could be a game changer for building decarbonization across the board.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Alexandria Herr and Daniel Woldorff. Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Natalie Volk, Kirsten Smith and Kyu Lee. Our managing producer is Cecily Meza-Martinez. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
Cookin' with Electrons

Cookin' with Electrons

2022-07-2722:161

Building codes: they might sound boring, but they’re actually the front lines in a nationwide battle to decarbonize our buildings. And they do a lot more than keeping your  home from falling down over your head. They regulate everything from energy efficiency, to the kind of fuel your stove runs on, to whether your building has an electric vehicle charging port – all super important facets of building decarbonization. And if designed correctly, building codes can also help address issues like public health, pollution, and even adaptation to the effects of climate change. In this episode, Melissa speaks with Michael Gerrard, an expert on environment and climate law and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University about how to unlock this secret weapon – and what’s getting in the way of greener building codes.  The Big Switch is produced by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy in partnership with Post Script Media. This episode was produced by Alexandria Herr and Daniel Woldorff. Theme music and mixing by Sean Marquand. Story editing by Anne Bailey. A special thanks to Natalie Volk, Kirsten Smith and Kyu Lee. Our executive editor is Stephen Lacey.
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Absolutely, addressing climate change is a monumental task that requires a collective effort to transform various aspects of our lives. "The Big Switch" seems like a crucial resource in guiding us through this necessary transformation. Dr. Melissa Lott's approach, blending historical context, current events, and insightful analysis, offers a comprehensive understanding of the solutions needed. It's heartening to see academia actively contributing to this conversation. In a parallel context, much like the need for a climate transformation, efficiency in logistics is crucial. Speaking of which, have you considered the environmental benefits of using M&P Courier Tracking for streamlined and eco-friendly parcel deliveries? It's a small step, but collectively, these efforts contribute to a more sustainable future. please also visit: https://mandptracker.com/

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but we are a pride people and we think our planet will be ok and we don't care but it's so bad 😔

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In an era where climate action is imperative, "The Big Switch" is an invaluable resource. It is a call to action, urging us to embrace the necessary changes and build a more sustainable future.Thank you, Dr. Melissa Lott, for this illuminating and empowering audiobook! https://instapro2app.com

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"The Big Switch" promises to be an enlightening and timely resource in our urgent quest to combat climate change. Dr. Melissa Lott's approach, which combines historical context, current events, and insightful analysis, is both refreshing and essential. As we grapple with the need for rapid transformation in our homes, buildings, vehicles, and economy, this audiobook appears to offer a roadmap for understanding and implementing solutions. In an era where climate action is imperative, "The Big Switch" seems poised to empower listeners with the knowledge and inspiration needed to make a difference. https://www.muhabbet.org

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