Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall.

Today, we’re taking on a BIG question. It’s inspired by our friends over at the Trending Globally podcast. They asked policy experts to name one climate change issue that’s not getting enough attention.

Here to tell us what they learned are Sarah Baldwin and Dan Richards. Welcome, Dan and Sarah!

Dan Richards: Hi!

Sarah Baldwin: Hey, Megan!

Megan Hall: Last week we talked about the role international trade could play in bringing down our greenhouse gas emissions. What’s another climate change topic that’s not getting enough attention?

Sarah Baldwin: We posed that question to Mark Blyth. He’s the Director of the Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance at Brown University’s Watson Institute.

Dan Richards: Here’s what he said:

Mark Blyth: We're actually not doing anything. And that's the thing that strangely we're not talking about.

Megan Hall: We’re not doing anything? What about solar farms? And electric cars? And Biden’s green infrastructure plan?

Sarah Baldwin: Ok, so maybe “nothing” is a bit of an overstatement. 

Dan Richards: What he means is, there’s one big thing we’re not doing and we’re not even talking about doing it.  

Sarah Baldwin: Mark says the US and Europe have been pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the air for decades. 

Dan Richards: That’s because those wealthier countries got modern infrastructure way before places like India and China. But now...

Mark Blyth: those countries want to have the stuff that we have, things like electricity, air conditioning as the planet heats up.

Dan Richards: The problem is, those countries are huge. If they start creating greenhouse gas emissions the way the US has been, we’re all screwed.

Mark Blyth: Basically the entire future of the planet depends on what happens in an arc from the Indian sub-continent all the way up through North Korea. That's basically it. 

Megan Hall: But can’t places like India power their air conditioning with renewable energy?

Sarah Baldwin: Mark says, we’re not there yet. 

Mark Blyth: Now, yes the price of renewables have been falling. Yes, India is making huge strides in installing solar, but renewables, just so far, cannot basically pick up all the slack that we need. 

Megan Hall: But you can’t stop India from getting electricity. I mean, it’s only fair that they have what we have. What are we supposed to do?

Dan Richards: Mark says wealthier countries- the polluters of the past century - have to help these potential polluters of the future transition to renewable energy. 

Mark Blyth: Either we transfer massive amounts of resources to them to enable them to make that transition much faster than they otherwise would, or it's not gonna happen. 

Sarah Baldwin: Mark doesn’t think it’s likely the US will make that kind of investment. 

Mark: we're not going to do that. So I repeat, we're not doing anything and we're not talking about it.

Megan Hall: So, that’s it? We’re doomed?

Dan Richards: It does sound pretty grim. But, Mark says there might be room for some tempered optimism.

Mark Blyth: You want an upside story, I'll give you an upside story.

Sarah Baldwin: He says if the US and Europe successfully transition to renewable energy... then maybe….

Mark: As we learn how to do this, as we installed more renewables as we get better at technology we really need, then we share those technologies. You just give them away, you make it happen because otherwise, it's pointless.

Megan Hall: Let’s hope he’s right! Thanks, Dan and Sarah!

Dan Richards and Sarah Baldwin-Beneich are the hosts of Trending Globally, a podcast produced by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. 

You can hear Trending Globally’s entire Earth Day episode and others just like it -- by subscribing to “Trending Globally” wherever you listen to podcasts.

That’s it for today. To listen to more episodes, to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, the Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.