Rethinking Climate Change

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Technology disruptions already underway in the energy, transportation, and food sectors have extraordinary implications for climate change. These three disruptions alone, driven by just eight technologies, can directly eliminate over 90% of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide within 15 years.

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Technology disruptions already underway in the energy, transportation, and food sectors have extraordinary implications for climate change. These three disruptions alone, driven by just eight technologies, can directly eliminate over 90% of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide within 15 years. Market forces can be leveraged to drive the bulk of global GHG emissions mitigation because the technologies required are either already commercially available and competitive today, or can be deployed to market before 2025 with the right societal choices. The same technologies will also make the cost of carbon withdrawal affordable, meaning that moonshot breakthrough technologies are not required to solve the ‘Last Carbon Problem’ and go beyond net zero from 2035 onwards.

Our previous research has shown that disruptions of the energy, transportation, and food sectors are inevitable. Solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) will disrupt coal, oil, and gas. Autonomous electric vehicles (A-EVs) providing transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) will disrupt internal combustion engines and private vehicle ownership. And precision fermentation and cellular agriculture (PFCA) will disrupt meat, milk, and other animal products. The three disruptions are already unfolding simultaneously, and their implications for climate change are profound. Yet it will be up to us to decide whether or not we deploy these technologies worldwide rapidly enough to avoid dangerous climate change.

The greatest barrier to fighting climate change is therefore our mindset. Conventional thinking views emissions mitigation through a linear, reductive lens that fails to appreciate the character, speed, and dynamics of change in both natural systems and human systems. By failing to fully appreciate these systems dynamics, conventional models have tended to underestimate not only the threat of climate change itself, but also the potential of technology to address it. As a result, we have seen a consistent pattern of mistakes and corrections over time, where each year the underestimated threat of climate change is corrected in the direction of ‘worse than we originally thought’ while the underestimated potential of technology to address it is corrected in the direction of ‘better than we originally thought’. Conventional thinking has therefore wasted time, attention, and resources on an eclectic array of ‘Band-Aid’ approaches to solving climate change like subsidies and taxes, biofuels, clean coal, clean diesel and other superficial techno-fixes that merely treat symptoms rather than the underlying problem.

Instead, a simpler and more effective approach is to focus on a handful of key technologies that will transform the entire foundation of our economy. But simple does not mean easy. Simple means we understand the key drivers and levers of major systemic change. However, there are many obstacles to overcome, and we cannot afford to be complacent. Despite the tremendous opportunities that the clean disruption of energy, transportation, and food will bring, technology alone is not enough. Societies around the world must make the right choices. We can either accelerate the disruptions and solve the climate crisis by ushering in a new era of clean prosperity, or we can waste precious time and trillions of dollars propping up the incumbent system with an ineffective ‘all-of-the-above’ approach that exposes humanity to additional risk of climate change impacts.

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