May 31, 2021

114. Carbon Offsets: Not A Get Out of Jail Free Card, TBH

114. Carbon Offsets: Not A Get Out of Jail Free Card, TBH

In Episode 114, Quinn asks: What are carbon offsets, and do they even work? 

Our returning guest is Akshat Rathi, a reporter at Bloomberg Green. 

Carbon offsets -- like our planet -- are so hot right now. And like our planet -- they kind of don’t work! So fun. 

But they could -- and while missions #1 to #11 are eliminate emissions, everywhere, we’ve gotta go negative at some point, so we might as well figure it out, and figure out how to scale them, like yesterday.

You need them, I need them, we all need them.

Forests (of all kinds) are great, but imperfect. New tech like next-generation wind and solar, methane-tracking satellites, and vacuums that literally suck carbon out of the sky are imperfect, too. But so is Quinn!

Find out how you can offset your own impact, and help get us to negative, stat.

Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.com

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important, my name is Quinn Emmett and this is science for people who give a shit. We give you the tools you need to feel better and to fight for a better future for everyone. That includes the context, which is straight from the smartest people on earth, and the action steps you can take to support them. Our guests are journalists and scientists, doctors, nurses, policymakers, farmers, engineers, CEOs, astronauts, we even had a reverend once. This is your friendly reminder folks that you can send feedback to us on Twitter @Importantnotimp or you can email us at questions@importantnotimportant.com. You can join tens of thousands of other smart folks. You can subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at importantnotimportant.com, gives you all of the curated science news of the week in 10 minutes or less some analysis and of course, action steps.

Quinn:

We've got some awesome merchandise you can pick up at importantnotimportant.com/store, highly recommended. Folks this week's episode is, we're going to help you try to understand carbon offsets. What they are, how they work and don't work, and what you can do to improve them because Lord knows they need improving. Our guests, he is back again, Akshat Rathi, he is a reporter at Bloomberg Green. There's really nobody better at this stuff than he is. No one has covered it more than the folks there have. So I'm really excited to have him back to talk about it, and to try to help us understand how we can make the whole system work just a little bit better. So please enjoy this conversation with my man, Akshat Rathi.

Quinn:

Our guest today back for his second visit for some reason is Akshat Rathi. And together we are going to try to get to the bottom of carbon offsets, what's real, what's not, what's working, what could work in the future. Nobody has done a better job or more thorough job covering this stuff than this gentleman over at Bloomberg Green. It is a relatively brand new industry and it's already under fire so I'm excited to dig into it here with my friend Akshat, welcome, welcome back.

Akshat Rathi:

Hey, it's good to be here.

Quinn:

Yeah, for sure, man. If you could, because you have migrated to the other side, could you tell us real quick who you are, what you do and where you work.

Akshat Rathi:

So I am a reporter with Bloomberg Green and I'm based in London. And at Bloomberg Green, we are sort of the climate vertical for all a Bloomberg News, which is the world's largest newsroom. The climate team is a small team within it but we get a lot of people from different bureaus and different beats contributing to it. And one of our obsessions as you rightly put out is offsets and that's because that's become an obsession for the business world.

Quinn:

Yeah, it definitely has. A lot of people just kind of willy nilly throwing these things out there. It's already caused a little bit of a stir. So we want to help people understand it a little better, at least as far as we know where it is now so that they can act with some context, with informed action. So Akshat, I believe we asked this last time to set the tone before we get this whole thing going and maybe your answer has changed. But instead of saying tell us your entire life story, I'd like to ask why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Akshat Rathi:

I do remember answering this question last time, and I said [crosstalk 00:03:47].

Quinn:

I don't remember what your answer was, but I encourage you to be bold.

Akshat Rathi:

I think my answer was, I don't think I matter but that doesn't mean what I do doesn't matter. So my entire goal with this enterprise of being a journalist is to try and inject more rigor into the conversation. I trained as an engineer and a scientist and I just see a gap between what we know to be true facts are well understood theories and what people perceive them to be. And that gap is big in many places, is narrowing in others and I love to be the place where I can try and narrow it further.

Quinn:

Well, we need you more than ever, certainly, because things are, I feel like it's a little naive to say they're more complex than ever because they were always this complex. We've just started pulling a lot of the strings because we have to, because enterprising folks have decided to and we're realizing that these systems are complicated, they're intertwined, they're going to be, in some places much more difficult to pull apart and to fix or to rebuild new. But in some places we have a little more of a head start than we thought with things like the price of solar, for example. So yeah, you are more valuable than ever, my friends. You're not allowed to go anywhere. So that's why I want to have this conversation. I want to talk about, you've done more reporting on this technologies here in the marketplace and the fiascos behind them than anybody else. You're engaged about it publicly on Twitter.

Quinn:

But like so much else of this industry of which is part of this greater climate thing, it's become very ripe very quickly for this term that we all recognize as greenwashing, as we put it. And I think while a large part of what has been happening, I don't want to say it's been nefarious necessarily, and not necessarily lazy or negligent in implementation. There have been some easy answers for folks that turned out in companies and countries that are not so easy. And so that has become very confusing for folks out there that are trying to do the right thing for themselves, their family, their company, their investments, their industry, whatever. It's moving quickly, I want to try to help clarify where we are and I can't think of anyone more better suited to do that.

Quinn:

So let's set the lowest common denominator here for folks to understand, right? Companies, and people are still just spewing emissions from scope one all the way down to scope three. So in the last few years, folks have started buying these things called carbon offsets, and they're passes essentially to offset their emissions. The idea being that the funding that you contribute towards those passes in exchange for those passes sometimes it's a few 100 bucks, to offset your cross country flight or less. Or sometimes it's millions or billions to offset big bank loans, or theme parks, or car manufacturing, or I mean, literally anything you can think of because everything we do causes these emissions. It theoretically goes towards these real world projects that remove a matching volume of carbon from the atmosphere in one way or another.

Quinn:

And sometimes those projects well, for a long time most often have included planting new trees, or protecting existing trees and forests that may otherwise be threatened by industrial agriculture, or its mangroves. Or now it's something more technical like these giant vacuums we've seen that can suck the carbon right out of the air. So of course, entire secondary marketplaces have exploded to support these marketplaces and these exchanges and these efforts to remove the carbon. And then we've seen these so called these net-zero pledges that are made for 10 years from now or 20 or even better 30, those are my favorite. And there are credit cards now that automatically offset your purchases, [inaudible 00:08:22] the whole thing. Humanity, we've gone down the stack quickly. There's a problem, though, with all of it, Akshat and I wonder if you could tell the people what our main problem is. And I know it's a complicated one, but enlighten us here.

