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Does anyone have ideas on how a mid-career software developer can switch gears into the clean energy/climate change industry, to do something to help?

I've come to think that climate change will be humanity's defining moment, and that we'll all be suffering greatly come mid-to-late-century. I want to do what I can to put my professional skills to use in helping. But I'm not sure where to even begin.




I co-founded a SaaS data startup ten years ago, focused on international development. Most of our work is currently climate mitigation related (water, agriculture, poverty reduction) but also used in sustainable energy, like tracking small scale biogas production. The whole international development field is a USD 130 Bn/year industry, and there may be another USD 100 Bn coming in climate mitigation/renewables. They have mostly really poor key indicator tracking, monitoring of projects etc.

Most of the work in none-industrialised countries have really poor data tracking systems, so that is where we thought we could make the biggest impact. But some of our tools are even starting to see traction in Europe.

There is plenty to do in this field. Unfortunately there is an uphill struggle even educating people that they need to use data to drive decisions, but it is happening. Happy to answer questions.


How did you contact customers, learn more about the field? Did you have prior experience in the field?


A couple of the co-founders worked in the sector already and had a broad network which we tapped into. I didn't have prior experience, but I did take a break before this and studied for a degree in environmental science, which is also how I found those co-founders. Went to a policy conference a few times which deals with water issues and was frustrated about how primitive the IT use was, expressed it during a Q&A session and met one of the co-founders as a result.


If in the US I'd suggest getting politically active. It will take long enough even according to the pessimistic models (assuming we don't hit some doomsday scenario like the clathrate gun) for things to actually get noticeably bad [1] that a lot of people will choose short term profit over long term fixing the climate.

That means that to seriously get things done soon is going to require government action, and that means politics.

Regardless of whether you lean to the left or the right, register as a Republican and participate in the Republican primaries or caucuses for your local, state, and national offices supporting those Republicans who acknowledge that climate change is a series problem and that the government needs to play an active role in slowing, stopping, or reversing it.

I say register as a Republican, even if you would normally be something more to the left, because right now the Democrats are much more likely to nominate candidates that acknowledge climate change and the need for strong government action. The Republicans do have some people who believe that, but they currently rarely get nominated.

What we need to see is general elections where it is both the Democrat and the Republican that are on the right side of climate change so that no matter which party wins the election we get a government that will do something about the problem.

[1] Generally what most places will see is that bad things that already happen there will very slowly happen a little more often, and get a little more bad. But in many places there will also be good things that start happening a little more often and get a little bit better. It will take a generation or two before these changes have become big enough and frequent enough in most places that it will really be noticeable to the people there that yup, their climate has changed.


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There is nothing deceptive about trying to take over a political party. It is in fact exactly how political parties work. The Tea Party accomplished a partial takeover of the GOP in 2010, and Bernie Sanders is working on the Democrats still.

Political parties belong to whoever tries the hardest to run them.


I envision DNA scientists be able to produce a much efficient plankton/ trees.

Trees are only 2-4% efficient at converting solar energy. What if we discovered the secret of chlorophyll and we're to be able to make trees 10x more efficient.

Trees that trap co2 and heat and give us hydrocarbon rich oil, hydrogen, water and oxygen.

Suppose we could improve tree efficiency 20x, those trees would also grow fast. We'd be able to control the thickness so we get lumber ready trees for building. The trees would possibly be with dark and make some sort of flat canopy trapping sunlight efficiently.

I have hope that we'll discover this secrets and a future generation will invent something ground breaking


So you are admitting that this is politically rather than scientifically driven?

Okay then.


Infiltration? Espionage? lol seriously? The Republicans shamelessly flaunt their positions and policies.

Dishonesty and deception? Again, lolwut. Parties are collections of people, they do not stand for specific ideas. Anyone that gets on the Republican membership list is, by definition, a Republican. Example A: Trump.

Signing up to a different party sounds exactly like what you're describing. Open the door to intellectual conversations with people from different social spheres, force confrontations between real person with real beliefs instead of strawmen.


I don't know how you expect me to take you seriously with "lolwut." But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt once.

> The Republicans shamelessly flaunt their positions and policies.

What is the point of this statement? Do you mean to say that Democrats don't do that? Or is it okay that they do, because you agree with them? In which case it's entirely hypocritical to say that, criticizing your opponents for doing exactly what you do, and a form of intellectual dishonesty.

