46 episodes

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.

The Big Switch Dr. Melissa Lott

    • Education
    • 4.9 • 175 Ratings

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.

    Part 5: The Battery Recycling Dilemma

    Part 5: The Battery Recycling Dilemma

    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.

    • 33 min
    Part 4: The Great Battery Manufacturing Race

    Part 4: The Great Battery Manufacturing Race

    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.

    • 45 min
    Part 3: The High Stakes for Battery Ingredients

    Part 3: The High Stakes for Battery Ingredients

    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?

    • 40 min
    Part 2: The Mining Conundrum For Critical Minerals

    Part 2: The Mining Conundrum For Critical Minerals

    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. 

    • 38 min
    Part 1: Are Batteries the New Oil?

    Part 1: Are Batteries the New Oil?

    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.

    • 44 min
    A preview of season 4: Batteries are taking over the world

    A preview of season 4: Batteries are taking over the world

    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.

    • 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
175 Ratings

175 Ratings

gewald ,

excellent! One more season to go

On season one I haven't heard them talk about one facet of solar that needs more attention—solar pitches to home owners are primarily credit card deals, not power solutions. And moving away from utilities exposes people to unsavory business practices that states are not set up to regulate. Social media is littered with predatory sales pitches and misrepresentation of government programs.

curtsnrt ,

Fantastic

(New listener with Season 3) A great overview of the history and challenges in European energy supply and transition.

2Snowboard ,

Hopeful understanding

This well organized podcast avoids the trap of bouncing between climate topics (probably because it’s made by an actual scientist) to methodically dive deep on one very complicated piece at a time, e.g. Russia’s war on the EU’s transition, and through that depth, really provides hope that the remaining challenges (in that example, Europe’s training electricians) are knowable and may be addressable.

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