Today’s guest is Nat Keohane, Senior Vice President of Climate at Environmental Defense Fund, where he leads EDF’s Climate program and helps to shape the organizations advocacy for environmentally effective and economically sound climate policy. EDF is one of the world's largest environmental organizations, and Nat's experience there, in the White House, and teaching at Yale are unparalleled. We cover a ton of substantive ground in this episode, so if you want a crash course in climate policy, history, and geopolitics, this one is for you. Enjoy the show!
Today’s guest is Nat Keohane, Senior Vice President of Climate at Environmental Defense Fund, where he leads EDF’s Climate program and helps to shape the organizations advocacy for environmentally effective and economically sound climate policy.
EDF is one of the world's largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of 700 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world. Guided by science and economics, they tackle urgent threats with practical solutions.
An economist with expertise in energy and environmental policy, Nat also holds a position as Adjunct Professor of Law at New York University, where he teaches a seminar on climate change policy.
Previously, Nat served in the Obama Administration as Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Environment in the National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, where he helped to develop and coordinate administration policy on a wide range of energy and environmental issues. Before joining the Administration, he directed economic policy and analysis at EDF, playing a lead role in the efforts to enact comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation in Congress.
Prior to EDF, Nat was an Associate Professor of Economics at the Yale School of Management. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2001, and his B.A. from Yale College in 1993.
In today’s episode, we cover:
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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.
Enjoy the show!
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 Nat Keohane, a senior vice president at Environmental Defense Fund. Where he leads EDF climate program, and helps to shape the organization's advocacy for environmentally effective, and economically sound climate policy.
Jason Jacobs: EDF is one of the world's largest environmental organizations with more than 2 million members and a staff of 700 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals around the world. Guided by science and economics, they tackle urgent threats with practical solutions. Nat area of expertise includes; US and global climate and energy policy, the economic impact of climate change, the benefits, and costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the design and performance of cap and trade programs and other policy instruments. We cover a lot in this episode including Nat history. What led him to care about climate change, and what led him to EDF back in 1994. We talked about how his roles and responsibilities have evolved at EDF from coming in as a junior analyst to ultimately leading their climate programs globally.
Jason Jacobs: We talked about his time at Yale, what he liked about it, and what ultimately led him from teaching back to the advocacy world that EDF. Talked about his time at the white house in 2011 and 2012 as special assistant to president Obama, for energy and environment in the National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council. We also gotten Nat's thoughts on a number of key topics including the role of markets versus policy, the balance of urgency and hopefulness when trying to mobilize people into action. Talked about EDF focus on pragmatism and getting stuff done, and not just what the right answer is in theory, but are making it happen in practice. We talk about EDF bipartisan approach, and the importance of anything meaningful in turn from a policy standpoint, having durability over the longterm. We talk about the geopolitical landscape and the role of China and how not all countries are equal as it relates to climate change.
Jason Jacobs: We talk about some reasons for optimism. And finally we talk about how now would allocate a big pot of money, if he had one to maximize its impact on de carbonization. And his advice for you and I, on how to help with this wicked problem. Nat is a terrific guest, and there's not many people more experienced in the climate fight than him. We cover a lot of ground here, and this episode is not to be missed. So without further ado, Nat Keohane, welcome to the show.
Nat Keohane: Thanks a lot, Jason.
Jason Jacobs: I really appreciate you making the time.
Nat Keohane: No, it's a pleasure.
Jason Jacobs: This is the second one done in person, in a row, and I mean a person helps so much, but as you know both for logistics and family life and things, but also for your carbon footprint it's just..., I could travel seven days a week all over the world, and I still wouldn't feel like enough.
Nat Keohane: Right. No, I understand. But it's nice to do it in person. It's good to be face to face on.
Jason Jacobs: It helps a lot, and I was particularly excited for this one. As you know, I'm pretty new to the space. I'm only got seven months in now, but that still feels pretty new, and I come purely from the startup innovation side, and as I try to figure out how to help in this next phase of my career, I'm putting de-carbonization impact on the problem, at the top of my list, for how I assess. And so, even if I come back around and end up in the innovation side, I feel like it's too easy in startup a plan to just focus on markets, and dollars in returns and things. And so doing this tour and really understanding the problem in a holistic way, it feels really important if you truly you're mission-driven.
