Climate Change

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I'm currently working on making this into a published book. Interested? Let me know!

View notes as a Gitbook (PDF | ePub | Mobi | Dat site)


In September of 2017 I stood on a stage in Barcelona, in front of a packed room of software engineers.

"How many of you think climate change is important?" I asked.

Hands went up all over the room.

"How many of you would like to work on climate change for your job?"

This wasn't everybody in the room, but around half of the hands stayed up.

"And now, how many of you feel like if you decided to look for a job working on climate change, tomorrow, you'd know where to start?"

Every single hand went down. I nodded. That was me, too, a year and a half before.

This is a strange phenomenon. Climate change is urgent. It's terrifying. It touches the lives of everyone on the globe, and impacts (and is impacted by) major industries. But somehow, most people don't feel like they can do anything about it– recycle, fly less, buy an electric car, but: vocationally, there isn't an obvious place to go.

Here's my suspicion: climate change is so big, so sprawling and hydra-headed, that by the time you get down into the problem space a company can solve, you're so deep into the weeds that nothing really looks like climate change anymore. It looks like marginal gains in building retrofits, manipulations in the timing of energy grid markets, sensors for monitoring cricket or fish farms. It's niche, it's short on flash, and it's so much smaller than the problem that if you didn't frame its purpose at that global-problem scale, you might miss it.

But niches can be virtues. Niches give specificity to a large and formless problem. They're tackle-able. And in this case, all of the little corners at the edges of the climate change problem need building out. The endless tiny challenges are each whole realms for innovation. And in the case of climate change, the impact of many minds on many niche problems is not just great, but necessary.

Who is this book for?

This book is not for everyone. I have approached this problem as an engineer, in the United States, seeking opportunities for entrepreneurship– so that's where the research for this book is strongest.

In the United States, production and use of energy accounts for more than 84% of total emissions [EPA][epa-energy], and these notes reflect that focus.

Climate change has a lot of justice elements. This is basically untouched in this book. For a more global and holistic perspective, Project Drawdown's rankings of climate change solutions by impact is an excellent place to start.

I'm writing this book with a specific type of reader in mind: You probably have a bit of technical background. You have a strong interest in climate change as a vocational path, but lack actionable information on climate change problems. And you're ready to make a move.

If I wrote this book as intended, this book can be a launching point, a reference, and a place to turn when you need a next thing to try. I want it to give you the background you need to show up informed to the conversations you'll need to have, and enough idea of each problem space that you can imagine what it's like to start that work.

How do I use these notes?

If you're in the Gitbook, you can hover over or click on links. Underlined links are glossary terms (hover or click to read descriptions); non-underlined links are citations - hover to read bibliography or click to access articles or links to books.

How are these notes organized?

The notes themselves are a mess at the moment of different levels of research and specificity. The best advice I can give you is to click around. I'll work on prose for these (and more complete notes) hopefully soon.

The glossary section includes some pieces which are not necessarily mentioned in the notes. They should serve as an introduction to the key terms and description of processes in the space. I'd recommend it as a resource while you do your own research; there are a lot of jargon terms out there.

The bibliography section is partially annotated with basic descriptions of the sources, which should help you build your own reading list if you're so inclined. Unfortunately, I haven't yet found a good way to have that display in the gitbook, but you can see it in the source file. Here's my shortlist of good reads to get going in the space.

Areas of opportunity is a great place to skip to as a quick start. It should give you an idea of the kinds of problems that make sense to face in this space.

And finally, if you want to just jump in, check out the "Entities" section. I have lists of companies, funders, researchers, and places. Talk to people! Like everything else here, these lists are incomplete– but they might be enough to get you started.


Meta-notes (to self): what is here, and what is missing?

Overall comments

  • In general, this book is full of weird levels of specificity. The aim: provide broad context and increasing detail in promising areas. This doesn't always play out & can be corrected
  • What's a good way to link in the various lists (entities in particular) to the descriptive notes?
  • These notes are highly pragmatic and occasionally technical. There is almost no treatment of social justice. My tentative assessment is that this choice narrows target readership to engineers & entrepreneurs over activists and policymakers, which is useful to focus.
  • How much explanation of specific mechanisms is appropriate/useful? E.g. do we need to know that a battery stores energy, or that different chemistries have specific characteristics, or what the market trends are with those battery chemistries? What has useful shelf life, and how can I get people into position to seek information beyond my resources?

Specific area assessments

Areas of Opportunity

  • Potentially the most interesting section, might be blindingly naive, might be unfocused. Hard to tell at this point.


  • This probably makes sense only as personal notes, not useful for me to make a yellow pages unless for immediate use on a project
  • Funds: Might be most useful to ID how to find funds vs. taking notes on specific funds. How grants work, how other funding types work. Challenging to do this without reaching beyond my experience.


  • More of a let's-get-up-to-speed than an in-depth analysis. Patchy but could be handy to reference as intro to issues we are trying to solve.
  • Causes boils down to: we need to reduce fossil fuel emissions in a lot of ways


  • Biofuel is fairly complete as a basic intro to the issue for non-chemists. Not much there for "where do we go next?"
  • Coal is good but very US-centric
  • Geothermal is very basic, could use filling out. Also, do I have notes on "fake geothermal" e.g. server farm heat harvesting?
  • Infrastructure is already long but could use some work. Will likely only make sense as case studies. There is currently a decent level of case study into CA DER policy but not much about overarching trends
  • Natural gas is pretty good, link to or pull from my Medium post on the topic?
  • Nuclear shows controversy well but fails to ID current work in the area. Help readers understand not just how they feel about the subject, but where they might be impactful!
  • Oil section is mostly just a discussion of peak oil. This section needs more direction. What is the point of it? Does it need a controversy section? Are there pro-env. uses of oil that it would be interesting to discuss (e.g. efficiency of combustion engine + fuel density of oil)?
  • Solar section is surprisingly short. Seems appropriate that it is tech trend focused, but doesn't give much "so what"/no call to action
  • Storage could use a policy/interaction with ISO & utilities section
  • Tidal section is good
  • Wave section barely exists
  • Wind section is messy and feels outdated. What is current state of the art in this field?


  • The notes on Cap and Trade notes are currently in solutions/policy but belong in solutions/economic (policy is only one possible implementation of an inherently economics-based solution)

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