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Ask HN: Working in tech for climate?
298 points by oljvhnwo 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 276 comments
I have been getting very conscious of climate change and human impact on the earth and would like to more actively contribute. I am quite a good senior programmer working in finance. Im having enough of devoting my life to things that seems so meaningless in comparaison with the real problems of humanity. Yet i see little I can do. Any one of you made the switch? Where did you find the job. Was it remote? Is it really making an impact?





I know I'm going to get downvoted for this, but the answer to your question depends on your analysis of the problem.

If you're an ecomodernist, who believes we can stop and reverse the transgression of planetary boundaries (climate change, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, ocean acidification, etc.) without any meaningful system changes, the sibling comment tips might help.

If you are, like me, unconvinced by the ecomodernist argument – and have a grasp on all of the different ways the environment is being destroyed (not just "climate"), know Jevons paradox and rebound effects, are up to speed with the empirical knowledge of decoupling rates of both energy and material flows compared to "safe" limits – then "working for climate" almost exclusively means working to bring about a big political change.

Unfortunately that limits quite a bit the income potential of the work, but for me that's what "working for climate" means.


I think you can do all these things:

* believe that significant systemic change is necessary

* believe that oneself isn't well-suited (or wouldn't be happy) in a role advocating for that systemic change

* realize that even with a big systemic change, we'll still need better technologies and infrastructures and work on them


>"working for climate" almost exclusively means working to bring about a big political change.

This. System change not climate change.


Result: Change the system and let climate issues stay...

YES.

Let me know if you want to be put in contact with a partner working at one of the key consultancies advising EU countries' governments (+EU itself and some other countries) to help them evaluate their impact on climate and strategies to reduce them.

Actually I will forward all mails/CV received to him. (Not just the one of the orignal poster.)

Thanks, sent you an email!

> ...working to bring about a big political change

Can we start a quick brainstorming what promising organizations exist that support this goals and in turn joining/supporting them would be a viable option for individuals to have an actual impact towards political change?

I'll start with the usual suspect Greenpeace.


I'm a big fan of ClientEarth - they essentially take governments and organisations to court to try to force them to meet local and international environmental laws. It's one thing having the laws in place, but if they aren't enforced they aren't worth anything.

https://www.clientearth.org/


What a horrible landing page mechanism. Just show me the site, not a ten-second splash screen drip-feeding me words just because you think it looks cool.

Followed by a cookie prompt that takes up most of the screen on my phone.

Green Parties generally.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_party

You can tell they are effective as they get regularly attacked by people here who seem to have a visceral hatred of them and very weird justifications for why (they're under the thrall of the fossil fuel companies apparently)

Anyone that advocates for increasing democracy generally, whether more representational democracy in existing democracies that have broken systens (US or UK) or spreading it further. People generally want action for climate change, the people who don't need to spend a lot of money and tell a lot of lies to hold this back. The more democracy the more they'll need to spend.

Electoral Reform Society

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/voting-systems/what-are-...

George Soros's Open Society Foundation

https://voxeurop.eu/en/how-george-soros-was-transformed-from...

HN types might be more attracted to the business or analytical sides though. Carbon Tracker or Bloomberg New Energy Finance which proceed from the premise that climate change is inefficient and there's market based opportunities there to be exploited.

https://carbontracker.org/

https://about.bnef.com/contact/

Within big orgs like Google and Microsoft they have similar teams I believe, looking for the cheapest and most synergistic ways for them to save money and help the climate at the same time.


>Anyone that advocates for increasing democracy generally

I find this take fascinating. In my model, increasing democracy correlates negatively with increasing long term planning, which only then wouldn’t be the case if our species was acting as a collective. Aggregating individual interests doesn’t magically lead to collective interests, just to the set of actions that map on individual demand. There are no real majorities in favor of the rather radical changes required to deal with the major problems of our time, the opposite is the case. People are willing to sacrifice the stability of the future in favor of their well being in the current legislative period, especially in countries with demographics skewed towards the elderly.

Democracy is not the solution unless a culture of sanity becomes prevalent, and that’s not on the horizon afaik.

Borrowing from a german idiom, the current model is “Eltern haften für ihre Kinder”, parents are liable for their children. What we need is the cultural change in the opposite direction, that being a heavy awareness of the fact that children are de facto liable for the actions of their parents.


If you look at polling, the people are usually better than the politicians at long term planning.

This seems to be generally true in history too. That's a big reason why propaganda is a thing. Having to convince lots of people to do something not in their interests is hard work.

Democracy is messy, and imperfect but it gets attacked from both sides, the people who think the rich and powerful have too much control of it and the ones that want the rich and powerful to have more control.

It's easy to be cynical but generally every small step towards greater democracy has paid off.

With regards to old people voting, the answer is more young people voting, not taking votes away from older people.

Even many counter-examples you might think of, like early USSR and modern China, were often reactions against even more anti-democratic rule and can be considered steps towards greater democracy.

And this is not a new thing, many of the things we study in classics are the reactions against greater democracy:

> As Robert Dahl writes, "Although the practices of modern democracy bear only a weak resemblance to the political institutions of classical Greece...Greek democratic ideas have been more influential...[and] what we know of their ideas comes less from the writings and speeches of democratic advocates, of which only fragments survive, than from their critics."[9]

> Aristotle was a mild critic "who disliked the power that he thought the expansion of democracy necessarily gave to the poor."[9] Plato was an opponent of democracy who advocated for "government by the best qualified."



350.org

Amazing, really. You are facing a massive - nearly unpredictable problem - changing the climate. Faced with a problem of such magnitude, you decide the best solution is... A second, massive and even more unpredictable problem. Achieving widespread, totalizing political and economic change that not only has to succeed, has to be better than the system we have now also has to solve the first problem.

To say this is difficult is an understatement. I'd argue it's also impossible and the result would be widespread suffering and a failure to solve climate change due to the distraction. Luckily you're not going to succeed, because like I said, it's really difficult.

I'm familiar with the line of reasoning. It's common among particularly left wing people and comes directly from their thinkers and philosophers. I think it was Gramsci who first said that the 'good' society 'cannot even be imagined' under the current system. This is a cop out for all those who believe they could make the utopia, they don't know how but they're sure the first step is total political change, and step 2 will make itself known then. It shouldn't have to be explained why this is a stupid idea, and how dangerous and harmful it would be.


This response is more insulting than it needs to be. There's nothing amazing about thinking that in order to solve a hard problem, you need to do a hard thing. Whether or not implementing political change is a necessary first step to solving climate change has nothing to do with whether implementing political change is hard or even impossible. It's absolutely plausible that there's no way to solve climate change without systemic change. It's also plausible that we can't solve climate change without systemic change AND that systemic change is very hard or even impossible. These statements aren't contradictory. In addition, tying the suggestion to a political party and then calling it stupid is not a constructive form of discourse.

> they don't know how but they're sure the first step is total political change, and step 2 will make itself known then.

This is entirely the issue with green types, (myself being married to one, and leaning green-er myself)

The "ecomoderates" are actually the ones pushing for sensible change. We can not cause a giant upheaval of society and then figure out what works (unless you think other humans are the problem and should be eradicated - inwhich societal disruption is one stone for two birds). Figure it out now.

Part of figuring it out is actually figuring out what is to be solved. Sri Lanka thinks that it was to do with fertilizer, and caused a catastrophe for themselves.

Plastic waste pollution/landfill is often something that is said needs to be solved, - A few months ago scientists found/grew an algae that eats plastic. I was thinking that it's amazing because that can really help clean up the place and deal with landfill. The overwhelming response was "No we can't have that, that's carbon released in the air from bug farts, it's best to leave the plastic in the ground".

The only way forward is progressively and piecemeal until viable solutions are found. If you want faster actions, then contribute more viable solutions that don't involve killing your neighbour. The fact is that things are getting better, and they are continuing to get better. You need to be patient in figuring out your ideas.

I'm currently building a house or of hemp-crete which will absorb carbon out of the atmosphere as it dries, and I'm figuring out the problems with it (mainly labour intensive, a mushier organic concrete) and so trying to find solutions to make it more widely used.


Indeed. It takes a tremendous amount of hubris, doesn't it?

What does meaningful system change mean to you? 1. Trillions of dollars of investment in the transition to solar? 2. Carbon tax (and other taxes on externalities?) 3. Abandoning combustion engines and switching to electric? 4. Moral persuasion to convince people to that humans are a cancer upon the earth?

1,2,3 have huge potential for climate and economic value. 4 is a straw man that obviously does nothing. But what do you propose exactly?


None of them are system changes.

Yes, 1 and 3 would be fantastic – although switching to electric without at the same time reducing SOVs is IMO very inadequate if you take int account all of the planetary boundaries, not just climate change. 2 is a policy that might stem from the system change, not the actual change. 4 is not based on facts: there are billions of people in the world who are living within planetary boundaries. Can't stress this enough: it's not "humans" that are the problem but the wealthy people that are taking more from nature than nature can regenerate.

A meaningful system change to me is where there is a deliberate and continued reduction in material flows and energy use in the rich countries until they are below planetary boundaries. That can be done if they deliberately start reducing overproduction. That in turn would happen if governments would abandon the goal of aggregate economic growth across all sectors, but instead increase the parts of the economy that produce well-being and scale down the parts that don't. Another system change would be if the rich countries would pay for the catastrophic damage they have inflicted on the countries worst affected by climate change, and then stop taking advantage of poor countries by ending unequal exchange.

Those would be system changes.

I'm not saying nothing except politics is needed – everything would be doubly hard if e.g. solar wouldn't have become so cheap.

But given what is easy in the current world (producing and selling stuff) and what is hard (creating political change), I wish that the most capable and smartest people in the world would work mostly on the hard parts.


"...if governments would abandon the goal of aggregate economic growth across all sectors..."

You've obviously thought about this topic quite deeply - have you heard any realistic proposals on how to achieven this? I have yet to hear any, and until I do I'll be devoting my energy to changes that have at least some chance of being enacted, like a carbon tax.


There is no easy answer, and making a change this big is a monumental task. Personally I've still come to think that just because making this change is very hard, that's not an excuse for me to not try, because the alternative is so much worse.

What I'm talking about is what the academic degrowth research has been working on for the past 20 years. (What's under the degrowth umbrella is the current wave of discussions started by the 50 year old "The Limits to Growth" report.) Doughnut economics is also intimately related.

