‘Investing in Zero’ podcast with Graciela Chichilnisky

19 May 2021

By Andy Vesey

This week’s episode of ‘Investing in Zero’ bought Dr. Graciela Chichilnisky my way. Dr. Chichilnisky is Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Global Thermostat, as well as a Professor of Economics at Columbia University. 

Established in 2010, Global Thermostat developed and markets a carbon-removal technology that captures and concentrates CO2 to reduce harmful emissions and help close the global carbon cycle. The company was awarded Silver on the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School’s list of most fundable companies last year. Additionally, their technology was named one of MIT’s “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2019”—a list curated by Bill Gates. Dr. Chichilnisky is also the author of books. Her most recent, Reversing Climate Change, has transformed the way modern academics view both the most dire problem facing mankind, as well as its economic implications.

Our conversation presented a wonderful opportunity to pick the brain of not only a carbon-removal entrepreneur, but a preeminent academic in a vital field. Together, we talked about the nature of her carbon-scrubbing technology, as well as the paramount importance of keeping its costs down in order to keep it viable in the marketplace. That balancing task—between cutting-edge technology and low cost—is no mean feat. Dr. Chichilnisky also talked about the importance of centering economic growth, job creation, and the profit motive in aiming for carbon neutrality, otherwise we will never be able to succeed in removing gigatons of CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere. 

After lighting upon a field of wild innovations on the horizon—everything from the quest to create gasoline from water and air to using excess CO2 to concoct meat substitutes—we turned our attention to the Kyoto Protocol (on which Dr. Chichilnisky worked extensively) and its implementation in the EU, specifically. This led us to a discussion of the divide between the disproportionate burdens CO2 reduction and Climate Change place on rich nations versus developing ones. The Amazon, especially, is an area of great concern to Dr. Chichilnisky, as Brazil’s laws fail to protect it because the country is seeking to grow its economy. 

This global inequity, Dr. Chichilnisky believes, renders the issue of carbon sequestration doubly important, as life-or-death matters of hunger and poverty hinge on it—as if the planet’s survival weren’t dire enough. It’s also why she passionately believes that a profit-based solution that grows economies is the only way to move forward. 

All told, we had a remarkably wide-ranging and enlightening conversation that you can listen to at:

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