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, I think it is a very complicated problem. So I think it helps to have a little bit of history. Offsets as an idea has been around for 30 years, essentially since we've sort of recognized climate change as a problem that we need to address. And in theory, they are a good idea. We do need to protect forests and grow for us because we have lost a shit ton of them. And so we do know that nature has this ability to store carbon through not just forest but through species in the ocean as well and then keep it there for a long, long time. What has happened in the last 30 years though is that we've attempted to try and make what nature provides as a service being measured and then be valued in dollar terms. And that's in a way applying capitalism to nature services and that's a very tricky thing to do.

Akshat Rathi:

Offset is in principle a ton of carbon, typically when you buy an offset you're buying one ton of carbon. But that ton of carbon is not as fungible an asset as oil barrel is or as a ton of wheat is or as a roll of copper is, because if you store a ton of carbon in the California and forests where there is going to be a fire within the next five years or there's a high risk of a fire the next five years, you're only storing it for five years. If you're storing it...

Quinn:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:10:30].

Akshat Rathi:

Right. And if you're going in protecting the Amazon forests, and that for us is going to be around for 100 years, then you've stored it for 100 years. That's qualitatively very different type of offset you've achieved even though you've bought a ton of carbon dioxide in both the cases, because you stored one for much longer. And as we know, the greenhouse gas problem is a cumulative problem. So the longer you can keep that carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the more value you are providing in terms of not heating the planet. So that's I think to some extent been the problem, which is we haven't really figured out measures and standards and ways to monitor the carbon saving that may come from offsetting projects. And we can classify I think offsetting projects, and then maybe the discussion could be structured on the types of offsets. So the weakest type of offset these days is one that is called avoided emissions offset and comes from trying to fund renewable energy projects.

Akshat Rathi:

So in the early 2000s, early 2010s even, solar and wind were more expensive than conventional fossil fuels. And so many developers build these projects and then created credits saying, "Okay, well, because we are building this, a coal power plant will not have to be built. And so because a coal power plant has not been built, there's a certain amount of theoretical emissions [inaudible 00:12:16] saved in the process. Can you pay us for that premium because this thing that we build is more expensive than the coal power plant is, and we would like to be able to make this a sustainable project for us so that we don't incur losses for what is a good for the world, but also is producing clean power." And so these credits have been floated and have been bought and you can actually, at least as of two years ago, you could go to the UN website, and you could buy them for 20 cents a ton. That's it. For 20 cents a ton, you would be able to offset a theoretical avoided emission from a coal power plant by buying a wind or solar credit.

Akshat Rathi:

So that's one type of avoided emissions, renewable energy credit. There's a second type of avoided emissions credit which is probably the largest pool of credits we have in the offset market and that is avoiding deforestation. And within that there's a specific project called REDD+, which was created through the UN Climate process through the COP meeting in Bali in 2007, and then came into being in 2011 onwards. And the idea there is, again, as the UN process imagined it, it imagined as a way for countries to trade credits. So Norway could buy a REDD+ project in Indonesia, which would transfer or find a way to transfer wealth from a rich country to a poor country, government to government. And then Indonesia could use that money towards energy transition helping develop its country, helping the poor become richer. One of the [inaudible 00:13:58] capital.

Quinn:

Moving [crosstalk 00:13:58].

Akshat Rathi:

Right. And in the process, Norway has countered some of its emissions by having Indonesian forest be protected, which they would otherwise and this is the avoided part and the theory part, which would have otherwise been incurred because of industrial agriculture, or just because people need to survive and they need forest for those resources. These REDD+ projects have come under fire mainly because first the government's couldn't agree on a mechanism which is called article six, which we're still fighting about, and are going to have conversation later this year in Glasgow when the meeting happens, the COP meeting. And so governments aren't really trading these. Norway has in fact done it. The example I talked about is a real example but those are just countries doing it voluntarily right now. There's no official UN back mechanism to do it.

Akshat Rathi:

What then happen though is because REDD+ as an idea that we should protect forests, is again in theory a good idea, the voluntary carbon market came in and started to trade those credits. And that's what you were talking about when companies want to purchase offsets against their emissions and negate some of their emissions and their carbon balance sheet. So a lot of these REDD+ avoided deforestation projects are being traded for essentially... Shell, for example has a program here, the oil company, where you can go to a Shell gas station and you can buy gasoline, and then you can pay a certain extra which would be an offset to neutralize the emissions from the gasoline you've just purchased because they're protecting forests in Peru. So that's your way of convincing your user to be guilt free, because well, you've done some good somewhere else, and yes, theoretically.

Akshat Rathi:

Then there's a new class of offsets and they're not new I mean, it's been around but a smaller class of offsets called afforestation, which is where you go and build forests. And, theoretically, this is better than an avoided deforestation because you can actually measure in a way. You're not doing a baseline theory that we might have lost this much forest. And so we haven't now and so we are saving some carbon. In this case, you're actually planting trees and if you do the work enough, and you know the theory around the type of plant, the type of soil, the type of climate, then you can in theory measure how much carbon was saved.

Akshat Rathi:

And you could go and not just build forests around existing forests, but in places where there weren't forest or may have been forests hundreds of thousands of years ago, and you could build them now because you have the money through these projects to do. And this category of offsets now being called as carbon removal, because if you do it well, you're actually removing carbon. Whereas the previous offsets were avoided emissions offsets where you're avoiding in theory some emissions that would come from an activity.

Quinn:

And that's where we've seen a little more of the controversy, at least recently, with things like Nature Conservancy, and Audubon and stuff like that. And we can get into it, I did want to just [crosstalk 00:17:26]

Akshat Rathi:

Then there's [crosstalk 00:17:28] sorry the last one which is-

Quinn:

Yeah, go ahead.

Akshat Rathi:

... which is just technology offsets, which is the vacuum in the sky type of offset, where you can use some technological innovation, may that be direct air capture, these machines that capture carbon dioxide from the air, or crushing minerals and putting it into an ocean or into the soil which would then capture CO2. And they are much more expensive but if you do them right, and we can know that we've done them right because we've used these technologies in the past. The carbon then goes deep underground, either in like a former oil and gas well, or just underground, hundreds of thousands of meters underground, and then stay there for thousands of years. So the type of saving you get from that is very different qualitatively and quantitatively from the other offset. So these are the four broad categories of offsets, all of them have issues.