If you want to learn more, as it happens, there is a brand new book "Degrowth & Strategy" with a free PDF here:

http://mayflybooks.org/degrowth-strategy

Note: I haven't yet read it, but it has got a lot of endorsements and great reviews from the top researches on the field, so it should be good.


Andrew Yang's proposal in the last Democratinc party primary of replacing GDP with a 'national report card' seems like a realistic-enough approach. In fact, I'd say if one views Andrew Yang's platform as a whole (particularly the heavy value-added tax) through an environmental perspective, I'd say he had the best environmental proposals I've seen for any politician in my lifetime.

The problem with political change is that then it becomes highly polarised political topic. With some people pushing rebranded communist ideas. Then suddenly it becomes political spectrum issue and not climate issue.

Let alone that historically non-capitalist countries had terrible ecological track record. For example here in ex-USSR. In USSR era ecological situation was pure catastrophe. But we're making massive improvements for the last few decades. And capitalist market economy works damn great to support ecological efforts.

> Another system change would be if the rich countries would pay for the catastrophic damage they have inflicted on the countries worst affected by climate change, and then stop taking advantage of poor countries by ending unequal exchange.

So, let already rich elite in poor country syphon even more money off rich countries? While making rich countries poor, so there's a big chance for elite in rich countries become even more detached, similar to poor countries. Global elite unite & fuck over the rest...

Also, „reducing overproduction“ will fuck over poor countries much more. Make stuff expensive to produce and suddenly bringing back manufacturing is much more viable.


The problem with political change is that then it becomes highly polarised political topic

Indeed, and the best way to avoid that is to ignore the people using pushing their polarising simplistic us-vs-them rhetoric into the discussion.


ahm, so, how exactly was ex-USSR ecologically worse than western countries, that were already producing en masse all sorts of single time use plastic unnecessary products, solely for the purpose of economic growth? Single time coca-cola bottles, plastic wrapping etc were not found in USSR. Yes, certain energy sectors were inefficient, and burning a lot of energy in vain, but still it seems to me that it was way less environmentally impactful than consumer society in the west. But that's just my personal armature opinion.

It was not „inefficiency“. It was environmental disasters left & right without nobody responsible. Single-use plastics is peanuts compared to just dumping chemicals and bio waste left and right.

For example, there is a lake in my hometown. Next to it, there was a carpets factory. Do you know how you could know what color they'd use that day? Just go swim in the lake in the evening :) The factory didn't care. Upper tier of the party doesn't care if some workers' town lake is messed up. There's neither resources nor incentive to take care of it.

If you'd go to local party office or KGB, they'd laugh you off and go party with the factory management :) Oh, and you probably work in the same factory. Or local school/shop/water, which is run by the same single party as the factory.

As a citizen, do you want to vote with your wallet and not buy carpet made in such way? Tough luck, that's the only carpet factory you get it from :)

State farm in the outskirts of town was run in same way. Just drop fertilizer in a water ditch and call it a day. Who cares how much you produce and that local ecological system is messed up? Meanwhile tractor driver can steal diesel planned for fertilising the fields and sell it in black market :)

It's not a random town with tough luck. This was modus operandi throughout USSR. If you want bigger scale stories, look up lake Karachay and Majak nuclear accident(s) :) Same line if thinking, just worse consequences.


Fertilizer in water is a problem to this day in capitalist USA. And every attempt to limit it is attacked, ironically, as communism.

https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-...

The EPA itself was started by a right-wing president because rivers were catching fire due to pollutants.

In China, a nominally communist party is working to shift from coal because air pollution was a threat to their continued rule.

Politics is definately important to climate change, but not the team sports level politics that many indulge in.


Not fertilizer in water. But literalyl piles of fertilizer in water ditches. No farmer in market economy would do that, because fertilizer is damn expensive.

China is turning away from coal mostly because they don't want to be dependent on Australia and other sources of coal.


> No farmer in market economy would do that, because fertilizer is damn expensive.

Farmers in market economies literally do this, when the costs are externalities to them, it's the same thing being done for the same reason.

With the right incentives, they'll do something else.


How would you structure incentives in market economy to incentivise discarding fertiliser in ditches? In worst case, you'd be better off selling it in black market.

If I had to guess it’s ending consumerism and growth at all costs.

Probably heavy taxation of consumption and lowering the average standard of living across the globe. Too bad it's a pipe dream, people will never vote for it and an dictator that tries to impose it will be overthrown.

Not across the globe. Only in rich countries where the current standard of living is unsustainable.

It's not the "standard of living" that is unsustainable.

The USA wastes a lot more resources to achieve similar standard of living to Europe. And even Europe is putting a lot of effort into policies that simultaneously improve their standard of living and reduce waste or pollution.

Saying that "standard of living" is synonymous with "amount of fossil fuels you burn" is standard climate change denier rhetoric.

People with efficient cars and well insulated homes have higher standards of living than those who don't.


> The USA wastes a lot more resources to achieve similar standard of living to Europe.

It's not similar though. Americans live in way bigger homes and on way bigger plots of land. Streets are wider. Everything is less cramped in general. Also, US has possibly the best health care quality (note I'm not discussing health care _insurance_) in the world. They can also afford more consumer niceties (iPhones, nice cars, foreign vacations etc.). All that extra stuff and quality requires extra fossil fuels and minerals.


How comes that you have the "best health care quality" but all the indicators of health care quality like life expectancy is among the worse in the Western world?

Because its's good (and expensive) that not everyone can afford it?

It's not only about fossil fuels. It's about all the resources that we use more of than is regenerated each year. I think both the US and Europe use too much.

Can you be more specific? What are they using too much of?

Water, Uranium, Gold, Copper, Sand?

Whatever it is, there's almost a certainly a way to use it more efficiently and therefore improve standards of living in Europe, and the rest of the world, at the same time.


Fossil fuels, fresh water, CO2 budget to limit warming, fertile soil, artificial fertilizer.

And things that are mined in general (like metals). They won't run out but as we mine the easy deposits first, the amount of energy it costs to mine a given amount will be forever increasing. E.g., eventually it will cost more energy to mine the materials for a wind mill than the electricity it will generate in its lifetime.


I'd be shocked if even one country does it in a meaningful way. It's just so contrary to human nature.

I think the only thing that can save us short-term is technology. Inventing and implementing new gizmos is something we're actually good at. Long-term we're probably screwed anyway, because we'll eventually disturb the biological systems on the Earth too much (either via pollution, ocean acidification, killing biodiversity, soil depletion etc.), and they're way too immense and complex for us to fix. People forget that we're part of Earth's ecosystem, but if we disturb it too much we'll be reminded of it either via plagues (we got a taste of it already) and/or famines.


Well, it will happen, because the current standard is unsustainable, and that's the definition of the word.

The only thing is whether any of it will be in a somewhat controlled, damage limiting fashion, or will it be just one stupid catastrophe after another.

I feel new gizmos are generally just more fuel onto the fire of consumerism, and will just speed up the process, not slow it.


"Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears likely. Overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich and poor choices of technologies are major drivers; dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3574335/

The only pipe dream is to continue breaching the planet boundaries.


I mean, of course, it will happen, but not as a voluntary self-limitation, but as hitting against hard limits, especially as they start shriking.

Of course, voluntary self limitation is unlikely.

But severe limitations were imposed during wars on the population by the state, so they are in the realm of possibility (once we acknowledge the severity of the problem, which we are not doing, because of many reasons).

We should also add that the expansion of renewables energy create more jobs than the fossil fuel sector, therefore there is at least some hope of this limitations being not as severe as w think. It was calculated that, to be sustainable, the lifestyle should go back to the sixties, during which we lived fairly well but without a savage overconsumption as now.


The idea of planetary boundaries is ridiculous. Are you talking about the collapse of an ecosystem? Multiple ecosystems? That’s still defined. But planetary boundaries is another word for “saving the earth.”

No. The earth doesn’t need saving. The diversity of life needs saving. Planetary boundaries is the wrong goal.


Read the paper please, planet boundaries are scientifically defined.

It’s not in the paper, actually (searched for “bound”). Reading the Wikipedia makes me feel like it is bad science, tbh. Meaning, too popular to critique adequately. But it makes no sense. Biodiversity isn’t a boundary it is a goal.

Let's redefine "standard of living" from owning a SUV to feel "safe" to owning a guitar and having time to learn how to play it.

> What does meaningful system change mean to you?

I would also like to have something more concrete here, but I think the GP hinted at why there is no single elevator pitch-like answer to real-world problems like climate change:

>> [...] have a grasp on all of the different ways the environment is being destroyed (not just "climate")


Where is the electricity coming from to charge your electric vehicles? Electric vehicles have a lot of potential to reduce pollution and noise in cities, but as a solution to "fixing" inevitable climate they are a con.

Electric vehicles use a lot less energy in total in the supply chain than gasoline cars (extracting and refining and transporting oil uses a lot of energy too, some of it electricity).

So electric vehicles reduces the energy required.

Longer term: Gasoline cars are not viable at all; electric cars are viable to the extent one can secure the energy for them. It is a way of getting any road transportation done in the future AT ALL; that is surely not a con?

I hope noone is arguing that moving to electric cars by itself is sufficient to stop climate change. That would be a con but also seems like a strawman.

The goal should be net zero, and electric cars are needed to have road transportation at all.


Absolutely agreed, except for one part: I don't think net zero will be enough. It might have been enough if we were at net zero thirty years ago. But now, in addition to net zero (which would be an impressive feat to achieve, society-wide), we need to work on absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, before the ocean does it for us.

What won't net zero be enough for?

The mythical climate change boogeyman, that's hasn't melted all the glaciers or put Manhattan underwater like we were warned of 30 years ago.The fearmongering is all based on models- and covid demonstrated how useless those are with complex systems.

What's the solid evidence any of it will happen? The IPCC model is an average of other models, it has no validity by itself (just reject the carp models until it's past performance looks good). What models have had an accurate forecast and for how long?

https://nypost.com/2020/01/10/the-telling-tale-of-glacier-na...


What's the solid evidence any of it will happen?

What kinds of solid evidence will you accept? Should we wait until all corals have bleached and withered away? Should we wait until all of Greenland is arable? How many years of drought should California endure until you might start accepting that maybe something has been changing for the worse?

Or should we rather ignore you and focus instead on things we can change?


Nope, the goal must be net negative... If you dont want to end up with at least 4-8 degrees more

This is pure speculation, not based in any kind of falsifiable science.

