In business and tech, the low carbon revolution moves ahead

solar farm
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Brookhaven National Laboratory

Yesterday I wrote that disruption to oil demand may be much closer than we think. Implicit in that statement was the idea that there's a disconnect between the political resurgence of climate denialism and the onward march of technological, cultural and commercial progress toward a low carbon economy.

The ever insightful James Murray takes this idea and turns it up to 11 with an excellent piece entitled Corporate sustainability 2.0 and clean tech 3.0 - a winning combination in the age of Trump. Here's a little snippet:

What follows is an unashamedly optimistic take on the current state of things. Believe me, I am painfully aware of how this analysis could be steamrollered in the coming years, months, weeks, days, and hours by the gargantuan scale of the climate crisis, the Trump administration's loose, spray tan-slicked grip on reality, the amoral ingenuity of the pollutocrats who helped put 'The Donald' in the White House, and the ongoing global march of a scientifically and economically illiterate nativism.

The first part of Murray's thesis is essentially this—while there's a troubling political disruption underway which could undermine some of the important progress made in the political sphere, there are signs that many business leaders are dead set on embracing the Paris Agreement and pushing that movement forward by making sustainability the defining longterm strategy, not a marginal PR concern. This is what Jonathon Porrit has described as Corporate Sustainability 2.0. Whether it's loudly defending the climate deal, Google going 100% renewable or Ikea's ambitious sustainability targets, we've documented plenty of examples of this shift in corporate thinking.

The second part of Murray's argument is that this newfound ambition for systemic sustainability is meeting radically improved technological tools for getting there. Whether it's the plummeting costs of solar power, the sudden emergence of battery storage as a rapidly deployable option for grid stability or the fact that even auto execs see the writing on the wall for gas-powered cars and personal car ownership.

Yes, as Murray notes, there are still plenty of ways that progress can be derailed. Yes, the headlines from the Arctic (and elsewhere) suggest the imperative to act is more urgent than ever, and yes—Donald Trump is in the White House. Still, to paraphrase a recent tweet from Alex Steffen (it's somewhere in his prolific twitter feed which I now can't locate), regardless of politics or ecology, our ultimate task will remain the same for the foreseeable future: To get to zero emissions as quickly and as humanly possible.

If we fixate only on political headlines, we will lose all hope. If we focus on business progress, we may get overly optimistic. The real answer lies somewhere in between. And, whatever happens from here, we all have a role to play in getting to where we need to be.

In business and tech, the low carbon revolution moves ahead
Yes, there are massive challenges ahead. But there are also plenty of reasons to cheer.

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