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An Optimist’s Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

MIT Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

This ambitious, yet feasible blueprint could save the planet.

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You may feel hopeless in the face of ever more dire predictions about the effects of rising global temperatures and catastrophic climate change. At the same time, many people fear that aiming for a carbon-free future means unpleasant changes in lifestyle. Engineer, entrepreneur and innovator Saul Griffith lays out a realistic – albeit ambitious – plan for a zero-carbon future that doesn’t require radical lifestyle changes, yet reduces living costs, creates a more cooperative society and protects the beautiful Earth.


Only immediate radical changes can avert a climate catastrophe.

If people want to stop global warming, they must take radical action now. Even if the global temperature rises by only 2˚C/3.6˚F, it will have devastating effects, resulting in rising water levels, flash floods, wildfires, droughts, loss of many animal species and increasing global instability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in 2018 that limiting the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2˚C/3.6˚F depended on immediate, comprehensive, never-before-seen changes within the next 12 years. The panel’s findings relied on the use of negative emissions technologies – those that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere – which are neither cost-effective nor available on a workable scale.

Humanity has wasted too much time. If people had started to work toward this goal in 2000, they could have reached the target by reducing emissions by 4% per year. In contrast, starting in 2021 means that people must reduce emissions by around 10% per year. To achieve this, people must commit to a “100% adoption rate” – meaning that humanity must replace ...

About the Author

Inventor, entrepreneur and engineer Saul Griffith founded Rewiring America and Otherlab.

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