Today's guest is Davida Herzl, Co-Founder & CEO of Aclima Inc. Aclima's mission is to build a more environmentally intelligent society. It does that by delivering environmental intelligence at unprecedented block-by-block resolution locally and globally. Their products and services provide government, industry, and communities transformative visibility into air pollution and climate emissions that accelerate action to protect public and planetary health. A lawyer by training, Davida founded Aclima a decade ago out of a deep interest in the problem of pollution and a passion for entrepreneurship that runs deep in her family. This is the first episode that we're putting pollution front and center. It's an important topic and Aclima is one of the leaders in helping provide more visibility. Through Aclima’s data and reporting, we can better understand, measure and become more aware of the harm that pollution is having in our local communities and the world at large. Enjoy the show! You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at email@example.com, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
Today's guest is Davida Herzl, Co-Founder & CEO of Aclima Inc.
This is the first episode that we're putting pollution front and center. It's an important topic and Aclima is one of the leaders in helping provide more visibility. Through Aclima’s data and reporting, we can better understand, measure and become more aware of the harm that pollution is having in our local communities and the world at large. Enjoy the show!
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at firstname.lastname@example.org, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.
In today’s episode, we cover:
Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey . This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Today's guest is Davida Herzl, the CEO and Co-Founder of Aclima.
Aclima's mission is to build a more environmentally intelligent society. They do that by delivering environmental intelligence at unprecedented block by block resolution locally and globally. Their products and services provide government, industry, and communities transformative visibility into air pollution and climate emissions that accelerate action to protect public and planetary health.
This is the first episode that we're putting pollution front and center. It's an important topic and Aclima is one of the leaders in helping provide more visibility and more granular visibility into that pollution data so that we can better understand it. We can measure it, we can become more aware of the harm that it's doing, and we can make improvements to it.
Davida Herzl, welcome to the show.
Davida Herzl: Thank you. It's wonderful to be with you today.
Jason Jacobs: It's wonderful to have you. As I mentioned to you before we started recording, this is I think my first episode that's really putting pollution front and center, and as a company that's been innovating in the area for so long and with such traction, it's such an honor to have you come on and educate me and listeners on this important topic.
Davida Herzl: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk about it.
Jason Jacobs: Great. Well, maybe let's just take things from the top. So what is Aclima?
Davida Herzl: Aclima's mission is to really enable a more environmentally intelligent society, and we're doing that through ubiquitous measurement of air quality and greenhouse gases and other environmental parameters.
Because yesterday when we chatted, you mentioned that, actually, you've never really had an episode focused on pollution. And you know, when I started working on climate, one of the things that was sort of amazing to me was that we weren't making the connection that the same emissions that are changing our climate are creating a global public health emergency through exposure to air pollution. And you know, we really follow the mantra that you can't manage what you don't measure. And so we've been working for the last decade to really introduce the capacity to measure air pollution and greenhouse gases at really granular block by block resolution, and to make that data and that measurement ubiquitous to really drive localized emissions reductions as well as protection of public health.
That really adds up to global change. And so we've been, we've been working on that platform for for a number of, of years now. And happy to dive into sort of any of the, of the specifics.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I guess the first specific is just how did you end up coming to work on pollution for a living?
Davida Herzl: You know, I am an entrepreneur by DNA.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and became, you know, after I graduated from law school in 2004 became really passionate about what I saw happening. With climate and decided that I wanted to really focus my life's energy on building something really deeply impactful in the space. And since I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, you know, sort of the primary sort of vehicle for, for me was business.
And so I set out to sort of figure out how do you build a business that really has deep and meaningful impact in the climate space. It was a really, really hard thing to figure out in the first few years. And so I set out sort of on a, on a journey. It's appropriate that your podcast is called My Climate Journey because I don't think that there is, you know, sort of one single moment of inspiration, but really a journey and collection of experiences that ultimately led to focusing on, on building Aclima.
And it was in that sort of, in that journey when I started to really work on understanding, you know, what was driving the climate crisis that we arrived at you know, this idea of ubiquitous measurement as being a really important part of the solution. I mean, obviously when it comes to climate. There's no, as you know, and as you've said many times, right?
Climate touches everything. And so it will require acting on climate will require many, many different solutions and really, and systemic change. And for me, as we develop the thesis for Aclima, you know, one of the biggest and most frustrating dimensions of the challenge was that people were not at that time, and even until recently, sort of connecting climate change and planetary health with human health. That, you know, in 2004, 2005, 2006 after I graduated from law school, you know, the first movie that Al Gore put out had come out. And a lot of that, you know, it was, it was a really foundational moment that created a lot of public awareness.
