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Bionic Planet: Reversing Climate Change by Restoring Nature

Jun 3, 2024

In Episode 103 of Bionic Planet, titled "Purists, Pragmatists, and the Science-Based Targets Initiative," we delve into the complex world of emission reduction targets and the challenges companies face to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The episode explores the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI), a program designed to assist companies in setting emission reduction targets aligned to achieve net zero emissions.

The episode begins by highlighting the significant increase in companies committing to SBTI since January 2023, with many not submitting their plans until January 2025. We learn about the distinction between purists and pragmatists in the climate realm. Purists advocate for the complete elimination of fossil fuels in value chains, while pragmatists emphasize the use of offsets to achieve emission reductions.

Guest speaker Jen Jenkins, Chief Science Officer at Rubicon Carbon, provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by companies in reducing emissions and the balance between pragmatism and purity. Jenkins discusses the importance of understanding a company's value chain, the complexities of emission reduction strategies, and the role of offsets in achieving carbon neutrality.

The episode delves into the debate surrounding the use of offsets in emission reduction strategies, focusing on the conflicting perspectives of purists and pragmatists. Jenkins emphasizes the need for flexibility and practicality in climate action, highlighting the importance of using the available tools to address the climate crisis effectively.

As the discussion unfolds, the episode touches on the need for clear guidelines and standards in emission reduction efforts, the role of the voluntary carbon market in conservation efforts, and the challenges of balancing purity with practicality in climate action. Jenkins and the host explore the complexities of achieving net zero emissions and the importance of finding a middle ground between purist ideals and pragmatic solutions.

The episode concludes with a call to action for companies to engage in emission reduction efforts, highlighting the significance of the voluntary carbon market in driving climate action. Jenkins' insights shed light on the complexities of emission reduction strategies and the importance of practical approaches in addressing the climate crisis.

Join us in exploring the dynamic landscape of emission reduction targets, the role of offsets in climate action, and the ongoing debate between purists and pragmatists in pursuing a sustainable future on Bionic Planet.


  • Introduction to SBTI: 00:00:09-00:00:19

  • Interface Carpets Case Study: 00:00:23-00:00:33

  • Dependence on Fossil Fuels: 00:01:22-00:01:32

  • Global Emission Reduction Targets: 00:01:43-00:02:04

  • Pragmatic Approach to Emission Reduction: 00:02:24-00:02:34

  • Scope 3 Emissions and SBTI Controversy: 00:02:45-00:03:07

  • Purists vs. Pragmatists: 00:03:36-00:03:48

  • Jen Jenkins Background and Role: 00:05:52-00:06:03

  • Transition to Private Sector: 00:07:39-00:07:50

  • Jenkins Equations and Carbon Stock Estimation: 00:09:56-00:10:07

  • Net Zero vs. Carbon Neutral: 00:11:23-00:11:34

  • Challenges in Emission Reduction Planning: 00:13:38-00:13:49

  • Renewable Energy Options: 00:16:47-00:16:57

  • Customized Emission Reduction Plan: 00:17:39-00:17:50

  • Carbon Neutrality by 2030: 00:18:18-00:18:28

  • Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero: 00:32:18-00:32:29

  • Purity vs. Pragmatism in Climate Action: 00:36:24-00:36:34

  • Role of Voluntary Carbon Market: 00:38:33-00:38:43


  • "The purist approach would say, no, no, I need to hold everybody's feet to the fire and ensure that no matter how much it costs, ensure that these companies sort of suss out every single source of fossil fuel in their value chain and obliterate it immediately." - (00:03:48-00:03:58)

  • "But we can restore it, make it better, greener, more resilient, more sustainable. But how? Technology? Geoengineering? Are we doomed to live on a bionic planet, or is nature herself the answer?" - (00:04:50-00:05:00)

  • "The purists have just been better at communicating. Because pragmatism is about probabilities, uncertainties. Science itself is not about absolutes. It's about finding the concurrent views of most experts." - (00:36:34-00:36:45)

  • "We kind of need to use the tools we have, we need to address the problem with what we've got at hand. And I think that's a very pragmatic look at the problem." - (00:37:56-00:38:06)

  • "If you do take a purist view, especially in an environment in a market that is voluntary, you're not going to get the action you need." - (00:38:16-00:38:27)

  • "The atmosphere is well mixed, we need to reduce emissions globally." - (00:30:58-00:31:09)

  • "The voluntary carbon market right now in the near term is a fantastic way to help conserve those existing forests so that we retain both their carbon stocks and the important biodiversity." - (00:32:07-00:32:17)

  • "The U.S. government earlier this week made a strong show of support for the voluntary carbon market." - (00:34:30-00:34:40)

  • "We all want to get there. We're all motivated to get to net zero. But a pragmatic approach would say, look, if you're in an industry where the next least costly abatement action is going to cost you more than it would cost to purchase an offset, then you should go ahead and buy the offset." - (00:30:05-00:30:15)

  • "We need to reduce emissions globally. The purest approach would say, no, no, I need to hold everybody's feet to the fire and ensure that no matter how much it costs, ensure that these companies sort of suss out every single source of fossil fuel in their value chain and obliterate it immediately." - (00:31:20-00:31:33)