What Einstein Might Say After People’s Climate March


Today was the People’s Climate March in NYC. Initial estimates show that 400,000 people descended upon Manhattan just preceding the 2014 U.N. General Assembly (and about 1 million worldwide).

The organizers of the march who want change picked an opportune time to get the message out.

But as I paraded along with others, I was reminded of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We have been doing the same thing over and over. And, I hope that after this march, we do things a bit differently to affect climate change.

To put it bluntly, we are creating awareness. But, we are not implementing the proven technologies we have to not only drive change, but also drive the economy.

Here’s why. First a fact: since 1999, the price of transportation fuel has gone up by 250%, electricity is up 50%, and even natural gas is up by 75%.

What’s amazing is that much of what we created after the oil crisis of the 1970s to stave off our reliance on fossil fuels is not optimized. In fact, not close. So, even if a person is not for climate change, most would want their gasoline and energy bills reduced.

New technologies were created to provide us with alternatives so we could diversify away from oil, coal, and natural gas. Amazingly, our R&D efforts succeeded and no one noticed.

Here is what we have that we are not fully using:

- We have the technologies to reduce transportation fuel demand by 10% that would drop oil prices by 50% (a good reference right now is the recently released movie, “PUMP” playing at a theater near you).

- We have the technology to reduce the electricity usage in commercial buildings by 20% without doing any deep energy efficiency retrofits just by using “big data” to operate buildings properly.

- Citibank, Deutsche Bank, and others have confirmed that renewable energy technologies represent the cheapest alternatives to replace the 70,000MW of coal plants that we are shutting down in the USA.

- We also have the technology and the infrastructure to convert most of our heavy trucks and fleet vehicles to natural gas or ethane with an average fuel price of less than $1.60/diesel gallon equivalent.

And, we still have a worldwide challenge to solve climate change, freshwater shortages, health care costs from burning fossil fuels, and a shortage of good paying blue-collar work. Deploying existing profitable technology is about a $1 trillion opportunity in the USA and $10 trillion globally by 2020.

What to do after the march? Deploy 1 million people to sell $100 million of EXISTING climate change solutions

Starting today, we need the 1,000,000 marchers to convince their friends to implement $10,000,000 in climate change solutions in their backyard. We need to disintermediate big business. It has been done in tech, and it can be done in energy as well.

This will help 100,000 companies sell $100 million worth of solutions by 2020. The result: a new global $10 trillion economy and a more sustainable world. We have named this the “100-100 New Economy Plan.” The question: “Is this 100-100 New Economy Plan possible?”

There is reason to believe it is. For starters, we already have a head start.

The Math

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that we are already on track to reach more than $4 trillion invested into climate change solutions by 2020. That means that the 100,000 companies are already at work, on track to sell $40 million each by 2020. Most of these companies are selling renewable electricity solutions like wind and solar.

But with proven technologies not yet deployed, it looks like we have a huge upside to actually scale up many solutions around the world. Areas where technologies are not yet deployed include the following:

  • cogeneration
  • local food
  • small hydro
  • energy efficiency
  • alternative fuels for vehicles
  • water pressure capture
  • industrial efficiency
  • livestock intensification
  • energy access, and more

So each of our 1,000,000 reinvigorated advocates should pledge to convince their friends to deploy $1,000,000 of climate change solutions each year. As a reference, a 1 million-dollar project is the equivalent of one Walmart going solar, or an average sized school district installing geothermal heat pumps, or a town shifting 10,000 streetlights to LED, changing 50 gas-guzzling taxis to electric cars, or 100 neighbors saving money through energy efficiency.

The bottom line is that we have to make the 100-100 New Economy Plan our focus and our work. It can create a new economy, plus have the side effect staving off the worst impacts of climate change to stay below a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. That’s a pretty good side effect.

I am no Einstein, but I am not insane. So, I am hanging up my marching shoes and providing a lot of friends with enticing offers to invest in lowering their energy bills for good, driving the local economy, and the side effect is that we will make real dent in staving off climate change.

[Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

This post appeared on the LinkedIn Influencer page of Jigar Shah on September 22nd, 2014 and can be viewed there by clicking here.
Jigar Shah is founder of SunEdison, the largest solar services company, and was the first CEO of the Carbon War Room (CWR), where he is a board member today. CWR is a nonprofit that harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change and create a post-carbon economy. As chief executive of Jigar Shah Consulting, he works with global organizations on business solutions to solve climate change. He is the author of Creating Climate Wealth (ICOSA 2013).