2020 was the year climate podcasts went mainstream. Here are our favorites.
New podcasts about our warming planet are popping up right and left, expanding an already overwhelming list of programs. Don’t believe us? Just search “climate change podcasts” on Spotify and start scrolling. But you’re probably craving a palate cleanser once you’ve worked through the day’s news of shrinking sea ice, expanding deserts, and politicians who refuse to face reality — a climate podcast that won’t incite further rage and terror, but will make you feel like something can be done to actually solve the problem.
Such shows exist, and many of them debuted in 2020, a year that too often felt devoid of hope. We’ve done the hard work of sifting through them to highlight five refreshingly entertaining shows that identify solutions already at work, the leaders behind them, and all the ways you (yes, you!) can take action.
If you’re craving some culture
Temperature Check: We swear this list isn’t an excuse to promote Grist’s own podcast! But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Temperature Check, which dives deeply into the intersection of race, culture, and climate. Host Andrew Simon, director of leadership programming here at Grist, interviews big thinkers about standard solutions like sustainable food and community solar. But his guests, from Kendra Pierre-Louis (a senior reporter for How to Save a Planet, another favorite of ours) to scholar Chelsea Frazier, also dip into more unconventional (for a climate podcast, anyway) takes, like why Beyoncé is an environmental leader and how movies like Black Panther present a vision of a better society. Who said the climate conversation has to be boring?
If you’re into stories
How to Save a Planet: Each episode of How to Save a Planet guides listeners through a complex problem, from wildfires to environmental racism, and highlights the experts, activists and even YouTubers spearheading the solutions. Hosts Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (a 2018 Grist 50 Fixer) and Alex Blumberg sprinkle witty banter throughout each show as they share guests’ stories instead of simply throwing questions at them. The resulting narratives are as compelling as they are informative. Johnson, a marine biologist and self-described policy nerd, offers her climate expertise, while veteran producer-reporter Blumberg brings his storytelling know-how. The cherry on top: Johnson and Blumberg provide calls to action at the end of each episode and resources that’ll help you do your part.
If you love the ocean — and British accents
52 Hertz: Lonely Whale, a nonprofit dedicated to ocean conservation, just wrapped the first season of 52 Hertz. The show, hosted by English actor and activist Petrice Jones, explores solutions to the overlapping crises of plastic pollution and climate change. Guests have included ocean-loving entrepreneurs, youth activists, and musicians you’ve likely never heard of. Our favorite eps: “Putting Your Boots On,” a conversation with drag queen and environmental influencer Pattie Gonia, and “Environmental Justice & Racism,” starring 2020 Grist 50 Fixer and Rhodes Scholar Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru.
If you’re a climate philosopher
A Matter of Degrees: With hosts as fabulous as policy expert Leah Stokes (of the 2020 Grist 50) and writer Katharine Wilkinson*, how could we not shout out A Matter of Degrees? This show tackles the big questions around climate change, with an emphasis on identifying solutions. Are you pondering whether individual action really matters in comparison to structural change? Or wondering if the climate movement is at a breakthrough moment — or a breaking point? This show offers plenty of interviews and prioritizes the voices of women and BIPOC figures. But it’s at its best when the hosts (who are friends IRL) shoot the breeze about wrestling with eco-guilt or the experiences that inspired their own climate awakenings.
If you want to step up your activism
Inherited: Podcasts love to feature youth climate activists. Inherited may be the first made by and for them. In this show’s debut season, each episode follows young leaders as they pressure politicians, cope with despair, and look toward a brighter future. But as tempting as it may be to sit back, comforted by the knowledge that these activists are fighting the good fight, they have a message for you: We don’t want to carry the world on our shoulders, so help us out. They’ve got plenty of specific suggestions for doing just that.
If you’re dreaming of a better world while stuck indoors, these shows will give you plenty to look forward to. They might also make you regret not starting your own podcast in quarantine. Either way, give them a listen! What else are you doing?