In this episode of Always Searching, Dr. Matthew Johnson, climatologist, professor at the University of Copenhagen and entrepreneur, shares his expert opinion on the role of human behaviour and climate change. His innovative solutions can provide a better future for our planet, but everyone has a role to play to shift the direction from the destruction of the global environment which our children will inherit if we don’t act now.
Listen to the full podcast here
Here’s an excerpt from the transcription, where Matt speaks about what we’re doing at AirScape ….
MJ: One of the things that we’re doing [at AirScape] is to try to build awareness about air quality. And I think that it’s easy not to think about the atmosphere and it’s easy not to be aware … that it’s the largest environmental killer that we have today. So air pollution kills more people every year than have been killed by the COVID pandemic.
SM: That’s extraordinary.
MJ: It’s extraordinary. And now that people aren’t smoking, the leading cause of lung cancer is air pollution. And people don’t know about this. And so, part of it is you don’t see it directly. You might see it in the mountains at a distance, as you were saying, but you don’t see it in front of you.
But we’re working with low-cost sensors in order to make the invisible visible. And … we just installed 225 of these in London. And we see incredible detail in the air pollution in the city. And it could be traffic or restaurants or just the things that people do every day.
And we find that 40% of the air pollution that you have in this borough is produced within the borough.
And so the activities you do affects the air that you breathe. And that’s true everywhere. So one of the changes that we’ve seen, you used to think that you would go to China and there were scooters everywhere.
SM: Right. And bicycles.
MJ: And bicycles. Yeah. And these two-stroke engines gave out a lot of air pollution. And in the United States today, just a little moped engine would give out more air pollution than ten or 20 cars.
SM: Did not know that.
MJ: You know, it’s unfiltered. And China, they don’t have the catalyst that they have, and they really stink. And one of the things they’ve done in China is to electrify all of these little scooters. And it’s kind of fun because they’re silent, you know, you don’t hear them coming. And so it’s a bit dangerous, but definitely a positive step in terms of improving air.
SM: So we just passed a major piece of legislation in the United States. And one of the caveats is having increased expansion to more electric modes of transportation. Do you think that’s a game changer?
MJ: I think it is, definitely. And you can’t escape the air pollution that you get from vehicles, transportation and diesel and gasoline-powered. That’s true. But it won’t change the air pollution that you get from brakes and tires and road dust and these things.
SM: But how does that balance out then?
MJ: Definitely a step in the right direction. You know that some years ago, Europe made a strategic decision to favour diesel engines. And this is something that the United States, you know, most cars run on gasoline. But one consequence is that you to have more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in European cities than you have in the United States.
And I really noticed this when I go to London, for example, that you get rough in your throat, in your and your eyes are itching. And so what I really look forward to is that, you know, they have a goal of electrifying all of the vehicles in London. All the taxis will be battery-driven. And I think it’s really going to have a positive impact on the air quality.
SM: So from a pragmatic approach, if you have it electric, then you have to have charging stations every so many kilometres. And how does that work?
MJ: Yeah, it’s not really different from filling your car with gasoline.
SM: That’s true. But the truth is. Isn’t that true?
MJ: I see those everywhere over here. I’m working in Copenhagen every day. I live in Sweden. I visit London. You see, charging stations everywhere.
SM: I only see them in our parks here. I haven’t seen them very often. Okay. And then I notice a few neighbours have a few electric cars and they’ve got these, you know, concoctions trying to connect their cars to some piece of electricity connected to their house. So we definitely need to do better. And I think it’s exciting.
MJ: I think we’ll get there. I think we’ll get there. The performance of these vehicles is wonderful as well, as a driver.
SM: And when you talked about your company and having these wonderful sensors, I think you mentioned it was in England, in London. What are they going to do with it? They’re going to have the data, but how are they going to change their programs and policies?
MJ: Right. So there’s definitely an education mission at the same time because you do need to do something with the data. I would like to see this data act as a catalyst for change. And, you know, it’s like FDR said, the voters have to do it right. And if the people lead, then the politicians will follow. And I think that you can build the momentum that you need to create changes in policy if people are on board and if they’re aware of the issues.
So, by providing this data and we’re providing it all for free, you can go on the Internet and look at maps and so on. We think that we’re creating the momentum for change there. Maybe it comes from schools or from churches, or we’re working with schools and churches and hospitals and different citizen organizations. But it’s a problem for everybody, right?
I mean, so as a citizen on this planet, this is part of our environment.
SM: So getting our community activists and leaders on board. But let’s talk about our political leadership. It’s extraordinary. Again, I use that word a lot because when I think about this, how people can deny it, what’s the reason behind it and what can we do to move beyond that?
Listen to the rest of this fascinating podcast to hear Matt’s views on how we combat climate change and the opposing forces at play ……
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