What if the Chief Technology Officers of leading global technology companies turned their attention to solving climate change? That’s exactly what they did at the FiReGlobal conference in Seattle several weeks ago, which I attended to hear several of these technologists address “the most critical problem facing the planet – the climate catastrophe.” It was clear that these were scientists and not marketers sensitive to what consumers like to hear about climate change (no dire news please).
Several years ago Mark Anderson, CEO and founder of The Strategic News Service (SNS), challenged CTOs at the SNS Future in Review Conference (FiRe), described by The Economist as “The best technology conference in the world,” to join in tackling the country’s most challenging design problems. Within the CTO Challenge framework, a group took on the problem of “Avoiding Climate Catastrophe.”
Anderson was among the first to provide a platform for addressing the relationship of sustainability to technology and global trends, and as an Advisor to SNS FiRe, I’ve hosted the Sustainability conversation at FiRe for eight years.
Larry Smarr, Founding Director of the Calit2 Lab at UCSD/ UCSD/Irvine (the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology) moderated the CTO panel at FiReGlobal. Smarr is a mathematician, physicist, and computer scientist. He is not a “sustainability” advocate. So when Smarr speaks, I listen anew.
“We knew what we needed to know 30 years ago,” he said – the data and models are just more refined now. Smarr showed a chart of the atmospheric CO2 levels for the last 800,000 years, which did not exceed 300 ppm (carbon dioxide concentration). Today we are at 388 ppm. And the 2100 Post-Copenhagen Agreements-MIT Model predicts 700-800 ppm. See the full report here . In order to limit CO2 to 450 ppm “we have to peak four years from now,” Smarr says. “We have to de-carbonize over the next 50 years.” To rapidly reduce annual CO2 emissions, we must peak in 2015, and lower our emissions 50% by 2050, 80% by 2100.