But I was very frustrated that the focus was on, you know, what was happening to, you know, the North pole and glaciers, which are deep and profound tragedies, but that we weren't making the connection that those same emissions that are causing. Deep change and natural ecosystems and at the global scale are also impacting us with every single breath we take, because the same emissions that we're putting into the atmosphere are altering human health at a very profound scale.
We now know that pollution is impacting every single organ in the human body at every phase of life. And you know, people talk about respiratory disease and asthma, but pollution is connected to everything from diabetes to cognitive function, to Alzheimer's to fetal development. We are what we breathe.
And so I became just sort of obsessed with this gap in understanding that we weren't really thinking of climate change really fundamentally as a massive public health challenge and a slow moving public health pandemic. And that in order to really drive change, we need a data to really understand and connect the dots on that connection between, between human health and and emissions.
And then the other piece of sort of the other major frustration. That drove to the creation of Aclima and our focus on data and pollution data is that, you know, everything that we know about global climate change and the measurements that we take are taken that sort of locations around the world that help us understand what's happening globally, sort of at the background level, right?
We know that we've crossed far over the 400 PPM threshold of CO2, and so we have the data that we need to understand what's happening globally. And so now that we have a problem right now that we understand the problem, we need to take action locally in our cities and our communities, in our companies to reduce emissions, but we don't have the data infrastructure at all, the measurement infrastructure at all to really solve for that, to understand where those hotspots are in our cities.
And so 10 years ago, over 10 years ago, that's what we set out to solve for.
Jason Jacobs: And so coming in, I mean, I presume without any training in this area. I guess two questions. One, what was the first step in terms of going from like, yes, this is a problem worthy of my attention to, yes, let me build a company in this category.
And then second, like what was, what was the entry point given that pollution is so broad and you could come at it from so many different angles? Where did you start?
Davida Herzl: Yeah, so, you know, first it was really about, and I, you know, I took several years actually before sort of hiring anybody or sort of building out the business plan to really understand deeply what the problem was.
And so that took me into a lot of really interesting places and conversations at NOAA and EPA to understand that, you know, fundamentally the technology to really measure pollution and greenhouse gases in a really distributed way didn't exist. And so I'm not a scientist by training. And so I looked to find experts in universities across the country to partner with me in solving for this.
And so we ended up partnering. I found a fantastic professor and researcher at the university of California who ended up working with us to really solve for this in the first few years. And so. It was, you know, about supplementing, you know, my capabilities with deep scientific expertise, uh, from experts in, in, in the university community.
And so that's how we really started solving for this. It was by surrounding myself with experts with, with that deep domain expertise.
Jason Jacobs: And was the, was the initial observation that there was overall pollution data, but that it wasn't granular down to the local level and that that's what needed to be solved for?
Davida Herzl: Right. And so, so that's it. That's exactly what we sort of found when we started looking into, into the problem. So, you know, under the United States Clean Air Act, there is something referred to as reference measurement that requires a particular form of high-grade measurement to be able to determine compliance with the Clean Air Act, with the thresholds that are set in the Clean Air Act for criteria pollutants. So things like knock socks, PM 2.5 but that historical, that equipment that is historically used for measuring air pollution is very large, very difficult to deploy. Very expensive. And so as a result, you have, you know, a limited set of stations in any urban environment.
And there's entire countries in Africa, for example, in South America that have no data. And so because the traditional technology has been so expensive, it's been hard to make it much more ubiquitous. And so that's really what we, what we set out to solve for. And it's the same story when it comes to greenhouse gas measurement.
Very expensive, very high grade. I mean, that data is the gold standard, but very challenging to really deploy it at scale.
Jason Jacobs: And so having that more local, granular level, what does that enable one to do with that data? So I guess what does that enable one to do? And also who is it that finds value from being able to do those things?
I don't know why. I always ask questions in twos, kind of get out of that habit one at a time.
Davida Herzl: I'm just like logging in and saying, okay, I have to. So one of the things that that Aclima has done that I think is, you know, a really, it's a really important part of who we are and what we do is that we invested very heavily in developing technology that really met the highest levels of data quality because we wanted to empower decision makers in government.
The regulatory community, cities and municipal governments, but also big companies who are emitting or managing emissions or you know, really sort of having to make decisions that can translate into millions of dollars. We wanted to make sure that the data that we were generating was trustworthy and that it really represented sort of the highest levels of, of scientific rigor.
And so that is something that, you know, we've really. Invested in heavily for the past decade. And we have, you know, an entire team of atmospheric scientists, former EPA employees, scientists from the national labs who ensure that the data that we're generating really meets the highest possible scientific standards for data quality.
