21 min read
THE GREEN FUTURE – COMING SOON
From proteins to DNA, from neurons to muscle tissue, pretty much everything in your body depends on carbon and carbon dioxide.
There is no question that climate change is anthropogenic in nature. The only question remaining is: are humans up to the task of reversing it?
As Elon Musk told me during our 2021 podcast when launching our $100M Carbon-removal XPRIZE, this is not an experiment we want to run for much longer.
The time for radical action is NOW.
At least in part, our ability to reverse climate change will be commensurate with our ability to imagineer a positive future, where breakthrough technologies unimaginable to our ancestors make our heat-trap problem seem quaint to our grandchildren’s children.
Imagine a city where more energy is produced than consumed. A city whose power grid capitalizes on the abundant and free energy of the sun, which offers the Earth 8,000x more energy than we consume as a species. A city where renewables generate 100% of the energy used, and where battery storage is so efficient and cheap, all transportation has transitioned to electric.
10 ADVANCEMENTS THAT WILL MAKE YOU HOPEFUL FOR THE FUTURE OF THE EARTH
Just this week, Bill Gates backed Rumin8, an Australian startup aimed at reducing emissions from cow burps, with a $12-million-dollar investment towards feeding seaweed to cows to reduce their emissions.
Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly affordable, and advances in materials sciences and AI have been rapidly improving battery efficiency and lifespan.
The demise of the internal combustion car is bringing about the end of the era of fossil fuels. By now, every manufacturer has announced aggressive plans for electric vehicles. Ford Motor Company, for example, is investing $4.5 billion in electric cars, making more than 40% of its lines electrified.
But last December, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California shocked the world with a momentous breakthrough in the quest towards nuclear fusion, producing a net energy gain—1.5 megajoules—in a fusion reactor for the first time in history.
Now it’s up to entrepreneurs to make all of this happen—and already, there are 37 privately funded fusion companies working on commercializing various forms of fusion. One example is Commonwealth Fusion Systems, spun out of MIT in 2017, which is building a tokamak the size of a tennis court, backed with $2 billion in private capital.
Another driver of the rise of renewables is improved battery technology. As BloombergNEF reports, the energy storage market has been doubling for the past few years, despite high energy storage costs, adding roughly 28GW/69GWh of energy storage by the end of 2023.
At the 2020 World Economic Forum (Davos), the One Trillion Tree initiative platform was jointly announced to provide support to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2020–2030), led by UNEP and FAO.
WHERE’S THE MONEY COMING FROM?
As BloombergNEF reports, the American government is leading the charge, with more funding going into climate tech than ever before. The US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Biden in 2022, allocated $369 billion to the country's clean energy economy.
This is the largest effort to strengthen the US commitment to climate solutions to date, with credits provided under the Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit and Clean Vehicle Credit sections to support the domestic supply chain from raw materials to battery cells, modules, EVs, and energy storage.
The IRA has already resulted in over $80 billion in new investments for the battery supply chain alone.
On top of that, philanthropy towards climate change mitigation nearly tripled between 2015 and 2021.
Most significantly, the XPRIZE Foundation (where I serve as Executive Chairman) recently announced our $100 million Carbon Removal XPRIZE (funded by Elon Musk) which challenges innovators to develop scalable technologies able to remove carbon at the gigaton level from the planet directly from the atmosphere or oceans and sequester it durably and sustainably.
This competition spurred the largest level of interest in any XPRIZE in the past 28 years.
Over 1,200 teams indicated their interest to compete, from more than 30 nations.
Historically, XPRIZE competitions have driven 20x the amount of the prize purse in total team investment, and ultimately created new companies worth 200x the prize purse over the course of the next decade. If the math holds up, this XPRIZE could help launch $20 billion in new companies reinventing our Earth’s ecological future. Big global problems mean big entrepreneurial opportunities.
Solving the global climate and environmental challenges will birth a multi-trillion dollar industry. Two important quotes from 2021 come to mind:
“Climate change brings economic opportunity that’s bigger than the internet boom.” – John Doerr (11/10/21)
“Carbon Capture tech will create the next Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and the next 8 to 10 Teslas…” – Bill Gates (10/20/21)
The convergence of breakthroughs in the material sciences, AI, alongside advancements in broadband networks, manufacturing, and energy storage, are driving a revolution in how we capture and reverse greenhouse gas emissions.
Growing environmental awareness is inciting an increasing amount of capital to flow into climate tech, and a wide range of novel technologies, coupled with policy changes and economic incentives, are moving humanity towards gigaton carbon capture.
All industries, from computing to food production, will feel increasing pressure to develop low-carbon-footprint alternatives to their current infrastructure—and all industries will capitalize on the exponential gains of cheap and ubiquitous AI.
To combat climate change, we’ll need to make renewable energy so cheap, such a “no-brainer” that fossil fuels disappear for the same reason the Stone Age vanished: Not for a lack of stones, but for a 10x better option.
Given our access to exponential technologies, I am hopeful we can fix the problem — we just need to focus our intellect, resources and technology, and focus it fast.
The abundance of energy from the sun alone puts us on track to meet between 50- and 100% of the world's energy production from solar in the next 20 years.
As I have often said, the world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.
How will YOU help catalyze a carbon-neutral future?
What actions can YOU take to develop or fund the breakthrough technologies that will enable the radical change needed for this vital future?
If you’re interested in the rise of a carbon-neutral, renewable, and close-loop economy, join me at my A360 Summit next month to learn how you & your business can contribute to it.
In our next blog in this Metatrend series (#18 of 20), we’ll move on to Cellular Agriculture & Vertical Farming.
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