The natural state of the Irish people I grew up with is that things were always bad but it would still be grand, a deep rooted cultural contradiction of constant flipflopping between dread and optimism. Then last year happened. I read six books on the climate crisis with “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells being particularly terrifying. I listened to dozens of climate change podcasts. I had long conversations with people responsible for hardening the sea defenses for New York City. My innate optimism started to fall away, and all that was left was the dread. I turned to dystopian fiction and reread Vonnegut and Heller. I started taking Musk’s bell-ringing of a Mad Max future seriously and even looked at some survivalist forums (they are WILD). Deeper and deeper, I felt, well, things are bad but this time it won’t be grand.
It was a temporary state. Maybe things COULD be grand. Saul Griffith appeared on Ezra Klein’s podcast and spoke of a future of existing tech saving us from climate disaster. He spoke a language I understood, the language of innovation, and the power of organizations to change the world. I best understand organizations arranged in the shape of startups, but there are many types of organizations that are greater than the sum of their parts and can solve real issues. As long as humans can build such organizations, we have a shot. But we need organizations whose goals have real impact and not the existing goal many have of carbon neutrality.
Carbon neutrality is the great kabuki theatre of the climate crisis. Governments and Fortune 500 companies move around carbon on their books like a tax shelter accountant, all while the world starts to burn. It functions as a marketing gimmick and a way for managers and policymakers to avoid making tough decisions. If the whole world became carbon neutral today, we would still need to pull around 900 Gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere to get back to pre-industrial levels. Trying to achieve carbon neutrality means we admit failure before we even start. We need to go further.
The world economy must become carbon negative as soon as possible; therefore, we must start, on net, reducing the CO2 currently in the atmosphere. A carbon negative economy in the coming decades means that we not only stop the worst-case scenarios, but we may also have the chance to build a bloody brilliant world together. But, the world economy is not a charity, and so there must be strong financial incentives for there to be any chance of achieving carbon negativity.
Carbotnic is a site about the new carbon-negative economy. There are currently hundreds of companies small and big who are building real businesses in a way that are right now or will someday be net carbon negative. I and a team of writers, entrepreneurs and policy makers will write about them, interview their leaders, and try and zero in where their business models make sense and can have a serious impact on decarbonizing the world economy.
We hope this site has a natural shelf-life, that it can be shuttered the year that the CO2 in the air start to decline, until then, we will do our best to make a bloody brilliant world together.