Bill Joy: Solving the Climate Crisis Can't Be Gamified | Link TV
Bill Joy: Solving the Climate Crisis Can't Be Gamified
Bill Joy has a plan to cut global carbon emissions in half. More than 10 years ago, as a partner of San Francisco-based venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, he identified a list of 25 disruptive clean-tech “grand challenges.” He attacked the list with the same rigor and analytical ability with which the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in the 1980s, designed the computer codes that laid the foundation for the online world we are living in today, and that made him a billionaire. Only three technologies survived the decade of thorough research and analysis. Joy put his money behind these “super impactful” innovations: “I’m convinced they can change the world.”
The analysis of the technologies took so much time because Joy and his team tried to imagine how the selected innovations could truly transform society. One of the projects was an attempt to replace the albedo that we would lose when the ice cap of the North Pole would melt, and we lose the reflectivity bouncing back the warming rays of the sun. “Can we make all the roads white? And the roofs?, we wondered,” Joy says. “We didn’t find a breakthrough way of doing that.”
We are meeting in New York in early May, the day before one of these companies, Beyond Meat, goes public on Nasdaq. Six weeks later, the stock of the company, that offers plant-based versions of beef and pork, has quadrupled. Beyond Meat’s success underscores the depth of Bill Joy’s investigations. A 2016 study by the University of Oxford shows that 70 percent of the global warming problem would be solved if we would all become vegans. However, worldwide meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past 50 years and continues to rise. Joy: “If we want to quickly substitute the impact of protein, we need to match people’s existing habits and expectations.”
Meat substitution can reduce carbon emissions with some 20 percent, Joy is convinced. Still, changing behavior is the harder part of the challenge to reverse global warming to which Bill Joy has committed his resources and time. His number one, and “most impactful” solution is: “inexpensive, safe, non-toxic, abundant” batteries. Joy: “There’s a clear trend towards electrifying everything. So, we need renewable electricity. The easiest way to get that is from solar and wind. With batteries we can make the grid 100 percent renewable.” But these batteries need to be cheap and energy-dense enough “to fully electrify the grid and fully electrify transportation.”
More from Kamp Solutions
Today’s lithium-ion batteries don’t meet Joy’s conditions to power the world: “They are expensive, toxic, unsafe, non-rechargeable, and they are made from rare raw materials.” In these batteries, ions are kept separate from electrons in a liquid. And liquids come with dangers. That’s why we keep hearing stories of lithium-ion batteries that exploded. The use of liquids also limits the options for chemical reactions. Joy: “For example: sulphur is something you would love to use in a battery. It’s light and almost free but when you put it in a liquid you get re- actions that cause it to fail.”
Joy has invented a battery technology where the liquid is replaced with a polymer. That polymer is the game-changer he was looking for. It makes the battery chemistry safe, cheap and rechargeable. Furthermore, the use of a polymer takes away the restrictions on materials and “opens up the whole periodic table.” “You don’t have to mine the deep ocean or the Congo for resources like cobalt and nickel,” Joy adds.
“With this technology, we can completely eliminate toxic lead acid batteries, and I can give you enough rechargeable batteries to power your house for 24 hours forever for a onetime investment of $1,000. That’s really cheap.” Ionic Materials is working with battery producers to introduce the new technology in their production processes. “When the battery is fully fleshed out, we have reduced 25 percent of the emissions,” says Joy.
The third component of his 50 percent greenhouse gas reduction strategy is focused on the construction sector that is responsible for between five and seven percent of the emissions. Cement is bonded with water and, in the process, CO2 is released. Solidia cement is a breakthrough innovation: the bonds are made using carbon dioxide instead of water. Joy: “This cement takes CO2 from the air; it draws down emissions.” The very technology that has brought humans on a collision course with nature in the past decades, also has to save humanity. That’s the—controversial—key message of Joy’s climate plan. In 2000, he published a gloomy essay about the future of technology in Wired under the title “Why the future doesn’t need us.” He’s still apprehensive and conflicted. “If technology is sufficiently powerful, and we just let the market take us to wherever random chance takes us, we may end up in a really undesirable outcome,” he says.
Joy misses the ethical commitment by business and political leaders “to do the right thing.” “The capitalism machine just runs. Marketing people create desire. The oil companies knew about global warming. Pharmaceutical corporations know that opioids are addictive. Facebook knows it’s addictive. Smart phones are addictive. Is it any surprise that the addictive stuff out-competes the non-addictive stuff? That’s Darwinism. That will only change when you decide to stop.”
Joy knows that that decision to get serious about the sustainability issue won’t come soon in the current “very anti-intellectual” political climate in the United States. “I thought that the melting of the North Pole ice cap, the hurricanes and the wildfires in California would have already made us realize that we have got to stop.” He stresses the tipping points that drive environmental challenges. “People keep hearing that CO2 levels are going up, and it seems like nothing changes much. There always seems to be more time. However, there’s point where things are barely in balance anymore. The forest that has become drier every year for 10 years because of climate change suddenly becomes a massive fire. Then people ask: ‘What happened?’ It probably wasn’t very much; it was a tipping point.”
Joy knows there could be a catastrophe at which point choices may be limited. His mission is to help humanity to be ready for that moment: “I have tried to get the best tools in place—like a survival kit—that we can quickly scale up when the time comes to push the panic button. It’s not expensive to fix. But if people are not feeling the pain enough, it’s really hard to focus on things which aren’t necessarily very fun to solve. I can’t gamify solving the climate crisis.”
Connect with Link TV
From pandemics to natural disasters, a crisis only amplifies the challenges school food programs face regularly.
One of the most prominent and anonymous voices in CalArts is its student graphic designers. Their experiments — alternately spectacular, unreadable, forgettable and unforgettable — now live in an archive.
In Link Voices’ “Finding Hygge,” 20 production crew members embark on a journey to explore the multilayered meaning of Denmark’s secret to happiness, "hygge," pronounced “hoo-ga.”
Agnes Pelton’s Cat City home is no majestic artist enclave, but unable to drive, she still found her mystic inspirations in her small hometown. Walk in her shoes.
- 1 of 67
- next ›
Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, talks about the three innovations he has selected that can solve half the problem of climate change.
Peter Barnes says we need to fix the flaws of capitalism to reverse global warming.
Jonathan Foley and Jurriaan Kamp sit down to talk about the unexpected, single biggest solution to global warming — the education of girls in developing countries.
Johan Rockström explains why he doesn’t understand that people appreciate guard-rails on highways stopping them from driving off a cliff but dislike the concept of planetary boundaries.
Greg Steltenpohl talks about the one thing everyone can do every day to help meet the challenge of global warming: shift to a mostly plant-based diet.
- 1 of 2
- next ›