And the reason that we're so focused on that is that our data is fundamentally when we, when we deploy. We've pioneered a methodology where we're leveraging both stationary sensors as well as our mobile sensing technology, where we deploy our technology, our sensing technology on roving fleets of vehicles.
And so as those vehicles are driving through city streets. We're taking snapshots of the air and all of the different pollutants that we measure in real time as we're driving through those city streets. And then we stitch them together to create a map that enables us to understand pollution at the block by block level.
And we published a really groundbreaking study in 2017 in partnership with a number of scientific partners at the university of Texas. The EDF, as well as as Google that showed that pollution is in fact hyper-local. That although you know, to date the measurement approach for air pollution has sort of given us a regional scale.
Understanding pollution is in fact highly variable. So along the single city block, you can have on one end of the street and one end of the block, you can have one level of pollution, and at the other end of the block, you can have levels of pollution that are five to eight times higher. And that those levels of pollution, that those hotspots can be persistent for years.
And so that's a really, really important finding, right? It means that. We need to understand and measure emissions and pollution at this really localized level at this granular level to know two things: to know where it's coming from, and to know who it's affecting. And you know, it turns out that you know where, where, where you live matters.
It matters for your longterm health. And so you know, that granularity of data is really required to be able to take action at that local community scale at the city scale to really intervene in reducing emissions and protecting public health. And there's a lot of examples for how our data has been used to really support that at scale.
Jason Jacobs: I think what I'm hearing, and this is just a test, if I understand, is that because of your, I don't know if multimodal is the right word. You have different ways to collect the data, including increased stationary ones as well as some mobile ones, and so you can build this map that can give unparalleled visibility into much closer to real time, localized, granular, high caliber, scientific, weekly pollution data, and, and that that really matters from a population health standpoint. Because if you have access to that localized data, then you know what areas are the, the offenders are that then need to be addressed. Is that right?
Davida Herzl: Yeah. So it's, it's both about identifying where you have sort of hotspots and higher sort of levels of pollutants. And that enables you to see that same data enables you to see who is being impacted and where those impacts are happening. Right? And so you really need that granularity to understand both sources of pollution and it's localized impacts on, on people.
Jason Jacobs: So what is actionable with that data and by whom?
Davida Herzl: So just to back up the way that we deploy our, our technology is again, through sort of these roving fleets of vehicles and combining that with stationary data. And we serve all of that data up in a software tool that we then work with sort of, you know, many different kinds of customers who subscribed to that platform to take action based on that data.
And so one of the primary markets. That we're serving today is the regulatory market and the government market supporting regulators. So here in the Bay area, for example, January, we announced that the local regulator here had adopted our technology platform to serve the entire Bay Area. So we're providing them block by block data across all of the most important greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants for the entire nine county region, all 5,000 square miles.
And they're using that data. To drive enforcement, to inform new policy, to inform large-scale climate action, and to really support environmental justice communities. And in particular sort of action that's focused on, on environmental justice communities. So, you know, there are communities across the country, across the state where you see disproportionate impacts of pollution primarily, sort of communities of color.
That are really seeing, you know, the highest impact of pollution levels. And so that our data is really supporting action to reduce those local emissions, to create plans that really drive emissions reductions. And it can be everything from, uh, really localized electrification of transport to investment in vegetation in Los Angeles, for example.
Our data helped to support investment in filtration in schools who were seeing, you know, very high levels of black carbon, you know, along, you know, certain schools that were located along major traffic corridors. So really informs a whole set of actions at the regulatory level. But then there's, there's also a number of other markets that we're serving, but very focused right now on supporting governments and regulators and in taking action with this, with this kind of of data.
Jason Jacobs: And from a coverage standpoint, do you sell the deal and then go and get the coverage or do you have the coverage and then you go and sell into those markets? Or do you just have coverage everywhere?
Davida Herzl: In terms of coverage, while we're primarily focused right now on, on serving up, you know, serving the government market, we are also providing access to the information to the public for free.
So everywhere that we go map, we provide free public access to sort of an aggregated layer of data. And we are, we do both. So sometimes, you know, we'll have an anchor customer in a major market, like you're in, in the Bay area. And then we work with other customers in the region to provide access to these analytic premium software tools.
But, you know, but sometimes we're out mapping and in communities and markets where we don't have an established, you know, customer. But are working closely with environmental justice advocates and communities who want access to that information to drive local action. Today we have very dense deployments across the state of California, and we're entering a number of other major markets later this year, and then we're distributed globally through our partnership with Google street view, where we're riding along street view vehicles that are being deployed in cities around the world. And then we also aggregate and ingest data from, from all over the planet and serve it up in, in our platform.