Quinn:

Yeah, that's kind of like the fundamental layer here. They're all kind of complicated for a lot of different reasons. I did want to say just one thing, again, I feel like our listeners particularly will know this, but if you don't, if you're new to it, or if you're trying to figure this out. Just so you're aware, so we're primarily in these discussions and today focused on CO2. Obviously, methane is this big issue, we're able to actually measure that much more than we can. We can see from the sky when these plumes happen, methane goes away in about 10 years. We're not really worried about pulling that out. That's one of those things, we just need to just do less of in general. Because while it's much more powerful than CO2 in the moment, we don't need to worry as much about that getting stuck up there and removed. But CO2 in general, just so again everyone's on the same page, when we release emissions, essentially about 45%, almost half of that results in long term increases in atmospheric CO2.

Quinn:

Right now, and sort of historically about 30% of that goes into land-based sinks so that could be again forests and trees and soils, and about 25% or so I think Akshat is ocean based. And again, that's deep oceans, that's mangroves, that's kelp and things like that. So that's the sort of the current status and again, of the mechanisms that Akshat described, a lot of that was the land based versions. And the reason, well, among the many reasons the clock is ticking faster and closer to the final bell is that some of those really aren't working anymore the way that they have in the past. Of course, there's far less forests, the ocean has sucked up an enormous amount of CO2 and can only do so much and is warming itself. So [crosstalk 00:20:18] again just... Go ahead.

Akshat Rathi:

I would say we don't... I mean, the carbon cycle is complicated. The amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere and comes down has been happening naturally for quite some time. The thing that of course is the problem is we are adding a new type of carbon, which is fossil fuels, which have been in the ground for a while and then burning and putting it in the atmosphere. We don't need to really worry about the carbon cycling in a way because a ton of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is really the impact because when we draw a ton of that carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the sinks that took away the half you were talking about whether they be land or ocean will actually release them.

Akshat Rathi:

So in the process of the ocean taking ups carbon dioxide, it is acidifying. When we take that carbon dioxide back from the atmosphere, that ocean will start to be less acidic and go back to the sort of long normal that we've had during the Holocene, the period, the few 100,000 years that we've been here on the planet. So we should not worry about it in a way. A ton of carbon we put into the atmosphere, well, that's our responsibility. All of that ton is our responsibility.

Quinn:

Yeah, and there have been studies recently, and again there's just been incredible people working on this thing. And we're sort of at the beginning of actually being able to understand that yes, like the quicker we move on these things, the quicker those areas will rebound. I mean, it takes forever to grow trees and replacing something like the Amazon can take quite a while. But at the same and of course, the only store them for 100 years. But at least with the ocean we can make changes that have big effects. And the quicker we start doing these things, the quicker they can start rebounding. So I feel like we could spend six hours digging into each of those for sure. I do want to talk about, I guess let's dig into sort of the bigger items that I think folks have seen and said, "Well, holy shit, if that's not working, then what is?"

Quinn:

Let's talk about what's happened with the protecting existing forests issue, whether that's the enormous forest Russia wants to measure and protect or what happened with Nature Conservancy, and all the money that Audubon raked in. Can you explain to everybody, I guess, I try to assume good intentions in most places, but it's getting harder and harder in this job. If you can explain why those projects happened the way they did and what went wrong and I guess what was inevitable about them going wrong?

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, so there's no inevitability for them to having gone wrong, they have gone wrong and they're different projects altogether so each of them have different issues. But what we've seen in some of the projects, so for example in California is that, because these projects are based on the theory of avoiding emissions, you have to first draw a baseline which is based on work that you would do, assuming that had you not paid for these offsets, what would have happened to these forests in theory? That in itself is an assumption you're making based on lots of things, but it is at the end an assumption. And if you change that a little bit, the amount of emissions, the credits you would generate could vary quite a bit. So let's just assume that before you came into this Californian forest, the deforestation rate was 1% per annum, and you've seen that for the last 20 years.

Akshat Rathi:

Now, you'd say, okay, well, that's happened for the last 20 years, which means it will happen for the next 20 years. So I'm going to assume that the deforestation rate is 1%. Now, because you've paid me money, I'm going to deploy some rangers, private rangers to make sure that deforestation rates go down. And so now I've got that deforestation rate to 0.5%, which in theory you're still losing forests, but you're not losing as many as what we thought in theory you would lose, that 0.5% that we think we've saved is the emissions that you're paying for. Now, that's all in theory, and that's very easy to manipulate especially if it's not California, it's happening in Zimbabwe, where there are nobody to look at what actually happens, whether these theoretical baselines were in fact right.

Akshat Rathi:

The other problem is, even if your theory of the baseline was right like deforestation would have continued irrespective. Well, when you come in, and you help the people in those regions to become more sustainable through these money projects that you're able to build because of the offset money, you go and tell them about sustainable agriculture, you go and build biogas digesters for them so that they don't have to burn firewood, that changes their ability to be more sustainable. Which means, once you've done those projects, shouldn't your baseline change because they've become more sustainable now? So are you really avoiding more deforestation, or at least as much as you were before you came in and did this project?

Akshat Rathi:

You can't be sure about that. So this is the problem with measuring these avoided emissions projects. They are again, just to stress are necessary in many places but should voluntary carbon markets be the thing that should fund them? That is unclear. Shouldn't it be governments and shouldn't it be the US paying the Zimbabwe government to be able to protect the forest? Because the US has been emitting historically way more emissions than Zimbabwe ever has or will ever in its lifetime.

Quinn:

Yeah, I definitely want to get into that as well. Yeah, and I mean, it seems like there's this again, and it doesn't apply everywhere. But there are these issues where the question was like, well, wait, wasn't this forest protected anyways? Or wasn't the funding already there to protect this forest anyways? Was it ever actually, at least for now, under threat? And is that actually preventing, reducing emissions? Are we actually making any progress there? Was this sort of a house of cards?

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:26:46].

Quinn:

This particular project, at least.

Akshat Rathi:

Yes. And my colleague, Ben Elgin, who's written those stories for Bloomberg Green went and saw those projects, and in some cases, those were entirely protected forests that were bought by Nature Conservancy as a way to protect them, because that's what their membership pays them to do. Which then they monetize by saying, "Oh, actually, there was going to be deforestation here but we are protecting them now even though we did say when we bought them that we will protect them, but because now we really protecting them."

Quinn:

Yeah, now we're really protecting them.

Akshat Rathi:

[crosstalk 00:27:23].

Quinn:

Right. And the problem is you saw, I mean, again, this wasn't just like you and I buy enough plane flights, this was literally like Disney and JP Morgan, people throwing millions of dollars at these projects and going like, "Well, hold on." And now I mean, again, we'll put it in the show notes and we've talked about it in the newsletter quite a bit, but the links to those investigations, because they are pretty tremendous and they're necessary. Like, we have to, this isn't an industry that we can let slide for 50 years, like we have everything else we make. I mean, we have to get this right quickly and we're starting to.

Akshat Rathi:

So one thing that companies that are setting these net-zero goals can do if you're somebody who works for one of those companies is that you can be a little more science based in your approach. So there's an organization called the Science Based Targets Initiative, which works with companies to come up with plans that are actually reducing emissions. One of the things that they do is, well, it's great you have a net-zero plan in 2050, but for now, for a science based target, what we need is a 2025 plan and 2030 plan. And in those 2025 and 2030 plan Science Based Targets does not allow you to use offsets, because the immediate thing you should be doing is to reduce emissions. And so their plans, once they put their stamp of approval on it, only comes after you have told them that you're going to reduce emissions. Now, they are in conversations that there would be things that you really cannot cut, business air travel for example is a thing that is even in 2050, we are likely to have a lot of fossil fuels being used for.

Akshat Rathi:

And there might be inventions or hydrogen planes and electric planes, but they may not cover all use cases, especially long distance. So they may allow the use of offsets for those cases, but they are further down field. And so currently there is a task force that's been created by these financial minds. Mark Carney who's from Bank of England, chief and Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters. And some of the things that they are trying to do is to try and create a carbon market because they think these offsets are necessary, but they're addressing essentially the market issue, which is how should a legal contract work? Is there enough liquidity in the market? What do you need to do to have enough liquidity in the market? But they're not really addressing what are the issues we are talking about, which is whether the asset itself is doing the job it should. And whether the offset that's being sold on these markets should be used for a science based target or just for greenwashing.

Quinn:

Right. There's a lot to figure out, a lot to hash out here. And I understand that the rush to try to establish these markets and do it because when someone comes in, like a watershed, for example, a company that really wouldn't exist if every company and industry in the world didn't have to make these 2025, 2030 targets that look I empathize with. I worked at Disney, I worked at the Financial Times, they print on paper. Especially when you look at things that are... you look at IKEA, when someone says, "Hey, listen Akshat, you're the guy at IKEA, we need you to look at all the scope three emissions." It's like, "Are you kidding me? Like, no, thank you." I'm like, I can't, it's a nightmare. But it is necessary and again, if we're going to put down another fundamental tenet here, the number one thing that has to happen is to reduce emissions. And that's all the way down your chain.

Quinn:

And some companies are going to have that easier and some are going to have it more difficult but we have to expose these things. And I know you guys have talked a lot about, for example, we don't have to go all the way down this road is we talked about, oh, we have to electrify every building because buildings have all these issues. And then Bloomberg says, "Well, actually, the real reason banks have so many missions is because of these incredible loans." It was just some insane multiplier of how much more they're putting out from these. And you have to find ways to reduce those and to reduce the money you're putting into it, because we've put just some incredible amount of money into fossil fuel projects since the Paris Agreement. So we have to tackle those first. And so you see companies like Watershape coming along and saying like, "Yes, look, we can talk about the net-zero part of it, we can talk about your offsets, but these are the things we have to do and you have to analyze your business from top to bottom."

Quinn:

Let's talk though for a moment about this week. We tried to make these conversations a little more evergreen, but at this point, this is a specific one, I want people to feel informed. John Kerry has been bouncing around the world as is his job as this special climate and envoy. And he caught a lot of flack because he mumbled his way through a question that half of the US is required emissions cuts will need to come from technology that doesn't exist yet. And that's not quite right. The technology or at least the fundamental pieces of this tech are there, it works. We can actually suck carbon out of the air, these vacuums are real. But we are a very long way from doing so in a very large amount of money away from doing so at the scale required to actually put a dent in what we have done. And so we've got these disputes over public and even private funding, whether they should go into R&D and scaling for these tech driven carbon removal options, or some of these outlandish but seemingly really incredible.

Quinn:

And I know you've talked about some of these sequestration and transformation into a variety of useful output, rocks, biofuels. But maybe it's because I haven't been in this thing as long as some of these folks who've been fighting it for 25 years. So I understand where they've been scarred by inaction. And now they're going like, "Look, we can't do this fanciful stuff, we have to do X and Y now." But this is kind of where we were on solar a couple decades ago. I mean, A, the clock's ticking much faster now, but I mean, even like you were saying 10 years ago, the price of solar was I mean, the... where was 10 years ago, and the projections from where would be today are just so far off. And we always laugh at the IAEA because they're always like so far behind and they're so conservative in their estimates. But it's incredible and now solar, which we've really honestly only begun to scale is in most places the cheapest energy of all time. And that's not saying that's where this carbon removal tech is going to go.

Quinn:

But if we don't put the money into it now, you can't just look up in 20 years and go, "Okay, now we can start to try to suck things out of the atmosphere." And again, like you said, trees only store carbon for about 100 years if we don't cut them down, or they don't burn down in the first place. So let's talk about some of those technological solutions. And then I would actually love to talk about some of the innovative business driven efforts like what Stripe is doing behind them, if we could get to that.

Akshat Rathi:

So the technology options are again many and that's why [inaudible 00:34:45] would categorizing them.

Quinn:

Please do it.

Akshat Rathi:

The most controversial one is called BECCS or BECCS and that is bioenergy and carbon capture and storage. And it's controversial because the idea is to burn biomass probably from a forest. Assume that in the process that the forest grew, you captured carbon in those trees. So in theory burning that tree is carbon neutral, I'm saying in theory. And then you capture the emissions from that power plant and you bury it underground, which then means you've got negative emissions. So in theory because of this chain, you have actually taken carbon dioxide from the air rather than having these vacuum cleaners, you've actually done it through trees, which we know are things that can capture carbon dioxide. Now, it's controversial, because if we rely too heavily on it, then we might end up using land for bioenergy, which may compete with agricultural land. And we are also in a place where the population will continue to grow for the next few decades before it plateaus. And it will get richer, which means they will consume more calories.

Akshat Rathi:

So you're in this place where there might be food, and people conflict against climate. So that's one, which is the most controversial one. Then there's direct air capture, which are these vacuum cleaners. And they are also in theory, quite simple to understand. We do have air pollution cleaners in homes because of either at some California wildfires, or in Delhi, just fossil fuel pollution. So those capture particles, and they're particles you can probably not see, but they are physical particles you can capture in filters. The carbon dioxide capture, direct air capture is essentially the chemical version of that, where you can't see the gas, it's 400 parts per million of molecules in the air. But if you have the right chemical, it acts like a magnet to iron filings and captures the CO2 and then you can compress it, you can concentrate it, compress it and put it down into the ground. Now, we have at least three companies or more five or six smaller ones, that are building these technologies, but they're very expensive.

