Paul Allen was one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever known.
If we’re going to avoid a climate disaster, we need to find better ways to do pretty much everything. Almost every part of modern life—from the food we eat to the buildings we live in—releases greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. We need to zero out those emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
I’m optimistic we can do it, but we have to overcome a serious obstacle: Green technologies are at a competitive disadvantage with the approaches they need to replace. Typically, innovations that represent a significant improvement over what came before are widely adopted. The Internet is a great example. When I was a kid, I had to spend an afternoon in the library if I wanted to research a new topic. Today, I can just pull my smartphone out of my pocket and find what I want to know in seconds.
But green technologies don’t work that way. Their improvements are mostly invisible. The electrons from a wind turbine don't run your lights any better than electrons from a coal plant, and a house built with zero-carbon cement won’t feel any bigger to you. Plus, most green alternatives right now are more expensive than their carbon-emitting counterparts. I don’t think a lot of people are willing or able to pay more for the exact same product they can buy now for less.
The solution is to lower the Green Premiums, make net-zero technologies just as affordable as the carbon-emitting versions available today, and create incentives for adoption. I recently wrote a white paper about the investments and policies we need to make that happen as quickly as possible. I hope you’ll check it out.