Jason Jacobs: And so as a hundred percent of your customer base, the regulators today?
Davida Herzl: No, that's just where we're very focused but there are a number of other customer segments that we are working with, including, you know, major emitters who want to take action to reduce their emissions and need visibility into those emissions in order to know where to focus their operational budgets. For example, we have the capacity to see gas leaks and natural gas infrastructure at that block by block resolution. And that data is very important for utilities. We're also heavily engaged with major players in the health community who are using our data to drive a deeper understanding of how air pollution and human health are connected and how that can actually improve healthcare.
Just to point to this, there was a major publication that was published by Kaiser Permanente that showed that our hyperlocal black carbon data can support prediction or identification of higher risk for cardiovascular disease down at that block by block level. And the truth is that, you know this data and all of the different pollutants that we are collecting are really important to a lot of different verticals. And so we're really excited about, you know, the opportunities for growth and real estate and insurance, but initially very, very focused today on really serving our government customers as sort of our major priority at this time.
But a lot of other opportunity that we're exploring.
Jason Jacobs: How many types of pollution data do you currently track?
Davida Herzl: So we measure all of the criteria pollutants except lead. So that includes, you know, things like carbon monoxide, PM 2.5 NOX. And then we're also measuring major GHGs, except for the fluorocarbons.
So methane, CO2. And then we're also measuring a number of pollutants that aren't yet regulated, but that are really important for human health. So things like black carbon. Which are really important for, for human health and to understand the impact of like diesel and transport, and then we're measuring and continually adding a lot of other parameters to the platform.
So continuing to grow the capacity of the platform. We have a very ambitious roadmap. For all of the things that we will be measuring. But even, you know, even our block by block temperature data, for example, is really important for understanding things like heat Island effect. So the data has very broad reaching applications across a whole set of verticals in both government and enterprise.
And in sort of broad scale industry.
Jason Jacobs: And what would you say is the special sauce that Aclima brings that didn't exist before Aclima came along?
Davida Herzl: You know, there's a lot of different dimensions to what we do that are required really to be successful in delivering quality data and really a high quality experience of that data. But you know, today, for example, you know, being able to have that coverage block by block across an entire city, across an entire metropolitan region is really unique. It's taken years of development and validation to really be at the place where we have sort of the credibility and the scientific credibility around that data.
And so I think that the scale of coverage, and the scale and the resolution of the data is really unique in this space. And the other, you know, really unique feature of our platform is the multi pollutant approach. So, you know, that means that we're measuring all of these pollutants all at the same time, right?
So it's not just like, you know, if you have 2.5 or carbon monoxide, it's everything all at once. And so what that enables us to do is to really conduct very deep analysis on that data to sort of find fingerprints in the data. So for example, you know, when we see methane increasing at the same time that ethane is increasing along with a number of other signals, we know that that's likely a natural gas leak.
When we see black carbon increasing along with NO2, we know that that's like a fingerprint for diesel. And so this multi pollutant approach enables us to really fingerprint the data, fingerprint, you know, different sort of potential sources that then tell us a lot more about, you know, what's actually happening in that underlying system that is leading to those higher pollution levels.
So that's, that's a very unique approach. And then, you know, I think, I think the other really unique element of, of, of our work. It's just the degree of, of scientific rigor that is really behind the, the platform and the technology. And that's entirely based on sort of the incredible expertise that we have on our team.
And, you know, having a completely integrated stack. So, you know, we manufacture and design and develop the sensor technology, but also all of the data infrastructure and analytical tools as well as the front end tools. And so, like. Just the completely integrated nature of the platform that is built with very deep scientific expertise embedded across all elements of that platform is a really unique set of capabilities that we bring together to really deliver a really, you know, unpressed scale at the data at an unprecedented scale and data that we have can really drive deep and meaningful action to reduce emissions.
Jason Jacobs: Is it priced just like an annual subscription?
Davida Herzl: Yeah, it's an annual subscription. And so as a customer, you never have to touch hardware. You never have to calibrate sensors. You never have to sort of, you know, worry about the operations of what it takes to actually do these kinds of measurements. Right.
Sensors drift. There's a lot of challenges with maintaining data, quality of sensors over time and over long periods of time, over years, we do all of that for our customers and our customers simply have to subscribe and suddenly they have, you know, very granular visibility and the analytical tools to really understand all of these different pollutants and sources at this very granular scale without ever having to really lift a finger.
And that's, that's a, that's a complete paradigm shift in the space. Our data is, you know, refreshing. We have refreshing baseline maps that show you how pollution and emissions are changing over time. And so that enables you to, to really enter into a continuous improvement cycle and really have a data driven approach to emissions reductions efforts that actually enable you to see are you making a measurable difference over time?
And so then sort of you know, today when it comes to measuring air pollution in cities, you know, you have sort of once in the city of San Francisco for example, there's one station, and so that doesn't let you really see if at the very local level, at the block by block level, you really are having sort of the localized impacts that protect public health at that really local level.
If you're a utility and you are taking action to address a leak. You need data and refreshing data to understand if, if you're really sort of having an impact.
Jason Jacobs: And I'm curious just about incentives because I mean, obviously pollution is a causes, a bunch of public health issues, but what is the motivation of a regulator?
Is it a financial incentive that they can assess more fees? And I guess similarly. When it comes to the utility cleaning up the leak. I've heard anecdotally when it comes to things like methane leaks, for example, that unless they're regulated, they aren't just going to want to clean up their act because it ends up costing more for them to clean up their act.
Then it, then it does it just let it leak. So I guess, what are you finding in terms of motivation today, and do you think that the motivation is sufficient or, or do we need to change things too, to get enough people to care, to really make a dent in our pollution problem in a sustained way?
Davida Herzl: So I can, I can provide the example of our experience here in California.
So, you know, when it comes to the regulatory community to cities and counties, there's really been a transformative movement that's been emerging in the environmental justice community where now there is really sort of a huge body of knowledge and science that is showing that certain environmental justice communities that, you know, communities of color, women and children are disproportionally impacted by higher levels of pollution.
And that the environmental justice community has really been an incredible sort of proponent of action from governments. And so here in California, there's a number of really leading advocates who took action to work with the state of California to implement a new law that requires monitoring in order to target dollars from the state in reducing emissions in those communities where you have some of these various sort of disproportionate impacts. And so you're seeing sort of regulatory frameworks now there's a very similar framework in New York and in other other jurisdictions across the country now that are emerging that are actually requiring protection of public health at the local level and at the level that really enables, you know, action in these communities where you've seen, you know, decades really detrimental impacts from, from pollution. You know, in West Oakland, you have some of the highest rates of asthma here, for example, in, in the County. And so, because, you know, there's a regulatory framework there, this is something that is now mandated and that we're seeing more, more and more of.
And so, you know, when you have a limited set of tax dollars or a limited set of government dollars to spend on local interventions, data and measurement really helps you target those interventions in a very, in a very focused way. And so, you know, you can sort of accelerate action to reduce emissions when you have that hyperlocal data and to protect public health where you know, you really, that's really difficult to do in the absence of measurement and whether it's a, you know, utility or other sort of major emitters, you know, they are increasingly because of risk and financial risk associated with unmanaged emissions. You know, whether it's impacts from, from a leak to, you know, their own. If they're, I mean, every time you have a leak, you are losing money to really licensed to operate.
Right? There's a lot of players that are really located in, in communities where you have sort of these historically impacted communities. And so they really, you know, we are seeing a lot of interest in, in taking action to really increase license to operate and ensure that the relationship with those communities as a healthy one.
And so we actually, you know, even in the absence of regulation or legislation have seen a lot of interest in the platform to really serve public health, both at the government as well as an industry. And I think, you know, the regulatory framework here in California is a really prime example of how enabling legislation can be to really drive, you know, action this way.
Jason Jacobs: And how have we been doing overall, what are the trends.
Davida Herzl: Well, you know, it's been really interesting the past couple of weeks during the shelter in place here in the, in the Bay area, we have been, you know, as I shared, we have a network deployed across the entire region and we've been doing very deep analysis on that data.
And over the past two weeks, you know, one of the side effects of shelter in place has been that there's less cars on the road, less activity and CO2 levels during that timeframe have reduced by up to 40%; PM 2.5 which is one of the most harmful pollutants to public health is down by by almost half during the weekdays.
And so, you know, we're already seeing just in a couple of weeks from reduced activity, not just here in the Bay, but around the world that we have, you know, a tremendous amount of agency and impact on the air we breathe. It's just sort of an unprecedented natural experiment where we get to see, you know, what happens when, when we take very deep actions to reduce emissions.
And I think it, it sort of serves potentially as sort of, you know, inspiration for what's possible, right? When we, when we come out of this situation that's really sweeping, sweeping the country and the world, how do we find a silver lining in this pandemic to inspire action to protect public health in a more sustained and ongoing way.
Jason Jacobs: And what about the several years before that?
Davida Herzl: So you mean in terms of, in terms of our...
Jason Jacobs: Overall overall pollution? Yeah, the pollution getting, it seems like pollution has been getting worse, but I just don't, I actually don't know the data.