It's not speculation. It's just looking at CO2 levels and their corresponding equilibria

The climate has always changed. Trying to stop it is an exercise in stupidity.

Can two thing not be true?

1. the climate has always changed. 2. the rate of change depends on a lot things, among them how much green house gases exist in the atmosphere.

You have to have a pretty poor understanding of science to deny either one.


I'm trying to make it easier to find homes where you can walk, bike, and take public transport to your daily needs (and have great broadband so you can work from home where taht suits).

Does that count as system change?


No, changing zoning laws so that cities are built in a way that makes this possible for a bigger portion of the population would count as system change.


Yes, it's great! I also follow https://culdesac.com/ closely (but I never want to live in Arizona)

Correct. It is due to the politics and incessant greed of human nature that our ecological problems are difficult to reverse.

From the politics POV, they must impose a limit on how much factories should produce, because ultimately the climate problem has been caused due to our exploitation of resources and their eventual disposal as waste.

Less production = less waste = better ecology

But if you remember what happened with the toilet papers during covid, I don't have to remind you what's going to happen when production of most goods is unanimously reduced.

There will be those who panic buy, and those who intentionally hoard, and a basic shortage of everything which I'm sure humanity in general is not willing to cope with for the sake of our environment. Hence, reversing the damage cannot be possible.

However, those who want to try, I wish you all the best in your endeavours.


What is your opinion on the current post-truth politics backed by ubiquitous social media?

I am at a loss when figuring out how to even work towards meaningful change in an environment where that messages are viewed / liked / shared is the only important thing, and the relation of that message to physical reality is completely irrelevant.

And I have the feeling that in general, software is part of the problem, not the solution :-(


..."almost exclusively means working to bring about a big political change"...!

Preach.

While I agree that political change is necessary for a host of reasons, and that the current global system (more specifically the late-stage-capitalist US-hegemony financial world order with almost no democratic controls left) is pretty ill-suited to the task of fixing climate change... I think it's probably all we've got for this one in the timespan necessary.

Either the pain will reach deep enough into the system to affect the pride of the few remaining people who still have levers of control which can amount to more than "money go up", or the very mechanisms of capital will be affected "money not going up anymore. guess we gotta fix the planet", or it will all fail spectacularly and those in power will use the new climate conditions as a perpetual planned obsolescence to profit off increased costs of living worldwide for however long that lasts before a war breaks out and ends it all.

Either way, these decisions are probably out of the hands of the vast majority of people, ourselves included (unless you have a staggeringly rich uncle).

The mechanisms I see we have available, in this obscure niche forum for engineers, are to reduce the pricetag of climate action to levels where it makes capital sense. At $100/ton it's a ceiling of $3 Trillion to suck up 100% of the world's CO2 each year. Adjust to more reasonable targets as needed. Now... comparing that to bailouts of the past and considering we can likely get that pricepoint much lower at scale (or even profitable, with e.g. a self-perpetuating kelp farm harvested for fuel/plastic) that really doesn't seem like that much. The mass manufacturing and/or geoengineering to actually implement such projects seems daunting and risky in new ways, but the financials aren't all that bad. Someone just has to pony up. And imo the current situation is simply a political/financial game of hot potato where every faction wants to push the problem down the line for someone else to handle until the absolute last minute - even as solar and tech improvements are making potential solutions that much more achievable (which again motivates the delays).

Even now, with just current solar panel technology, the sheer investment value in just buying some panels and having them pay for themselves in a couple years is going to motivate most of the change needed. Obviously there are still a lot of industries that cant use that immediately, and a lot who are motivated to protect their sunk cost investments (anyone with an oil portfolio - aka most of the decision makers) - but still, capital is gonna react to this all. Just likely too slowly...

The most likely scenario I see where climate change gets solved by the current system (of the shrinking set of scenarios where it's solved at all) is where governments (and their financial backers) consort to fund some mega projects for mass CO2 drawdown. This results in a lot of money somehow flowing to oil and gas people (buyouts to pay them not to interfere), and increased power concentration in the US hegemonic global state - though possibly with a new negotiated balance between its participants. They implement these projects using some wartime-style measures of mass manufacturing and pseudo-command-economies to start up the project (WWII production would be easily capable of this - govs can do quite a lot when they actually try, and print debt/money to fund it). Once it's mostly built and derisked, sucking down CO2 successfully, the project will probably be privatized to some megacorp which charges a perpetual fee to taxpayers and is owned by the backroom financiers/political authors of this project. It will become a hated entity in the future like Nestle or Facebook, but it will also at least mostly mitigate extreme climate problems - probably artificially keeping things at a soft boil perpetually to ensure it gets paid. The profits of such a corp will not flow to the people whatsoever though, naturally. It will cause new "unforseen" environmental and social problems probably, but these will be debated ad-nauseum on talk shows whether they're worse than climate change. The project's true cost and effectiveness will be heavily distorted by the sheer amount of greased hands in its overall construction and operation. Though its creators will at least have had the prescience to make sure it sucks down enough carbon to reduce global measurements by a reasonable amount each year - or they'll monopolize the measuring agencies.


I don't understand like half of these words. Ecomodernist I new to me, decoupling rates, some paradox, rebound effect... is this a riddle? What here needed prefixing with an anti-downvote spell, the claim that we need systematic change to fix systematic problems?

I wrote this very quickly as just one comment among dozens of very different comments, so I really didn't expect to get the attention. It's much harder to write with plain words about these topics, so that's the reason for all the jargon.

As for the anti-downvote spell, I knew from previous experience that I get downvotes every time I question the importance of technology. And I did notice many downvotes this time too (from karma fluctuations), but just got a lot more upvotes.


I wrote this summary of what emissions sources matter if you want to move the needle, and how reputable sources argue for resolving them: https://climate.davis-hansson.com/p/big-picture-2020/

I used that as a basis to look for roles that - I imagined - actually would help make a dent. In the end, I took a job in the smart electric grid space, writing code to help the EU grid take on more cheap renewable generators at Tibber.

There’s a lot of software in many of these spaces! Decarbonising the grid, electrifying transport, building heat and industry, reducing agricultural emissions and so on.


Did that require any additional knowledge or training in electricity or physics?

Some roles at my current gig for sure does, but most do not. Tons of space for people with general experience in a very broad set of software skills - machine learning, general “backend dev”, apps devs, embedded devs.

There’s a lot of pairing people with general “here’s how you ship software” background and people with “here’s how the grid works” experience, doing skills transfer.

Part of the effort here ends up being training a whole cadre of people on how the grid works.

My email is in my profile if you want help trying to find gigs in US or EU in this space.


Thanks a lot! I won’t be looking for at least a year, but I will hit you up when I am.

If the plan is to "electrify everything" and reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, how can you not even mention nuclear power once?

Because the cost of construction AND timeline is not achievable before 2030 so the contribution of nuclear to the problem is post-2030. At best? you help to secure this form of power for 2040 and beyond. All nuclear under construction you are unable to shift its timeline. All nuclear in planning is subject to the regulatory delay of 10-15 years. The SMR push is not going to deliver power at scale by 2030, it will have at best a small handfull of megawatt units, when the demand is for terawatts.

If you invest in smart grid assist to balance wind, solar, battery, pumped hydro and can mitigate coal and gas load NOW then, as a new entrant, you have the choice to do that, or to invest in the longer term problem. If you want to invest in longterm Nuclear is no worse or better than any other choice. If you can reduce the cost of capital or increase productive efficiency now of the non-nuclear low carbon energy and grid, over the 10 year window you may have more effect.

There is nothing a new entrant engineer can do, to speed up nuclear. Its in regulatory and lawsuit hell. The engineer can help PV/Wind/Battery right now.

It's a choice, and goes to net present value, shape of the curve moving load, linear optimisation of choices...


Sometimes I wonder if people actually care about the climate at all, or if nuclear is just a political wedge issue used to distract from real solutions right now.

I think even people of good intent get stuck on blame-shifting and hindsight.

I opposed Torness (UK) in the 70s. I now would not protest an AGR, I think we need more nuclear not less. But, the time has passed where its economically viable in the necessary time window, for Australian power needs. LCOE, and time to construct has moved to wind, wave, solar and storage.

Some people can't get over this, and are stuck on energy density and scale.


Nuclear power has a lot of room for improvement. The problems are related to cost and complexity of the specific designs, not fundamental to the physics of using nuclear reactions for energy. Much like early computers, the current designs are large and difficult to build. There is a lot of potential to scale down and reduce costs, like was done for computers.

Molten salt reactors, for instance, offer a massive potential reduction in size and complexity (they eliminate a lot of the risks of water-cooled designs, so shouldn't need the same kind of massive containment structure to contain e.g. large volumes of highly radioactive steam in the event of a failure).

If next-gen fission research got even 10% of the resources that are currently spent on fusion, I think we would see a lot of progress towards improving the economics.


Not to disagree, but this lies in the "if we spent 5+ years we might improve in 10+ years and deploy in 15+ years" space.

If you look at the payback times on Battery, smarter networks, pumped hydro, windmill improvements, solar improvements, even now they are at their margins for 80/20 its probably shorter path to more beneficient outcome, but at a lower energy density.

The improvement in battery storage, and solar cell efficiency/cost is a good example. Over the same 5/10/15 year lifetime the drop has been continuous and at times above linear. We're now beyond the 2x improvement space, but the value of a 0.05% improvement in manufacturing for the volumes being made now, is really significant.

Nuclear, it would be very hard to project better than linear improvement in LCOE

I stress, I think we should do it. Its like the Manhatten project: Leslie Groves was asked to pick between thermal diffusion and gaseous centrifuge, and said "do both" -He was right: it turned out doing both improved feedstock quality going into the calutrons AND speed it up overall. Sometimes, its not pick A or B, its pick doing A and B and C


It's both.

People are generally good. If you want them to do something that is both bad and expensive, like continue subsidizing fossil fuels, then you need to convince them that they are doing something good, or at the very least the other side are doing something bad.

Nuclear neatly fills this hole of being sonething that is better than fossil fuels and yet lets you demonize people trying to fix the fossil fuel problem as innumerate, unsophisticated, dreamers etc.

To what degree the people who fall for this scam are culpable is hard to establish. They are also victims of the most expensive propaganda campaign in history.

Ironically, they also believe that people supporting renewables are just propaganda victims. They're generally less charitable about it though, feeling that anyone who is confused by corporate propaganda is the problem, rather than the harmful corporate propaganda itself.


