A tale of two lines

Posted: June 5, 2021,

In climate activism, there are two schools of thought: One wants to stop everyone in their tracks so as to stop any form of CO2 emissions. They profess for consuming in smaller quantities - buy lesser number of goods, travel in smaller cars, living in smaller houses, etc. After all, we live in a finite world having finite raw materials. 


While this strategy will certainly help in reducing CO2 emissions, it might not take us all the way to achieve the less than 1.5 C target. Besides, this “zero growth” mindset has other undesirable side effects. Key aspect is the economic ramifications. For instance, if demand for Apple watches vanishes tomorrow, what will happen to the Factory factory workers in China & Taiwan? Apply this logic to all your electronic devices, clothes & cars. Running Internet servers are supposedly high energy intensive. So should you be spending that much time on Youtube or Netflix? 


These are the reasons why this school is not having a lot of following. The more dominant thinking currently is to deconstruct our manufacturing & other business processes, determine their carbon intensity & come up with approaches that are zero carbon or less carbon intensive. This will support continued economic prosperity of the West as well lifting more people up from poverty in developing countries.


At a macro level, the double headed challenge we are facing is this: how to increase our per capita GDP while at the same time reducing our per capita carbon emissions. The below chart succintly describes this.


Since the 1900’s our global GDP has been literally fuelled by exploiting hydrocarbon energy sources which is why there’s a strong correlation between the two lines. We are now at a point where we need to urgently decouple these two lines. Companies such ours are solving this exact challenge.


Further reading: The book Drawdown (https://www.drawdown.org) is an excellent book that ranks 100 carbon reduction technique by their effectiveness.