Akshat Rathi:

They cost $600 a ton. We talked about the renewable energy offset credit being 20 cent a ton, so the difference is massive. So when you go in an exchange, why would you buy a $600 ton credit when you can buy a 20 cent ton credit and get the same benefit, right? So that's one, then there are more, sort of in between nature and technology, there's something called bio char, where you take a piece of wood, you burn it in absence of oxygen, and what you get is a material that is highly porous, and then you can put it in soil and it becomes a place for bacteria to concentrate and in process keeps more carbon in the ground, in agriculture helps improve soil, helps improve agricultural productivity, so there are co-benefits that come along with it. There is a technology where you do mineral carbon capture. So you take a particular type of mineral, which would in nature just through processes that happen on geological scale, would get exposed to the atmosphere would capture carbon dioxide.

Akshat Rathi:

Instead, you take them you crush them, you give them a lot more surface area, and get them to capture carbon dioxide sooner. And you could do that by actually dumping them in the ocean, because in the ocean, the concentration of CO2 is much, much higher than in the air. Plus, once it's in water, the contact is higher with the mineral. And so you could really use, you could capture carbon dioxide that way. Now, the problem is you have to do large scale studies to be sure that that works and to know verifiably that that's the amount of carbon that's trapped, which is not easy. Whereas with direct air capture, once you capture some CO2, you know how much you've captured and how much you're injecting in the ground. So it's a very verifiable amount. You can use the same minerals and then put them on agricultural land where you reduce what is the acidity of the soil. And in the process of reducing the acidity of the soil eventually when that reaches the ocean, it captures carbon dioxide.

Akshat Rathi:

So you're doing this very long, multi step thing. But again, studies are underway, they take years before we know whether this can work. So those are some of the technological options that we have and it's not an exhaustive list. There are other technologies that keep coming in how you could capture carbon dioxide from the air essentially. And the reason we are also talking about them to some extent is, let's forget all the corporate climate plans and all the net-zero plans, just to be able to hit the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold, the international body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we will need negative emissions. So we will need forests and we will need some backs and we will need some direct air capture and a combination of that to be able to lower what we've already put into the atmosphere if we want to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Quinn:

Right. I think the part that's the uncomfortable thing to talk about for some of these folks that have been doing it for so long. It's just acknowledging that like, we also have to do these things, because even if everyone started doing the work to reduce right now, we're just not going to get to 1.5, anywhere near on the timescale that we need to. These things are required and we have to acknowledge that the nature based solutions, the most purely nature based solutions are great, but they're limited in a number of ways. Again, like some of the greatest oldest forests on Earth are in the, "Tundra and the permafrost," which is not so perma anymore, they're in these California forests, which are under threat like today. They are in the Amazon which doesn't exactly have very long at the [inaudible 00:41:32]. Well, that guy is still in charge down there.

Quinn:

And again, they only store them for 100 years. We've got these wonderful options like mangroves and kelps, but those two are these nascent industries that have barely any backing on the scale that we need to do the things they need to do. And so I'm just such a firm believer in this kitchen sink approach. But I'm also trying to understand that to do these things at scale, it's going to require both old school institutional ways of doing it like carbon 180s plan. I'm not sure if you saw what they put forward to the US Congress saying like, "Look, in the next three years like this is what the power of the US federal government, the largest checkbook on earth can do to build at least a foundational platform for carbon removal." We've got to get these costs down. We've got to plow money into R&D. We've got to raise demand. We've got to actually figure out what some regulations are in measurement.

Quinn:

We've got to build the infrastructure for this thing. We've got to build guidelines for measuring. And there's private options that can start to do this but we have to support them. So I also love what places like stripe are doing. I mean, there aren't many firms like stripe on the entire planet. That's what makes them so unique. Folks if you're not familiar, if you've ever paid for anything on the internet in the past five years, there's like a 95% chance that the infrastructure to handle that payment was from a company called Stripe, started by a couple Irish brothers, that have just basically taken over the that entire platform. And essentially what they've done and Akshat, please correct me here. And I know they have another day coming up where they're going to explain this stuff, we'll put in the show notes.

Quinn:

They've essentially said, "If you are a shop owner that use the Stripe, you can with two clicks enable a percentage of your proceeds, which you can decide to go towards carbon removal projects that they are supporting, and putting the scale of the internet's purchasing power behind to again to try to put money into that R&D, but also try to reduce the costs of doing this technological work." Can you talk a little bit more about that endeavor? Because it is so unique, and it is, again, one of these out of the box ideas we're going to have to use to make this happen.

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, and luckily, it's not unique anymore in the sense that the others have joined in. After Stripe came up with this plan, we've seen Microsoft come up with its own plan, Shopify join Stripe's plan, and then others are looking to join as well. And the reason why Stripe is doing and I've spoken to the climate guy, Ryan Orbuch is that they see all the problems with the nature based offsets that we've looked at. And they think, "Well, great, there's already a ton of people who want to do the right thing over there. We just don't see that it's going to provide the kind of carbon impact that we believe we can have. And we also have not seen governments step up and address the negative emissions technologies research problem that exists." So they've stepped in and they've created a market for these technology based negative emissions in a way that is quite forward looking.

Akshat Rathi:

There is an idea which Bill Gates has used the word green premier. Others have come up with sort of the gap between what is our fossil based technology and what is our clean technology. And you can ask governments to lower their costs by doing research, or by us paying, subsidizing the deployment of these technologies. Or you can as a consumer base, which is much bigger than governments can ever be, because it's all of us create demand for these and pay the premium so that every time you pay the premium, these technologies get better, they become cheaper, just as we've seen with solar and wind and batteries and electric cars. And the nice thing about the Stripe program, but also the Microsoft program is that they're doing it very transparently. So once they have these payment options to others to pay a certain amount for carbon removal that goes into a part. And then that from that part, people can bid, here this technology I use. There's an industry that an interesting startup in Silicon Valley called Charm Industrial which essentially takes biomass converts it into essentially oil.

Akshat Rathi:

I mean, it's a carbon goo and then just sinks it into the ground instead of first burning it and producing carbon dioxide, then catching a gas, which is much harder. And so Charm can just go to strive and say, "Look, we have this technology, we need $400 per ton, and we'll give you this much by this date." And stripe thinks, "Okay, this is a technology we're supporting, so we will buy a certain portion of our large part for this technology." And they will do so for many, many projects. And then at this day that they're going to have, they'll have these project people or these technology startups come and talk about the technology. And it sort of in a way has a side benefit on making people who are contributing to these projects really know what they're doing. When you buy this offset from a Zimbabwe forest, you don't really get to speak to the people in Zimbabwe who are benefiting from it.