People realize we failed out of lazyness and ignorance and are despaired, so its just so tempting to start believing again in this free&easy energy dream.. I think the issue more is that the real renewables, despite being the only real free and now also already proven path in parts of the world, had and still have too much counter propaganda.. the rest is just humans

There are a lot of people who choose the perfect over the good, even when the perfect is impossible. They revel in it. Incremental movement forward is their enemy just as much as going backwards.

It's easy to manipulate people who demand perfection because the alternative to perfection is low-energy lazy cynicism. I don't know how prevalent this manipulation is, though.

(And yes, I see the irony in my comment.)


The “90% clean grid” back casting model I mention very much includes nuclear! My little sentence there from 2020 is wrong, it should say “90% clean using wind, solar, batteries, hydro and the existing nuclear fleet”.

This was a variant of the question that I had when I left Stripe in 2019. After hearing someone say “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”, I became fixated on the question of what can I, with my software skillset, do to have a meaningful impact on climate?. The answer (in hindsight), is a ton.

My particular approach was to start a company (Watershed[0]), but today there are lots of great options as a software engineer. There are already plenty of great examples in the thread of places to look for companies (MyClimateJourney community, climate job boards, etc). I think the most important thing is not to feel like you need to learn a ton before jumping into the fray. Most engineers that joined us had zero climate experience beforehand. All you need is to be curious, be an effective engineer and you can learn what you need on the job.

My email is in my profile if you want to chat!

[0] We’re hiring (https://watershed.com/jobs) and engineering is absolutely our rate limiter in helping companies decarbonize. We’ve built a climate platform that’s powering the climate programs of some of the world’s leading companies (Block, Shopify, Doordash as a few examples). Our goal is to be responsible for reducing the world’s yearly carbon emissions by 500 megatonnes of carbon by 2030 (1% of global emissions).


To what extend aren't carbon offset programs just PR? From what I've read the efficacy is quite limited.

Just out of curiosity - is the name ("Watershed") a reference to "A half-built garden" from R. Emrys?

It's not, but that's an awesome coincidence. We're huge book lovers here at the company. In fact, we have an internal "4/4 only" list of books that folks contribute to. We have a copy of each 4/4 book in the office for people to borrow and read.

Would you like to post the URLs of the most important climate job boards, please?

If you are okay with "only" making about $100k, the US government always needs technologists and there are many openings right now for climate:

* https://www.usajobs.gov/job/631234500

* https://www.usajobs.gov/job/665458700

* https://www.usajobs.gov/job/668184500

Bonus, if you are into finance; you could help keep the fed on track with this one:

* https://www.usajobs.gov/job/652648400

More here: https://www.usajobs.gov/Search/Results?j=2210&j=1550&j=1560&...


Yes, I have.

Climate is political. The technology exists, but needs subsidies to hit the manufacturing volume that would make them price competitive. Government is the main driver of this. The main driver of the US government is special interest groups.

So if you want to maximize your impact, work for a special interest group with a focus on climate, energy and environment. There are 2 main categories you can work in, “the business,” and “the program”.

The business is the operational and fundraising arm of the org. It takes the mission, bottles it up and sells it to people who want a bit of hopium. There are normal tech roles here like IT, Web, apps, and customer databases. Pay is low, but you are contributing by keeping the lights on and the paychecks flowing to the people changing the world.

The program is whatever specific mission vertical the org works on. This will involve a lot of lobbyists, policy wonks and lawyers. Because, again, it makes no sense to spend your own orgs money when you can get a 100-1 lever by convincing the govt to do it for you. That climate bill is 370 billion and orgs that have an annual revenue of 10 million wrote the policy. There can be tech jobs around constituent management databases like VAN. Could see some technical jobs packaging up scientific data into easy to demo visuals for the lawmaker staff to consume. Rarely there could be some PHD spots for original research.

I worked in the field for about 10 years. If you want to know anything, just ask.


After most recently working in ads, I switched to working in climate - feels infinitely more meaningful on a daily basis.

We're working on carbon accounting and industrial decarbonization here at Gravity (https://gravityclimate.com). Your background could make for a strong fit.

Email in profile.


Hi Ted,

Not OP but would like to get in touch as well.

Check your personal email.


I'm aware this is somewhat besides the point. But still ..

The way I see it, carefully choosing a job doesn't matter much (compared to other things you can do) for helping avoid the ecosphere catastrophe as an individual.

Most jobs are the end result of consumers (and also institutions like the state or other companies) demanding whatever products and services they deem necessary. Companies then implement processes to produce these things and then issue job offers accordingly and employ personnel.

If some job vacancy provides enough salary, it will very likely be filled. By you or someone else. By choosing to not do a certain job, you don't influence the demand side for it (which comes from consumers' demand) and if the demand is high, in principle the salary will generally just increase until someone else is willing to do the job.

If you want to gently yet effectively change and shape the whole supply chain and reduce emissions, you can choose to be very conscious of your individual demands that you feed into the worldwide production system.

If you simply buy less unnecessary stuff (right now the best thing you can do) or buy used stuff or buy sustainable stuff ... and if billions of people do the same, we will have a totally different landscape of companies within 20 years.

Living daily life as sustainably as possible, is - in our current western environment - a real challenge. Some people find meaning in trying to accomplish that.

IMO there's nothing wrong with working in a job that's not per se sustainable (say oil rig) and at the same time living your daily life in such a way that shapes your little individual slice of the world wide demand for production so that it's sustainable.


You can even invert and distort the example in my last paragraph to the extreme and ask yourself which (A or B) will more likely lead to a better outcome for the ecosphere.

A) You work as a consultant for a company that advises other companies how to save energy in their processes. You make good money and use your ample holiday of 50 days a year travelling the world by flying here and there with your family.

B) You work on an oil rig and recently bought a small house in the outskirts of a small town. You're mostly vegetarian and in your holidays you're either working on renovating the house to be selfsufficient (top insulation, solar panels, electrolyzer, H2-tank, fuel-cell, rain water tank, ...) or you're doing bike trips with a tent.


How about a C) You work for a company that is trying to solve climate change, and at the same time in your personal life focus on decreasing your carbon footprint?

There is no reason why one cannot do both, if they want to. You'd think people that are conscious enough to seek out a climate-relevant job such as OP would also be conscious enough to care about their individual impact to climate change).


> There is no reason why one cannot do both, ...

I want to agree but I think this is not completely true.

People's mental capacity to consciously decide what little things they do in daily life and how they do them is a limited ressource.

If you agree with me that shaping the demand side (what products/services you demand as a consumer) is more effective than trying to starve the labour market of non-green sectors by not working for them ... then you should prioritize having an eye on consumption.

> You'd think people that are conscious enough to seek out a climate-relevant job such as OP would also be conscious enough to care about their individual impact to climate change.

There are certainly people who manage to do both. But there are also people who don't.

I just think it's really important to make it clear which of the two is more important/useful .. so that people waste less time with the less important/useful aspect .. and to me it's obvious that changing the little things of daily life is far more important/useful.


There is a community at https://workonclimate.org/ focused on helping people find jobs related to climate. You can also look at https://climatevoice.org/, and look at how your employer is lobbying on climate. You can also look at climate bills/policy related to corporate disclosure at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billAnalysisClient.... and https://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-10-22/s71022.htm to see which corporations are lobbying for or against strong climate policy, and try to work for those companies most supportive of strong climate policy.

I highly recommend checking out 80,000 hours which has very helpful problem profile guides, quizzes on how to find out what is most meaningful to you, career guides, and a job board. It's been exceedingly helpful for me as I made career decisions (and major life decisions).

https://80000hours.org/problem-profiles/climate-change/#top


Im sure this is mentioned in this thread but just to be sure make sure you check this out.

https://techjobsforgood.com/

Only thing I ever applied to on there was a python job at a carbon capture startup in New Zealand. I got a call back. Didnt end up working out but 100% is a pretty good call back rate so far. Looking forward to getting back on there in a couple months.

Also if you haven't heard of / checked out Recurse Center it might be a good place to make your career transition. It's kind of why they exist.

https://recurse.com/

PS Right on! Im thinking about the exact same career pivot myself. Very inspiring to see this :)


I am getting `Access denied Error code 1020` while trying to access https://techjobsforgood.com/ from AS55836 in India.

FYI, TJ4G is USA only.

Everything here always is, I've stopped clicking links to climate job pages (there have been a couple). I wonder if it's the language barrier that makes the EU so much more fragmented.

I joined a company that isn't focused on solving climate change, but we are working to make freight shipping via train more feasible in the US, which could potentially offset shipping emissions by a non-trivial amount.

I personally care a lot about climate change, so this work is quite a bit more satisfying than optimizing ad spend or A/B testing UI to improve "impression" metrics or similar.

There are places to find work where your time and energy help mitigate climate change (or other big problems), without the work directly focusing on that problem.


We are working in europe on pushing the renewable energy transition to bring „infinite power to all of us“. There are fully remote software jobs, if you are located near CET. https://neoom.com/en/career

I had a look at your job postings being located in the DACH region myself but I must admit I’m surprised you find anybody willing to work for the salaries listed.

I get that you’re not competing with FAANG salaries and kudos for mentioning them upfront but sub 50k gross would not even convince newly grads, let alone senior engineers where I live. We pay almost twice this and are having serious trouble hiring remote or local.


>I had a look at your job postings being located in the DACH region myself but I must admit I’m surprised you find anybody willing to work for the salaries listed.

Austrian law is funny. The law says that job ads have to list the MINIMUM salary. Now what companies do is they leave the word "MINIMUM" off and kinda weasel around it in the rest of the sentence. The weaseling here is "Depending on education, qualification and experience, a substantial overpayment is possible".

The "minimum salary" is usually a mandated minimum that has been negotiated by the unions. Paying less than that is illegal.

Good developers in Austria aren't willing to work for those minimum salaries of course.

>I get that you’re not competing with FAANG salaries and kudos for mentioning them upfront but sub 50k gross would not even convince newly grads,

Note: Its 14 salaries a year. And part of the health insurance is not included in the negotiated amount but has to be paid by the employer. It's a DACH thing, as you know. So from an employers point of view, if you negotiated X gross with the employee, you have to actually pay at least 1.5 X, up to 2 X, for him.


