Spaghetti and climate change

Tackling climate change through entrepreneurship

In Sustainable Nation we are tasked with tackling climate change through entrepreneurship. Making sure Ireland Inc. gets a disproportionate size of the biggest business opportunity since the internet.

Perfect storm

The perfect business storm in capital expenditure (1 trillion in the next 20 years), financial metrics (non-sustainable is deemed risky ), government regulations and consumerism.

Climate of Hope

So when I picked up Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, I was hoping for something interesting.

Not going dark

The book does not focus on the dark scenarios, which is that if the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat

Lets make money

Instead of arguing about making sacrifices, let’s talk about how we can make money. Instead of pitting the environment versus the economy, let’s consider market principles and economic growth. Our kind of language. However, the book does not deliver on its promise. It is dark, and it is very vague about how to make money.

Climate change is like cooking spaghetti sauce

The book is very good at explaining climate change. It is really quite simple. We have overloaded the atmosphere with heat-trapping gas, and the rest are just details. Look what happens when you heat up a pan of spaghetti sauce. Bubbling and splattering away. That is the weather effect.

The recipe

The recipe of carbon dioxide, black carbon, methane, nitrous oxide (fertiliser), chlorine, fluorine and bromine will make the weather more volatile. The cost and impacts are enormous:

  • coastal storm damage could grow to $35 billion annually.

It is easily solvable

For example, solar panels, small batteries, and LED lighting make it possible to do away with the whole grid and instead light households, minimally, for a one-time cost that seems to average about $200 a family. It the ability to bear the full upfront cost that is killing it. Climate-friendly infrastructure is typically cheaper to operate than the traditional models but more expensive to build, because the technology has to be paid for up front.

Buildings

Buildings are another example. Buildings are responsible for consuming more than half the world’s electricity, along with plenty of gas, oil, and HFCs to power boilers, air conditioners, and refrigerators. Also, construction materials — cement, steel, plastic, glass, aluminum — are another major driver of emissions. At one point during China’s construction boom, one-third of its carbon emissions were associated with making cement. However, It is very easy to make better buildings down to net zero.

You have to wonder why it is not happening yet

The question to ask is where are governments, development agencies and banks investing? Believe it or not, governments are still tilting in favour of fossil fuels. Globally, governments provided $493 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels in 2014. Because lobbying is a $3 billion industry in Washington alone — and that is not counting the lobbying that goes on in state capitals and city halls. That money (the lobbying and the subsidies) should be spent on climate impact measures.

Power to the cities and nature

The authors think that cities are the solution. Power to mayors to implement local solutions. They believe nature itself can solve. Trees, forests, environmentally friendly agriculture, flood plains, wetlands. Mangroves, oysters and spending money on restoring what we have destroyed. Biomimicry at massive scale. Why reinvent what nature does best?

Open source innovation

They belief in open source innovation. For example, Embrapa. Embrace is the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. It tests and disseminated a broad system of agricultural interventions suited for tropical conditions. In the ten years after its launch, agricultural production rose by 365 percent, without genetically engineered private patents and without destroying rain forest for new cropland.

The message

We can stop global warming. Not by slowing down economies but by speeding them up. Not by depending on national governments but by empowering cities, businesses, and citizens. Not by scaring people about the future but by showing them the immediate benefits of taking action. If we accomplish this, we will be healthier and wealthier. We will live longer and better lives. We will have less poverty and political instability.

Yeah, right

Here is where the book really falls down. All we need to do is (in no particular order, but maybe start with 7).

  1. reform the subsidies

The success stories

Finally, the ask for more people to tell climate success stories.That we can do. Look at the over 900 entries for Climatelaunchpad, the biggest green business idea accelerator in the world. In Ireland look at Mimergy, Hexafly, Oxymem, MagGrow, NanoPower and I can go on for a while (and happy to do so on request). If you know of Irish examples, let us know.

The future is bright. Green entrepreneurship is the future.

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Ron Immink

Father of two, strategy and innovation specialist, entreprenerd, author, speaker, business book geek, perception pionieer. See www.ronimmink.com