Climate for Breakfast

The IPCC Report on migration projects climate refugee numbers to be somewhere between 150 to 200 million by 2050. To put that into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis was 6 million people. If you reflect on the pressure that the Syrian refugee crisis put on Europe and the effects that had economically and politically ... you begin to see how climate will ripple out into everything. It’s important to shake the old imagery of polar bears and icebergs because the ones that will have the greater impacts like refugees, drought, and famine­—those are harder to see.

It’s tricky with the doom and gloom stuff but it really comes down to framing the issue in whatever way motivates you. One outcome of the Kyoto Protocol was the decision that positive psychology would work better for climate communications. That put a kind of “optimism bias” on a lot of the ways we communicate. It’s the same in tech and entrepreneurship, the space I work in. I feel I have to push back on that because we have to understand the scale of the problem in order to properly solve it.

At SecondMuse, we develop different entrepreneurial support systems for social problems. So, for instance, everything from getting women into tech to youth mental health startups. We run NASA’s hackathon and a lot of different climate stuff in Indonesia, Singapore, and New York. We identify specific leverage points that we feel can make the greatest level of change early on. My particular program is called Scale for Climate Change, in New York, and focuses on scaling and deploying climate hardware.

With so much interest and money flowing into climate now, the way Silicon Valley thinks about solving problems has begun to creep in as well. And there’s less knowledge around hardware and manufacturing, which a lot of investors are scared about. So, we’re specifically focused on that. How do we help scale people’s products? You might’ve made it work in the lab and a prototype, but manufacturing is a whole different skillset. So how do we help you expedite and actually get your products deployed and out into the world, reducing emissions?

The climate tech ecosystem is exploding right now. I get excited when I see all the different innovations and new policies and funding, but then the nature of the problem humbles me and brings me back to reality. This is not linear, and each effect will accelerate the others.

There are great plans put forward, which is really exciting—like engagement across countries, seeing ambition from places like India and China. But, of course, these are nuanced conversations that are great in some places and flawed in others. So, I think you have to constantly keep that polarity in your head of optimism and realism and not get sucked too far to either side.

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Some of these solutions, and just the human ingenuity behind them, are incredible. Everything from taking food waste and turning it into hydrogen to power ships to capturing carbon in biochar pellets that are being put on the outside of Audi cars. There’s definitely a future we can create with all of these solutions that is really beautiful. And it’s just way cleaner and makes more sense. It’s better for everyone.

“There’s definitely a future we can create with all of these solutions that is really beautiful.”

My site, Climate for Breakfast, was originally intended to tackle the narrative putting the onus on individuals’ actions. The carbon majors report showed that 70% of emissions come from corporations. Of course, it’s a misleading statistic since we’re buying the products, but I really wanted to get away from this idea that turning off your lights and riding your bike to work are the only things you can do. Changing practices in your workplace, engaging in community energy, or joining a climate group in your religious community all have far greater rippling effects. There are so many other, more impactful ways you can engage with the systems around you and change things on a meaningful level.

Now, I feel like the narrative is diversifying. There are so many more narratives, which is great. That’s exactly where it needs to be. I would love it to become more dynamic and all-encompassing.

Many people still view climate breakdown as an “environmental” thing, when really it touches every industry in every aspect now. Not only in how they’re impacting the world but also in how it will impact them as far as risks and costs and stranded assets. It is tricky because it needs a very different way of thinking. It’s opposite to traditional economic narratives, it’s very nonlinear. It’s interconnected. Certain environmental effects will in turn affect real estate, food prices, and migration. It’s very multifaceted.

We need to talk.

We also need better narratives on how people can engage. You don’t need to stop doing everything. The real impact lies in making changes in your business or your local community.

Collectively, we wield a lot of our power in those systems we interact with daily. Talking about it shows that there is consumer demand as well as employee demand. That was a huge part of Amazon’s climate pledge since they had multiple walkouts of employees in Seattle.

It’s like that climate education trope of the daughter teaching the father. Once you start feeling that your friends and the people you trust care about it, these are the things that move us the most. It’s opening up the conversation.

Not enough is getting done fast enough. It can be very discouraging knowing that. A lot of these individual actions, being just so minuscule, don’t add up. What you’re willing to do comes down to your identity points; people only make sacrifices for those they care about.

Finding a sense of community is really, really important in being able to talk about the danger more because there’s a stigma around death in general, in society. We kind of pretend like it doesn’t happen. Then you have the science and the figures that people find it hard to relate to. It’s really hard to understand how different 1.5 is than two degrees. But on a magnitude level, it’s exponentially worse as far as people being affected. As far as migration, as far as crop yields, as far as biodiversity. These are things that all add up.

“Finding a sense of community is really important because there’s a stigma around death in general, in society.”
It’s constantly humbling thinking about the challenge, and it really does drive me to see what we can build next. What does this new world look like? Business practice, communities, energy—these things can all be way more efficient. Whether it be our energy infrastructure, what that looks like for disadvantaged communities, what that looks like for our way of life, what happens to our value systems—it’s all kind of forcing us to think on a bigger picture and consider all the people we’re affecting.
People assume that because it’s been this way for the past 20 years, it can’t change. But this is an inherent challenge that will ultimately force us to change—for the better. It’s forcing us to evolve as a species on a macro scale. I find that very exciting, and I think it does build a better future. Just … can we do it quick enough?