Outside of HN bubble 55k€ is a normal/good salary for some regions in Germany (and maybe Austria, idk). Especially if you maybe add 10-30% to that number it should be not a problem to find senior developers. If you want to pay double that and still don't find senior developers then either your company is invisible (maybe start with advertising that kind of salary) or requires too specialized prior knowledge.

This organisation runs a slack community where climate jobs are discussed and new postings for lots of companies get shared there:

https://workonclimate.org/

That said, while I feel similarly to you OP, I am also highly skeptical of the tech industry as an avenue for bringing about the necessary change. We don't need new tech, the problem is almost entirely one of societal organisation and changing the economic incentives. One particularly egregious example of a tech failure is the case of the carbon offset company that actually succeeded in starting wildfires and destroying a lot of forest instead, and there are plenty more you can find.

I think, while it might not feel meaningful in the same way, your effort is better spent financially supporting and contributing to climate activism that can change the perspective and politics in your community.


In the past decade, a warming anomaly caused a plague that killed off 99% of the Sunflower Sea Stars, a top predator of sea urchins. The runaway sea urchin population resulted in the rapid and sustained loss of >100,000 square km of Kelp forests off the coast of California. Kelp does an amazing job of sequestering carbon to the deep sea. For instance, estimates show that the lost Kelp forests provide close to $1.5B per year in carbon sequestration services (at $5/ton). I’m trying to help my friend raise money for her organization that is trying to bring the kelp forests back through the repopulation of the giant sea stars. Any ideas?

https://www.sunflowerstarlab.org/

Personally, I want to develop a viable vision around “AI for ecological wellbeing.”


Having worked in the climate sector myself for some years, there's quite a few openings. Fundamentally I don't think climate change is something that is software-solvable, but software can play a supporting part.

Currently I work at Climatiq making carbon estimation API's (we're hiring!), but previously I worked with wind turbines for several years, which are massive beasts and generate crazy amount of data, requiring large teams of software developers to efficiently manage. Perhaps solar management is similar.



Can’t recommend this enough

link not working

Hi there,

I had the same thoughts, which led me to build Electricity Maps (https://app.electricitymaps.com) a few years back, mainly to understand the current state of how electricity grids cause CO2 emissions. Luckily (and with a lot of hard work) it turned into a successful company. I also worked on some other climate tech products which weren’t as fortunate. I’ve written about past experiences here: https://oliviercorradi.com/blog/lessons-learned-climate-tech...

Hopefully this can help you a bit on your journey.

We’re also hiring (although jobs are based in Copenhagen). Furthermore, a lot of our work is open source (https://github.com/electricitymap/electricitymap-contrib) - feel free to take a peek!

In any case, do not hesitate to get in touch if you think I can help


My team at Amazon is currently hiring for software engineers, scientists and machine learning engineers to help us control and optimize Amazon's growing fleet of wind and solar farms. We are a new team with a lot of scope ahead of us. You can see some more info below:

- https://www.amazon.jobs/en/jobs/2165937/software-development...

- https://www.amazon.jobs/en/jobs/2159478/renewable-research-s...

- https://www.amazon.jobs/en/jobs/2079935/sr-applied-scientist...


Climate economist here. Game-changing impacts from knowledge provision are like academic impacts, very difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, you seem to have the right background, and I endorse another comment on insurance. Providing the right information should make it difficult to invest/borrow/insure carbon intensive activities. I would focus on finding how to provide this information. Happy to chat, I might have more ideas that could be valuable to you, not sure. Email in profile.

Check out Climate Base (https://climatebase.org). It is a climate action oriented job board that spans a range of sub industries.

If you’re interested in staying in finance there are many blends of finance and climate serving all parts of the stack like https://www.joinatmos.com (mobile banking that funds clean energy, where I work), https://carboncollective.co & https://www.raisegreen.com (clean investing), etc

Very fulfilling for me so far - strongly recommended.


also Yourstake.org

Not a joke, I swear.

Work in property insurance/reinsurance. I spent the last 16 years in that world and contemplated climate change nearly the entire time. Insurance not seen as all that sexy, but I think it's one area where climate matters in a very practical way.

Happy to discuss with you if interested.


Bret Victor's essay [0], "What can a technologist do about climate change?", has great ideas of where you can start.

[0] http://worrydream.com/ClimateChange/


I studied renewable energy engineering at a mid-tier Canadian university. My experience, both personally and talking to my peers, is that just like one cannot solve every problem by throwing money at it, one cannot solve every problem by throwing brainpower at it. The climate crisis being one of those. There are a lot of people looking to work for someone else in order to solve this problem, smart people willing to change careers isn't what's lacking.

What's lacking, not to get too Ouroborean about it, seems to be energy. A number of my former classmates have gone into entrepreneurial ventures since graduation, since that seems much more what the industry is lacking.

To give one example relevant to your background - if you're skilled in finance, a fund of some kind that invests dividends from fossil fuel companies into emerging alternative sources would probably do a lot. That is really the global challenge, to invest the dividends from the fossil fuel era into a post-fossil era with as little reduction in human living standards as possible. Fossil fuels have an energy that renewables lack, never mind the hype. It's bringing that energy over with as few losses as possible that I see as the challenge.


Wouldn't it be better to invest directly into emerging alternative sources instead?

Dividends in anything will only be about 5% of the money invested, meanwhile you've given 20 times more money to the fossil fuel companies, who will use that money to lobby to keep themselves in power and shut out or slow alternative fuel companies as much as possible. Granted the dividend pays multiple times, but still.

Seems to me like that could be counterproductive overall.

If you want to go the forwarding dividends route, why not invest in a non-fossil fuel company and use those dividends to invest in alternative fuel companies? You'd be able to use almost the same amount of money without directly supporting fossil fuel companies (those other companies might be almost as bad, though, for other reasons).


Because the trouble I'm suggesting OP could do something about isn't precisely that there are no investors in alternative fuels. It's that too much of the money ever put into fossil fuels gets reinvested in fossil fuels, which makes said lobbying much more desperate than it could be were the money part of a mixed portfolio that started out with mostly fossil assets but reinvests outside it. It also makes it necessary for fossil companies to drop the price precipitously when there is a downturn, which shakes out a lot of promising alternate startups. If the backers had the capacity to wait out a fossil fuel downturn, those resources could be sold later at top dollar, but that would require a diversified approach.

It's obviously not as simple as what I'm imagining (not a finance guy here, just an enthusiastic private investor) but what I'm sure needs to happen at the macro level is that the returns from capital currently invested in fossil fuels need to go to nonfossil investments in a gradual, continuous manner so that costs can be averaged out over a number of business cycles. If that happens, we'll probably be okay when the fuels do run out. If capital sources for clean vs fossil are segregated and antagonistic, fossil will simply win.


Check out workonclimate.slack.com - I found a job there. It is a quite active community of people thinking and feeling as you do. You'll find climate-related jobs aggregators and opportunities to engage with companies/individuals seeking talent of all sorts.

There are small-to-midsize firms working to get climate-related remote sensing data into the hands of farmers and others. Here's one whose chief scientist is really exceptional:

https://www.hydrosat.com

Here's another one that's focused on carbon and methane:

https://carbonmapper.org/

I know several of their board members and leadership and they are also very skilled.


Check out https://watershed.com/jobs

I have no affiliation, other than previously working with the founders at Stripe (they are some of the most impressive people I've met in my life).


This is a great piece on finding a job with purpose: https://medium.com/@hhlim/chasing-a-job-with-purpose-85357ee...

"2 years ago, I made the career pivot I’d thought about for years, from my Silicon Valley enterprise software job, to finally working on solving climate change full-time. Since then, my friends and their friends would often ask how they, too, can make purpose-driven impact work their day job. In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, these requests now come up weekly. It’s a crazy 2020: with a pandemic, fast-approaching climate disaster, and continuing systemic racism towards Black people front and center, it seems that for many, it feels harder every day to continue life as normal, and go back to just “a job”. "

Podcast version here: https://nori.com/podcasts/reversing-climate-change/S2E32-Cha...


I work for a company that installs sensors that monitor water levels (reservoir and tidal) and make real-time dashboards with millimeter precision.

Previously, I was programming industrial machines in the manufacturing industry.

I found the company because I own a few shares of one of our partners. I saw a press release announcing the partnership and thought it sounded awesome, so I emailed and said "Here's my skillset. I'm excited by what you're doing. If you'd like to work together, let me know."

It is fully remote.

Yes, it makes an impact. Reservoir use our data to make informed decisions on moving water between or reservoirs and putting water restrictions in place.

We are a very small team. I report to the CTO, am given a lot of autonomy/freedom, and touch every part of our process from circuit board to customer-facing dashboard, so by extension I feel that I'm making a positive impact.


Actually, I have been asking this question to myself, in addition to my other comment in this thread responding to the question. I have 10y experience in top publications in climate research, worked at top institutions, with top people, and I know the scientific landscape very well across the physics and human dimensions -- including strengths and pitfalls. I am being interviewed for tenured positions in academia these days. However, I really would like to help efforts out of academia, even without a workload from an (unpaid) advisory role, that would make a difference for me at the end of the day! BUT, I do not know how to transfer my knowledge, where to start, or to whom I could talk. This thread is beautiful because it shows many valuable sources to continue my still inconclusive search, please if you have any advice, I would be most grateful!

I worked shortly for an airline, breathing carosine weekly, and so then switched back to EV charge-points and solar. I am not sure if it makes real impact, but I feel subjectively better and find more satisfaction on every day basis.

I started as a full-time employee, now I work remotely as a freelancer/contractor.

I am pretty glad for the switch. The type of work I do (data engineering, tech leadership) is quite similar to the airline business; but in the clean-tech side.

For finding a job, maybe remote job listing sites might help [1], or then clean-tech related job sites.

[1] https://twitter.com/insharamin/status/1554160501550358528


At GreenGo, we are trying to re-enchant local tourism for Europeans so that they are less inclined to take the plane => changing behaviours, not improving technology. We want to do that by making local destinations more desirable and making figuring out which destinations are accessible with low carbon transportation much easier.

So far we have built an airbnb-like platform (https://www.greengo.voyage) with a host selection component, but we have big plans to differentiate thanks to a recent 1.6M funding round. People who want to embark on this mission don't hesitate to contact me at felix@greengo.voyage :-)


I was employee #1 at a solar forecasting startup focused on increasing renewable energy in national electricity networks globally. While the work brought a sense of satisfaction, the whole pandemic thing and high pressure devops + sales became too much and I left after 4.5 years, team is now 12 and tech is used all over the world.

https://solcast.com

I’m still on good terms with founders and helping them recruit a hands on CTO in Australian time zones if someone with the right skills is interested, wants to chat. Can be reached at the same username on twitter.


