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The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast

419. A Realistic Conversation About Energy and the Planet | Scott Tinker

Thu Feb 01 2024
energyenvironmentsustainabilityaffordable energyabsolute privationscientific publicationcarbon dioxide levelseconomic securityenvironmental securityenergy poverty


This episode explores the nexus between energy and the environment, emphasizing the importance of affordable energy, eradicating absolute privation, and achieving long-term sustainability. It discusses the challenges in scientific publication, the benefits of increased carbon dioxide levels, and the transition to a methane economy. The episode also addresses climate change, trade-offs between economic and environmental security, and the complexity of environmental issues. It highlights the need for multi-dimensional optimization, empowering young people, and addressing energy poverty for a sustainable future.


Access to affordable energy is crucial for eradicating absolute privation and achieving long-term sustainability.

Providing more affordable energy can improve the lives of those living in poverty and lead to genuine environmental sustainability as people become wealthier and more concerned about the environment.

Publishing failed experiments and improving peer review transparency can advance scientific knowledge.

There is a need for a technical revolution in scientific publication to allow for rapid dissemination of knowledge, open access, and recognition of the value of peer review.

Increased carbon dioxide levels have led to greening and increased crop productivity.

Historical data shows that higher carbon dioxide levels have resulted in greener and lusher environments, benefiting plant growth and crop productivity.

Balancing economic and environmental security is possible without sacrificing one for the other.

It is possible to achieve both economic and environmental security by considering trade-offs, using efficient energy sources, and allowing experts to guide progress.

Addressing energy poverty is crucial for a sustainable future.

Empowering young people and lifting countries out of energy poverty are key steps towards achieving energy and environmental sustainability.


  1. The Nexus Between Energy and the Environment
  2. Importance of First Principles and Educational Insights
  3. Challenges in Scientific Publication and Peer Review
  4. The Benefits of Increased Carbon Dioxide Levels
  5. Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Burning
  6. The Transition to a Methane Economy
  7. The Importance of Affordable Energy and Sustainability
  8. Balancing Economic and Environmental Security
  9. Efficiency, Poverty, and Environmental Considerations
  10. Population Growth, Energy Consumption, and Sustainability
  11. The Complexity of Environmental Issues and Moral Perspectives
  12. Trade-offs, Multi-dimensional Optimization, and Balancing Environmental Factors
  13. Multi-dimensional Optimization and Empowering Young People
  14. Addressing Energy Poverty and Building a Sustainable Future

The Nexus Between Energy and the Environment

00:02 - 07:48

  • Dr. Scott Tinker gave a well-received talk on the nexus between energy and the environment at the Arc Conference in London, which has gained 1.2 million views on YouTube.
  • The relationship between energy and the rectification of absolute privation is discussed, highlighting how access to clean and inexpensive energy can improve the lives of those living in poverty.
  • Working towards eradicating absolute privation by providing more affordable energy can also lead to genuine environmental sustainability as people become wealthier and more concerned about the environment.
  • The ARC conference was praised for its diversity of audience and speakers, covering topics such as faith, family, education, energy, environment, poetry, music, and potentially virtual identity in future conferences.
  • Dr. Tinker's speech struck a chord because it presented a balanced view without pushing opinions or being flamboyant. It offered data and encouraged critical thinking about the relationship between energy, environment, and economy.
  • Politicizing the issue of energy and the environment resulted in less viewership compared to speeches that focused on first principles or provided educational content.

Importance of First Principles and Educational Insights

07:28 - 15:23

  • The podcast discusses the importance of inviting speakers who can speak from first principles and provide educational insights.
  • Pierre Poliev, the leader of the Conservative Party in Canada, has become an expert user of social media and created documentaries on housing and debt.
  • Political speakers tend to attract disproportionately few views compared to those who focus on a serious discussion of facts and a dispassionate presentation of information.
  • There is a desire for more depth in discussions, particularly among the younger generation.
  • The podcast host speaks frequently in Canada and emphasizes the importance of seeking truth through skepticism and multiple viewpoints.
  • Science should be approached with a balance between pursuing the truth and career demands, with faith in the long-term benefits of pursuing truth despite short-term disruptions.
  • Learning from failures is essential in science, based on the assumption that learning is possible and that the universe is rational.