> Dishonesty and deception? Again, lolwut. Parties are collections of people, they do not stand for specific ideas. Anyone that gets on the Republican membership list is, by definition, a Republican. Example A: Trump.

If I, as a citizen, register as a member of Party A, and vote in their primaries for candidates that lean toward my preferences--and then, come election time, go to the polls and vote for the candidate of Party B, as I intended to from the beginning--am I participating honestly in the political process? Or am I pretending to be a member of Party A so I can influence Party A to reduce the difference between the parties?

If a government sends an operative to another nation, to secretly work for another nation's government, and influence them to lean toward the policies they prefer, is that "getting on the membership list" of that "collection of people"? Is it honestly participating in the diplomatic process? Or is it infiltration, a form of espionage?

If a corporation sends an employee to get a job at a competitor and send back copies of plans for the competitor's competing products, is that merely "getting on the membership list" of that "collection of people" at that company? Or is it industrial espionage?

> Signing up to a different party sounds exactly like what you're describing. Open the door to intellectual conversations with people from different social spheres, force confrontations between real person with real beliefs instead of strawmen.

Either you misunderstand the point and we are talking past each other, or you are the one tearing down strawmen.


> If I, as a citizen, register as a member of Party A, and vote in their primaries for candidates that lean toward my preferences--and then, come election time, go to the polls and vote for the candidate of Party B, as I intended to from the beginning--am I participating honestly in the political process? Or am I pretending to be a member of Party A so I can influence Party A to reduce the difference between the parties?

Political parties do not exist in the governing structure of the U.S. As proof, I'll ask you to please go read the Constitution, then come back and point out the parts about political parties. No rush; I'll wait.

Back? Ok, so now hopefully you realize that in the U.S., we elect people, not parties. Partisan primaries, as elections funded by the government, should not even exist at all--they are a corruption of the system.

So hand-wringing about how people vote in primaries and interact with political parties is silly. Political parties can't be corrupted. There is nothing pure to preserve.


I'll see your condescending lesson on the Constitution and raise you a trip to the Capitol, where you'll see the very real, tangible divisions between the two major parties.

You seem to be confused about the argument. It's not about what should be, it's about what is.

> So hand-wringing about how people vote in primaries and interact with political parties is silly.

It's not silly, it's an observation about how the game of politics is changing with the change in the scale of our social interactions. It's so much easier to coordinate large groups of people to infiltrate and manipulate intra-party matters than it was a few decades ago.

That's exactly what the OP was advocating: not rational engagement with the members of a party, convincing them to adopt a better view, but pretending to be one of them so as to vote in their primaries, to deny them use of candidates which are most threatening to one's own political goals. It's like a Sybil attack on the political process.


> If I, as a citizen, register as a member of Party A, and vote in their primaries for candidates that lean toward my preferences--and then, come election time, go to the polls and vote for the candidate of Party B, as I intended to from the beginning--am I participating honestly in the political process? Or am I pretending to be a member of Party A so I can influence Party A to reduce the difference between the parties?

Seriously? There were many registered Republicans who voted in their primaries and then ended up voting for Hillary over Trump. Were they being dishonest? Or did they just look at the two options given and make the choice that they feel best reflects their values?


Did they fully intend to vote democrat before they voted in the republican primaries?

The key point here is that the description has someone voting in party A's primaries for the sole reason of limiting or altering the choice others get to make. "As I intended to do from the beginning" is a key part of the description.

You however are describing I think people voting in the primaries to try and get the candidate they want to vote for into power. When that fails they take a different approach.


> for the sole reason of limiting or altering the choice others get to make.

Isn't that the only reason to vote in a primary? The whole point of a primary election is to choose who becomes your party's official candidate on the ballot for the general election, and the only reason to do that is because it limits or alters the choice that voters get to make.

If John Doe is running, and I want him to win, and I only care about my choice, I'd skip the primary and vote for him in the general. If he doesn't make it onto the ballot, I could write him in. If I vote for John Doe in the primary, it's because I want to affect other voters.


I think there's a crucial distinction between a) participating in a party's primary as a member of that party, generally intending to support that party's candidate, and b) participating in a party's primary, pretending to be a member of that party while actually a member of the opposing party, and having no intention of voting for that party's candidate in the actual election. The latter is dishonest manipulation of the political process, tantamount to sabotage.


I tend to agree, but that's not the same as the bit I quoted. The problem is not that you are trying to affect what other people can or will choose (because that's the whole point of a primary), the problem is that you are subverting the intent of the process, which is to allow members of that particular group to collectively limit their own choices.


Thank you for actually understanding my point. :)


> What is the point of this statement?

I think he means that it's not spying or infiltration when the data is already there for everyone to see. It's about influence on one area that will affect the whole human species, not just one country, and people (esp politicians) are still very misinformed about the issue. It's about informing everyone, just the opposite of spying.

> am I participating honestly in the political process?

You make it sound bad, but it's a much better proposition than what it is actually happening: People don't discuss politics, they fight it. It's not treated as a complex set of opinions that have to be reasoned over, but as a sport teams [0].

Furthermore, the way the voting system is designed, there won't be true parties in a specific position, but they're always reduced to two catch-all options with a very wide and overlapping set of opinions among their members, basically resulting in everybody be unsatisfied with the result [1].

And the point of the parent is that, since politics are broken, one can contribute to work around it from within. In fact parties evolve this way. The party of Obama was white supremacist related to KKK, and the party of Trump was Lincoln's which freed the slaves of the south. That sounds backwards, doesn't it? It's as if politics wasn't made of two opposing opinions, but of hundreds. (edit: snowwrestler above said it better, parties are not elected, are not part of the constitution and there's nothing inherently wrong or dishonest in trying to change them from within)

Climate change is not inherently anti-republican or anti-capitalist. The debate is whether to believe it or not, and it is absurd because there is a lot of evidence that it is happening. Humans heavily relied on a stable climate for ~15,000 years to create civilization and still relies on it.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pS4x8hXQ5c

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo


> I think he means that it's not spying or infiltration when the data is already there for everyone to see.

You're not thinking clearly. It is infiltration because the person in question is pretending to be a member of Party A while actually being a supporter of Party B. The person is intending to deny members of Party A the ability to vote for the candidate of their choice in the actual election, forcing them to nominate a candidate that is closer to Party B's platform.

The scientific "data" you're talking about is completely beside the point.

> It's about influence on one area that will affect the whole human species, not just one country, and people (esp politicians) are still very misinformed about the issue. It's about informing everyone, just the opposite of spying.

Again, you're not thinking clearly. Informing people entails honestly discussing your views with them, presenting them with evidence and attempting to rationally convince them of the superiority of your position. In the context of a party primary, that could entail picketing with signs, having a non-violent protest outside, handing out pamphlets to those entering, etc. But that is not what the OP advocated. The OP effectively advocated abandoning that approach and instead opting to deceptively manipulate the political process, undermining the ability of others to honestly participate in it.

You seem to be letting your presuppositions cloud your judgment. You seem to be convinced that those who disagree with you are simply "still very misinformed," and so you're justified to "inform" them by whatever means necessary. (Apologies if this is mischaracterizing your view; please correct me.)

> You make it sound bad, but it's a much better proposition than what it is actually happening: People don't discuss politics, they fight it. It's not treated as a complex set of opinions that have to be reasoned over, but as a sport teams.

You seem to be missing my point. The OP is advocating exactly fighting over discussing. He's saying that, since enough people can't be convinced of his opinion, that those who agree with him should infiltrate the opposition's parties and deny them the use of candidates that disagree with him on this issue by voting down those candidates before they have a chance to be nominated. That's underhanded and dishonest, even a tactic used in espionage.

> Furthermore, the way the voting system is designed, there won't be true parties in a specific position, but they're always reduced to two catch-all options with a very wide and overlapping set of opinions among their members, basically resulting in everybody be unsatisfied with the result.

This is true. So what?

> And the point of the parent is that, since politics are broken, one can contribute to work around it from within.

There are two different ways to work "from within." See below.

> In fact parties evolve this way. The party of Obama was white supremacist related to KKK, and the party of Trump was Lincoln's which freed the slaves of the south. That sounds backwards, doesn't it?

No, it's not backwards, it's the historical reality. And, in fact, many people, including prominent blacks, consider the Democrats' policies to be against the black community's interests today. Of course, such people are derided as "Uncle Toms," rather than engaging seriously with their views.

> (edit: snowwrestler above said it better, parties are not elected, are not part of the constitution and there's nothing inherently wrong or dishonest in trying to change them from within)

Again, there are two ways to work from within. One is to recognize that a party is closest to your own political views, to join it, and then work to convince its members to advocate views closer to your own. Another way is to recognize that a party is closest to your own political views, join it, and then go to the opposing party's primaries, pretend to be one of them, and vote against candidates that are farthest from your own political views. This is the crux of the argument.

> Climate change is not inherently anti-republican or anti-capitalist. The debate is whether to believe it or not, and it is absurd because there is a lot of evidence that it is happening. Humans heavily relied on a stable climate for ~15,000 years to create civilization and still relies on it.

You seem to be missing the point. This thread is not about climate change. If you still think it is, that suggests that you're advocating an ends-justify-the-means approach, which is, again, the whole point: that one side is advocating participating dishonestly, because they think it's justified.


You're missing the point too. Your argument is that it's dishonest. Honesty is a moral concept, therefore subjective.

But we'll assume you're right and that such action is objectively dishonest. An ends-justify-the-means approach means there's good parts, bad parts and a price to pay. The price is eternal remorse for such action. Now let's see the good and bad parts:

Good:

- We get science and belief out of the political whims. Science is not a competition. Science exists to serve us all equally.

- People learn about the issues instead of believing baseless tweets.

Bad:

- We're making the candidate think they have chances to win presidency, displacing other candidates of the party... I guess? I can't really think of a negative side to this. Nobody's hurt in the process. We're not breaking any law. The party still has the same overall views.

And the price to pay is based on one's feeling, not on any real consequence or law. It's not ends-justify-the-means. It's just "wrong" because you feel like it is.

And everyday politics are already much more dishonest than this.


I'm afraid I don't follow your line of reasoning at all.

> You're missing the point too.

What I mean is, you're missing my point. Maybe I'm missing yours too, in which case we're talking past each other and should try to get on the same page.

> Your argument is that it's dishonest. Honesty is a moral concept, therefore subjective.

My argument is that the democratic process is built upon certain requirements of integrity or honesty. If these are undermined, the democratic process is undermined, and therefore the ability of the people to rule themselves is undermined.

My observation is that certain groups of people think that their undermining the democratic process is justified, because they think that their ends are worthy, and that their political opponents are unworthy of participating in the democratic process.

That, of course, is enormously arrogant, and dangerous to the long-term stability of the government. And by doing that, they endanger their own ability to participate in self-rule.

> An ends-justify-the-means approach means there's good parts, bad parts and a price to pay.

I think the "price to pay" includes "the bad parts." Of course, what belongs in which category is subjective.

> We get science and belief out of the political whims.

This is where I begin to not follow you. What do you mean? Everything we do is based on beliefs. Science is based on beliefs as well. Maybe by "beliefs" you mean "religion," in which case you should use that word.

> Science is not a competition.

Again, what do you mean by this? The scientific process is not a competition, but the practice of science in the world certainly involves competition at many levels.

> Science exists to serve us all equally.

Again, what do you mean by this? I think you are confounding ideals with reality. Science is essentially a method, a set of steps. It is up to the practitioner to apply it in a useful, ethical way.

> People learn about the issues instead of believing baseless tweets.

Again, not following you. By what means does this happen? This thread has been about (further) corrupting the political process by participating dishonestly. Are you saying that by doing that, people "learn about the issues instead of believing baseless tweets"?

> We're making the candidate think they have chances to win presidency, displacing other candidates of the party... I guess? I can't really think of a negative side to this. Nobody's hurt in the process. We're not breaking any law. The party still has the same overall views.

I'm rather floored by this. Do you actually not understand how corrupting the democratic process hurts everyone? You can't think of a negative side? There's not a law against it so it must be good? I feel like you're proving my observations correct...

> And the price to pay is based on one's feeling, not on any real consequence or law. It's not ends-justify-the-means. It's just "wrong" because you feel like it is.

I'm not sure if you're being facetious, casually dismissing my arguments as "feelings," or if you really believe that. If the former, you're being quite rude; if the latter, then I wonder if it's even possible for us to communicate, because you must be either unable or unwilling to comprehend what I'm saying. Unfortunately, it does not seem uncommon for those on the political left to dismiss their opponents arguments so casually.

But if you are here for honest, rational discussion, then I look forward to your reply.


> If these are undermined, the democratic process is undermined

Assuming it's being undermined, I need an explanation of how.

> and that their political opponents are unworthy of participating in the democratic process

When was ever suggested the opponents are unworthy of participating? They will hear the fight for climate change and they can react appropriately. Either joining the cause or explaining why it shouldn't be joined. The kind of dialog the political system needs.

> Science is based on beliefs as well.

Last I checked, it was based on proofs and data.

Belief may be a catalyst to start the process and elaborate a hypothesis, but just that. If one gets stuck on belief, it's not science.

> Maybe by "beliefs" you mean "religion," in which case you should use that word.

I mean beliefs, like climate change being a hoax. That's not a conclusion of any study. That's a lie someone made up for political gain.

> The scientific process is not a competition,

That's what I mean. People don't decide what's the truth. Or at least they shouldn't, because the truth doesn't change when you change your beliefs.

There may be competitions against teams for a specific goal. But science is inherently non partisan, and the goal benefits us all.

> It is up to the practitioner to apply it in a useful, ethical way.

And what is unethical about preparing for a likely event that affects us all? What is ethical about preventing it?

> Again, not following you. By what means does this happen?

People believing Trump when he said climate change is a hoax.

> Do you actually not understand how corrupting the democratic process hurts everyone?

We have different meanings for "corruption". In my definition, it involves favoring a candidate for hidden interests. HIDDEN interests. Because the people wouldn't approve. Dishonesty. But if I go and tell everyone what I think about climate change, how is that dishonesty? How is that lying?

You see my point? Yes, I do agree honesty is important. But also subjective and I don't think this would be remotely dishonest.

And then you dare to talk about corruption, which caused this very issue we want to solve!

> casually dismissing my arguments as "feelings,"

Because it's a subjective interpretation. Dishonesty implies lying. And it would be a "lie" that offsets actual damaging lies wildly spreading around.

In any case, assuming it's unethical, we might be facing a dilemma, where we have to choose to deviate a train to kill one person (a very bad one and condemned to death, but a person after all), or not to touch the lever and kill 100 innocent people.

I think you're doing the latter by inaction, and condemning the former because it's unethical.

Vote is secret for a reason.


There is an interesting set of choices to make if you switch gears. You can work to reduce impact, reduce existing, or survive change.

If you want to focus reducing impact then for CO2 there are many sources for it in developing nations. The US EPA (quick, archive it before it goes away!) lists these for the US[1]; Electricity (35%), Transportation (32%), Industry (15%), Residential & Commercial (10%), and others at 7%. Any endeavor which is cutting into transportation or electricity generation specifically will be most impactful but there are places like better LED lighting for business (reduce commercial electricity consumption). Pretty well plowed but they can always use the help.

To act on reducing the existing gas levels perhaps the best place will be sequestration exercises. Generally it helps to have a Chemistry background here because many of the sequestration techniques consist of converting CO2 vapor into something that holds on to the Carbon. There are more mechanical solutions (pumping gas into mines) and there are biological solutions (growing plants rapidly and then burying them) as well. From a software perspective I would imagine the biggest use would be control systems software as these are essentially industrial processes that folks are trying to automate.

Finally if you're looking at living with it, then there things like modelling immersion maps for the coastal areas and helping cities plan to migrate to higher land. There are efforts to design more weather tolerant living structures to survive larger and more sustained weather events, and storage and recycling systems to maximize the use of local resources which may become scarce in a different climate.

[1] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases#c...


Interesting. Do you think there is a role for tech in things like preventing further deforestation of existing natural environment?


Directly or indirectly? There are groups that use satellite data to analyze deforestation and identify countries that are not living up to treaty obligations, or within those countries identifying illegal deforestation activity[1]. However I suspect the 'tech' side of this is much less manpower intensive than the 'enforcement' side of this.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2015/04/using-smart-satellites-to-moni...


Hello, please read up on Advanced Silicate Weathering, it is a feasible carbon sequestration technique. It is probably the best option that we have to get the carbon cycle back under control.

http://www.greensand.nl/content/user/1/files/rog20004.pdf

The idea is you crush and spread silicate rock dust, it produces cations and goes into the ocean, and then reacts with and absorbs carbon from the atmosphere to produce a carbonate mineral that fertilizes ocean life and de-acidifies the oceans.

Requires crushing hundreds of cubic km of rock per year, and spreading the product in damp jungle climates and coastlines.