For myself I figured that there is absolutely nothing you can do for climate working as a software engineer. The best thing you can do is to become politically active. Go join some environmental movement you sympathize with the most. The next best thing you can do is make money at whatever job you can get and donate a significant amount to the aforementioned movement. I know this answer is not very popular among the techies, but I am afraid it's true.

Have you opened this thread? There are nearly 200 comments, some more concrete than others but still, do none of them sound like a software developer could do it?

Another good resource and community is https://www.mcjcollective.com

They have a slack community (access by membership), as well as a Substack and podcast.

Lastly, I found a new recruiting firm (which, I know, bear with me) called Climate People (https://www.climatepeople.com) focuses exclusively on placing people at climate change focused companies.


I‘ll make the switch to working for a company in the solar energy space soon. Found it through climatebase.org, a huge job board for anything in the broad space. There are quite some companies in need of good software engineers. Are all of them doing „the right thing“™? Probably not. Is this huge problem with so many smaller things to solve worth taking a shot at? Sure. This needs all hands on deck, so begin the search, apply and learn on the way.

As a senior programmer working in finance, I would imagine you have quite a bit of savings. I would suggest taking some time away from work to learn something other than programming. I don’t think software is the biggest lever to pull in “climate tech.” These are problems of atoms, not really problems of bits.

However, if you are constrained such that you need to stay primarily in the software domain, I would recommend a lateral into something like a controls or optimization oriented roll. There are plenty of commercial and industrial buildings whose HVAC could operate more efficiently. There are plenty of ISOs and utilities who employ planners and forecasters (and this could be high leverage, as if we solve present day tasks like building lots of clean generation and storage, we will quickly find that transmission and distribution are the new constraints). You will see a lot of companies that are solving issues around measuring, dashboarding, and reporting, but I do not think this is high value work and I think the space is too crowded already, so I would very much recommend you find something where you are directly optimizing the deployment or operation of real physical assets.


There are a large number of problems in climate and clean energy that need creative finance solutions. Look up Generate Capital for one example.

I work on digitizing electricity rates to enable smarter financing of clean energy projects, distributed energy resources in particular. So much of this work is about creating pathways for money to get where it needs to go. You can definitely find a way to use your existing skills in the service of climate rescue.


Also a lot of people mentioned climatebase.org. They’re great! Lots of good jobs across a lot of roles.

Try to find a tech job at an organization working on:

1. Passive solar design

2. Construction financing, especially intended to foster mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods

3. Funding or building smaller scale housing in walkable neighborhoods and infill development.

4. Cycling infrastructure so it's possible to start walking back out car-centric American lifestyle.

5. Buy local movements.

6. Anything similar to the above that promotes decentralization, local markets supported by online tech solutions, walkable development etc.


Sorry to ask this in your thread, but are there jobs particularly in the nuclear sector for a general software engineer? I don’t have a related degree though.

4 years ago I was facing the same problem. I had gained some knowledge as a developer and didn't want to work for a random project anymore. I was set on finding something that would align with my values and would help our society live in a more sustainable way.

I found that Energy is one of the most important things. If you have abundance of energy you can do a lot of things. E.g. convert existing materials to new. The only thing is that you need to produce that energy in a sustainable way.

At that point I decided to join a start-up called Sympower (now ~100 people). Sympower helps balance the electricity grid by using already existing resources. Balancing the grid is very important to be able to accommodate additional renewable resources into our grid.

At the moment I am satisfied with my decision. I feel like the company is making an impact and the company is also keeping sustainability in mind in its daily operations. The job is also remote.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out fred.puistaja@sympower.net


Worked in that space for a while and found it through a Recruiter on LinkedIn. Generally I think the average salary is a bit lower but now there are a lot of Climate techs which to my understanding work like Fintechs. There is everything from solar tech to CO2 budgeting systems. Surely it has an impact although of course the companies are still businesses so not everything they do is for a greater good

For small startups: check out Elemental Excelerator (I work for a great company funded through that)

For large startups: climate unicorns https://climatetechvc.substack.com/p/-climate-unicorns-take-...

Big tech: Google X Tapestry, Tesla, or any large solar company like Sunrun


I made the transition from fintech to climate (solar) about 5 years ago and am incredibly happy with the decision.

The primary challenge for me was finding a company which was mission-driven, had interesting engineering problems, and had a strong engineering culture. At the time, that combination felt very rare.

Ultimately, software necessarily sits a few steps removed from the tactical changes in climate (energy transition, policy, etc.). That said, I do feel like I'm making a tangible impact on moving the US toward solar and away from carbon-intensive energy.

P.S. I lead the engineering team at Wunder Capital [1]. I'd be happy to chat with anyone interested in moving into climate and/or our open engineering roles.

[1] https://www.wundercapital.com/about


Check out https://www.infogrid.io/careers , a company focused on improving building health and energy use through smart sensors. The company HQ is in London but moving to the US soon. Most technical roles are remote and still hiring.

You might make more impact finding the highest paying finance job and then donating most of your income to climate causes.

You were downvoted but this is a legit point - people like the ones in this article on “effective altruism” made this decision: https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2020/09/23/effective...

If you can find an org that can convert dollars to lives saved (by climate advocacy eg climate central or direct action eg terraformation) and commit to donating a certain percentage of your paycheck to them it may make your job feel more meaningful. Doesn’t work for me but works for sum.


Effective altruism suffers from a number of issues, the biggest being the inability of current frameworks to quantify the effects of externalities via systems modeling. In short: if your job contributes to the climate issue (and finance certainly does), you probably won't counteract that effect by donating even the entirety of your disposable income.

It might if you're really good at making money and really bad at climate stuff, but your donation enabled people who are actually impactful to work on it. At an extreme, a finance person's salary could pay for a dozen good teachers who could go on to inspire hundreds to work more directly in climate, vs that finance person trying to become an educator themselves (if education isn't their skill or desire).

But yes, we don't have a good system for quantifying those differences in individual effectiveness per career path across society.


The point is you are also impacting the climate in your day job, whether you intend to or not. You are essentially taxing yourself by causing some harm that needs to be later rectified. There is a reason that "reduce, reuse, recycle" is stated in that order.

I understand that, but the carbon impacts of many jobs are small -- whether positive or negative. If you take a job that has a small negative carbon footprint, use some of the money and focus it on things that have a larger positive carbon sequestration, that's still a (small) net win.

And there are force multipliers. Education is one of them. Science/R&D is another.

Think of it another way. You can pay 3x more fancy vegan food that might be like 150% better for the climate, or use that money to plant trees directly and save more carbon overall.

Efficiency and magnitude matters. It's all CO2E in the end, but not every dollar spent gets you the same amount.


The carbon impacts of most jobs are huge, certainly in finance. The need for perpetual economic growth is by far the largest contributor to climate change.

Per capita, I mean.

Even if each person threw only one plastic bag in the Virgin River per year, Zion would suck very soon.

Participating in finance is itself a force multiplier for others to do the same, and with such an energy-hungry practice as finance, that is going to cause worse outcomes. We can't just buy our way out of the problem, because on the whole, the economic activity you generate enables others to help cause worse outcomes (even per-capita, it's a lot of people).


This suggestion only makes sense if you don't consider your job as part of the contributions to climate change. You will find that the things you help to finance in your job will cause more carbon emissions than you can counteract with your salary.

YAAAS If we can accelerate income equality we can reduce consumption. We need the 99% (better yet the 99.9%) to be as poor as possible. Income is related to consumption, and consumption is related to emissions and pollution.

> Income is related to consumption, and consumption is related to emissions and pollution.

This doesn't make any sense. The suggestion is to make more money and donate ~all of it instead of consuming it. You can't look at a plan to make more income and infer that the higher income means more consumption _when the entire point of the plan explicitly avoids consuming the excess income_.


Making a lot of money doesn't "accelerate income inequality" necessarily; there isn't a fixed amount of money in the world and it's not possible to hoard it.

The job found me, from posting here, actually. Yep it's remote. Still early days, but if we do it right, it will have a real impact on local communities, like kids & adults sensitive to poor air quality. I think it'll also show kids that change is possible & happening now, which I think will inspire them (imagine being 12 and getting on an electric schoolbus for the first time!). And it's moving the needle forward on electrification of trucking nation-wide. Much more meaningful than my last gig.

If you're interested, shoot me a line at peter dot willis at nexteraenergy dot com, we have lots of open roles. But either way, I do recommend going after something you find meaningfully improves the lives of people or the environment. Even if it takes a while to find one that fits, I don't think you'll regret it.


I believe that the linear relationship between GDP and energy consumption makes it impossible to achieve growth and fight climate change.

That said, I'm working in the climate insurance start-up Descartes Underwriting, trying to compute risks for many natural perils: cyclones, wildfires, hail, droughts...

We're not on the mitigation side, but on the adaptation side. The financial service we provide helps companies survive and recover after catastrophes : I feel like my work has a positive impact! And although frightening, it's really interesting to first-hand witness the perturbations of climate.

https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/company/descartesunderwritin...


It depends on what you want to impact. If you want to be in an area where somehow you'd get notoriety for contributing to mitigating clinate change disaster, you probably have a naive view of climate science research. However, if you basically just want to contribute in some small way by shifting what you're working on, and probably taking a 70% pay cut, then I'd recommend looking at academic labs. Lots of Uni research labs have lots of data being produced that needs to be hosted and made publicly accessible. This is essentially what I did for some time and it was very rewarding. In my case I worked on maintaining an open data portal based on CKAN, which hosted water water quality data as well as other data produced as a product of biology research.

I took a break from tech and got a Masters of Environmental Science and Management if you are interested in that path. It helps you really have additionality rather than being a hired tech person in the climate space. Also the Work on Climate group is good!

I've been working in climate tech for about 7 years now, at https://sense.com. Very fulfilling. We're hiring in lots of roles. Feel free to get in touch. (Email in profile.)

I work for a company that does predictive maintenance on wind turbines. E.g. “we think you need to look at this now rather than leave it 6 months because there’s a high risk that the fault progresses, and the turbine will be offline for 9 months”

I've been consulting with Ambrook (https://ambrook.com/) who are working on this problem. Great team and worth checking out if you're looking at the space.