Nat Keohane: Yeah. I love the way you've talked about your Climate Journey. As I've told you, I hear in my conversations more and more over the last year than I have in the previous eight. I hear people who are starting off on that same journey, whether they're coming from some other interests in, in public policy, whether they're coming from business, whether they're thinking about what the next stage is, that they're going to do with their lives. And I think the climate crisis and what's happening around us is getting more and more on people's minds, and I hear more and more people starting out on the journey that you're on. I think doing this and then having these conversations, and finding ways to get that out there is a terrific way of communicating some of that too. I think a growing group of people who want to know what's going on, what are the solutions, and how they can help.
Jason Jacobs: It's interesting because what I hear from a lot of the insiders as I'm making the rounds is that, they're excited that there's new blood coming in, fresh sets of legs, like without any preconceived notions or biases or things like that. And so they're glad to see the new energy. I feel the opposite way of like, Hey, this is all new and fresh and I'm like figuring out something all new, when actually it's like, Hey buddy, I have that same epiphany but in 1982, right? And there's a lot that has happened since then. And so, on the one hand the recipe for insanity is doing the same thing again, and expecting different outcome. But on the other there's just like deep institutional knowledge. And so if I come in like an idiot, and think that I have all the answers, I feel like I'm in for a really big fall.
Nat Keohane: No, I know what you're saying. I mean, I remember I've been working in this space in climate really seriously for now about a dozen years, which still makes me feel like I'm a newcomer to this space relative to a lot of folks. And I remember coming in and having that same reaction, people in 2007 when I started working on this, people who'd be saying, Oh, well let me tell you about what happened in 1997, or 1992, or 1990. And I think there is that institutional memory, but it's also good to have new people constantly coming in, and bringing new ideas. And frankly for those of us who have been working in the space, I think it's useful to step back and think about what we've done, what we've learned, what didn't go right in previous times, how we've made progress and how we can accelerate that progress.
Nat Keohane: Because the biggest headline here is, we're making progress, but it's not nearly fast enough. And we have to get all the new ideas, and the new blood, and then fresh ideas we can enter the space to figure out how to accelerate that. And get the solutions we know are out there, by getting them into place much faster, than is happening now.
Jason Jacobs: When did you start caring, and what is it that got you to care initially? Way back.
Nat Keohane: Yeah, way back. Well, when I sort of talk about how I got involved in the environmental space generally. Actually, I point my grandmother. So I grew up in Palo Alto in the Bay Area. My parents were both at Stanford, and my grandmother was a docent, and I decided to volunteer docent program. I was deeply involved in it at a place called the Point Lobos State Park, which is one of the most beautiful spots you can find.
Jason Jacobs: What is a docent?
Nat Keohane: A docent like a volunteer guide. You go up to the state park, and there's someone there who sort of giving you directions, helping you find your way. Maybe they're manning the [inaudible 00:07:21] museum or whatever it is. Anyway, so she had this incredible sense of place, but also this incredible sense of love for the environment, not just the California coast, but for that more broadly.
Nat Keohane: And so that's really, I think where for me it where it started generally. When I was a junior in high school, I went to a program called The Mountain School, which was a semester program on a farm, an organic farm in Vermont. All the kids spent time, it's still there. My daughter just went there last fall. Loved it. But it's a program that really helps you understand again, what connection to a place to work in, and to supporting that place, and supporting the farm, and but also working pretty intensively on the academics, and the school, and creating a community. And so as a model for thinking about sustainability, thinking about how to build community, it's a pretty amazing place. There's a lot of environmental awareness there. That was a big chunk of the mountain school. So those two things I think coming out were pretty formative.
