Life Update: Climate Optimism, TED Talk and Book Edits
Some articles I've written recently, and a few other updates on my work.
Some of you that have been following me for a while might already know that I’m writing a book. For the rest: I’m writing a book!
Or, I’ve written one. And in the past week I’ve been knee-deep in final edits, so haven’t had the time to do any Substack writing.
But I thought this was the perfect opportunity to give a bit of a life update and share some recent things I’ve been working on.
Our World in Data
Most of my time is still dedicated to my work at Our World in Data. There, I’m Deputy Editor and Lead Researcher. I’ve been part of the team for more than 5 years now, and it has been amazing to see how much it has grown.
What’s cool is that even after years of being there, I still learn something new every day.
Last week I published an article in Vox – We need the right kind of climate optimism. If you like my work here, I think you’ll find it interesting.
I explore a framework for how we see the climate challenge. It’s defined by two axes: our level of optimism, and how changeable we think the world is. My argument is that we are most effective when we are changeable optimists – we are optimistic that the future can be better but we need to work hard to change it.
Optimistic but dissatisfied is the road to progress.
Washington Post – Turkey earthquakes and the South African energy crisis
I’ve written a few articles for the Washington Post recently. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been full of data and charts.
After the devastating earthquakes in Turkey last month, I wrote an article – 3 charts show how better buildings save lives in earthquakes – that looked at the scale and death toll of the quake compared to previous events in the past century.
It has been Turkey’s most fatal earthquake in over a century, but it didn’t have to be. Buildings crumbled that shouldn’t have.
I also wrote an article on South Africa’s energy crisis – South Africa’s energy crisis in four charts. South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, declared a “state of disaster”, with parts of the country experiencing blackouts for up to 12 hours a day.
That sounds like this is an acute problem, but it’s one that has been building for well over a decade. It’s a cautionary tale of the dangers of running your country on a single energy source (coal) and giving control of the entire system to a single public company, run by a government plagued by corruption.
Next month I’m speaking at TED2023 – the global, annual conference. I’m excited, but also very nervous. I’m at the preparation stage of parading around my office, muttering and gesturing, several times a day.
I’ll be making my case for why we have the opportunity to be the first generation that builds a sustainable world. And don’t worry, my arguments will be backed up with lots of charts.
The talk won’t be online until later this year, but I’ll let you know when it’s live.
Last but certainly not least, I’ve been doing the final edits on my upcoming book. More about that here. It’ll be published by Chatto and Windus (an imprint of Penguin Random House).
I started writing it around this time last year, and after 9 months of writing and several months of edits, the writing part is now coming to an end.
The book takes an optimistic, data-driven look at how we tackle each of the world’s environmental problems – from climate change and air pollution, to biodiversity and plastic pollution. I hope it provides an evidence-based counter to a lot of the doom and gloom out there.
It’ll be a while before it’s out, but I’m excited to share it with the world. I’ll keep you updated when it’s closer to publication time.
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The right solution by and for young people and listening to the IPCC press conference this week that started and finished on HOPE.
Everyone should do their research on this synthesis https://www.ipcc.ch/2023/03/20/press-release-ar6-synthesis-report/
We all live and work to make things better for everyone and those with vision and energy do their bit.
Adaptation and mitigation ain’t going to happen without us all.
Go Hanna Ritchie!
I've been reading your work in the Washington post. Great stuff. I look forward to the book. Couple thoughts: in my last book BREAKPOINT: Reckoning with America's Environmental Crises (Yale,) we talk with Wm. Nordhaus and discuss how the built world is impacted by various hurricane strengths. The discussion reminded me of what you say about earthquakes. (Nordhaus won the Nobel for environmental economics, of course.) And also our chapters on Katrina and natural disasters which follow the classic theme: Nature does not strike humans. Humans strike nature first, ie bad buildings, cities built in the wrong place, removing mangroves and marshes and barriers to sea level rise and tsunamis, etc. Anyway, the book sounds really good, the sooner the better. Put us down for a review copy and we can also do an interview. And please check out HOT GLOBE and give us a recommendation on your own Stack if you'd like. You're in good company with Revkin and McKibben, thanks.