Challenges in Scientific Publication and Peer Review

15:03 - 22:36

  • The challenge academics face is the pressure to publish their work in journals, which often prioritize successes over failures.
  • Publishing failed experiments would be beneficial for learning and advancing science.
  • There is a need for a technical revolution in scientific publication to address issues such as the lengthy publishing process and paywalls for taxpayer-funded research.
  • A proposed solution is to create a platform where scientists can publish their papers along with peer reviews, allowing for rapid dissemination of knowledge and open access.
  • Peer review should be more transparent and recognized as valuable work, especially for early-career scientists.
  • It is important to acknowledge that success should not only be defined by positive outcomes but also by setting up experiments properly and testing hypotheses of extreme interest, even if they don't yield the expected results.
  • The speaker has a background in geology, economics, and business, with extensive experience in the overlap between energy and the environment.
  • Their expertise comes from fieldwork in various countries, including impoverished regions, which has shaped their understanding of environmental issues.
  • As a scientist and business person, they have dealt with imperfect data and problem-solving using modeling and data analysis techniques.

The Benefits of Increased Carbon Dioxide Levels

22:09 - 29:56

  • The speaker has a background in energy, environmental, and economic research.
  • They recently stepped down as director after 24 years.
  • The speaker is a filmmaker, hosts a PBS show, and does radio broadcasts.
  • Their family consists of a wife of 40 years and four grown children who are data scientists.
  • The speaker has been studying the energy environment business nexus for about three decades.
  • They initially believed that global warming would lead to an expansion of deserts but have observed rapid greening since 2000 due to increased carbon dioxide levels.
  • Plants can breathe easier with higher carbon dioxide levels, allowing them to conserve water and grow in semi-arid areas.
  • There has been a significant increase in green space on Earth's surface in the last 20 years.
  • Crop productivity has also increased by around 10 to 15% due to increased carbon dioxide levels.
  • Historical data shows that there have been periods with much higher carbon dioxide levels that resulted in greener and lusher environments.
  • The speaker suggests that if analyzed objectively without political bias, the conclusion would be that increased carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption is beneficial.

Climate Change and Fossil Fuel Burning

29:39 - 37:01

  • The end of the Cretaceous period was marked by a big meteor impact in Chicxalube, Mexico, which caused the extinction of dinosaurs.
  • Over the past five million years, there have been about 50 glacial interglacial cycles, with ice covering parts of Canada and the northern US for around 80,000 years followed by warmer interglacial periods.
  • Sea levels have risen rapidly in the last 20,000 years, with the Gulf of Mexico being over 300 feet lower than it is today.
  • Humans have evolved during the current interglacial period, which has relatively low CO2 levels and is one of the coolest periods in Earth's history.
  • Milankovitch Cycles, driven by variations in Earth's orbit and axial tilt, contribute to climate change on long-term geological timescales.
  • In the last 100 years, fossil fuel burning has significantly increased due to coal and hydrocarbon usage for energy production and transportation.
  • Methane (natural gas) is a versatile fuel that produces less CO2 when burned compared to oil or coal but still contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Transition to a Methane Economy

36:32 - 44:28

  • Natural gas, particularly methane, is a versatile molecule used to make plastics and ammonia for fertilizers.
  • The transition from a carbon economy to a hydrocarbon economy is leading towards a methane economy.
  • Methane produces less CO2 when burned compared to oil or coal, but it still contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Methane has a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere but is more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
  • The methane economy is expected to surpass coal consumption globally in the coming years.
  • Methane has positive impacts on human flourishing and environmental sustainability due to its lower sulfur and nitrogen content.
  • Methane can be used as a source for producing hydrogen, which has various applications including fuel and electricity carrier.
  • The transition towards using methane as an energy source is driven by efficiency, physics, and market adaptation.
  • The analysis of climate doom predictions faces challenges related to choosing starting points for comparison of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
  • Comparisons of temperature changes should consider historical context and the impact on human well-being.
  • Economic development plays a role in increasing environmental consciousness and concern for long-term sustainability.
  • Poverty limits people's ability to prioritize environmental concerns, while increased wealth allows for greater consideration of future generations' well-being.
  • Providing affordable energy is crucial for lifting people out of poverty and promoting long-term commitments to environmental sustainability.

