November 13th, 2018


Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Co-Director at the Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford

CEO, Energy Innovation

Director, California Governor's Office of Planning and Research; Climate Advisor to Governor Newsom


Stabilizing our climate is going to take some hard truths – and hard numbers. “If you look at 1.5 degrees, it's about 13 years,” says Stanford’s Arun Majumdar. “If you look at 2 degrees, it’s 20 years.  And after that, it’s zero.”

Meaning: zero time left to solve our planet’s climate problem. But there are ways to turn that zero into a plus – if we act fast enough.

“We need to start thinking about carbon removal now,” says Kate Gordon of the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy. “We can't wait for the second half of the century to start doing the research and development, and getting this to scale and figuring out the technology and stopping deforestation - because these things have got to be part of the current solution.”

One way to fight back? With the power of zero: a zero emissions electric grid, zero emission transportation, zero emission buildings and zero waste manufacturing. Getting to zero in those four areas could be the climate solution – if we can all get on the same page.

“While the problem is inherently global, the impacts are extraordinarily local,” Gordon points out. California is experiencing ever-more-destructive wildfires, followed by downpours that bring mudslides. Southern states are inundated with superstorms and flooding; the Pacific Northwest is seeing ocean acidification, and island nations are in danger of disappearing. 

“So it’s very, very local,” Gordon continues.  “So what it’s gonna take? It’s gonna take shifting this to become a global economic crisis that builds on all of the local impacts and builds them up into something shared.”

Related Links:

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy (Hal Harvey)

Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy