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Decrement carbon: Stripe's negative emissions commitment (stripe.com)
569 points by mhoad on Aug 15, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 205 comments

It's a small step in the grand scheme of things... But it's a huge step (and commitment) coming from a single company.

I can honestly say that no company the size of Stripe has even come close to being this "cool" (in a good way, not in a superficial sense) on so many things: company culture, remote-ok, perks, and now environment. At least from my point of view.

Kudos. Lots of kudos. Keep the good work, guys.

As a side note: I personally think that the way we look at environment and impact is plainly wrong. E.g. it is much more effective to plant trees (called "afforestation") rather than sequester CO2. Here's some old but decent sources [0], [1]. Can't find a proper source, but afforestation, when done together with habitat restoration, can be even cheaper than these numbers, when done in certain areas of Africa, South America and Central Asia.

If Stripe wants to go the proverbial extra mile, it should consider "educating" people on the subject AND take consequent action, as opposed to "just" taking action following conventional wisdom.

[0]: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40562.pdf

[1]: https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr888.pdf (afforestation "price" starting at ~$50/ton)

To your sequestration comment.

No one is saying don't plant trees. Fuck yeah, plant all the trees! But that won't wont be enough. Sequestration will get better, but one of the big things it helps with is locality. CO2 isn't homogenously spread across the globe. It also doesn't spread very well. Concentrations vary drastically over the year and so do plants' ability to capture carbon. Carbon can build up in certain regions. Worse, it can pool where we can't grow trees [0]. Places where we can't get enough water to introduce new populations of trees (without significant carbon costs, defeating the purpose. Also the local ecosystem) Cities. The Arctic. The ocean. I'm all for planting trees (even beyond CO2, I just feel better around trees) but people need to stop making the trees vs sequestration argument. It's trees + sequestration (air and ocean) + promoting corral development + more. (This same argument applies to a lot of things, especially in climate. It's not a "this vs that" argument, it's "this PLUS that".

[0] https://youtu.be/x1SgmFa0r04

Sequestration is also good for catching carbon at potential emission sources; it's easier to grab CO2 out of the atmosphere at the point where you're burning methane than to let it out in the atmosphere and then try to catch it again.

(Or, in some interesting experiments, even before emission; there's work on splitting methane from natural gas into carbon and hydrogen and just burning the hydrogen. Gets you something like 66% of the energy of burning the methane completely, and with no CO2 emissions.)

Re: your second point, splitting methane into H2 and CO2 is not something that's being investigated at lab scale, it's how 95% of global hydrogen production today is done. We're talking close to a trillion cubic meters per year from steam methane reforming.

It's just that most of the time, resulting CO2 is just released instead of being stored. But that is changing, fast.

I was specifically referring to pyrolysis, where unlike steam reforming no oxygen is introduced and so the carbon comes out as solid graphite. Scaling the process, and running it in a continuous-operation reactor, is still an area of active engineering work (see e.g. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d36a/ff0a2db0f99a92c2debd5b...), mostly focused on designing the physical system so that the solid carbon comes out nicely during the reaction instead of gunking up the works.

What are the benefits of pyrolysis versus steam methane reforming (SMR)? My immediate thought would be that you leave energy on the table, and that storage at scale is harder when the end result is graphite. Moreover, SMR is proven technology at very large scale.

One advantage is that it produces high-purity graphite, which is a moderately expensive commodity, used for electronics manufacturing (especially power components in batteries), structural carbon composites, and machine lubricants.

The percentage of carbon captured is also damn near 100% - quite a bit better than gaseous carbon capture techniques I've heard of.

You do leave quite a lot of energy on the table (losing somewhere between 30% and 50%), so this is a technology that is only economically viable with high emissions pricing. But that seems like the way Europe is going anyway.

And yes, SMR is the proven and clearly superior technology right now; I'd call this TRL 4/5 right now. But with another decade of development?

Aha, so it's targeting "CCU". Then OK, I can maybe see there is a point initially, but not at anything near the scale we need.

Global graphite production from mining is at 1 megatonne/year, while synthetic is a few hundred kilotonnes/year. We need CCS to operate at tens of gigatonnes per year, that's four orders of magnitude beyond all the graphite the world needs.

This is the problem with anything CCU - there just aren't viable options with consumption at the gigatonne scale.

I'd imagine extra graphite is pretty easy to store, though?

At the gigatonne scale, nothing is easy to store. Fill the entire Hoover dam with graphite, and you've stored 6 gigatonnes. We need to store tens of gigatonnes per year for a hundred years.

We could put it down in empty mine shafts... or build entire mountain tops out of it!

That’s a cool video. However the variation looks to be only about 2% from highest to lowest.

Trees will actually do the trick. I looked for an international business that would plant a 1000 trees for me which would offset my entire carbon footprint for my entire life. Didn't find anything except a local one in Iceland [1] in Icelandic only (good luck with Google Translate).

I can offset my footprint for 800$/year and I think it's going to be my New Years resolution. No more carbon from me.

Finding land and planning trees for it should be a global business. There are a lot of people like me with disposable income that would invest in something like that.

[1] https://kolvidur.is

Please also include a resolution to reduce your carbon emissions.

Remember that planting trees only work if you have the guarantee that in the future these trees will not be burned. Also, some natural decomposition also emits CO2

Planting trees can delay/slow down climate change. What happens in a decade when planting trees does not scale anymore and we've kept increasing our emissions in the same time?

I am about 50 years old. Planting trees scales for at least 50 years. Something on the order of 1000 trees will offset the entire footprint of a upper-middle class non-jetsetter (eats meat, travels 2-4 times per year, car, modest house).

There are a lot of technology promises on the horizon that will hopefully solve the next inflection point, but that's not my climate crisis, it will be the next generation. Hopefully by then the human race will have developed fusion or other energy technologies.

I’m no biologist but coral seems incredibly f*ed whenever I hear about it. Is there any chance of us actually saving coral?

There's a crash plan to save species of dying coral and another plan to develop/disperse heat-/acid-resistant species.

Nearly every day on here there's a thread about empty/meaningless work and feeling like we're not contributing anything that will matter 50 years from now - and I often participate as I feel this way quite strongly. This is the kind of work that's meaningful. This is a huge commitment to well-thought-out climate healing and using wealth for actual tangible good. Stripe already deserves a place above FAANG for their incredible work culture [1] but this goes even beyond that and would be fantastic to contribute towards. I'll be checking their careers page often, in case they get into hardware.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19422833

The founders of Project Wren (https://projectwren.com/) went from building HR Software to building software to combat climate change.

We need profitable enterprises focused on this large global problem! I think the tides are starting to shift and would love to see the smartest minds of our generation focused on this issue!

You know, I would love for an option that just asked how old you are and just let you pay to offset your expected life's worth of tree replanting (this might just be the closest thing I've ever seen).

That's quite a hard figure to come up with I'd think, though there's no problem with overshooting of course.

My personal emissions going forward are likely to be way lower than previous years simply due to awareness.

The big polluters, like airlines, energy, transportation, and chemical companies are the ones that will have to take these steps to see any effect. Every bit helps, of course, but the cost of implementing something like this is doable for some, while for many would mean extinction, or fundamental changes to their business model.

I think we need to implement world-wide tax on pollution to avoid some crazy externalitiees.

For example, cheap flights used frequently are a ridiculous luxury we cannot afford. I know lots of people that use budget airlines more than once per month to make weekend trips across Europe.

The amount of CO2 they are putting into the atmosphere is simply insane. A bit more than doing the same trip by car, for each passenger.

A carbon tax is well known to be the rational solution to the problem. Even conservatives agree.

It just happens to be politically impossible.

People pretend it's hard to create a carbon tax, but it's really not. Just tax the fuel (gas/oil/coal), and the cost will be passed on to polluters.

Edit, of course, politically yes it's hard.

Does it have to be?

Planet Money had an episode about "revenue-neutral carbon tax", where all the money collected is returned back to the tax payers, to spend however they want.

The point of this tax is not to raise money, but to change behavior. This, a family that drives to work and school every day will pay more carbon tax, but this will be offset by the tax refund (or lower income tax). And a family that finds ways to reduce their carbon footprint will benefit from the tax refund and able to spend it on other things.

WA state had a carbon tax initiative but the revenues went to environmental efforts, and it failed. I think if it were made revenue-neutral, or heck, even made as an overall tax-cut to please the fiscal conservatives, I think it would pass (although it would face pushback from environmentally minded about not doing enough).

Here is the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend/

I like it a lot, but the problem is the major industries that will be heavily impacted/closed down as a result. They have immense political power, and I don't see any way around that. Hope I'm wrong.

And that's of course just one country out of 200. There is no local solution to global warming!

They tried that here in Canada, and it is both too small to have much impact, and getting massive pushback from the Conservative party.

You have to keep in mind that even if it’s revenue neutral, explaining the scheme to taxpayers is going to be difficult, and your opponents are going to try their darndest to make it sound unappealing, even if it means spreading misinformation.

The trouble is “polluters” is everyone in society. People who use a lot of carbon feel personally attacked bu such a tax...because itmis in fact directly affecting them.

A carbon tax is my top priority. There’s no sense denying the opposition though. The yellow vest protests in france were from a fuel tax.

Are electric airplanes feasible in the foreseeable future?

Foreseeable future, yes. Short term future (<15 years)? I wouldn't hold my breath. Might happen, but probably not.

No. That's physically not efficient. Synthetic fuels may be, though.

We already know we can produce jet fuel from captured CO2 from the air. The trick is making it cheaper, particularly energy-wise. We can't dedicate half the world for solar panels to make fuel.

> The trick is making it cheaper

Honestly, this is a problem with a lot of technologies. Especially in the green sector. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep funding research into it and trying to make it cheaper, but also a reason to be cautious.

I think it’s on all of us, including all the corporations. We should have a carbon tax to disincentivize mass c02 production - at the moment all the profits are private and all the losses (to the environment) are public. If they want to pay someone who’s planting trees for carbon caps then that’s fine for me. Just solve the damn problem. Who’s standing in the way? Shareholders of the above companies (and by proxy, the lobbyists and politicians). Because protective action doesn’t get them gains. It requires government action.

It is difficult to get people to agree if it means gas and cheeseburgers cost twice as much.

It's literally economics 101: externalities, but for some crazy reason in the US it's seen as a leftist anti-capitalist issue.

Because you are acting like this would punish the company. It might to an extent but in reality consumers would hurt the most. That in my opinion is why it doesn't happen.

Not as much when the carbon tax is tax-neutral. In Canada we started getting back a carbon tax credit. Consumer impact is still there but a lot more mitigated.

It’s meant to ‘punish’ consumers: it needs to be painful enough that consumers reduce their consumption, otherwise pollution will not be reduced.

Right but it's not going to punish consumers equally. It will hurt the poor a lot more than the rich imho. Essentially a regressive tax moving the burden for the climate change problem to the poor.

The tyranny of the majority :/

Because reducing US emissions to 0 will have no effect on global warming.

Reducing emissions by 14% will have no impact? I doubt that very much.

And that's just direct emissions; the emissions of other countries can often be attributed to supplying to the US.

Individuals matter too!

Netflix made had $5.8B in revenue from small $10-20 subscription users!

Today, for $20 a month you can offset your own carbon footprint! This matters because the more resources that goes into fighting climate change allows innovation. Even by generating more demand for carbon credits and offsetting, new businesses can thrive and grow by fighting climate change!

I've been super obsessed with https://projectwren.com (YC S19) for these exact reason!

It’s a great project but they could be more clear about that 20% cut they take and why it’s double what they partners take. How does it scale? 20% makes sense when you are dealing with, say, 100m of donations, but not so great when it’s 1B. At 1B they’d be taking 200m for what? Hiring the best talent in the world, to do what exactly? I don’t know, I wish them well and hopefully they get more clear about their cut and lower that over time. I think if you are really going to make an impact you must be targeting few billions of donations and 20% is just unreasonable.

I like it, but why do I have to give my email for emission calculation? It's off-putting, I don't want even more spam. And I will tell them where do I live and how, will they package it with my email and sell it to ad companies as a handy profile?

Sorry to be paranoid, but most startups (uber, airbnb, paypal, not to mention facebook ...) are evil and exploitative.

Wren co-founder here — we ask for your email so we can send you a report on your footprint (if you choose) or come back to the onboarding flow later. We're spinning the calculator out into an open resource soon though!

Finally, we just started two months ago and have not sold user information to ad companies nor do we ever plan to. That sounds like an evil and unnecessary way to go about not accomplishing our mission.

Just got my first report from Project Wren! Loved it so much I copied and pasted it here so I can share it:


Way less than $20 a month in a lot of the world too. Americans have a footprint twice as high as Brits, even.

Cars and air-con are the main offenders there, right?

And air travel

I get where you are coming from, but should we really tolerate fundamental changes to our planet over fundamental changes to a business model?

Here is a whole (open access) journal issue on negative emission technologies: https://iopscience.iop.org/journal/1748-9326/page/Negative%2...

Short summary: There is no free lunch. Almost everything is expensive, natural systems (afforestation and land use change) are cheaper but more variable. The cheapest negative emission technology is not to emit in the first place.

I've actually been slightly interested in buying some cheap land outside of town and slowly planting trees to forest it over the next decade. The goal would be to plant enough trees to cover the carbon footprint of me and my entire family.

What I don't know is where I can find out which trees are particularly suited for carbon capture. From what I've read, fast growing trees will capture carbon quickly, but only if you harvest them, prevent rotting of the wood, and replanting a new crop.

Slow growth trees will store more carbon, but it takes a longer time for it to accomplish it.

I suppose it's like one of those "Good, Fast, Cheap - Pick two" situations. Is it better to capture a lot of carbon quickly to help the planet ASAP, or to kick-off the planting of trees that will capture carbon for the next 300 years?

Even when that's decided, how do I pick which trees aren't just suited for my area (relatively easily with native tree guides), but also well-suited for carbon capture and survival in an increasingly chaotic climate and ecosystem?

Recent paper on tree planting potential: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/76

Don’t you then need to worry about enforcement mechanisms to keep those trees from getting cut down? If they’re all harvested after say n decades, there’s no net effect on climate.

Forests have evolved into recycling ecosystems. When a tree dies naturally, it gets decomposed by various fungi and other organisms which, over time, release the stored CO2 back into the atmosphere. So the CO2 is released one way or another. What matters is that the living tree stores CO2 in its wood. Cutting and replanting might even increase the amount of stored CO2 because any wood that's used in the building industry is wood that doesn't decompose for decades to come. Wood you cut down to burn right thereafter probably reduces the storage capacity, but it's not zero due to the living trees!

Forests used to be real carbon sinks meaning that trees would just die without decomposing, because life hasn't figured out yet how to decompose it. This is how coal was formed around the globe.

Maybe some better technology to sequester CO2 emerges. But planting trees is a good approach for the start. If we want to slow down climate change, the CO2 sequestration industry will have to become huge within the next decades.

Burying biochar (the superset of charcoal, basically) in old coal mines or other geological structures is a feasible way for long-term storage. The carbon content can be up to 90%, depending on the method. Biochar can be made from nearly all forms of biomass as long as it's dry enought.

Now I wonder how would old coal miners feel if you told them nowadays the coal is supposed to go in the ground.

I think, they would be happy to keep their jobs and get paid for several decades to come. Also, the coal companies wouldn't have to write off their investments, since some of their technology could probably be reused.

How does it follow that there's no net effect on climate (or amount of atmospheric carbon) if the tree is cut down? I can only see that if the timber is burned for fuel. If someone instead carved the timber up into N skateboards, modulo waste, the carbon would stay with the skateboards.

Skateboards don't stay skateboards forever. Eventually they'll be thrown out, where they'll degrade & eventually decompose, re-releasing the stored CO2.

True, but my model of CO2 is that its damage is proportional to the area under the curve (quanity CO2 * time in atmosphere). So deferring that C02 release by 10 years is strictly a win, b/c you haven't incurred the climate effects of that C02 for those 10 years.

Mostly into the ground, no? Isn't that how petroleum was formed in the first place?

It depends entirely on where the skateboards and other wood-derived waste ends up. If it's not properly disposed of (e.g. litter), then it will release most/all of it into the atmosphere. If it's incinerated, it's all released. If it's in a landfill, it depends on whether and how effectively the landfill is sealed.

Probably not. Most of the oil we find comes from a period when very few organisms could break down waste from dead trees and plants.

Even if the trees are burned for fuel, that may offset some amount of burning fossil fuel and so be a net win.

If you cover an area with trees that is today not covered with trees, that area will absorb CO2 from the atomsphere.

Even if the trees die or are cut down, as long as new ones are allowed to grow, that area will absorb roughly constant amount of CO2.

Now, if we can harvest some trees regularly, and use them to replace plastics or fossil fuels, then that's a win for the environment even if those harvested trees end up releasing their CO2 back to the atmosphere, because we didn't introduce any _more_ CO2, we just recycled what we already have.

What? You want them cut down and used in carbon storing areas, like construction. Trees capture way more carbon while growing, so ideally you cut them down and replant them.

How long do you think this climate crisis will last?

If you think it will be over, or at least completely unrecognizable, in 50 years your - in itself valid - concern doesn't matter.

If I imagine people 50 or 100 years ago trying to plan to solve our problems in 2019, knowing what they did then, I don't think they could have accomplished much of anything of substance, even with the best intentions and the commitment of huge resources.

When a tree grows, it captures carbon. If after N years it is cut, in most cases that carbon is NOT going to go back to the atmosphere. Most CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels (oil, etc), NOT from voluntary wood burning.

Wood burning is not the only way to release that CO2 back into the atmosphere. Just cutting a tree and letting it decompose also releases the same carbon. You need to store it in wood form, or bury it deep.

Google should also do this as zero emissions aligns with "do no evil".

Note that you do not have to wait for Google: You can just start searching using Ecosia (https://www.ecosia.org/) which use their revenue to plant trees around the world and are also a "negative emissions" operation. (Yes, the results are not as good as Google's, but for me they are good enough in the vast majority of searches, and for the remaining I can still hop over to Google.)

They should add a button "Try this search on Google instead" at the bottom of the first page, then I would probably try them. Otherwise it's too much of a hassle, especially on mobile, tbh.

You can add "#g" to any search and it will directly redirect to Google (similar to DuckDuckGo's shebangs). This works very well on Desktop, but I agree that it's a bit of a hassle on mobile...

Am I mistaken in thinking that afforestation is technically a carbon sequestration strategy?

No, you are not. Trees naturally capture carbon in the form of wood. I noticed that distinction too in the post and assume they meant "modern" carbon sequestration engineered by humans.

There's also a big middle ground. For example, some semi-green power is generated by breaking wood into flammable gases + carbon ("biochar"), then burying the carbon and burning the gases.

Just to summarize (warm up those downvotes...):

* “almost certainly more” than 84% of stripe’s emissions will not be sequestered because it’s “financially infeasible”

* no mention of stripe’s actual carbon footprint

* talk of startups and trillion dollar industry “by the end of the century” but no mention of government intervention / green new deal to turn the tide in the next decade before it’s too late

Verdict: free market ideologues are not ever going to be leaders on climate. We need massive mobilization at the federal level to hit the necessary emissions reductions within the next 12 years if we are to avoid a catastrophic rise in temperature.

The first sentence literally said this:

>As part of Stripe’s environmental program, we fully offset our greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing verified carbon offsets.

The sequestration is in addition to those offsets. They’re trying to advance sequestration technology by boosting demand. They’ll be offsetting and sequestering more than 100% of their emissions. The excess cost referred to sequestration, not offsets.

Government has done basically nothing for 30 years. I really, really want governments to take it seriously, tax carbon, etc. but I welcome private companies stepping in to try things too.

Not sure who you're arguing with, as the post you're responding to literally only addresses sequestering. Offsets alone are not a solution to the urgent need to turn the tide on climate change. They offer an easy way for CO2 emitters to sort of greenwash what they're doing and keep doing it.

"Private companies trying things" is fine but as we can see from the reactions to this press release that the standard for private companies trying things is incredibly low and nowhere near what's required to hit the IPCC targets.

We agree on one thing though: government has not done nearly enough historically. Of course much worse could be said for industry, the primary source of CO2 emission (along with the military) and fundamentally incentivized to exploit externalized costs and pollute our planet.

> We need massive mobilization at the federal level to hit the necessary emissions reductions within the next 12 years if we are to avoid a catastrophic rise in temperature.

That doesn’t really make sense IMHO, global warming isn’t a US problem, it’s a worldwide issue. Let’s say the US becomes a benevolent dictatorship with the mission to reduce CO2 emissions by any mean necessary (and is somehow successful), you still have the global problem. And then what, do you go to war against other countries?

You do your part, other countries try to do the same, and various means and strategies are implemented and shared globally.

This “but we can’t fix it all alone, it’s a global issue” thinking mode has to go. All contributions are important in reducing the speed of warming, whether your neighbour participates or not.

Interestingly, the longer you wait, the more you can expect people with more extreme agendas to pop up around the globe because they will see the point in coercion to save the world. Early investment at a massive scale is worth it.

> This “but we can’t fix it all alone, it’s a global issue” thinking mode has to go.

Ok, why? It is a global issue, that’s not something we can ignore. You can change your way of thinking if you want, but I don’t see why you would ignore that point. I find it disingenuous to say “if the US government doesn’t do X in 12 years then we are doomed”, because it’s not true. Of course I’m not saying that nothing should be done, and I never said it cannot be fixed (or dealt with), that’s just you putting words in my mouth. But the US government has a terrible history at dealing with other countries, and creating a giant mess all around. Just imagine Trump deciding to focus on climate issues, I cannot see how that wouldn’t result in a complete disaster with international conflicts.

I think that we should keep the framing on the global aspect, and think about it as a common goal.

I don’t disagree with the rest of your comment, I completely support any effort at a local level.

Come now, think creatively here, this going to war nonsense is a total straw man argument. Carbon-based import tariffs, sanctions, and having a very strong, innovative US clean tech to export/sell its tech to other countries who need but dont have the R&D budget.

How is it a straw man argument? I’m not a US citizen, I look at the country history at dealing with international actors. The country has a terrible history at cooperating with others in a peaceful way, or even consider common interests. If for some reasons the US government decides to that its mission is to tackle climate issues, I don’t think it will take long before they come with a rational for a climate war.

> Carbon-based import tariffs, sanctions, and having a very strong, innovative US clean tech to export/sell its tech to other countries who need but dont have the R&D budget.

Sure, that’s all fine. That’s really not what I would expect from a country that systematically refused to collaborate on climate issues with others, but that would be great.

Given how the US is one of the worst polluters, both in absolute and relative terms, and how at a policy level it is way behind, a "benevolent dictatorship with the mission to reduce CO2 emissions by any mean necessary" would have a huge global impact.

For people really into carbon removal --- Check out AirMiners, the largest community of entrepreneurs, researchers, and funders exploring opportunities in negative emissions and carbon removal. Folks from every major carbon removal startups like Climeworks, Global Thermostat, etc.

Join 320+ of us on Slack!

Apply here to join: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12L8drO9a6OZf3-I9578PieBI0fw...

There's also a public meetup group in the Bay Area: https://meetup.com/CarbonRemoval/

I'm really interested in the topic and would love to just lurk and read what people say on there for a while, but the text in the signup form makes it sound like a person like me wouldn't be accepted, since I don't have super concrete plans to make that my next profession (although I'm generally interested in exploring this field if I really started thinking that my skills would make sense there).

Hey jrv, here's 2 resources for you to get more inspiration: http://bit.ly/airminersresources http://airminers.org

this is you: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ABg0c_E7OOI

looking forward to your application once you finish your training.

Let's say I'm a regular web developer and know nothing about climate science, carbon removal, or any related science or technologies, but might be interested in donating my time and and skills.

Do you have any recommendations?

Glad you asked! Basically, imagine I told you not much had been built and climate folks don't really "get" software.

It's true. The same revolution that connected software and biotech is coming to the climate. There's tons of super duper obvious stuff that has yet to be built.

You would probably guess there's a great website for tracking carbon levels in the air. Like that's super basic right?

Well There's not...or at least there wasn't.

This was/is the gold standard: https://www.co2.earth/ https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/

Then last year a volunteer team (including me) built


it's open source on Github, you could work on that! It's a bit rough around the edges still. Could use a twitter bot!

You could also check out our index at: http://airminers.org

The software is pretty simple right now but we could improve it a lot!

Software related to climate change got stuck in the 90's...and you can break it out! Build cool shit!

Email me with any questions, see profile.

Here is an article that perfectly addresses your query: http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange/

Sorry I would like to type an elaborate response, but I'm on phone for the day.

heck yeah! "what can a technologist do about climate change" is my daily mantra.

This is probably a really sensitive topic but.. Donating your time to help get politicians elected who are serious about doing what's necessary may be the best thing you can do.

Politicians are powerless without good technology options.

Today, the technology options are not good. but good options are within sight. As a technologist, let's go make better tech.

Climate change is a technology problem and a marketing problem.

YC's carbon site does a great job marketing for these crucial technologies: http://carbon.ycombinator.com/

The technology options today are good enough. We can start building wind turbines and solar panels right now. We can insulate homes right now. We can replace oil and gas heating with heat pumps right now.

Storage only becomes a problem when a quite significant chunk of the generation is intermittent. But even then, today's batteries are good enough for overnight storage, and for longer term storage we can use power-to-gas processes.

heck yeah let's do that! Solar tech has gotten so much cheaper and better, my friend is replacing what used to be $30k of panels for $2k.

Politicians can also direct funds to the development of such technology.

I think this is seriously naive.

woohoo, 3 new applications so far!

Shameless plug here but anyone interested in helping us prototype test an app to track/gamify/offset daily carbon emissions? We are a start-up in Singapore called CAPTURE :) all about helping people become aware of the impact their daily actions can have on their carbon footprint, make it fun and add a little competition, then for what you can't reduce - we will offer in-app offsetting via CAPTURE forests, where you'll be able to track your individual trees and watch your forests grow via a monthly drone update! Would be super grateful for any feedback. Early stages but testers/those interested please sign-up at www.thecapture.club

Bravo to Stripe's continued leadership and exemplification of what a modern corporation can and should be. The CCS area I've been most fascinated by recently is listed as their first area of interest: natural carbon sinks via land management practices.

I've been reading a little more about mob-stalked, heavily mobile grazing techniques (rotating cows/buffalo/ruminants daily) which increases the grass productivity per acre, thus capuring more carbon in the grass --> soil. If anyone knows of any resources/studies comparing the carbon sequestration of grasslands, which have incredible biomass cycles over several decades, vs managed forests which do not see the same level of biomass turnover, I would love to see them.

I'm surprised by the size of the commit. If $1M is the floor for what a Stripe-sized org is willing to spend, how expensive would a carbon tax actually be? Are there good estimators for my impact as a consumer and how much I need to commit to this?

Basically I want to know how much it costs to feel ok about my flights to go skiing.

I've been posting about this a lot, but check out Project Wren! (https://projectwren.com/)

It costs me $40 a month to offset my own carbon footprint, but I take a lot more flights than the average person.

Great, didn't know about that. Subscribed on the spot and sharing it around, thanks for posting.

We need lots more people like you! :)

Do you know if their projects are audited by independent 3rd party?

The highest ClimeWorks plan, if it's trustworthy (can't personally vouch for it) is approx 1 USD per kg CO2 captured, or $1k per ton.

That's pretty expensive. But at $100 it starts to look a lot more favourable when compared with a personal footprint - 30 tons emitted would be $3K, perfectly achievable for someone who's talking about flying to go skiing.

It's a bit of a red flag that they sell their highest plan, 600kg a year, as "approx. 100% of a global average footprint". While that's probably true, the median human does not fly. A one way flight London->New York generates almost this much per passenger.

The mean emissions of those willing to spend 600 EUR/year to offset their travel are going to be at least an order of magnitude higher. You're better off feeling guilty and reducing your travel by 10% (in terms of personal emissions).

I do admit it's tricky, because if everybody is scared off by the true price tag (my lifetime emissions as an Australian would easily be $500k), the technology will never get a chance to get economy of scale and lower prices. That's really what you're paying for when you sign up for the plan.

Right. US per capita is ~16 tons, UK is ~7. So at least ten times that figure. Agree with the rest of your post.

Their pitch is offsetting travel emissions, not all emissions.

Terrapass seems to say my CO2 emissions from flying so far this year are going to come in around 13 metric tons.

At $1000 per ton this isn't feasible. At $100 I'd think about it. At $10 it's not a question that I'd buy it.

At $1000 per ton I'd change my air spending habits. At $100 per ton built into the price per flight I would probably take the same trips.

tl;dr: get this price down an order of magnitude and I'm in.

so, the average total carbon emission per person is 4.5 tons, and your flying alone is 13?

Isn't it better that you/we change your/our air spending habits? I don't believe that we can offset our carbon footprint fast enough with carbon sinks while still maintaing the same levels of carbon emission.

Reality of course is that if there is significant upfront economic costs then very few people are going to buy into the scheme, I think innovation is our best bet and if $100 per ton is a price point where people are in then that's probablly the best pragmatic choice.

However, needless transport seems a great target for emission reduction, we still need to get around, but "commuting" while emitting carbon would seem the easiest way to reduce carbon emissions, we have all the tech we need for that (public transport/remote work/online shopping/ride sharing/EVS/reduced work weeks) just no incentive to change.

If you add the cost of $100 per ton to the price of the plane ticket, you would see some amount of travel reduction naturally.

What travel reduction we would have would, at that point, pay for the appropriate sequestration.

Honestly, it sounds like we should just require everyone to buy 100% sequestration for their carbon production (priced into the goods and services). Add a phase in over, say 10 years to.

I'd like to see companies actually track how much CO2 goes into the production of their products. Imagine if everything you buy had the equivalent of an EnergyGuide sticker for CO2 emissions used in the production of that thing. It would lead to companies trying to optimise their products to reduce CO2 used in the manufacturing process.

Agree. This should be legislated just as calories are today. You could ratchet up the severity of the legislation slowly; initially you might allow estimates, over time you could start to audit the supply chain etc.

Some items do already expose this information, but it's pretty much all stuff for the eco market.

Though I remember Walkers' crisps doing this ten years back. 80g for a packet of crisps. Or about 3kg CO2 per 1kg crisps. Doesn't include final transportation though.

Yea, that makes sense, then gives you an easy path to charging a tax with revenues going to offsets or sequestration based on the number on the sticker.

The average in the US is about 16.

I agree that the correct solution is to just whack a carbon tax on flights.

It's ideal if people voluntarily reduce - I've committed myself to not flying except in case of family emergency - but ultimately that's not going to solve the problem because it's a tragedy of the commons.

Express it as an overhead on ticket price. You're using terrapass, so I plugged some numbers in and it out to about 20-30% based on what I can remember paying for typical domestic economy seats. If you fly on more expensive flights, it's even cheaper.

That sounds tolerable to me as a price of saving the planet. Certainly it's not an economy-busting impossibility given that it's in the range that can be reasonably borne by normal middle class individuals.

Yeah. The major problem I think comes about with stuff like Ryanair flights for ten quid where the carbon tax might well whack up the cost by orders of magnitude.

I think it's incorrect to categorise limiting flying as 'economy busting' in any sense to be frank - what percentage of flights are things like people visiting relatives?

It might be a bit of a shame, but economy busting is surely hyperbolic, it's primarily a leisure activity.

> Ryanair flights for ten quid where the carbon tax might well whack up the cost by orders of magnitude.

It would be nowhere near that amount. I used a flight estimator which says a return flight from London to Malaga would emit 0.3 tonnes of CO2.

Project Wren charges $10 - $20 per tonne, so it would cost the same as the ticket at most, even including the cut Ryanair inevitably would take. If you take a more normal ticket price, it would be an insignificant extra.


I'd like to think that at $100/ton, or probably before that, we just price it in to flights.

Sorry if I sound too negative but I think carbon offsetting is the very quintessence of what one would call green washing. There is no way around changing our life styles. If you don't want to feel bad about flying, take a train.

This is an amazing pledge and very powerful statement.

However, I am not 100% convinced morally of CCS solutions. The main counter argument being that CCS technology enables the status quo of fossil fuel burning to continue.

On the other hand, there are some heavy industries (steel production?) that do not have any alternatives to coal burning in order to operate and CCS can offset the carbon footprint in these industries. I would however not call this "negative emissions" but rather "emission-free" or similar.

What is your opinion on CCS? Can people convince me in either direction?

There isn't some intrinsic moral sin to burning carbon. There are just practical problems with having too much in the atmosphere. If you can remove carbon, especially if you can also convert it back into fuel, that solves the problem.

(Carbon isn't the only emission from burning coal -- it contains sulfur and thorium too. But these can also be mitigated with some expense. And if you're converting CO2 directly to fuel, there's no increase in pollution at all.)

I would argue there is a moral "sin" in releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, because (in your words) it leads to "practical problems", i.e. anthropogenic climate change.

If you can remove the carbon again, then it is still a "sin" unless you pay to have your share removed. If it can then be converted to fuel again that is an added bonus.

Of course, this whole process needs to occur at a massive scale because we are releasing so much carbon dioxide and want to remove more than we are currently emitting.

(P.s. I don't like the word "sin" in this context because of the theological connotation it implies, but I hope the message is clear)

no, this is too simplistic. extracting carbon from the ground is neither free nor reversable so this analogy isn't appropriate here. even if one could turn it back into whatever it's original form was (impossible to do without additional energy due to thermodyamics/entropy), the site of extraction is way worse for the wear.

