If we allow it to run away on us, anthropogenic climate change will make our planet uninhabitable. No one is absolutely certain where the run-away threshold sits, but we are certain that atmospheric carbon levels are at a three-million-year high, and climbing. By IPCC estimates, we have eleven years left to sharply reverse the global growth in carbon emissions and curb them by 45% or we face the probability of a run-away future.
Scientists have been ringing the alarm for decades. Still there remains an alarming number of people who deny climate change altogether, or cling to slipshod alternative arguments rather than facing the simple urgent fact:
Burning fossil fuels is environmentally unsustainable, and we don’t have much time to waste before we stop.
Policies have been identified to prevent the runaway scenario, but governments have been conflicted in their resolve. Technologists have developed sustainable alternatives, but penetration remains nascent, given the late hour and what’s at stake.
The situation is not hopeless.
The economics of renewable energy are quickly closing the gap on fossil energy sources. European youth are in the streets, marching for political action on climate change. We stand a chance, narrow though it may be, to realign around a post-carbon economy before we reach the catastrophic tipping point. And because capital tends to move in anticipation of demand, a sustainable-energy investment boom could get underway at any time.
But if we hope to finally get it right on climate change action we need to look hard at why we have so consistently gotten it wrong. There’s an irony here. While human activity is destabilizing the equilibrium of a whole planetary ecosystem, the cure - requires destabilizing the equilibrium of an economic ecosystem driven by fossil fuels.
Destabilizing the equilibrium of a market ecosystem is a classic innovation problem. It’s arguably the central hard problem of innovation strategy. Every innovator bringing any technology to market needs to think about it. Every innovator focused on the shift to a post-carbon economy needs to think about it like their life (or at least the life of their descendants) depends on it.
Could a vertically-specialized consultancy focused on innovation pathfinding help green-tech innovators chip away, each from their own unique direction, at that equilibrium? Given the stakes and the alternatives, it feels worth a shot.
Thus Post-Carbon Pathfinders.
“aut mori conatur succedant”
We’ll do it or die trying.
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