The Importance of Affordable Energy and Sustainability

44:02 - 51:44

  • The speaker discusses their first documentary film on energy called "Switch," which explored different forms of energy around the world.
  • They mention that energy is essential for modern life and even the poorest individuals need it to survive.
  • Realizing they had left out a significant portion of the world, the speaker made a second film that focused on countries where people lack access to energy.
  • The importance of community involvement and desire for aid in making sustainable changes is highlighted in the films.
  • Examples are given, such as induction cooktops in Nepal, hair salons in Bangladesh, and water pumps in Kenya, where access to energy has led to positive outcomes and economic growth.
  • The speaker emphasizes the need for affordable and reliable energy before addressing environmental impacts.
  • They argue that global leaders prioritize energy security over climate security based on their actions rather than words.
  • Germany, China, Canada, California, New York, and Western Europe are mentioned as examples of places where sacrificing energy security has become an issue.
  • The conversation shifts towards progress and how providing low-cost energy can alleviate misery sustainably.
  • It is suggested that having a certain degree of security allows people to take a longer-term view and make more sustainable choices.
  • The speaker expresses confusion as to why this is still an issue when there seems to be a clear pathway towards achieving both sustainability and human flourishing.

Balancing Economic and Environmental Security

51:20 - 58:54

  • The speaker discusses the hierarchy of energy sources and the need to calculate trade-offs, including carbon dioxide production.
  • They mention that dense energy sources like uranium have a higher energy output compared to gasoline, which is denser than other renewable sources like solar and wind.
  • The speaker believes that it is possible to achieve both economic and environmental security without sacrificing one for the other.
  • They highlight the negative impact of aiming for 100% zero CO2 emissions, stating that it would disproportionately affect the world's poor and increase energy poverty.
  • It is mentioned that currently, 60% of the global population lives in some level of energy poverty.
  • The earth is said to be greening due to increased CO2 levels, but caution is advised as some growth may not be diverse or healthy.
  • The speaker suggests using methane, hydrogen, nuclear power (fission), and potentially fusion as solutions with minimal or zero emissions.
  • They emphasize the importance of allowing experts in their respective fields to guide progress in addressing emissions and promoting human flourishing.
  • It is argued that achieving environmental sustainability should not come at the expense of the poor, as it could lead to economic havoc and an environmental nightmare.

Efficiency, Poverty, and Environmental Considerations

58:26 - 1:05:41

  • The poor being under too much stress is an unconscionable thing for rich people to do, as it can lead to a kickback and environmental destruction.
  • Managing human beings and allowing them to step up the energy density ladder is necessary for addressing absolute privation and taking a longer-term view.
  • Efficiency in energy usage is crucial, as currently two-thirds of energy used in the United States is wasted.
  • There is an opportunity to waste less as the world modernizes, which can be achieved through simple personal efficiency measures.
  • Developing countries may start with technologies that have been superseded by developed countries, such as China's reliance on cheap coal.
  • Shutting down nuclear reactors while burning high-particulate coal doesn't make sense from a sustainable economy standpoint.
  • Germany has a cultural aversion to nuclear power, unlike France which has a nuclear fleet due to necessity.
  • China and Russia are building 75% of the world's nuclear reactors, recognizing the importance of dense energy sources.
  • China leads in solar and wind energy but they still account for only a small percentage of their total energy consumption.

Population Growth, Energy Consumption, and Sustainability

1:05:13 - 1:12:25

  • China's energy consumption is a scale challenge, as it alone consumes more electricity than the rest of the world combined.
  • Both China and India have seen a decline in fertility rates over the past 30 years, moving towards wealth.
  • The world's population is projected to peak at 10 billion by 2080 and then plummet.
  • Making the poor rich quickly is an effective method of population control and would benefit human impact on the planet.
  • Deindustrialization and expensive energy costs are regressive economically and do not serve the green agenda.
  • The radical middle, which combines energy, economy, and environment, is where solutions lie for complex challenges.
  • Young people need to understand the complexity of these issues rather than viewing them as binary or good vs. evil.

