Is it possible to live a carbon-zero life?

Friends, on Monday 21st November 2022 – which as I write this is ‘later today’ – I will be talking to hundreds of 6th Formers in London on the topic of whether it’s possible to live a carbon-zero life.

This is part of the Physics in Action series of events. As a retired person, I had thought my days of addressing such groups were over, and I feel honoured to have been asked to speak.

In case people can’t attend, I have recorded a version of the 40 minute talk which you can see below. It’s a bit flat compared to the verve of a live event, but hopefully it’s better than nothing.

And in case people – particularly teachers – wanted them I thought I would put the Powerpoint slides here. They contain many slides which are hidden but may contain useful illustrations or animations. Somehow the file is 100 Mb in size (Link). Sorry.


The thesis of the talk is that at the moment there are two epochal changes taking place on Earth.

The first is Climate Change, and my aim in this talk is to explain exactly why our emissions of carbon dioxide matter so much.

The second change is the Energy Transition. Independent of our need to respond to Climate Change, renewable technologies (solar, wind and batteries) have become the cheapest way to make electricity in human history.

This provides an economic imperative for action where moral imperatives have failed. The switch to renewable technologies will become inevitable, not  because it’s ‘the right thing do’, but because it is the cheapest thing to do.

So the second part of the talk is about some of the technologies which will enable this transition: heat pumps, solar PV and batteries.

My aim is to provide the audience with a visceral understanding of the need to change. But I hope to also provide a clear understanding that massive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are possible right now, without the need for any new inventions or discoveries, and without the need for degradation of our quality of life.

3 Responses to “Is it possible to live a carbon-zero life?”

  1. Ian Nicholson Says:

    Just checked my emails and I have both Protons and the fellow retiree JJ wargames, who I highly recommend, come in at the same time. I think, science and history are well covered. Thank you Michael I look forward to listening.
    Years ago I and a colleague gave a talk on housing need to an entire secondary school in Preston of all places. It was incredibly rewarding. Last week a neighbour, a musician, gave a school talk on opera. These things are important. Education, education, education as that old charlatan Tony Blair might have said. Doesn’t make it less true.
    With best wishes.

  2. Mr. Ash Sarai Says:

    Morning Michael, I hope this message finds you well.

    Myself, three colleagues and eight-four A-Level Physics students were in attendance at your talk on Monday. I just wanted to say THANK YOU. This is the second time I have heard you speak and in the weeks leading up to the 21st, I was telling fellow teachers and students how much I loved hearing you speak last time and how much I was looking forward to hearing you speak again. You did not disappoint.

    The thing that stuck out to me the most, and something you very rarely hear from politicians and experts on TV, is the fact the “climate of our parents is never coming back”. That statement really hit hard with me and indeed the students in attendance. As you said, it is all incredibly depressing, but I am really glad there are individuals like yourself putting out the information that you are. In discussing how you personally have decided to tackle climate change by changing your home and lifestyle, really gave the sense of “we can all do something” that is often times missing from such discussions.

    Again, thank you. Your efforts are greatly appreciated and I wish you the very best in your future endeavours.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Ash Sarai: Thank you for your kind comments. It means a lot to me to know that my words affect people.

      I worried a great deal about the talk – I worried that I would give children – young men and women really – nightmares. When I was growing up we lived with fear of ‘The Bomb’ and atomic warfare. But this is much more concerning because it is not a thing which *might* happen. It’s a thing which *is* happening. But yes, there really is lots we can do to make it better than it otherwise would be: the energy transition is real and it will affect everything in these children’s lives.

      Anyway: my personal focus is just to try to communicate as clearly as possible the nature of the situation we are in.

      Every best wish: Michael

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