The best way to solve climate change with a skill set like yours is to make ESG ratings more open, transparent and scientific. Here two resources to get started in this domain. OS-Climate can definitely use your skills:

1. https://github.com/os-climate/OS-Climate-Community-Hub#readm... 2. https://opensustain.tech/blog/openness_as_a_key_indicator_fo...


I have idea for drastic increase in efficiency of low temperature differential (50*C) stirling engines, which would make liquid air storage a viable alternative to grid scale batteries, super cheap solar-thermal panels could outcompete PV panels and it would alleviate problems with cooling large power plants while generating more energy from the same amount of fuel.

The only problem - I didn't yet made a prototype to validate this idea, because I have to work overtime just to support myself and family. I'm slowly making progress on this and I will be able to finish that prototype until end of year.


[Project drawdown](https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions) lists a large number of ranked solutions to fight climate change. A good way to find sectors you might easily become passionate about but hadn't considered. The [80,000 hours](https://80000hours.org/) website also has a job board and provides a lot of excellent resources. All the best in your journey :)

An interesting question for me in relation to this, is how do you perceive scientific advisors and climate science in general? what are the difficulties you find when using it to incorporate it into your work?

Oh man I used to run a climate tech / impact investing company. Hiring was so easy.

On the other hand, having a team of mission-driven true believers actually makes for some difficult and potentially toxic team dynamics.


We think that getting a billion people to cook (and eventually grow some of their own food) will have huge effects on climate: https://parsnip.substack.com/p/why-we-started-parsnip

This elicited a strong reaction from folks on HN, but then again any novel idea does: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32266086


I'm currently working for a german startup as a freelancer to create a web app that helps companies to monitor, report and compensate their carbon footprint.

I got the job because I'm specialised on green web development and was found on LinkedIn/Xing by the CEO. I completly work remote from my small home town, sitting in an old castle - one of the oldest buildings of the city.

So far the first customers get an onboarding towards using the software. The data layout is quite flexible so every kind of data, company structure, etc can be integrated.


Do you want to disclose which startup it is? I'm German and in the same situation as OP, so this might be interesting.

Hello,

I used to write software for insurance companies, now I convert London Taxis to be all-electric: https://clipper.cab

We raised some pre-seed friends & family money and were supported by innovateUK in a critical part of the project.

The "new" electric London taxis are hybrid only! The exhaust isn't visible, so many people think they are electric which I think is terrible.

Our solution recycles existing vehicles and is truly all-electric.


A lot of work is still needed in fixing the duck curve problem in the power grid. We need to have washing machines that start running when there's over production of solar, electric cars that provide power to the grid when there's shortages and software and hardware to do this.

That's just one of the challenges, of course, but it's one that might be relevant to your finance experience, since a lot of this work has to be done in energy markets.


Check out Uplight![1] They're a certified B-corp and going about it the Abe Lincoln way: Making change from within the industry. I've spoken to 3 people from there, one a contractor, and they were all intelligent compassionate humans who know what the company is about and the challenges it faces.

[1] https://uplight.com/careers/


There are many climate related companies those days and job boards dedicated to them as well (https://climatebase.org/jobs for example)

I've been on the lookout for Developer Relations jobs in the space though, and so far haven't found a single position. I know it's a hard cookie but I'd be grateful if someone has ideas.


As a follow-up, I came across #1 but wasn't feeling too well to comment:

1. https://www.climatejobslist.com/jobs/devrel-engineer-at-crus...

2. There's also this list you could scan for DevRel opportunities https://startupsearch.com/climate-startups-2022


You could bookmark the Airtable link in my post where I keep track of DevRel roles https://ayewo.com/exploding-career-opportunities-in-devrel/

What the people said here about climate being political are correct. I worked in climate for 3 years and climate companies suffer from the same problems as all startups: product market fit issues, infighting, executive mismanagement. It’s not like working at a climate company you’ll all of the sudden solve all of your problems.

When you work in tech you have actually a huge impact. The impact may be not directly seen, however, the way you program or the way you do things is crucial. Also design decisions whether another server is relevant or another one can be used, whether you code intelligently and use the limits and things that a computer offers you - then you already have a big influence.

Surprised no one has said the following; study AI and try make a meaningful contribution to the field. It may sound trite, but the most likely way we solve the climate crisis is by solving AGI first, hoping it doesn't cause a doomsday scenario itself, and subsequently hoping 'it' will coordinate an effort to reverse the damage we have done.

As an AI researcher, I feel like this is misguided advice. The field is overrun with people, and it's almost impossible to make a meaningful dent anymore. Even if you have a group of experienced researchers and large compute reserves, most people are content with chasing SOTAs, because the green-field low-hanging fruit of yesteryear is over (and has been over for a while). Sure, you can learn some AI and then look for climate-applications[0], but then again, why not enter that field as a software engineer in the first place. Learning AI and is just an unnecessary detour if you want to end up in climate change.

[0] https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.05433


Does the meaning of SOTA appear here?

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=SOTA

If no, please explain, thanks!


No, because that's not the right way to search for meanings. You probably need to help out the search engine and provide the context that you would like to know the meaning.

The correct answer appears if you search for "sota abbreviation" [1] or "sota meaning" [2].

[1]: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=sota+abbreviation&ia=web

[2]: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=sota+meaning&ia=web


So you make a brilliant AGI, it points out the obvious -- we should stop consumerism and lower rich countries' standard of living before physics forces us to. How then does it get any political power to achieve that? It won't be taken more seriously than any individual human.

Seems quite likely to me that the AGI hucksters won't deliver the goods before we're able to make the planet inhospitable for ourselves. Risky bet, in any case.

Your AGI recommends depopulation and decarbonization.

Unless you use a brain computer interface to hijack everyone’s brains, I don’t think this is going to help much.


The answer is already known and is very simple: stop emission of CO2 now.

Thanks a lot for asking this. I have been thinking about a similar jump but never found much resources to do so (mostly checking the job boards of every related company I find in my news feed; not very optimal :). Now I have way more to peruse. I just hope I can find more Europe centric sites (so far much has been USA leaning).

I made the transition from fintech to working at the intersection of web3 and climate. There’s an emerging movement around “Regenerative Finance” and it’s quite exciting. There’s very real potential for impact here. A good starting spot to get the pulse on these trends is the “My Climate Journey” podcast.

I can recommend these two sites to check out: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/ https://80000hours.org/

Effective altruism is a joke. Your high paying finance job is terrible for the environment, creating a fake need for perpetual growth. Do something good for the world with your time, there's lots of room for positive disruption in areas where there's not a lot of money to be made.

Maybe not so obvious, but a hard and interesting CS problem with a big impact on climate is compiler design. If you can make a 0.1% performance improvement in Gcc or LLVM, you will save a huge amount of power and CO2. Compiler designers are the true unsung heroes of software.

It's an interesting thought, since you might effect a larger momentary difference than you could achieve any other way, depending on personal predisposition.

But for one, the total change we can achieve as a society that way is limited--gcc and LLVM are almost optimally efficient already, the total possible saving probably wouldn't exceed 10%; larger changes could be achieved on higher abstraction levels (higher-level languages, full-program analysis, ..), though.

And secondly, such efficiency gains tend to be eaten up as they come. The same energy is just spent on either an inefficiency in another place (e.g. saving on human cost instead), or on new things that can be done with it. (Similar to how ~20 years ago the thought was that the office of the future would be paperless, whereas in reality the amount of paper used hasn't decreased last I heard.) This is because computing is used as much as it is affordable[1]. Making it cheaper just affords more of it.

E.g. if you make LLVM or gcc faster, it allows for people using Python for longer before moving to Go or Rust or whatever.

PS. I guess if you're subscribing to the view that technological progress is good, that's still a positive. But technological progress can also be viewed as being largely the reason why we've got a climate problem, and especially the speed in which we have progressed is why we're running into the problem so hard that it will be difficult to handle.

[1] affordable in the sense of energy cost for large organisations, or in the sense of time cost or human cost for small organisations.


If you're in Australia, check out https://www.climatesalad.com/jobs-in-climate-tech-australia I'm sure something like this exists in the US as well.

climatebase.org (edited from .com) - we actively post there along with other amazing climate companies.

climatebase.org

Thanks and fixed!

Requests an email address before you can see any actual info, but after you've given preferences for areas of interest. Seems... really anti-patterny?

You can dodge that; go to the "Explore by sectors" a bit further down, pick any. Now you can search without having to hand over an email address. But yeah, the first time I hit that "search here.. but only after you provide an email", I bounced.

Do you want to have a real impact?

Donate to https://www.climateemergencyfund.org/

They are the only ones who are trying to make a real difference, which can happen only through a political change.


Come work on Gaia Ai! We are using a very similar tech stack to the AI we use to build for autonomous vehicles to solve the problems holding back forest carbon credits, and create truly impactful incentives towards making high impact with forests.

Cheers, Peter McHale


Rocky Mountain Institute in the USA has a long track record of delivering solid engineering analysis and direct involvement here and there; also defense work, if you care about that. Check with them about their current projects

https://www.ctvc.co/

Climate tech VC newsletter is an awesome source of the state of tech climate work, and provides links to additional resources.


https://www.engieimpact.com/ellipse, good project, real value, remote-friendly, great company.

I've had two climated-related jobs, and I would recommend it.

I find it very motivating personally. It also means you'll be working with decent people who care about their work.

Don't expect to be paid top dollar though!


I've meandered down that path a bit.

I chatted with the Wren folks: https://www.wren.co/

I did an internship with Natural Capitalism Solutions: https://natcapsolutions.org/

I also co-founded a local food startup: https://www.thefoodcorridor.com/

I have also gotten some permaculture certificates.

Be prepared to take a lower salary. This was the biggest stumbling block for me.

An alternative I'm sure you've thought of is to donate some of your finance salary to climate non-profits or buy things that are climate conscious (including from a startup doing this).


You could reach out to phaidra.ai . They are involved in using ML to optimize energy consumptions at industrial plants and data centers.

A lot of good programmers in the games Industry never switch out, but their skills can be used at satellite/rocket companies.

If you want to work for a weather monitoring satellite company, there is Spire[1] (also RocketLab,SpaceX who is hiring)

[1] https://spire.com/

[2] https://www.rocketlabusa.com/careers/positions/


You won't find climate change work at SpaceX.

well indirectly, since a robust satellite infrastructure allows for daily imagery updates. Governments use this to more easily hold corporations accountable for their environmental day-to-day actions across the earth.