No one cares about the "worse for the wear" problems of digging holes in the ground in Saudi Arabia. The whole problem is the CO2 that ends up in our air on the other end of the process.

> digging holes in the ground in Saudi Arabia

are you aware of fracking and tar sands and their environmental impacts? you cannot possibly trivialize those as "digging holes in the ground".

Meh. In the grand scheme of things, those environmental impacts are nothing compared to the problems of climate change.

Extracting carbon from ground isn't the only option: https://www.prometheusfuels.com/

> However, I am not 100% convinced morally of CCS solutions.

So... let's put off saving the planet because someone has moral qualms? No. This is a legitimate emergency. If we have something that has a net positive impact, we need to do it and stop arguing about it on the internet. Nothing is without tradeoffs, and some are simply going to have to be made. There are no easy solutions. We have seven billion people to feed while we manage to undo all the damage too, remember.

I'm not saying capture solutions are the best choice, mind you. I'm saying that decision needs to be made with numbers and not "morals".

It's a fair question, but I'll ask you "what's the alternative?"

We can't plant enough trees. Nor can we always plant them in the most needed places (North, where carbon accumulates). We can't build even public transport (which is still positive emissions). We can't get everyone to go vegan (which still is positive emissions. Even lab meat won't make negative emissions). We can't stop air travel and shipping without significantly affecting people's lives (including their ability to live, as drugs, equipment, and experts aren't all created locally). We can't get everyone to leave their homes and concentrate into cities.

Even if we could do all that, we'd still be positive. Worse, how do we get every country in the world to do the same? It seems infeasible to me. And it doesn't address the problems like that carbon builds up in certain areas that we just can't even plant trees.

But here's the thing. The argument isn't "planting trees vs CC", it is "trees + CC". Actually it's more! It's about using every available method we have at our disposal. There is nothing wrong with burning carbon actually. The issue is burning so much that we are destroying the plant. Destroying the planet is the issue. If we have negative emissions total (and aren't creating carbon hot zones) then who cares how much we emit? As long as it's captured and doesn't damage the planet.

Leaving CC off the table is like telling a bunch of starving children that they can't have hamburgers because some of them might eat too many and get fat. The concern is completely missing the point of the problem.

I think it depends what the lower limit of this technology is in terms of cost-per-ton. If the technology can get 100X cheaper, it would be immoral not to pursue it. If it only gets 2-3X as cheap as it is today, it might create the moral excuse you cited and be a net-negative.

My instinct is it could be an extremely important technology for fighting climate change. And while it develops it's important to continue to insist that it doesn't excuse the emissions it might offset.

Well put, the scalability is a nice insight.

Limiting climate change to 2C is such a hail mary at this point that we should look favorably on anything, no matter how imperfect, that moves us in that direction. There are no silver bullets, we need to do everything at once.

While I agree that there are no silver bullets and multiple approaches are required, I don't agree that we need to pursue everything that may help.

First, a lot of R&D must be done (for all types of solutions) and the money to fund this can only be spent once. So we need to pre-select some promising ideas (could still be many ideas, but not all ideas).

Second, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. While I am pretty neutral / undecided on nuclear power, some argue that the (potential) problems it brings along are not worth the risk, even if it is a carbon neutral method of power production.

Third, CCS technology disincentiveses investment and R&D into fully renewable energy production (the point made before)

(I would like to emphasize here that I am not arguing about the extent or existence of a climate crisis. I am aware of the literature and agree that immediate action is required to limit carbon emissions)

Even if you could snap your fingers and make perfectly renewable energy, we still have the problem that there's a bunch of carbon in the air that used to be in the ground, and that's not going away unless we do something about it.

> Third, CCS technology disincentiveses investment and R&D into fully renewable energy production (the point made before)

Eh, renewable energy is getting quite cheap. If you add the costs of CCS into fossil fuel, I think you'll still have plenty of incentives to invest on renewables, and to use fossil as a last resort only.

The status quo of burning fossil fuels will continue whether we employ CCS or not, so we may as well use every tool available.

SSAB and LKAB are experimenting with burning hydrogen instead of coal for steelproduction.

You could just buy oil and not burn it. Far simpler than CCS.

Eh? That assumes oil production is static. We have effectively infinite resources of fossil fuels still yet to be extracted.

That's like saying you can reduce car miles driven by buying a car and not driving it. Another one will just be made.

And you've increased the demand, ever so slightly.


> Another one will just be made

Can we legislate a cap on the production of anything?

That does nothing to reduce consumption. Oil isn't zero sum. If you make the market less efficient prices will rise a bit, but production numbers will still match demand. Fracking taught us this.

If you want a simple solution, buy a farm and bury the output. Simpler than storing a bunch of oil, even. But not very effective relative to land use.

What's with this obsession with burying it?

You can plant trees and build things with them above ground.

The house I'm sitting in right now is a literal carbon storage unit.

Just don't burn it.

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