Nat Keohane: And then went to college, graduated from college, was deciding whether I wanted to do [inaudible 00:08:25] an academia, be historian or whether I wanted to work in the environmental field. And so I went down to Washington, and basically walked around handing my resume out to all the environmental NGOs that were there, and landed a kind of research assistant spot at Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, [inaudible 00:08:43] 1994. And that experience even being there for about a year and a half at EDF as very junior, but it was just around the time when the 1990 clean air act amendment, the program that became the cap and trade program for sulphur dioxide from coal fired power plants. We'll probably talk about that later, but they sort of landmark environmental, market-based environmental program was just getting implemented. EDF staff were totally in the center of that, in the thick of it. Not me, because I was just like a junior peon, but like these people were going around working to implement that.
Nat Keohane: Meanwhile, you had [inaudible 00:09:17], and the contract on America starting, you had that polarization starting in a sense of environmental protections under threat. So, that experience convinced me, this is what I want to do. I want to go into environmental advocacy, and also go into a place that's going to make those kinds of market based approaches, that kind of pragmatic approach front and center.
Jason Jacobs: Other than the tour at the white house, has it been EDF all the way through?
Nat Keohane: So I went to grad school, I got my PhD, I came out, I taught economics at the school of management at Yale for a number of years. I mean I was interested in that, and obviously loved teaching, and I loved the research. But I also..., what I didn't like about it was it felt too far from the policy world. And so once I got promoted, I decided that was a good time to leave. And so I left academia to come back to EDF. When I came back into the advocacy world in 2007, I was back to EDF. And then as you said, I spent a couple of years in the white house in 2011, in 2012, in the National Economic Council for president Obama. And then when I left that, I came back to EDF again.
Nat Keohane: So either I love EDF, or I have zero imagination. I don't go anywhere else for a while, I had a little cartoon up on my door, like a New Yorker cartoon that's still one of my favorites shows at cellblock, and my prison guard waiting, and there's a banner across the top that says "Welcome back recidivists" and so like I'm an EDF recidivists. I just keep coming back because I love the organization, but I haven't figured out apparently where else to land. That's where I've been. This is sort of been my home, in the environmental community, and mostly since 2007.
Jason Jacobs: How has how you think about climate change evolved from when you first got into it all those years ago to today?
Nat Keohane: When I came in 2007, so I left Yale, came to EDF and started working right away on federal climate legislation in the U S. What became the Waxman Markey cap and trade bill, or actually much more than a cap and trade bill. Came the Wax Markey legislation and then died in the Senate in 2010. And I will say, coming from academia, of course I was being an economist. I was totally focused on market base, the beauty, and the elegance of market-based instruments, and cap and trade, missions trading, all that great stuff. And I still strongly believe that that kind of flexibility, that kind of policy design is going to be needed to get us the reductions in emissions of the scale and the pace that we need.
Nat Keohane: And then we can talk about why that is. But I guess the experience I've had in advocacy, and in government has taught me a lot about how to actually get things done, in the political world. Right? So while I wouldn't say I'm a political expert, I've seen enough of it that I think the way to your question, how does my thinking change? Well, I've learned a lot about how to get policy ideas like cap and trade, or how to think about how to get them implemented. We haven't done that yet in the federal level. But how to get things, take them from the sort of academic world to the world of ideas, and think about what they look like in the real world.
Jason Jacobs: Well, it's funny because, so I had Pat Brown from Impossible Foods on a few weeks ago, and one of the things that he was saying is that, for several years, once he uncovered that he believed this idea should exist, and be deployed at massive scale, for synthetic meat, that he went around to all the big companies, and trade groups and everything saying like this needs to happen, in proselytizing and wasn't going anywhere. And so eventually, it was like, well, if nobody's going to do it, I guess I need to do it because it needs to happen.
Jason Jacobs: And then he jumped in and started the company. And that's, I guess tangentially related. It's kind of similar when you think about. It's like, well, the math, and pragmatically, and rationally, and it's like, yeah, but humans aren't rational. Politics isn't rational. And ultimately, we need to [inaudible 00:13:13] the point. And so perfect is the enemy of good enough. If you just know how to get to what's the right thing, but you don't know how to get it done, then you're nowhere.