Illegal deforestation? If a fleet of satellites is providing daily updates across the amazon, it is far more easily caught, rather than having it show up 2 weeks later after they have already cut out a chunk and left


Indirectly, even baker down my street is involved - government agents need to eat, and he provides them with bread.

haha true, all humans depend on food to do their job, so working as a farmer is a catch-all for helping fight climate change

I recommend looking into the carbon emissions per-launch (or per-satellite if you prefer that accounting).

It's bleak. Launching things into space is unsustainable and should be minimized.


ah perhaps, but doesnt seem that bad when compared to all the plane flights familys are taking for leisure, google hit https://www.inverse.com/innovation/are-rockets-environmental...

> Current rocket launches have a negligible effect on total carbon emissions — Everyday Astronaut found they accounted for 0.0000059 percent of global carbon emissions in 2018, while the airline industry produced 2.4 percent the same year.

> But the long-term effect is less clear, especially as companies like SpaceX move from hosting 26 launches in a year to 1,000 launches per rocket in a year.

> “I think we can guess that rockets won't be a huge impact on the environment, and they probably won't stand out as a sole source of new problems,” Darin Toohey, professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, tells Inverse. “But they will add to the growing list of activities that have negative impacts on the environment.”


One thing being better than a second, worse thing does not automatically make the first thing good.

Very true, I don't disagree that its not 100% pure and 'good', but I think space technology has a very important value in our society to explore, and is _especially_ important in solving problems for humanity down the line. As for Climate, without a healthy space industry, our climate observation tools would be set back decades. The first step to dealing with a problem is to become aware of it.

I guess the point is, maximize value per-launch, ideally as far in the net-negative direction as possible. I know that private companies do this already (it's kind of built in to the market of launch contract awards) but I am not sure private companies are going to be better in terms of climate vs well-funded public civilian space science agencies, because they are also incentivized to maximize the number of launches.

SpaceX's involvement in those missions ends when the payload separates from the second stage. You'd be very disappointed if you went there hoping to feel like you were making a meaningful impact on climate.

I mean, if they get to mars they'll have to terraform it. And if they figure it out there then they can just do it here right? I thought that was all part of his master plan. Doesn't explain the flamethrowers but I'm sure they play a role too.

Work in government

Probably not responsive to the likely orientation of the OP, but a legit option.

A lot of the reason we know anything about climate is to do with government - NOAA, NASA Earth Science, EPA.


Make the Python interpreter 0.8% more efficient. That would help a lot. Really meaningful impact.

I've worked on and off for climate for about a decade, starting from student sustainability jobs to now solar manufacturing (as a front end dev supporting our web services).

Is my job making a difference? Well, more than if I did nothing at all. Enough? No. Honestly, I think it's all too little, too late. But what can one man do? Even Elon Musk can't singlehandedly prevent climate change (though I do thank him for trying).

At the very least, it's better than working in fossil fuels or speculative crypto. Shrug.

As a senior programmer, you can decide whether you just want to be another invisible cog in a relatively benevolent machine, which really won't change anything but might you feel better about your life choices, or whether you want to gamble everything and try to actually make a difference by coming up with something really novel and scalable, maybe some sort of market mechanism for carbon that doesn't involve government oversight.

My undergrad was in environmental science and I spent the last decade working in renewables and climate adjacent nonprofits. To be frank with you, I think humanity is doomed if we keep using the existing "solutions" that are merely bandaids.

We don't have a solution in sight. At all. Not even over the horizon. There is no way our current trajectory is sufficient, and it's actually getting worse. So if you actually want to make a difference, eh, I would encourage you to think drastically outside the box and not just slide into an existing industry like I lazily did. Because I can guarantee that won't be enough, however well-intentioned. Sadly.


I will also note that NREL, the National Renewable Energy Lab, often needs dev support and hire for it. They don't pay well but they do a lot of really good research work, if that's of interest.

I keep wishing we had a Manhattan Project of climate, but that looks less and less likely as the years go by.


I have been interested on sustainability before 2000 (got education for sustainability certificate yada yada) and years later I became a dev. I looked for years for a remote work on sustainability but it was difficult. The pandemic opened the gate to remote work and Biden policies the momentum for investments. I'm currently working for Bractlet (we're hiring, you can find us in the current whoishiring thread) and before them I was working for CarbonCure (I think they are also hiring). Both great companies.

Real impact? I don't know as I'm obviously biased as my salary depends on that. Reducing concrete footprint (the most used construction material and with gigantic carbon footprint) sounds a good bet. Reducing building energy consumption is also a good bet. Other things that are interesting is working in lab meat (not sure it's a place for devs yet).

I'm happy with the switch and I don't see myself doing anything else with my working time until we solve this as species.

Where do you find them. YC has a climate startups (), LowerCarbonCapital has a jobs board, and you can always ctrl-f "climate" in the whoishiring thread. Tip, search for green VCs and check their portfolio one by one.


There are countless climate tech jobs — as long as you are willing to take a large haircut.

"What kinda hippie am I? I'm a business hippie."

-Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)


I am in a similar position like OP and find it quite hard not only to find offerings, but also to understand if the projects have some real impact or are just propaganda green-washing activities or even plain climate budget hijacking by dinosaur companies.

Look, even in this thread people are seriously (?) recommending working on Bitcoin for climate change - in a similar but mostly not so obvious way you can find "green jobs" that in fact are not green jobs at all.

Even "green minister" nowadays is no guarantee for doing the right thing.

E.g. look at Germany: the poor green Mr. Habeck who is now Minister of Economy must make decisions that are completely opposite of the green political program (because of Putin).

This is a good demonstration why you really need to double check "green" job offers and companies.

It would be great to have a validation service of climate job offers done by people with reputation. If you are living in the inner circles of the climate movement please talk about this idea, thanks!


Just because a minister can't make the perfect policies for climate, doesn't mean that putting Trump on that chair wouldn't have a different outcome. Having people there with an understanding of the problem we face and how to fix it, or advising such people, or providing better data to those advisors, or building the satellites to collect that data... Yeah it's hard to say what will ultimately have been the best possible use of your time, but please don't fall into indecision just because no option seemed perfect :)

That said, I'd be curious if a climate-aware person working at a fossil fuel company would still be negative compared to them working for Greenpeace or something. Probably if you have no impact (like a fuel truck driver) then your time would have been better spent at Greenpeace, but if you're part of meetings where something is decided then you'd have an impact already. Maybe what we need is to look for roles with either some decision making capacity, or no such capacity but at a company that's already working to help everyone reduce emissions?


Climate is primarily a political and social issue, not a tech one.

Check out enviro.work

Technology is not the solution here, it's the problem.

We'd solve the climate crisis in seconds if AC units were outlawed.

I don't have an AC but a home that stays naturally cool even at 40° outside. It's the first proper place after student rooms so it's not like I was clever enough to plan this ahead, I just got lucky. It seems that ground floor or below is perfectly doable without AC, especially when shaded by neighbouring houses (or you could just construct building-sized sunglasses).

That would be the simple solution when ACs were outlawed.

That won't stop drought and forest fires, or extreme weather events like flooding. Not to mention that I'm curious what the ecosystem does if we just let the climate change by this much. We still need food somehow, I'm not sure how much our current supply can be artificially recreated (we can't just put wheat and a cow on a space ship and call it a day, the soil will be exhausted in no time, do we know how nature has been replenishing that? Which bacteria to bring, or in this case, to preserve on space ship earth?).

It's unfortunately about more than just comfort and convenience. We won't all die I'm sure, we're clever and resilient, but with millions displaced it won't be fun either. I understand your comment was mostly a joke, but I don't know to what extent you might also have been serious.


While necessary, I doubt this will be sufficient.

The latest douchebaggery from entrepreneubros since crypto.

Climatetech is a scheme to sound good to investors.


More hysteria based on models. We saw with covid how unreliable and destructive this new form of crystal ball reading. Falsifiable and thus pseudo science.

You meant "unfalsifiable" ?

Which those models are _not_. They have been projecting, for a while now, an increase in mean global temperature, and an increase in the frequency of extreme climate events. (Which very generous margins, though.)

It could very much _not_ be observed (read the thermometers. Count the heat waves frequency. Compare.)

My general understanding is that the observation seem to match the projections, but IANA climatologist, so I have to trust other people [1]

[1] https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-how-well-have-climate-m...

Also, the science of greenhouse effect is robust enough, much more so than the short term dynamics of an exponentially spreading unknown virus - so mistrusting all models because of the COVID ones seems a bit unfair.

Knowing all models are wrong, and some are usefull, I'm now going to leave you to doub, and go enjoy my fourth heatwave of the year.


Covid models underestimated the number of cases, just as climate models did not largely predict such extreme heat this soon.

If you choose to be skeptical of models on these two topics, it seems safer to assume they are underestimating the issues rather than overestimating them.

https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/commentisfree/2021/m...

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/this-...


I absolutely hate to be THAT guy, but this whole thread brings to mind the Newsroom segment from 2014 - https://youtu.be/XM0uZ9mfOUI?t=83 .

We had a good chance of doing something meaningful 60 to 70 years ago, but now we're really just re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic as the ship goes down. I've spent the past four years working for a climate change mitigation company, and the more people I met in the 'industry' the more depressed I got.

Almost all of the work being done in the environmental space is 'make work' stuff. People shuffling research papers around, attending conventions and expos, networking with their peers to build a route to their next role. It goes on and on in a huge circle of ineffective (albeit sometimes sincere) activity. The problem is all stakeholders demand a return on investment, preferably a large one. Forget about the return being a liveable future for our grandchildren, they want cash in x years or no investment. Hilarious and so stupidly tragic.

Yes we need massive systemic political change, but we all know deep down that's not going to happen in time. The pandemic showed us what we could do if we really wanted to, and what happened? Here we are now with emissions rising even faster, and people blathering about 'net zero', which everyone knows is just smoke and mirrors. And now Ukraine is 'forcing' countries to return to dirty fuels to stay warm this winter.

We're kind of done.

But seriously, I heartily applaud anyone here and beyond if they feel the need to do something to help, no matter how modest. I still try and remain upbeat and optimistic as I search for a new role to help out. But it's increasingly clear that my biggest concern for the future will be how can I try and maintain a secure food source for the family as things start to tip over.


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