Our hosts speak with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.
229 Systems Failure: With the climate crisis hitting poor people hardest, David Keith says now is the time to explore solar geoengineering
Leaders from around the globe are meeting in Scotland today for the COP26 summit, talking about ways to speed up efforts to fight global warming. Yet even the optimists in Glasgow admit that the scientific consensus is that it’s already too late to cut emissions fast enough to avoid a dangerous rise in the earth’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius, which is expected to lead to severe droughts, blistering heat waves, deadly flooding, and rising seas.
Despite these dire predictions, there has been one potential weapon in humanity’s anti-warming arsenal that, in terms of practical research, has been a taboo subject: solar geoengineering. Now Professor David Keith says it’s time for that to change. Keith is an award-winning physicist who holds professorships at both Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Working at the intersection of physics and policy, Keith is a pioneer in the field, which involves making man-made changes to the atmosphere that would cool the planet by either preventing some of the sun’s energy from getting through, or making it easier for heat already in the atmosphere to escape.
Critics have had a tough time wrapping their heads around solar geoengineering. They call it the stuff of science fiction, say it could be used as an excuse not to further cut emissions, and even suggest that governments might someday use it as a weapon. But Keith says that it’s now time to explore it as one of major strategies to fight warming, which include cutting emissions, capturing the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere, and helping people and societies adapt to the effects already being felt. One of his primary arguments for starting serious research on solar geoengineering is inequality. After all, he says, planetary warming doesn’t play fair. It is mostly people in the world’s poorest countries who will suffer the worst harm from a warming climate, yet they are the least responsible for it in terms of per capita emissions. And amid all the recent talk of climate adaptation, there is comparatively little mention that it is much easier for a rich country in a colder latitude to adapt than it is for a developing one in a hotter region.
Keith is also known for his work on carbon capture and founded a company working on technology to pull carbon from the air — although he says that is at best a long-term strategy that could take decades to have any beneficial effect.
228 Systems Failure: Economist Jason Furman says economic inequality costs everyone
Harvard Kennedy School Professor Jason Furman recently testified before the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth and called growing inequality the fundamental challenge for the U.S. economy. He says that slow income growth, coupled with growing disparities in how the overall economic pie is divided, have contributed to inequality that is now pervasive by race, ethnicity, gender, income, and education. That inequality hurts everyone, he says, limiting growth and depriving society of productive contributors to the economy.
227: Systems Failure: How to respond when our algorithms are biased and our privacy is in peril
Harvard Kennedy School Professor Latanya Sweeney a pioneer in the fields of algorithmic fairness and data privacy and the founding director of the new Public Interest Tech Lab at Harvard University. The former chief technology officer for the US Trade Commission, she’s been awarded 3 patents and her work is cited in two key US privacy regulations, including the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). She was also the first black woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science from MIT, and she says her experiences being the only woman of color in white male-dominated classrooms and labs may have contributed to her uncanny ability to spot racial and gender bias, privacy vulnerabilities, and other key flaws in data and technology systems.
226 Happiness in an age of fear and grievance
Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School Professor Arthur Brooks studies happiness: Where it comes from, how to achieve it, and how it affects our lives, our decision-making, and the world around us. But how do we define happiness? Is it how we feel? Is it an approach to life? And how much control over it do we really have? What percentage of our happiness comes from, say, our environment, or from genetics? Can government make us happier? Should it? In a time of stress and division when the world is seemingly desperate for more happiness, Brooks joins host Ralph Ranalli to explore some of those questions.
225 Staying Power: Tony Saich on 100 Years of the Chinese Communist Party
The Chinese Communist Party rules a country that is already an economic superpower and is poised to become a military and geopolitical one as the 21st Century unfolds. But Harvard Kennedy School Professor Tony Saich says the party’s 100th birthday next month is also a time to remember the party’s struggles and humble beginnings. From it’s early days as Soviet-supported client and its existential struggles with the Chinese Nationalists; to the tragic excesses of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; to its economic transformation and growing middle class, the party has made disastrous errors as well as successes. But through it all, Saich says, the party has shown a remarkable ability to survive, adapt, and maintain control of 1.4 billion people. That’s why understanding China’s politics is crucial for the future of everything from the world economy to the climate crisis to international human rights. Professor Saich, the director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, has written a new book due out next month called “From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party.” He talks to host Ralph Ranalli about the party’s past and why understanding it is important for the future.
224 Between blind faith and denial: Finding a productive approach to merging policy, science, and technology
With a new administration taking power in Washington, many people who had been alarmed by partisan attacks on science and expertise breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that science would be restored to its rightful place in policymaking. But what is that rightful place? Harvard Kennedy School Professor Sheila Jasanoff says that’s a more complex question than most of us might think. Jasanoff has pioneered the field of Science, Technology, and Society studies — also known as STS. It’s an academic discipline that explores the complex interplay between how science and technology affect our society and how societal forces like politics, commerce, and human nature can shape the pursuit of scientific inquiry and technological development. While rejecting science has serious consequences, scientists are also human, Jasanoff says, and simple faith in experts “is every bit as unwarranted as faith in angels.” She tells PolicyCast host Thoko Moyo that achieving a balance — an informed society that’s appropriately skeptical and a scientific community that’s responsive to skepticism and human considerations — is key with so many complex challenges like pandemics and climate change facing our world today.
variety of topics and thoughtfully crafted
Just what I was in search of! Thanks
The interviewer is exceptional and the content is timely. Love the “Fixing ourselves is hard” with Iris. Please keep them coming.