The Complexity of Environmental Issues and Moral Perspectives

1:12:15 - 1:19:29

  • The binary system of thinking that industrialization is the problem and being against it solves technical problems and reduces complexity.
  • Adolescents in a messianic phase seek to act ethically and strive for high-level goals, which environmentalism offers them through the opportunity to be planetary saviors.
  • The oversimplification of moral issues by environmentalists leads to a false sense of fulfillment and a belief that being on the side of the planet makes one morally good.
  • The irrationality behind anti-nuclear attitudes in Germany compared to France's successful nuclear transition.
  • A new moral vision is proposed: making everyone rich as fast as possible while serving the poor, challenging the sacrifice of the poor for the planet by radical leftists.
  • The elites' priorities have shifted, with Republicans now working more closely with the next class than Democrats.
  • Net zero is an inadequate measure because it allows for emissions as long as they are offset by capture, leading to destructive constructs.

Trade-offs, Multi-dimensional Optimization, and Balancing Environmental Factors

1:19:06 - 1:27:00

  • The concept of net zero is a destructive construct that many people have rallied around, but it's important to recognize that it's not absolute zero.
  • Achieving a goal that is close to net zero, such as net 40 or net 50, can still be a significant achievement without imploding the global economy.
  • Prioritizing energy security over climate security is a common approach among global leaders.
  • It's important to think beyond a linear progression from A to B when considering the environment, energy, and the economy. They are interconnected and should be balanced.
  • Young people can contribute by working towards lifting the world out of poverty and beginning to clean up the environment intelligently.
  • Carbon dioxide is not necessarily the most compelling environmental problem. Issues like decimating ocean fisheries deserve more attention.
  • The environment consists of land, air, water, and atmosphere, which are interconnected components that should be considered together.
  • Renewable energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels require significant mining for resources and consume land and water.
  • Mining is not green, although efforts can be made to improve its impact.
  • Balancing trade-offs between land, air, water, and atmosphere is messy but necessary in considering the holistic health of the Earth.
  • Music provides an analogy for understanding trade-offs as a harmony between competing forces. Optimizing the requirements for life creates intrinsic beauty through multi-dimensional optimization.

Multi-dimensional Optimization and Empowering Young People

1:26:32 - 1:34:14

  • Life requirements are multi-dimensional and require optimization.
  • Balancing different factors is important, rather than viewing it as a trade-off.
  • Harmonizing different elements can lead to a beautiful outcome.
  • Bottom-up information propagation through markets can provide valuable insights.
  • The target for sustainability needs to be specified multi-dimensionally.
  • Ameliorating absolute privation through appropriate energy provision is crucial for long-term sustainability.
  • Time is a vital dimension in addressing environmental challenges.
  • Leaders' actions need to align with their words to gain market engagement.
  • Greta Thunberg and young people can help carry the story of poverty and environment together.
  • Mining and manufacturing processes for renewable energy are not truly renewable.

Addressing Energy Poverty and Building a Sustainable Future

1:33:48 - 1:38:07

  • Renewable energy is not truly renewable due to the mining, manufacturing, and disposal processes involved.
  • Young people are ready to tackle the challenge of addressing energy poverty.
  • A not-for-profit organization hosts a case competition for university teams to lift countries out of energy poverty.
  • There are no easy answers to solving the issue of energy poverty.
  • It is possible to constrain future possibilities in a way that aligns with physics and reality.
  • The goal is to empower young people and build a core group to address these issues.
  • The eradication of absolute poverty is the solution to achieving energy and environmental sustainability.
  • The speaker is optimistic about the positive impact of eradicating poverty on sustainability worldwide.
  • The conversation will continue on the Daily Wire Plus side, delving into the origin of ideas and their practical implementation in the future.