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'Speed & Scale' has climate action tips for all

Companies, individuals and governments should work together to combat the global climate crisis, according to 'Speed & Scale' co-author Ryan Panchadsaram.

Now's the time to move from talking about global climate change to taking action -- and everyone has a role.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius -- or, at the outside, 2 degrees Celsius -- is critical to tackling the worst impacts of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations' group of climate scientists. Climate change is an urgent emergency that needs a collective response, and tackling such a vast goal requires all sectors of society to get involved.

"The climate crisis is a systems change problem," said Ryan Panchadsaram during a session at the inaugural MIT Technology Review ClimateTech conference. "It's a societal-level problem of that magnitude." Panchadsaram is advisor to John Doerr at Kleiner Perkins, a venture capital firm headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., and co-author with Doerr on Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis.

Solving the climate crisis requires everyone -- including IT leaders -- to get involved. Here's a look at how businesses, citizens and governments can help stop global warming.

How businesses and investors can help

One of Speed & Scale's action tips is that solving the climate crisis requires participation from all sectors of society, including businesses -- large and small -- and investors.

"We need to take every chance that we can, every single approach," Panchadsaram said. "It's quite OK right now to invest in multiple ways to tackle this problem."

I have a deep optimism that we have all the tools that we need to cut emissions in half by 2030.
Ryan PanchadsaramTechnical advisor, Kleiner Perkins

That means the world needs climate change solutions that help to decarbonize energy, transportation and food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to name just a few areas, he said.

"I have a deep optimism that we have all the tools that we need to cut emissions in half by 2030," Panchadsaram said.

CIOs also have an important role in driving sustainability and can view themselves, their teams and their choices as tools of positive change.

One powerful tool IT leaders have at their disposal is their technology budgets. They can opt for vendors that follow specific environmental, social and governance strategies or prioritize decarbonization. They can also work to support greener IT practices and use technology to support organizational sustainability goals.

How citizens can help

Everyone -- including IT leaders and teams -- can prioritize climate action outside the office.

Although technology plays a vital role in addressing climate change, many essential actions don't require technology, but rather better choices. There are climate-friendlier alternatives that we can choose to take.

Other critical actions IT leaders can take outside the office include voting for government officials who want to limit fossil fuel use and to shop at businesses that pledge net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the action plan poster that accompanies Speed & Scale. Supporting legislation to replace gas and coal plants with clean energy; reducing beef, lamb and cheese consumption; and composting food scraps are other ways to reduce GHG emissions.

"[In the book], we talk about carbon removal; we talk about all these new great things that we can do. But … we [also] talk about all the innovative things we can do that don't require technology," Panchadsaram said.

graphic about how to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050

How governments are helping

Legislation is key in the fight against climate change, and governments across the globe are crucial drivers of environmental sustainability efforts.

"The bipartisan infrastructure law set a foundation, the CHIPS [Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors] Act unlocked research and development and then IRA [Inflation Reduction Act] was trying to tap into market forces," Panchadsaram said. "It's a lot of carrots with very few sticks in it."

These laws share common ground. The bipartisan infrastructure law will provide road repair, improve public transit options and Amtrak, and invest in electric vehicle chargers and weatherization, among other climate-friendly tasks. The CHIPS and Science Act could funnel more than $67 billion of its funding toward developing zero-carbon industries and conducting climate research. Finally, with $385 billion in funding for clean energy production, the IRA addresses additional climate risks over the next decade.

IT leaders should monitor legislative developments for how these affect their departments and understand the opportunities they provide.

Although Panchadsaram didn't call out IT teams specifically, his general comments about the relationship between governmental action and technologists' sustainability opportunities are applicable here.

"Policy and innovation go hand in hand," Panchadsaram said. "Everything is interconnected."

Guilliean Pacheco is an associate site editor covering CIO strategy, digital transformation and sustainability. Before joining TechTarget, she was a freelance writer and copy editor.

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