I wrote Decarbonize the World as a matter of life or death. This may sound dramatic, but it is the truth. The future of the human race is at stake. And we need to take action now.
Climate change is arguably the most pressing issue currently facing humanity. Moreover, we are only at the beginning of how bad the situation can get. As the climate continues to change, it will likely trigger feedback loops. This can cause devastating damage.
The dangers of climate change.
One of the most dangerous examples is the melting of the permafrost. As global temperatures have risen, the tundra’s permafrost has begun to melt. Trapped within that permafrost is methane. As the permafrost melts, methane is released into the atmosphere. Methane is one of the greenhouse gasses which has the greatest impact on the climate. It is 34 times more powerful than CO2. So, when it is released into the atmosphere, it contributes to the rising global temperature. This, in turn, causes more permafrost to melt. Therefore, releasing more methane results in an exponential feedback loop that scientists believe will become irreversible.
This is just one example of the catastrophic feedback loops that will occur if climate change continues unchecked. And, while Planet Earth will survive the severe effects of this change—an increase in the superstorms, floods, droughts, wildfires, fatal heat, and deadly cold we are already seeing—the fate of human beings on this planet is less certain. If nothing changes, it is only a matter of time before large portions of the planet are uninhabitable.
Why hasn’t anyone done anything yet?
If the situation is this dire, why hasn’t anyone done anything? I am not alone in saying this. I am not the only one ringing this alarm bell. But, as of now, nobody has figured out a way to effectively implement a system that will stem greenhouse gas emissions enough to curb the momentum of the climate crisis barreling toward us.
There have been many efforts, to be sure. World leaders have gathered at summits. They developed protocols and agreements aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Individual governments have attempted to pass mandates and legislation. Companies have pledged to go carbon neutral. But, none of this has been wholly successful.
Combating climate change.
It isn’t just a matter of everyone just adjusting their individual behavior either. We unintentionally conducted a massive global experiment to test whether a large-scale change in individual behavior would affect anything. In 2020, most of the world went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We stopped driving, flying, and taking buses and trains. Many thought, that with the lockdown across the globe, greenhouse gas emissions would fall.
Unfortunately, the opposite proved true. According to the Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, carbon monoxide and methane emissions surged in 2020—and the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere is higher now than it has been at any time in the past 3.6 million years.
Despite all our efforts, we have not managed to find a way to combat climate change that everyone can get behind. But, that is about to change. This is why I wrote Decarbonize the World: to introduce an actionable solution and model for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint. Thereby preserving our planet and our ability to survive—all while benefiting businesses and the economy.
How? By harnessing the positive market forces of competitive advantage.
The positive market forces of competitive advantage.
Consumers today want to know more and more about the products they are purchasing. They can find out what a product contains, where it was made, even whether it’s organic, relatively easily. But, until now, there was one thing they could not learn: the accurate carbon footprint of the product.
Imagine a methodology that simplifies the complex sciences and protocols developed to measure greenhouse gas emissions by converting those measurements into a universal, simple-to-understand indexing system. Envision an easy-to-understand attribute, based on science and mathematics, by which consumers and buyers of products can evaluate a product’s carbon footprint prior to purchase. Picture a certified label, placed on the packaging of all products, designed to identify the value of a product’s relationship to carbon neutrality. Visualize consumers being able to look at this label and immediately know how close to carbon-neutral a product truly is. From its manufacture through to its arrival on the shelf. An easy-to-read label, like looking at the nutrition label on a box of Cheerios to learn the ingredients and nutritional facts.
Think of how we could use this mechanism to channel the positive market forces of competitive advantage to reduce greenhouse gasses. These forces already favor environmental responsibility. The green movement is growing, in this country and worldwide. Consider the competitive advantage a certified carbon neutral product would have, as consumers have the option to purchase products that are proven to be better for the environment. Imagine how that will spur companies and manufacturers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. How that in turn will increase demand for renewable energy infrastructure, thus saving businesses money on energy costs. If you think about it, if we can implement this in the United States, it will soon spread across the globe. Manufacturers around the world would have to lower their carbon footprints in order to remain competitive.
Now, stop fantasizing: that mechanism is here! In Decarbonize the World, I discuss ICEMAN—International Carbon Equivalent Attributed to Neutrality. It is an innovative method that applies established science and mathematics to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions of any product and translate that measurement into a simple attribute that consumers can understand at a glance. Additionally, if it is adopted, it can help us stop the climate crisis in its tracks.
I wrote Decarbonize the World because the situation is dire—and also because I believe there is hope. Because I believe the future is bright. Because I believe a simple idea, like ICEMAN, can save the world.
Joshua Dean, “Methane, Climate Change, and Our Uncertain Future,” EOS, May 11, 2018, https://eos.org/editors-vox/methane-climate-change-and-our-uncertain-future
NOAA Research, “Despite Pandemic Shutdowns, Carbon Dioxide and Methane Surged in 2020,” April 7, 2021, https://research.noaa.gov/article/ArtMID/587/ArticleID/2742/Despite-pandemic-shutdowns-carbon-dioxide-and-methane-surged-in-2020