Akshat Rathi:

But in this case, you can and that's an interesting side benefit from the purchase. So it's a trend that is there. How much you can scale is a question because Stripe is large, Microsoft is large, Shopify is large, they have the ability to employ a small team who can do the work and pay them. Not every company will be able to do it. And so that's why things like this county task force are trying to create a market where you can if you do the right work just go and buy a product, like you would go and buy a product in Whole Foods. But without addressing all the issues we've talked about, very hard to see how that happens.

Quinn:

Yeah, and this is just, I mean, I just have frustrations I empathize with but I have frustrations with the, "We need to do this instead of this or this isn't going to work, we have to do this. Or this doesn't work yet, we need to do the things we've relied upon." We are in a place where the option is doing all of them, using all these tools that are at our disposal. And the good thing is it's 2021 and there are some tools that are at our disposal that frankly, weren't available even 10 years ago. I mean, we again, we talk about solar, and we talk about when we can talk about the next evolution of solar panels. We can talk about the vacuums out of the sky, but we've also got things like what we're able to do with satellite measurement now. Not just looking at... we couldn't do this three years ago, but tracking methane clouds in real time, and saying like, "Hey, you can't do that anymore."

Quinn:

But that also helps us look at these massive in the US the factory farming and identifying like what does that really do? I mean, it's methane, which is so much worse. But we also know like, boy, those are easy wins, that's low hanging fruit. You eliminate that and that removes those quickly. But we're also able to do things like and correct me if I'm pronouncing wrong. Is it Pachama? What they're building now, they're building the whole vertical. They I think they just raised a bunch of money to build the whole tech stack from satellite measurement of forestry projects to building an offset marketplace themselves. But trying to do it again, like you said, if you're who you want to go buy from this Zimbabwe forest, like you don't have a lot of contact there to know that what you're doing isn't a ghost essentially.

Quinn:

And then there's options like green hydrogen, there's options which again wasn't something even we could consider 10 years ago. We're looking at long duration storage and how much battery prices have come down and trying to build solid state batteries where we can store things for longer.

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, I mean, the other thing that happened this week, which also is something we should recognize is the International Energy Agency came out with this report, which was the point you were making about Kerry's statement where they said half the reductions that will come, will come from technologies yet [inaudible 00:49:59] pilot scale not been demonstrated. And so there is a real gap and it's a fascinating topic to explore on its own. But there's a gap between the energy industry and the climate industry or the energy world and the climate world. And that gap exists for many reasons, because they've never talked to each other in a way. But also because you haven't had many people go from one to the other. Climate world is growing much more quickly, the energy world is an age old industry that's existed. But what we don't appreciate is the climate world is shouting, "Look, we know these damages are coming. They're coming fast and fast means real fast."

Akshat Rathi:

I was born in 1987 which was the year when 350 parts per million was broken, which is considered by many scientists as the threshold for our stable climate. And in the 30 odd years that I've been alive since, we are now at 420 parts per million and there's less than 30 years out to 2050 from today. So the work that we have to do has to happen in our lifetime, in the next 30 years, most of us will still be around not retired. Whereas the energy industry operates at very different timescales. When you build a nuclear power plant, it last 80 years. When you build a coal power plant, it last 40 years. And so you have to think of it as a tanker that needs to be turned around. And yes, there isn't progress as much as we would like but the pressure is building and we keep the pressure building while realizing that it's going to take time to turn the energy system around.

Akshat Rathi:

So the way we can turn it around is through technology, is through deployment, is through policy, is through pressure, is through activism. And all those things will be needed. Your energies are better spent pushing those things forward rather than fighting against one of them by saying, "No, this R&D is not needed. No, this technology is not needed." There's way more you can do with your activism that supports each of those pillars rather than opposes any one of them.

Quinn:

And you're right, and I did... your tweet about that the other day definitely, it's one of those things I'm like, yeah, but then also I kind of like stare at a wall in a corner for a while going like it's so much worse than so many people are willing to acknowledge on the energy side, but at the same time, again, like you said, these energy ships to turn it around are complicated. And not just moving away from some of these... from the older sources, which the IAEA was like, this week they're like, "Look no more like that's it, nothing new." But that's not just putting solar panels on people's houses. I mean, if you want to go read, I know he's in Bloomberg Green, but like if you read David Roberts work on Transmission for example, like everything he did for transmission. It's the things we can do are exciting but boy they complicated, especially when you're talking about right of way and eminent domain and how to build lines and utilities fighting each other like it is entirely complicated.

Quinn:

You look at what happened to Texas like part of that was by choice because of what the decisions Texas has made over the past 25 years, 10 years, but they're not connected to the US grid, like to do that is not a simple thing to do. Right? We can't just build panels and ship it into Texas. The options here are complicated, but we have to do them on every front. And that's why it does require smaller private works like Pachama but also bigger ones like Stripe or Microsoft. Like if we've got $2 trillion companies, then you need to see companies like Apple, which they seem to be doing that scale and scope of work to not only take care of their scope one and scope two stuff, but scope three and even going further.

Akshat Rathi:

I mean, there is a tendency that humans have. It's just a very human tendency to want to simplify things to have one thing that will solve a problem. But we just have to recognize that's not the case with climate. Climate, you will never have one thing that will solve the problem. It's too big, too complicated. But what happens is, then there's the tendency of like once you start thinking about these things, and we've been talking about it for almost an hour, it feels it's too complicated, there's too many things happening, how can we ever do these things? And that also I think, is a wrong position to end up in. We can say like inertia is one force that is stopping much of the change from happening, but it's just one force. There are so many others. If inertia is a problem or friction is a problem, you can smooth the part, you can show a new part.

Akshat Rathi:

There are ways in which you can do things that are very, very manageable because the amount of people who are interested in this has also grown really, really rapidly. And a systemic change will come from lots of people participating with full energy, and holding the people who have more power than us normal individuals to keep up with those changes and keep at those changes. Because it's just, it is the work of our lifetime, it's not going to happen tomorrow, it's not going to happen next year. And that doesn't mean we take it easy, but it just means we've got our work cut out for us.

Quinn:

We do and you are I think, thankfully, for the world a little bit younger than I am, not too much. But I mean, I feel like some days, do you remember Indiana Jones in the holy grail when he finally meets the Grail Knight at the end, and the guy just falls over? Like, that's how I feel at the end of most days. So I hope you feel differently. But I did look up and I've been thinking about this, it's the work of our lifetime thing, because I will be 67, 68 in 2050, which is when some of these net-zero pledges are from these banks and these fossil fuel companies. And you just go, oh, that is like my lifetime. That's my working lifetime. And that's hopefully a long time, but it's not. And it's going to fly by and the work we have to do over that time starting now when in five years and in 10 years, and why we have to measure those over time has to be impactful along the way. And so like you said, it's not one or the other.