I published "A Biohacker's Guide to Climate Change" with you in mind: http://titojankowski.com/a-biohackers-guide-to-climate-chang... (First draft, would love to know what to add)

I was curious about climate change. To start I cut out all the noise. I looked for things I could see, touch, and plug into. Put those tech skills to work! There are plenty of opportunities, where you have the most value is bringing your expertise to bear. Email me: tito@impossiblelabs.io



This is a good link. I particularly liked the ending paragraph about motivation - I think it's all network effect. If my friends and people I look upto were working on environmental engineering then maybe I too would jump into it. Unfortunately, none of my peers work in that area hence I spend time thinking about new buzzwords and technologies instead.


Your question inspired a blog post! Climate Change 2.0, How to Hack Your Way In To The Climate Change Revolution http://titojankowski.com/climate-change-2-0-how-to-hack-your...

If you find this topic interesting, join the Google group Climate Change 2.0: A Call to Adventure https://groups.google.com/forum/?nomobile=true#!forum/climat...


> How to Hack Your Way In To The Climate Change Revolution

This is just a list of (mostly) ill-informed questions rather than "Thought-Provoking Climate Change 2.0 Ideas", and certainly don't answer acabal's question, or the address title of the post.


Thanks for the feedback! You're totally right it could be better with more relevant ideas and especially a connection to programming opportunities would be cool. Any ideas or thoughts that you'd add to a revision to be more relevant? It's a work in progress!


You might want to work on a way to make a convincing argument to the general public. Because the echo chamber here notwithstanding, where I live nobody really believes there is a climate problem, or at best they give it lip service while they drive their new Escalade to Starbucks for a $5 cup of coffee.

I think that in reality we will not see people changing behaviors unless and until there are real observable climate changes that are affecting their lives. And even then I have my doubts.


I don't think complaining about people buying $5 cups of coffee at Starbucks is helpful for making a convincing argument. When you make statements like that, you give people the impression that your true motive is to attack capitalism and that raising environmental concerns are simply an underhanded tactic to do so. I understand your point about driving, but the brand of coffee and the cost is irrelevant and complaining about it is counterproductive.

There's no reason we can't address climate change and have $5 cups of coffee at Starbucks (although I prefer $2 cups of coffee at Dunkin Donuts).


I think it's the driving is the bigger problem (Starbucks exists in many walkable countries too).

But yeah, you're right, highlighting the Starbucks is a bad plan here.

Highlighting all the ways in which being good for the environment is good for business is definitely a plus.


For the Conservative crowd, we need to characterize renewable energy as energy independence.


And carbon taxes as reducing regulation.


Carbon taxes are also cutting subsidies.

Given the external costs, big users are being subsidised by everyone else.


Also, war is peace, ignorance is strength, and freedom is slavery.

Good luck with that.


How are you going to spin that?


It's a strategic regulation that replaces multiple tactical regulations. Therefore, carbon tax leads to fewer regulations.


Which regulations does it replace?


Cap and trade, in California, at least. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckdevore/2017/03/02/californ...


Depending on how far it's taken, the carbon tax could replace every other regulation of carbon-based green house gas emissions.

However, our contemporary Republican part uses "anti-regulations" as code for "anti-government, anti-law enforcement", so I doubt carbon tax will get any play.


There is a nice essay about that, by Bret Victor: http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange/


You could pick a solution area you feel attracted to from the Drawdown book (http://www.drawdown.org) and see how you can contribute. The Drawdown team has spent several years computing and ranking the impact of over 100 solution areas that can combine to reduce CO2 while also providing other benefits (so called no-regret solutions)

You may find that high impact solutions are in areas you may not be thinking about but that energize you, like the fact that educating girls beats out rooftop solar power (which is also a very high ranking solution).


Nice, I've been looking for something like this!

Do you happen to know what this kind of work is called? I'd like to find more from other fields and distribute them at my local college.


Stay where you are, command a higher salary, donate to environmental causes.


Use your intelligence to get a degree / study in the relevant earth science fields along with physical engineering study. Work towards geoengineering. Full control of all the earth's natural systems (climate, evolution, aging, lifetime of the sun...) is humanity's destiny, best get working on what we can now.

