18 Sep 2019

Careers to save the planet

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:31 pm on 18 September 2019

RNZ joins more than 250 media organisations from around the world in the Covering Climate Now (CCN) initiative by committing to heighten climate coverage in the week leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019.

Te Papa's new Te Taiao Nature exhibition showcases the threats to our environment, but it also ends with a hint of optimism towards future innovation providing hope for action on climate change.

MacDiarmid Institute co-director Justin Hodgkiss tells RNZ Afternoons the exhibit will give people a glimpse of what they’ll be seeing in the green clean cities of the future – like printable and flexible solar cells, and special membranes that could extract CO2 from exhaust or air.

Increasingly people are becoming interested in climate change and care about taking action, and Prof Hodgkiss says he’s noticed a lot of interest from students taking up career pathways in science.

No caption

Photo: pixabay

“I think there’s always capacity for more and … it’s not only for research lab-based careers that these types of studies will be important, with the expected passing of the Zero Carbon Bill, that means that climate and carbon accounting will have actually have broad level importance for the future.

“So that means at the very highest level people are going to need to have a very good understanding of the risks and the opportunities of carbon and reducing emissions.”

He says he’d like to encourage more people to take on science because there’s massive opportunities and value for them in tomorrow’s world.

“If you like science and you have some talent in that area, and many young people do … how about doing things like chemistry and physics, where you could go on to become a material scientist and work on things like solar cells, or materials that capture CO2 and take it out of the atmosphere or out of exhaust, or maybe you could work on new batteries that replace lithium with other more abundant and non-toxic elements, or things for the hydrogen economy.”

And people shouldn’t just sit and wait on the hope that technology will fix everything for us tomorrow, he says.

“There is always potential for unexpected discoveries to make a huge difference but … they do take a while to have an impact and for the development to follow the research and get things out there.

“If we’re waiting for that magic bullet and then waiting another 20 years for it to be fully worked up, it’s going to be too late. So don’t rest waiting for that.

“Climate action starts with behaviour and so social science, the way we understand how people behave and how they make choices, is incredibly important part of it as well.”

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)