Nat Keohane: Yeah, now that's exactly right. When I think about one way of maybe saying this in the world of policy advocacy, my sort of general rule is the way for advocates to be effective, is to understand. I spent enough time in government to know that it's not the advocates who are making the decisions, and that there's a difference between the decision makers, the policy makers, whether that's in government, or whether that's in the executive branch, or the white house, or whether that's people with voting cards in the Congress. So the role of the advocate is to figure out what problem it is that the policy maker or the member of Congress, or the staffer, what problem are they trying to solve? What are they trying to deliver to their constituents? What problems are they seeing that they're trying to address and to solve?
Nat Keohane: And then the goal of the advocate is to figure out how to help them solve their problems, in a way that meets our advocacy goals. So how do you help? So how do you think about helping a Senator from a rural state solve the issues their constituents are facing? And still have that be aligned with climate policy, that's going to be different, than someone from an industrial state, Rust Belt state, coastal state. But the goal of the advocate is, to figure out how to knit that together, and help each of those people do what they need to do, and solve the problems they're trying to solve for their constituents, while still doing that in a way that's going to achieve the overall goals we need to have a secure climate, and a prosperous planet.
Jason Jacobs: Is that how you would describe EDF's role in the ecosystem? Is the advocate?
Nat Keohane: Yeah, I mean, I think there's a whole of groups. I know you've been talking to lots of them, so it's clearly not just EDF, or just any one group. But I do think, what EDF brings is in that spectrum of groups. I think EDF brings a couple of things. One, a pragmatic kind of solutions oriented approach, which is we often are the folks talking to the people in the center really thinking about solutions, solutions approaches, and how to make stuff that's actually going to work, and get done. Not only in terms of how do you get to 218 votes in the house, and 60 votes in the Senate, or whatever it is in the States, or the rest of the world that we're working. Because we do work around the world. But also what's going to be pragmatic in terms of creating the right economic incentives for markets, and entrepreneurs, and innovators, to do the things you want them to do. To make the decisions, and deploy the technologies that are going to be needed. So that kind of pragmatic solutions oriented approach I think is one key part of EDF DNA.
Nat Keohane: I think the other part is the..., we are an advocacy organization. And we're one that brings a fair amount of research expertise, expert background, analytical capacity. And again, there are other groups that have that same combination, but I think that's a powerful combination of harnessing that towards an advocacy goal, can be pretty effective.
Jason Jacobs: I know you've been with the organization a long time, but if you had to kind of synthesize the trajectory you've had within the firm, do you think about it in terms of tours or chapters? Like, I mean because you said you came in as a junior analyst, and clearly you're not a junior analyst now, so how has the scope of your responsibilities evolved over your history here?
Nat Keohane: So first back in the 90s, it was kind of right out of college, and I was a research assistant, actually working on forest issues of all things, not even on climate. And then when I came back in 2007, I was very much as an economist, as an expert, setting up a shop of policy analysts, and economists who could inform what we doing in the conversations in Capitol Hill on the Waxman Markey legislation. So. helping to kind of interpret economic models, and provide policy design advice, and whole bunch of spreadsheets, and data. And all that analysis that could help inform our political strategy on the Hill. And help inform what the staff were doing, who were writing the bills, and writing legislation.
Nat Keohane: And then when I came back from the white house in 2012, I did a couple of things differently. One is, at that point, there was much less going on certainly in terms of legislation in the US. There was just beginning to get up to speed all the things the Obama administration did in the second term. But actually, EDF that was the US side was pretty well taken care of. So I came on actually to run the global climate work, our international climate program. So that was very interesting, because it wasn't a totally different experience for me. I had done some international climate work while I was in the white house, participate in the UN negotiations and so on. But it was a big shift from a focus on domestic policy.
Nat Keohane: And then over the past couple of years, as we've reintegrated in EDF, reintegrated domestic climate U S climate with our global strategy, or put the two of them back together, I've kind of come back to that U S piece as well. So now I'm as head of the entire climate program, I've got all of that work under me, not only on the international side, the global side, but also the U S piece as well. And so that's from a personal point of view, I can't imagine anything more fun, or a better job than being able to sort of work on how to drive change on climate policy in all the most important parts of the world. And think about how all those strategies can fit together, and ideally accelerate and reinforce each other.
Jason Jacobs: And how did that tour at the white house come about? And what was your charter there?
Nat Keohane: So I was in the National Economic Council, so in the white house, it's one of the policy councils in the white house. I was double hatted, or dotted line to the Domestic Policy Council. And I also worked on the international side, but the national security council. But my main home, was the NEC. And I was the special assistant to the president for energy and environment, which is a position probably had been around for a while, certainly had been created in the Obama administration before I got there. So Larry Summers was still the NEC director at the time when he made the hiring decision, and Carol Brown or was the head of the office of Energy and Climate Change in the Domestic Policy Council. So they were the two principals who were making the hire. And Larry was looking for somebody who had academic background, academic credibility, but also sort of knew their way around Washington.
Nat Keohane: And one of the things I said, there were already basically three people who looked like that were already working in the government, Billy Pizer in treasury, Richard Newell at Energy Information Administration, and my predecessor, who is Joe Aldi. So I was like, process of elimination. They're like, we're looking for one more person who has an academic background but is working on climate policy. So I guess we'll land on that.
Nat Keohane: So, I landed there. Ironically Larry then left soon after, everybody knew he was going. So in a sense I got the job in part, because of my academic background, and my academic credibility. But then I ended up working for Gene Sperling, who is the NEC director, and he and I got along very well. But I don't think he ever..., he probably would not have hired me necessarily in the beginning, because he would've been looking for someone with that same background. For me, it was kind of a lucky being in the right place in the right time, and then having what I thought was..., I still think was the best job I've ever had.
Jason Jacobs: And what was your charter during your time there?
Nat Keohane: So it was a funny time in the administration. It was the first term of course, 2011, 2012, but it was also just after the Democrats had lost control of the Congress. So if people think back to that, this was kind of the Navy air. This was like the low point for climate policy in the U S, at least since Bush. Because you had the first two years of Obama when I was on the outside of EDF where you're trying to pass climate legislation, and Obama is going to the Copenhagen talks in 2009, and we're trying to restart kind of international negotiations.
Nat Keohane: 2011, 2012 was all like Paul Ryan and people in the Congress saying that they're going to roll back regulations and stop regulations. There was going to be a freeze. Paul Ryan had his top 10 list of regulations that he was going to stop. He didn't succeed in any of that, because by the way, being against clean air, and clean water has never been a winning position in American politics, but it did mean that the feeling there was much more, okay, how can we get stuff done, knowing we're never going to get something done in the Congress.
Nat Keohane: I mean, I remember I'm coming around a long ways to your point about what my charter was, but I remember one of the first trips I took, so I come in basically the ambit is, I was the policy person in the national economic council responsible for energy and environmental policy. And so, things that work their way up, almost anything, if you think about almost energy, and environmental issue has an economic angle. And so the NEC has to be involved in terms of white house policy coordination, white house analysis. And so that was sort of my role.
Nat Keohane: Now, we didn't have a big team there, which is part of the point about this still being in the first term. So later in the second term of the Obama administration, many people I worked with, but also other people came in. There was a big team working on climate and energy. But when I was there, it was really just basically three, maybe four people. It was me, Heather Ziko who took over for Carol Browner, was Carol Browner deputy, and took over when Carol left Dan Utech, who was Heather's deputy. There was some other people, I mean CEQ, Jason [inaudible 00:22:18] was at CEQ, and [inaudible 00:22:19] staff. Ali's [inaudible 00:22:21] and Phil Hernandez. The point is just a small group.
Nat Keohane: And so almost everything that happened in the administration on energy and environment came through that group. Whether it's EPA regulation, DOE standards, energy efficiency standards, decision about loan guarantees. All of that came up through a very small group of folks because, the role of the white house, right, is to provide policy coordination among all the agencies, and make sure everyone is on the same page, but it's also to provide policy guidance, and policy leadership. And that was especially true in the Obama administration. It was very centralized, lots of focus in the administration.
Nat Keohane: So that was sort of my role along with Heather and Dan and everybody else, was to sort of be with conduit. Everything was being done in the administration on energy environment really came through us. If it was at a high enough level that it was going to need the attention of the president or his deputies. And so that was the role. That was what made it so much fun, because everything that we were doing in the government was something we had an eye on. It was a pretty broad charter and that also included, as I said, some of the international stuff that happened.