Quinn:

This is the thing we talked about. And what we do here is not just climate, it's public health, it's a bunch of different things. People say it's very easy to listen to a conversation about climate or carbon offsets or whatever and go, "Jesus Christ, Akshat, then what can I do?" And my answer is always and it seems simple, but it tends to be a conversation starter in one respect or another is like, "Okay, well, Akshat, what can you do? What is your thing?" And you've gone to Bloomberg, and again, you guys are building this magnificent thing there. It truly is exceptional work that you guys do. And there's other places like it, not too many but there's other places like it, but there's things you can do. You can work in policymaking, you can work on these technologies. If you are an investor, you can work in these things.

Quinn:

But as everything we try to put out here, I urge you to work, do the work to work on something that is verifiable because we don't have time to waste on things that aren't. That doesn't mean don't work on this nascent technology but go down a road, apply yourself to something that is going to have and we can measure is going to have a specific impact in some way from journalism down to the burying carbon in the ground.

Akshat Rathi:

There is an essay called I, Pencil, which I would urge everybody to read. It's a wonderful, wonderful essay and you should link to it in the show notes-

Quinn:

Yeah, 100%.

Akshat Rathi:

... [crosstalk 00:58:04] very easy to find. It essentially takes you on a journey of how a pencil is made. And what it tells you is you as a human have used pencils for a very long time, but you have no idea, absolutely no idea of how a pencil is actually made. And that is a tragedy because the very world in which we live and benefit from is a world that is actually alien to us if we think a little bit about it. And climate in a way is a big problem but if you think about the solutions to climate change, they are about changing the world around us. And they are about becoming familiar with the unfamiliar, how is cement made? And how is steel made? And where do you mine aluminum from and what goes inside a battery?

Akshat Rathi:

Those are things that are products and benefits you're taking all the time, but you don't know them. And in the process of knowing them if you can change them and clean them up, it's a fascinating opportunity to come to see our own world in a new light. And so climate change feels like an overwhelming problem, but it's also our way to connect with the planet in a way we have never connected before. And that I think as an exercise, even if we fail to meet the ambitious targets we've set is an exercise that will improve civilization.

Quinn:

It will and that is the thing I do try to pass to people who are understandably wrought with disparate times and I think we can all get there is there's also this enormous opportunity. I mean, we say it is one opportunity, but its manifold, right? It is. I mean we've never seen a systemic opportunity like, we have to electrify everything, period, every automobile, every ship, every car, every plane, if we can, every building, there's never been anything like that. And that is not just by electric cars, I mean what goes into that and that just transitions that are required and the search for the next lithium metal batteries or solid state or whatever it might be to these charging technologies and being able to scale those, what goes into it is enormous and what we can do and improve.

Quinn:

I mean, you look at in the US, so many of the deaths, where we just tragically but completely predictably over indexed on deaths to black Americans and brown Americans and Native Americans were because of these pre-existing cardiopulmonary conditions that are from air pollution, that are from living in cancer alley next to these plastic refineries, which is oil. Then I always think about like as air pollution is this 80, 20 fix that we can do, like, if you do this one thing, if we can reduce and eliminate pm to, what that does down the scale, it makes something like COVID so much less deadly than it needs to be. It makes living in a neighborhood, next to a highway, or where school buses or post office trucks, so much less deadly. And each of these things pull so many different levers and you the listener able to contribute in so many different ways.

Akshat Rathi:

Right. And I mean, you don't have to think of all of these solutions to be about emissions, you can think of these solutions to be about people. One of the biggest climate solutions is to empower women, because we know that when women are empowered in families, they improve the way they make families more sustainable. They bring more income, they spread more education among their children. And all those things add up to a climate solution, because eventually you're getting fewer people but more educated, more skilled people who care about the planet to do more. Another way to think about the climate solution challenge or climate solution framework is think about the fact that in the past 200 years when we've lived in the fossil fuel era, it's also been an era of colonialism, where we've had a certain set of countries become rich at the cost of a certain larger set of countries.

Akshat Rathi:

And in the process of providing clean energy and moving technologies at a much faster pace and making these countries be richer and cleaner, you are repaying some of that debt, you were overcoming some of the inequities that were created because of colonialism. So it doesn't really have to be the lens of climate, but all of it sort of feeds into it. There's so much good to be done in the next few decades. I mean, they will always be the case, but especially now. Yeah. So I'm pretty hopeful because there's so much to do and so much we can do that focusing on resistance and focusing on verification and doing the right thing is important. But there are just so many things to do that we can keep going for a very long time and every little we do helps.

Quinn:

I'm firmly on board. And we had a wonderful conversation a while back with Katharine Wilkinson, back when she was a draw down about why educating girls and family planning was at least at the time, and it's still very much like very high up on draw downs list of measurable impacts that you can have. And that might surprise you but I urge you to go and listen to that conversation. And Katharine has moved on now to her excellent All We Can Save project and the book that came out last year with another one of our guests, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, and it matters. It matters that we educate women and that we bring them up and then we enable them to be able to support themselves and be in these leadership positions because we've actually never done that before. Just like we've actually never opted out of colonialism. But doing these things can make just a massive difference in the world and pull more of these levers.

Quinn:

So Akshat, just last couple things here and thank you so much for your time again on this Friday. I'm sure you're ready to get out of here. Again, we'd like to get into really specific action steps that everybody can take here. So let's talk about what people can do with their voice. What are the specific questions that we should be asking which either side of the pond we're on of our representatives, whether they're folks running for office, or folks that are already in office. And that could be on the local level, the state level, or on the federal level to move these sorts of things along.

Akshat Rathi:

Yeah, it's a good one. I mean, I think one of the things that you can do is think about the issue that affects you most or that you're most passionate about, and then pick that issue up and then take it to the different regional levels. For example, I happen to luckily live next to a lake even though I'm in London, but the lake is full of plastic pollution. And that's got something to do with climate, not always, but it's also a site of scientific interest classified as an official site of scientific interest. So on the side of being working with a group of volunteers, that is bringing what is six or seven agencies, some national, some local, that have to work together to solve the plastic problem. It's a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare but through that process, I realized just how complicated it is. And it has given me a new connection to my neighborhood in a way that I didn't have previously.

Akshat Rathi:

So it's immensely rewarding. So if you can pick up something that you can physically do, especially now with pandemic and restrictions of not being able to see friends far away, but you can go out on a walk with people and pick litter or talk about organizing your letters to the local councillor, those are things we're doing. I also think most people listening to this podcast are working for companies that have the capital that are producing emissions that have the ability to reduce those emissions. And if you can go and ask whether your company has a climate plan or not. And if it doesn't, why doesn't and if it can put a climate plan together, can you be involved?

