22 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 • 101 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.

    The Hydrogen Rainbow

    The Hydrogen Rainbow

    Ninety-five. That’s the number of times we've mentioned hydrogen on The Big Switch over the past 18 episodes. This week, we’re taking a step back to ask what IS hydrogen? And how can it help decarbonize the economy? It turns out, there’s a whole rainbow of hydrogen fuel – gray hydrogen, blue hydrogen, even pink hydrogen. But the kind of hydrogen that’s most important for a net zero future is green hydrogen. It’s made with carbon free-electricity, and it could go a long way toward  decarbonizing sticky parts of the economy, like industry and shipping.
    In this episode, we talked to a very musical scientist – Dr. Julio Friedmann, chief scientist and chief carbon wrangler at Carbon Direct, about the promises and challenges of hydrogen. Prepare for lots of singing.
    Guests: Dr. Julio Friedmann is chief scientist and chief carbon wrangler at Carbon Direct, and non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. 
    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. 

    • 20 min
    Crossover Episode: Watt It Takes

    Crossover Episode: Watt It Takes

    Hydrogen could be essential for the zero-carbon economy, especially for cleaning up concrete, steel, and chemicals. It’s also a promising fuel source for transportation and electricity that's attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in global investment.
    But there’s a problem. Every year, the world produces millions of tons of hydrogen through a dirty process that creates  lots of CO2 and carbon monoxide.
    For hydrogen to be a truly clean fuel, we have to find a cleaner way to make it. And today we’re bringing you the story of one person who's spent a decade trying to do just that. 
    It’s an episode of one of our favorite podcasts, Watt It Takes. The show tells the stories of founders who are building our climate-positive future — their upbringings, their risks, their failures, and their breakthroughs.
    Today’s episode is with Rob Hanson, co-founder and CEO of Monolith, a clean hydrogen and industrial materials manufacturer that was recently awarded a $1 billion conditional loan guarantee by the Department of Energy. Emily talks to Rob about his journey to founding Monolith, what the DOE loan means for the company, and the future of clean hydrogen.

    • 49 min
    The Race to Green Steel

    The Race to Green Steel

    Steel goes into pretty much everything around us – from buildings and bridges to the furniture in our homes. And decarbonizing the steel industry is essential because we need steel to decarbonize the world. Think about it. Solar panels, electric vehicles, even our power grid; steel goes into everything we need to fight climate change.
    But there’s a problem. Steel manufacturing uses a lot of fossil fuels. It’s responsible for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
    In this episode we break down the race to green, zero-carbon steel. It’s a competition among four key technologies: recycling, carbon capture and storage (CCS), electrolysis, and — everyone’s current favorite — hydrogen. Or, as we call it in this episode, the Usain Bolt of technology. 
    Guest Julia Attwood, head of advanced materials at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, profiles each of the competitors in this race and weighs in on which ones are best equipped to clean up the steel industry. We also take a look at how these competitors might actually work together. 
    Guests: Julia Attwood is head of advanced materials at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Martin Pei is chief technology officer at the Swedish steel manufacturer SSAB. Usain Bolt was not a guest but makes many cameos on this episode. 
    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. 

    • 24 min
    Justice in Cancer Alley: Petrochemicals Part 2

    Justice in Cancer Alley: Petrochemicals Part 2

    St. James Parish, Louisiana sits in the middle of an 85-mile corridor along the Mississippi river that’s home to more than 150 petrochemical plants. This concentration of petrochemical facilities has taken a toll on the health of nearby communities – a toll that falls disproportionately on Black communities. Cancer risk in some parts of this corridor is more than 50 times the national average, giving it the moniker ‘cancer alley.’
    In 2018, a new petrochemical plant was announced – one that would double pollution in St. James Parish and emit tons of carcinogens like benzene and formaldehyde. For Sharon Lavigne, a retired special education teacher turned environmental justice organizer, it was time to fight back.  
    Last week, we talked about decarbonizing the petrochemicals industry. This week, we’re talking about the public health and environmental justice costs of petrochemicals. What does an environmentally just future look like? And how can we get there?
    Guests: Sharon Lavigne is an environmental justice advocate and the founder of Rise St. James. Dr. Robert Bullard is a distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy and director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University.
    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. 

    • 18 min
    Decarbonizing a Pervasive Industry: Petrochemicals Part 1

    Decarbonizing a Pervasive Industry: Petrochemicals Part 1

    Petrochemicals. You might not have heard of them, but you certainly use them every day. These chemicals, made from oil, are in almost everything – plastics, medicines, clothes, toothpaste, even the insulation in your home. 
    So how can we decarbonize an industry that makes such a pervasive product? 
    This week, we spoke with climate solutions expert Deborah Gordon about how we can cut carbon emissions from the petrochemicals industry. And producer Alexandria Herr and Melissa Lott go on a mission to become zero-waste influencers – and find the petrochemicals hidden in their everyday lives.
    Guest: Deborah Gordon is a senior principal in the Climate Intelligence Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
    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.

    • 19 min
    Crossover Episode: Threats to Nuclear and Energy Security

    Crossover Episode: Threats to Nuclear and Energy Security

    Things have shifted dramatically since we aired our last episode. There’s now a crisis in Ukraine and sanctions on Russian oil and gas. This is all on top of record demand for petroleum products and electricity as the world emerges from lockdowns.
    So this week, we’re bring you an episode about energy security from the other podcast that we have here at the Center on Global Energy Policy, the Columbia Energy Exchange. If you like the show, please head give it a rating and review.
    An increased demand for energy following COVID-19 lockdowns created a severe energy supply crunch in Europe this winter. And now, decisions from corporate executives and government leaders to reduce or outright ban the purchase of Russian oil has forced energy prices even higher.  For a look at how energy markets can be leveraged to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and accelerate the transition to clean energy– all while reducing the risks of nuclear proliferation– host Jason Bordoff spoke with former US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
    A key architect of the Paris Agreement and Iran nuclear deal, Moniz is currently the CEO of the Energy Futures Initiative and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Before joining the Obama administration as Secretary of Energy, Dr. Moniz  served as Under Secretary of Energy and as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the Department of Energy. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Moniz was a Physics and Engineering Systems Systems Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he founded the MIT Energy Initiative.
    In this conversation, Dr. Moniz sheds light on the energy security threats created by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, where things stand on the Iran deal and the future of energy innovation amid turbulent times for the markets.

    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
101 Ratings

101 Ratings

Rachel_23Earth ,

A favorite!

A very educational and interesting podcast - definitely one of my favorites!

JudoDude ,

Thank you!

Thank you so much for producing this podcast. I am very interested in renewal energy and climate issues, but don’t have a science background. As such, I am a bit intimidated to wade into this area. Your podcast and helped me understand the issues behind the TX power outage of 2021, and issues to be addressed in decarbonizing the transportation sector. Thank you for the work you do. It is helping me understand what’s a stake and how we can address the incredibly important issue of climate change.

The Cryptwriters Podcast ,

Peter

As a energy pr person this is fascinating listening. Content and host compelling. Recommended.

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