Climate Crisis: From panic to doing. Start with these 2 books.

If everyone does a little, we will achieve only a little.

Sir David JC MacKay

It is 2019. Most most people are aware of climate change and the need to act, few people know how. I have spent the better part of this year to think and discuss with many people from the industry:
A VC from a Billion Dollar fund responded on how they act on climate change: “We lack proper information, but at least the money we make goes to US endowments”. Mainstream Silicon Valley goes like this: “Khosla nearly got killed over clean tech in 2006. We will stick to what we know best”. And the space guys go: “Earth is finished, let’s do the same to Mars”.

Even some of the most influential people seem clueless or powerless to do something. What we’re up against? Ignorance and disinformation. In a very recent study the public in the US and Germany rank “no more plastic bags” as the #1 action against global warming.

We need proper facts.

Whatever you intend to do about climate change as a founder or investor: You need to get proper facts. I found two fantastic books on what do about climate change.

“Drawdown” lists 100 measures to take reverse global warming. While top 1 in “Climateology”, it ranks only #1225 today on Amazon in the US, so chances are you might not have read it yet. Please read it.

Drawdown lists 100 measures, many you will probably not have heard of, that will contribute massively to reverse climate change.

There are downsides with Drawdown, not a lot of statistics, it often evades hard questions, but in general it is a wonderful book. You can access all of it’s contents here: drawdown.org, but I recommend you buy the book as it is an easy coffee table read, and you want to be armed with facts.

The book that blew my mind however, is “Sustainable energy without the hot air”, which I think is the most important book on climate change ever written. David JC MacKay was an engineering professor at Cambridge, and an advisor to the UK government. Sadly he passed away in 2016, which is why you may not have seen him on TED recently. The book is from 2009 but please go and read it. The physics have stayed the same*. We use too much energy. And attempts at providing this energy with renewables are not adding up. MacKay arms us with numbers.

If everyone does a little, we will achieve only a little.

Sir David JC MacKay

MacKay did the world a favour by measuring energy consumption and creation
per person in kilowatt hours per day: kWh /d

Typically a tea kettle or a blow dryer will consumer 1000 watts or 1 kW electricity.
If you let this run for an hour, you get one kWh.

The average person consumes roughly 120 kWh of energy per day.
The average person in the US is about 200 kWh.

If you think in liters of gas: 1 litre of gas is roughly 10 kWh**. 100 km (60 miles) in your car at a practical consumption of 8 liters per 100 km means your car uses 80 kWh for 100 km.

In terms of daily energy use, some BIG drivers are:

Cars: If you have a daily commute of 40 km / 20 miles that is already 32 kWh per day.

Flying has a massive impact: Depending on the number of flights per year, flying will average out to an increase in your daily consumption by 30-60 kWh per day*.

Heating & cooling your home (in Europe, not much AC) is about 37 kWh per day. Easily double this if you use AC in the summer.

MacKay goes on in detail about the full potential of wind, solar and biomass, and in the end: the numbers just don’t add up. While wind and solar are fantastic, we simply would run out of land for wind and solar, not to speak of the intermittency problem.

I have probably 20 more blog posts about how we an go from being aware to actually acting, and I hope to churn them out over the next couple of months. Stay tuned.

Footnote

*While Physics has stayed the same, fortunately some technology has improved. Tesla was a small blip with the roadster back in 2009, no Model 3 yet outselling BMW and Mercedes in the US like in 2019. When the book was written, a 747-400 still seemed like an improvement over the previous model, while today’s A 350 is a 40% improvement on that plane.
** 1 liter of gas contains 8.9 kWh energy.
*** I am fully aware of the fact that I was running an airport app until recently.