Akshat Rathi:

That will have an enormous difference because yes, there are problems with offsets and yes there are difficulties with how you will reduce emissions, but those are smaller problems than the bigger things you can address right away with having a climate plan, with switching to renewable energy, with reducing plastic in offices, with not consuming as much meat in your pantries. So there's just a ton you can do as a person and I am excited for what comes, the momentum is clearly in climate favorite right now at least on the solutions, if not on emissions.

Quinn:

Sure. And that's it. It's if you need to be focused on on one area, it's looking at, okay, but my person, my family, my company, my industry, we need to reduce emissions. What is my role in that? And is there more I can take on is it? Is it reporting? Is it messaging? Is it finance? Is it design? Is it logistics? Whatever it might be, I guarantee your company works on something in that respect and you can lend those skills to that effort as well. What about anything specific with their dollar, are there groups? I'm a big fan of what Carbon180 has already started to do. Here in the US they've got some pretty intense lobbying efforts on their part, specifically around offsets. Are there any other groups you believe in, you support that are going a long way? If you want to maintain your journalistic integrity and not support one specific area, I'm totally fine with that too. But I don't want to leave anything out here. I want to be specific for folks.

Akshat Rathi:

A lot of my giving goes through Kiva. And in Kiva, you can go and pick and choose your projects, the ones you believe in. So you have enormous options there from supporting agriculture to supporting solar panels. You can support education. You can support very specific groups. You can support refugees. You can support women. You can support older people. You can support health problems. So that I feel like is one that I've found as a good platform to go to, it's not a climate one. And as a journalist, I probably will not be endorsing any climate groups, because that's not something I should be doing anyway. But, yeah, I mean, charity is important, and we all can do a lot with our dollars and that's important.

Quinn:

Absolutely. We have this issue in the US where we don't tax people as long as they make a certain amount of money. So charity and issues and platforms like GoFundMe have become basically the health care system for better or worse, definitely worse. But there will always be a role for philanthropy and charity on whatever level. It doesn't need to be... a rough example right now, Bill Gates, but platforms like Kiva are really special because climate it is this global thing but it is so tangible and so a part of your everyday life whether you know it or not, and engaging with your local Lake like you talked about, or a heatsink parking lot that has no trees in a redline part of town in the US something like that. Or something like Kiva where you are directly working with people.

Quinn:

And like you said, you can pick any specific thing. There are a few better actions to get you moving than something was such a direct connection. I appreciate the recommendation. They've been around for forever. And I love what they've done. All right, last couple questions, and we'll get you out here. Akshat, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Akshat Rathi:

My editor who's joined here in London, Sharon Chen, she came from Beijing and she came during lockdown. So I actually didn't see her when she joined. She came in I think, September, October, and I only met her for the first time in April. But yeah, she's been an enormous help because... Editors are just wonderful people to have in life and having an editor in your timezone makes a big difference as a journalist who works across time zones, and has much of a steam based in the US.

Quinn:

Yeah, that's absolutely helpful. And that's something I'm so curious as we see this, like substack revolution rollout, and they're not a lot of editors involved. You're seeing the power of editors, for sure. Akshat, what's a book you've read in the past year that's opened your mind to something you hadn't considered before or it's changed your thinking in some way? We try to be pretty pragmatic about the beginner's mind, and all things like that.

Akshat Rathi:

Well, I'll give you two books that I read which are contradictory thesis. And they made me think quite a bit. One is called More From Less by Andrew McAfee and his thesis is Capitalism Will Solve This Problem. We have used the capitalistic system to be able to bring all these benefits to the world, we just need to push it harder, of course, while reining in the crony capitalism part. And then there's another book called Less is More by Jason Hickel, who was the opposite who says, "Degrowth is the way that economic growth is not going to solve this problem and here are the reasons why." And going through that debate was helpful to me. I ended up writing newsletter for each of those books in last year when I read them. I think it's a helpful exercise to go through. You may come on one side or the other but to know both sides is helpful.

Quinn:

And that's a very specific one to focus on for sure because, boy the conversation between growth and degrowth these days is pretty fraught. And it's not unlike crypto and energy use, for example. It's not pretty at times, but to me, that usually is a sign of a lack of open mindedness and a willingness to at least explore the other side's fundamental tenets.

Akshat Rathi:

Right. And I mean, my [crosstalk 01:13:04].

Quinn:

Not that you have to agree with them but...

Akshat Rathi:

Right. I mean, there was also some reason to do it, which is I'm currently writing a book, which will come out next year. The working title for it when I put in a proposal was called The Existential Economy. And it's a book about climate solutions and how you scale them. But when my book editor who read the proposal, and she came up with a different one, she said, "You should call it climate capitalism, because what you're really saying is, here are all the solutions that are working out and here are all the challenges within a framework that we are to overcome to let these solutions be their full potential. You are in this capitalistic system, but you're applying a climate lens to it." And I was like, "Wow, that's going to be controversial. I still like my existential economy neutral position but..." So I don't know which way we'll go by the time the book is out but it was one reason for me to get into this debate and really get my head around it as well.

Quinn:

Well, I appreciate as always your open mindedness about it all. Akshat, thank you for coming back for joining us especially on a Friday afternoon. I sincerely appreciate it. We link to your guys stuff and yours in particular, so often, and it is such a helpful education process. It is such a helpful perspective on how quickly things are changing. But on the other hand, how so much has not and needs to. So thank you for all the work that you folks are doing over there, for sure.

Akshat Rathi:

Thanks for having me and thanks for keeping up with this. It's an immensely helpful resource. And I'm really glad to be here.

Quinn:

For sure. Where can our listeners follow you online and follow your work?

Akshat Rathi:

So I have a Twitter which is @AkshatRathi. And if you are keen, you can sign up to my newsletter which comes out on Tuesdays through Bloomberg Green, which you can find both on bloomberg.com or on LinkedIn.

Quinn:

Awesome. And Bloomberg Green has this wonderful sidebar where you can just watch ppm go up, it's really great.

Akshat Rathi:

Or terrifying.

Quinn:

Or terrifying, yeah. You're going to react one of two ways depending on how the day is going. My man, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And yeah, we'll do it again soon because like you said, this is the work of our lifetimes. Thanks to our incredible guest today. And thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dishwashing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at Importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian:

And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @Importantnotimp. Just so weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at Important, Not Important. Pinterest and Tumblr the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast. Keep the lights on. Thanks. Please. And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, Importantnotmportant.com.

Quinn:

Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jam and music, to all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian:

Thanks, guys.