The next book: Decarbonizing by 2050: How do we innovate our way there?
Sustainable Business
Michael Lenox gives Tate Moeller a preview of his next book and what we can expect.
Tate Moeller (00:10):
What we can expect with your new book?
Michael Lenox (00:26):
The climate scientists tell us that to keep global warming to two degrees or less will require us to decarbonize the global economy by around 2050. We have a stock of greenhouse gases and we’re kind of working through that stock. And once we do, it’s going to be very hard to keep warming below two degrees. That’s a very tough lift if you really think about what that means. What we do in the book is we look at the six major sectors that are greenhouse gas emitters, and we go through them individually and talk about the degree to which we see disruption taking place. Using this kind of language and the economics of disruption as a benchmark, we try to understand those industries, and try to make predictions of the likelihood that we can achieve that. The industry I’m probably the most optimistic on is transportation, particularly automobiles that the electrification of automobiles. It’s not unbelievable to think that we could actually get a transition to a purely electric transportation world. Again, policy is going to play a role. That’s no guarantee, but there’s a good trend trend line. Renewable energy is another sector, specifically, electrical generation. Again, there’s some positive headwinds there that should give us some hope, but again, it’s going to take a concerted effort and policy is going to play a role. Again, we then begin to get into some areas that are tougher. I mention agriculture. It’s about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world – a significant generator. It’s challenging because there are literally millions of farms out there. We’re talking about changes in technology and behavior on a very distributed sense. Another sector we dive into is industrials in particular things like steel and cement. These are the backbones to our industrial world and they are greenhouse gas emitters. In some cases there are some technologies that could help us decarbonize. In others, there’s nothing at least right now that seems to be economically viable that would lead to that transition. Our main message is that we have to think about transitions – transitions to new sustainable technologies. And we have to think about the path to that and the timing of that, because the timing is quite short when you really start to think about it. Our hope is to just suggest a wide number of both public and private that can try to help generate and drive these transitions in these various sectors. They’re going to need to make modifications if we’re going to take the 2050 goal seriously.
Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Moeller is the Director of Sustainability Solutions at Minneapolis-based 2DegreesCooler™.


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