Davida Herzl: Yeah. So the changes are, I would say that it's, you know, there's very localized impact.
But I would say that, you know, a year and a half ago, two years ago. Air pollution was deemed the WHO called air pollution, sort of a, a global health epidemic. One of the top global health epidemics facing the planet and society was 91% of the world's population now breathing unhealthier. And so that's a lot of people that are really sort of seeing, you know, the, the detrimental impact of increasing levels of pollution.
And while, you know, there are parts of the country, and here in the United States where, you know, over over time we really have seen, you know, since the Clean Air Act, for example, in Los Angeles, you look, you go back and you look at Los Angeles before the Clean Air Act and after you have, you know, much cleaner skies.
But we still have a long way to go. Because we now know that even at low levels of exposure, pollution can have really detrimental impacts on human health. But you know, you look at other places around the world, and especially fast growing economies like India, you've seen just an incredible increase in pollution levels.
You know, over the last. 10 15 years, you know, New Delhi, Delhi was, was shut down for weeks on end because of, because of, you know, levels of pollution that literally made it impossible to breathe. And so while you have improvements in some parts of the world, there's parts of the world where, you know, you're seeing levels of pollution that make it almost, you know hard to imagine how how you get through the day. Just sort of, you know, living in with a mask is kind of like the status quo because those pollution are just so significant.
Jason Jacobs: And it causes, I mean, so many issues, isn't it? Isn't it? One of the leading causes of death overall?
Davida Herzl: Yeah, so 7 million people die every single year from exposure to air pollution, but more profoundly air pollution is really associated with a wide span of human health impacts and so if you do the math, you're talking about trillions of dollars in terms of, in terms of those health impacts, it is now connected with diabetes. It's connected with heart disease, connected to fetal development, connected to dementia and Alzheimer's. We are what we breathe, right? These, these, these particles that we put into the air are now known to cross the blood brain barrier and actually impact cognition. We did a lot of really groundbreaking work in the first chapter of the, of the company on indoor sensing. And there was, you know, really fascinating research that was coming out at the time that was showing that, you know, once you get to certain thresholds of CO2 that are very common indoors, you actually cut cognition by up to 50% and so we literally sort of lose the ability to solve, to problem solve as you start to experience even short term exposure to bad air quality. When I talk about air pollution and its impacts on people, I'm often reminded of that. I don't know if you've heard that, the parable by David Foster Wallace and that about the fish, right? Where there's this sort of older fish swimming through through the ocean and he runs into two younger fish and he says, you know, how's the water today?
Right? And the, the, the fish look at each other and they ask, you know what, what's water? Right? It's, it's as if we have forgotten that we're a breathing species. And when you look at the world from 10,000 feet, you know, sort of, when you look at the world from space in your mind's eye. You know, you realize that the layer of air and that supports life that makes this planet habitable is extremely thin.
If the earth were an apple, the layer of skin on that apple would be breathable air. We're talking about, you know, a very limited and precious resource. That we depend on and the more that we put into into it, the more we pollute that incredible resource. You know, we, we breathe all of that in and it impacts us at a very profound level.
That I think, you know, is really for me the basis for, for the argument for block broad and sweeping climate action. Right? When you look at the current scenario, what's playing unfolding right now in the, in the world economy, it's showing us. That public health is the foundation of our GDP, right? You need a healthy population to really drive our, our global economy.
And so I think what we need to solve for as a society is how do you create flourishing economies that also sustain human health. And so that, that's a really exciting and big challenge for, I think all of your listeners and for all of us to take on.
Jason Jacobs: I mean, given, given the dire stats that you were just quoting, in terms of the, the high percentages of people that are, that are breathing unbreathable air wherever they live around the world, if you could kind of step outside of yourself and outside of Aclima and you just had a magic wand and could change one thing to help address the pollution problem, what would it be and what would you do?
Davida Herzl: So I think if there was a broad and public sort of just awareness of this issue. If we could empower the public with broad awareness of what's happening and its impacts and the impacts of the pollution, I think you would see a lot of mobilization. And so I think that there's a, you know, I'm really as challenging as the current covert situation is, I'm inspired by the way that people are coming together to take action.
And so, you know, I think that there's a lot of value in education of the public around how significant the challenge of air pollution is and what its impacts are. On their health, on their families, on their kids, and on their, on their communities. And when I think about sort of, you know, if I were to, to sort of wave a magic wand, and, and maybe it's, you know, and it is, one of the reasons that we started Aclima is that there's a really deeply rooted problem in the system. Climate change isn't so much, and pollution isn't so much sort of a crisis of about sort of the source of energy that we've, that we've chosen to prioritize. It's really an economic problem, right? We've, we've externalized all of these impacts and we haven't priced them in to how we think about risk into markets and how we plan for the future.