Of course political activism is available, but the question then is where to push on that front. Enough people are working on awareness, probably not enough are working on amending the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity and London's Convention on Dumping of Wastes at Sea to allow and encourage geoengineering on an international scale in the first place. Something as simple as dumping lots of iron in the ocean ("iron fertilization") could be all we need to do in the short term, but there's a lot of resistance to it. If I were interested in this path I'd focus on removing that resistance politically and/or scientifically.


> Does anyone have ideas on how a mid-career software developer can switch gears into the clean energy/climate change industry, to do something to help?

I'm in it right now. The best thing to do right now is to exert as much political pressure, because half the workplaces you're thinking of joining are in the current administration's crosshairs.


Computers use a lot of energy (that 1000 watt power supply). Consider choosing more environmentally friendly options. Use a lower level language like c instead of python or JavaScript for a program that will be run by many people and machines. An order of magnitude or two of energy savings is possible. Use and build command line interfaces instead of conversational interfaces. Google recently said as to why they built TPUs, "If we considered a scenario where people use Google voice search for just three minutes a day and we ran deep neural nets for our speech recognition system on the processing units we were using, we would have had to double the number of Google data centers!". Avoid that shiny new framework that makes older laptop fans run at full blast. Just because you don't see the smoke doesn't mean that your programs aren't burning a ton of fossil fuels.


Actually, software engineering does affect climate. By choosing slower but high-level languages and abstract/generic code over optimized/low-level code, the servers and datacenters consume more energy(cooling, electricity, the amount of servers used) creating a greater fossil fuel demand. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/global-warming-data...


> Does anyone have ideas on how a mid-career software developer can switch gears into the clean energy/climate change industry, to do something to help

It's easy.

- Stop flying.

- Eat less meat.

- Buy less stuff.

- Use less energy.


This is not a personal responsibility problem, it's a societal priority problem.

Living "virtuously" only changes your own impact. We need to change impact globally.

We need to make jets that run on biofuels or synthetic fuels. We need to change our energy systems to be carbon neutral. We need to help the developing start using carbon neutral technologies directly, without going through a fossil fuel phase.

These are the things that will stop climate change. Changing one's own impact does very little.


We need to make jets that run on biofuels or synthetic fuels.

That's an issue of sustainability, not climate change. Those subjects are related but not interchangeable. I don't have the latest data, but I do recall various biofuels having a greater carbon impact than various fossil fuels a few years ago. If the situation has changed, great. But we need to remember that sustainable resources and climate friendly resources are not necessarily the same thing.


be the change you want to see in the world


Yah that doesn't work.

What works is "force others to change".

We're not going to solve global warming without forcing everyone to change. It's not a personal problem, and in fact, you can have small-scale cases of large carbon footprint.

It's not a problem if Leonardo DiCaprio is flying a private jet. It's only a problem if a lot of people are flying private jets.


Everyone could fly private jets if we had a carbon neutral cycle to manufacture and fuel them.


The reason that works is that it shows others what is possible and what it is like, eventually converting others around you.

In the case of climate change, austerity living may actually be counterproductive towards convincing others.

The change we need in the world is both technology and attitude.


If austerity means living a miserable life, you have a point. But it is also possible to lower our environmental impact AND life a more happy life, because consuming does not actually makes us happy, while spending less can give us more resources (time and money) for doing meaningful things of our lives.


I was surprised by "stop flying" so I ran a calculator [0], not the most authoritative-looking thing in the world but it's trying to sell me offset credits, so if anything it's an overestimate.

Using 160kwh/month from PG&E for my 600sqft apartment, driving 12 miles/weekday on a mix of compact hatchback and small-displacement motorcycle, and flying round-trip across the country roughly once a year, I apparently have a carbon footprint of 1.59 metric tons.

That's less than 8% the US average, and below the long-term worldwide target of 2 metric tons.

That single trip home for Christmas has more carbon impact (0.63 metric tons) than an entire year of motorcycle commuting (0.49 metric tons)!

I'm also making no deliberate sacrifices or trying at all to live a low-carbon-emissions lifestyle, it just kind of happens by default when you're living in the Bay Area (small dwellings, low HVAC requirements, short drives because the freeway is even worse than public transit for long distances, etc). So... put "live in or near a big city" on that list?

[0] http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=8


I got involved with this bi-partisan group. I would like to do even more, but this was a good start for me. http://citizensclimatelobby.org/


Apply for software jobs in companies working on that stuff eg. Solar City / Tesla?




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