Tag Archives: carbon

Lonely? Want to meet people? Work in Climate Change (Adventures – 2)

Raise your hand if you know what a climate change-r does? Is that a word? My friend, when asked what he did, used to say “I save the world, and you?” – mostly because it is easier to describe what an astrophysicist does than a climate change-person. I don’t think he says that anymore, because we’re not certain that what we did saved the world. It tried to, but the results are inconclusive.

One aspect of joining this indescrible field was meeting people. When I started, it was all on the job learning. My boss was a political scientist, my senior colleague was a biologist, and I hired an environmental scientist. The centre of the carbon markets was London at that time (we’ve since learned that the world is round) and a more rabid cosmopolitan city there never was. When I moved there to a tiny little firm, the office was filled with investment people, shark-tagging biologist, a former bar owner, traders, linguists, musicians and a lawyer. Tell me you couldn’t have fun at work with that mix!

If we weren’t discussing the latest art exhibit, we were trading travel tips or flying remote control helicopters around the room. There was lively discussion about living in London and real estate, of course. Our offsite meetings were hilarious – setting up the guys for a wax job at the spa or stealing each other’s cars or jumping into the freezing Celtic sea in underwear or trying to take compromising photos.

But they were all smart and well-travelled. If you only knew 2 languages, you were backwards (I know 1+0.75+0.10+0.05). Mostly, we all learned on the job and made things up as we went along – some worked and some didn’t, but I learned from each one. It was one of the most dynamic places I’ve ever worked. Maybe because of all our backgrounds, we approached working in a team from a more open, accepting point of view. We knew each of us was different so we made allowances and learned to deal. May you find as dynamic a work place as I did.

My Adventures in Climate Change: 1

The climate change industry is one of the only industries that is based on paying people for nothing. I’m referring to the actual carbon markets, not the science of climate change or the policy making or adaptation or mitigation or any of those activities. I was involved with the reduction of greenhouse gases and the selling of them. This career took me all over the world (see my travel blogs), but nothing was more bizarre than trying to wrap my head around explaining to my mom and dad that the industry was based on nothing – literally the absence of something.

In a nutshell, great sums of money were given to people to do lots of things that would produce nothing or specifically not produce greenhouse gas. And when they proved that they produced nothing (although I believe it was my 10th grade science class that taught me that you couldn’t prove a negative), they got the payoff. Even greater sums of money in the investment community was bet on the production of lots of nothings!

Ok, let me back up. I don’t mean to be flippant about this (well, maybe a little). It was just that we were all caught up in the entire carbon world and we spoke our own language and had our own in-jokes when really, we were able to get thousands of people to change their behaviour around the absence of something. The only other industry I could think of  like this is the weight loss industry.

Additionally, in order to prove the nothing-ness, there is a ton of documentation that has to be constructed, saved and verified. Unlike a barrel of oil or a building where you can point to it and say “yup, there it is”, you have to point to equipment and then show records and logs and calculations of when it was working and that it worked properly. This is amazingly great work for consultants (who are people too). Remember though, it is the absence of greenhouse gasses that we want.

Ten or twenty years from now, how is the world going to look back at the carbon markets? There will be some derision, for sure, a great load of cynicism, but I hope in all of that, people will realise that the mobilisation across nations, creeds, industries and governments was a defining moment. The last time that the globe got together in this magnitude was for, I daresay, a war. And, there was a lot of pain and tears in the aftermath of that, but eventually, something new and promising came out of all the collective work.