And so I think that, you know, and when I think about sort of the longterm potential of our data is the way that it can actually turn what are today externalities and really internalize them into really large scale decision making at the level of financial markets. As we all start to understand that, you know, that really this is, this is one of the greatest classes of risk to our global economy if we don't take action.
So, you know, there's a lot of different mechanisms for incorporating those externalities into how we price things. And so I would, I would say that that would be a really, really important part of, of the systemic solution.
Jason Jacobs: And back to your awareness question, I mean, you, you've mentioned the importance of awareness.
Do you think it's at the public lack of awareness or do they somehow just lack. Action making that awareness actionable. Like is it like, I know that eating junk food is bad for me, but still every night at around eight o'clock I just kind of go, go to the junk cabinet and grab whatever processed food I can find.
I know it's not good for me, but I do it anyways. Do people not know that pollution is causing all this damage or, or is it just not tangible enough for them to either take action themselves or be willing to put up with the sacrifices when it comes to things like their pocketbook for increased taxes or, or less accessibility of, of transportation options that they love, or things like that.
Davida Herzl: Sure. So the reason I talk about sort of public awareness is, you know, I think the greatest, the, the big challenge when it comes to pollution is that it requires, there's things that we can do as individuals and citizens to protect ourselves. But in order to really unlock systemic change, you know, shift large scale, shift to electrification.
Market driven solutions that enable governments to really, you know, things like cap and trade, properly structured, cap and trade. You know, it requires deep and systemic change from governments and companies. And so public awareness is more about entering into sort of a new demanding a different form of, of action and accountability from both companies and governments.
But really the kind of change that we need needs to be large and broad. And one of the reasons that we've sort of at Aclima, taken the approach that we, that we have is that we think that empowering local governments, local communities. Companies to take actions sort of at the local scale. If we can really unlock that and do it at scale, then you can kind of sort of, you know, aggregate a lot of small changes that are taking, that are, that are being made by these large players and really, you know, aggregate them in such a way that it adds up to deep and meaningful change.
But the role of the public, you know, is really about. Engaging governments and companies and broader and more ambitious action. And I think, you know, companies and, and governments are increasingly seeing this as, you know, really getting ahead of, on the government side, it's about protection of public health at a very large scale. And on, on the sort of the, the, the enterprise side, it's about managing and mitigating the risk that unmanaged emissions present, but you really need all sectors involved. Citizens alone are part of the equation, but, but it's, but it's not all that's required. We need everybody at the table.
Jason Jacobs: And when you talk about driving action, what are the top one or handful of things that can actually be done that would take the biggest bite out of reducing our overall pollution?
Davida Herzl: I think that there is a huge opportunity. I mean, there's been just so much attention on this, but I think even, you know, our, our, our analysis from the last couple of weeks is further shedding light on this, but it is, you know, transformation of transportation and the fuels that we use in driving transport and how we sort of, you know, get from one place to another large and broad scale sort of electrification can have really deepen and tremendous impacts. I think also investing in natural infrastructure, the data shows, trees and vegetation have a really significant role to play in reducing the impacts of emissions.
It's both about removing and reduction. But then it's also about about capturing and natural infrastructure. Trees and vegetation are, you know, technology that's been developed over billions of years. That plays a really important role in all of this.
Jason Jacobs: So if you had a hundred billion dollars and you could put it towards anything to solve pollution. Where would you put it?
Davida Herzl: Well, what I would say is that to do what we need to do, it's going to require more than a hundred billion. I think as human beings, we sometimes want to identify the quick and easy solution, the one silver bullet that's going to solve everything, and I think what climate change challenges us to do is to think about ourselves and our relationship with the planet in a really different way.
We have to ask ourselves. Some really deep and fundamental questions about the way we operate as a society. And so I think that it, like I said, it takes, it takes all of us. There isn't a single silver bullet. We have so many of the technologies already. And we need to deploy them across many different facets of, of society.
It is increasing the distribution of solar. It's increasing forestation. It's reforestation, it's carbon localized, carbon capture. It is even sort of, you know, introducing new approaches, data-driven approaches to urban planning. And it touches everything. It's not just, you know, it's pollution. It's, it's, you know, the pollution that's entering our water systems. It's our relationship with, with other species. And so, you know, I wish I could answer the question with, with one silver bullet, but I think that really, and this is why climate change is just such a, such an incredible opportunity for us as a species is that it really requires us to recognize how interconnected we are and that everything we do, one, that we all have a role to play.
And secondly, that everything we do has an impact. And so in some ways it is complex. There is no single single answer, but there's a lot of low sort of easy solutions. I mean, you know, like, like I said, there's, there's a lot of things that we can do in the short term, and then there's some really difficult things that we have to think about over, over the longterm.
But I think there's entire sectors of our economy that are affected, but that also represents huge opportunities for value creation. Right. Like I said, transformation of transport into really know, broadened, sweeping electrification is I think a really important part of part of what we need to do.
Jason Jacobs: And last question is just so if you think back to how you were feeling coming out of law school, imagine the people that are coming out of law school today or who just got laid off from their job because of COVID-19 and are determined to work on climate change as the longterm problem that makes sense for them.
Or the hedge fund billionaire that made money and can't look at themselves in the mirror anymore and want to focus on climate to try to give back and try to put us humans on a better course. What advice do you have for people that are trying to figure out, given the formidable nature of this challenge, where they should anchor and how they should help?
Davida Herzl: That's a great question. I, I look back at my own experience and also the experience of other incredible entrepreneurs that I've met who are tackling the climate challenge. And I think it goes back to what I said, right, which is that there is no single silver bullet, that it actually requires all of us in a lot of different kinds of expertise contributing to solutions.
And so I think looking at yourself. Looking at, you know, everything you've, you've, you've learned and expertise that you've acquired over your particular journey. And identifying ways that, that experience can add unique value, I think is how we all need to be thinking about it because it does touch every sector of society.
And so, you know, I would ask that that hedge fund manager, for example, how do we think about risk metrics. Right. That are, that, that, that actually enabled us to integrate these impacts into how we think about, you know, assets on the public markets. If you are a lawyer, how do you think about new legal frameworks for ensuring sort of the, the, the protection of our natural.
You know, our, our waterways, right? There's just so much that needs to be done. And I guess I, I would answer your question about it. You know, if there was one thing that I could do, it would be to have the capacity to, to challenge all of us, to really take this on as the moonshot of, of our time, right? We talk about earth shots at Aclima, right?
This is our generation's moonshot. And it requires so many different kinds of expertise to be able to tackle it. And so for me, and I think what you're doing that is so powerful, but what was really important for me as I was, as I was starting my journey in this space, was just surrounding myself with other experts, learning as much as I could about the problem, to figure out what unique value I could bring to the challenge.
And you know, and I, and I'll, and I'll say, I mean, I've been on this journey with Aclima for over a decade now and solving these challenges, it's really, really hard. This is like the single most wicked problem that you could be, you know, you could be tackling. And it requires, you know, in our instance, you know, for Aclima, in our case, it required, you know, engineering and science and data science and, you know, all just an insane amount of capabilities and challenges to be solved in order to do this well, and so, you know, I think what is so powerful about climate is that it really enables you to build a, if it's what you care about, really enables you to sort of, you know, wake up at five in the morning and do whatever it takes to sort of realize your vision for what's possible and put in, put in the long hours and the effort to really build something that can, that can make a difference.
You know, I really couldn't see something more, more valuable to, to be allocating our time to.
Jason Jacobs: Anything. I didn't ask you or any parting words for listeners beyond what you just said.
Davida Herzl: This conversation has certainly gotten me thinking about a lot, you know, and about the way that I think we can all make a difference.
And it, it's everything from starting a business or starting a nonprofit to sort of contributing your skills and resources to companies and entrepreneurs that need those resources. If you're an investor or if you're an engineer or a scientist, finding opportunities to join companies and initiatives that are really driving change in the climate sphere.
And I would just say that, you know, it really for me, has been just an incredibly rewarding experience because the, you know, the challenge tends to attract incredibly committed and brilliant people. We wouldn't be here without our team at Aclima. We are just, you know, we have incredible people on the team who, you know, frankly, sort of humble me every day with their commitment and their passion for solving these really deep and challenging problems.
And so I would say that, you know, it's not just rewarding because you're working on something that's so important, but because you're surrounded by people that just care so deeply, it's been a really humbling experience to have that at Aclima and be surrounded by, by such an incredible folks. So, you know, I'm really excited by the work that you're doing to really sort of expand the conversation and invite others into this journey to tackle, you know, one of the most significant challenges of our time.
Well, thank you so much for dedicating so much time now to such an important problem and for taking the time out of your busy day, running a company and dealing with a global pandemic, and I'm sure a number of other things to educate me and to educate listeners on both Aclima and on this important problem of pollution.
And I wish you every success.
Thank you so much, and thank you to you and your listeners,Jason.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at my climate journey dot C O note that is dot C O not dot com.
Someday we'll get the.com, but right now, dot CO. Oh, you can also find me on Twitter @jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.