Jason Jacobs: If this were the standard interview that I've been doing, I think we would get into your EDF work, and what kind of projects that your teams have been working on, and how you prioritize those and stuff. We covered some of that, we saw the U S with Suzanne. But I think that given that your perspective is so strategic, and so broad, and you spend time in the advocate role, and you've spent time in the federal government, I feel like the most valuable use of our time is more just to kind of have some real talk. If that's okay?
Nat Keohane: Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: From my regular [inaudible 00:23:57], it seems like we just get bad news after bad news, and that there's some lipstick with some like little vanity good news or, rallying good news, but that overall we're just losing this fight. I'll stop there, and ask you what your perspective is, and whether you agree with that statement.
Nat Keohane: So you've touched on something that I've really been wrestling with. And I imagine a lot of us who are in the..., who are in the climate community, and the advocacy community are wrestling with. Which is..., the way I think about it is how..., both when I'm talking about this, when I'm out on the media or in front of audiences, or donors, or even just when I'm thinking about it, or writing about it online, how do you strike a balance between not only understanding but expressing the urgency of the situation that we find ourselves in? And how badly we are behind where we need to be if we're going to have a safe and secure climate for our kids, and for their kids? But balancing that sense with a sense that this is a challenge we can rise to. And that we can succeed at.
Nat Keohane: And so it's that balance between urgency and hopefulness, that I think a lot about. And one reason I've been thinking about that lately is frankly, for a while, I'm someone who tends towards the hopeful part. And that's probably true of many people in the advocacy community wouldn't come in every day if you didn't have some real strong sense of hope and optimism that we could make things better. But I have been thinking lately as you see, just the clearer and clearer signs of climate impacts already around us. You see the IPCC report that was released last fall, that got a huge amount of attention around, just showing how bad the impacts of climate change are likely to be at one and a half degrees, or two degrees of warming. We're already at one degree, so one and a half is not very far off. That's within the next couple of decades. The current pace is two degrees, well before the end of the century if we don't do something.
Nat Keohane: So those kinds of reports that show what's happening and what's in store for us. I don't think you can read those and not come away thinking we've got amp up the urgency and a sense of urgency. But I what I also worry about a little bit is that, I sometimes talk about my concern that people are going to go from..., they're going to go directly from complacency to despair. And what I mean by that is, year two, three years ago, people traditionally climate change has not been something that people really care about outside the world of climate, climate advocacy. It's not attracted a lot of tension. People see it as something that's very far off, and traditionally have seen it as something very far off, it's going to happen to somebody far in the future on the other side of the planet.
Nat Keohane: And that kind of complacency obviously is terrible, if we're going to get anything done. That's one reason why we haven't moved as fast as we can. But it's also true, that if people go from that directly to a sense of despair, well there's nothing we can do. The world is ending in 12 years, which is sort of one of the headlines you saw around the IPCC report. If we go from complacently directly to despair, we're also not going to solve this. So how do we find the right balance of urgency and acknowledging that we're screwed on the current path, and that we are wrecking the planet, and wrecking it for future generations? But also having the willingness to say, but we've got the solutions, and some of them are out there that we can already see. If you look at the technologies, you look at renewable power, you look at battery storage, you look at falling costs of wind and solar.
Nat Keohane: But also we have the policy solutions. We know the kinds of things that governments need to do to get on track. Not to get all the way, but we know what we need to do, to get on track to make the kind of emissions reductions we need to make to save the planet, but we're not doing it.And so that's the challenge of mobilizing political will around that, and striking that balance between urgency, and hope is something I think about every day.
Jason Jacobs: I've been at this a whole lot less time than you, but even in the seven months that I've been focused on it, I find that there's a tension that I feel between patients. Like, hey, this isn't going to happen overnight. There's a lot of different things. And like in hindsight, we'll be able to connect the dots and see big. Think of the innovations where it seems like a lot of times around entrepreneurship it's, like overnight successes. They call it a 10 year overnight success story, right? And it's 10 year overnight success story because, it seems like it came out of nowhere, this rocket ship, and actually there were years and years of toiling like struggling. And it's not just that they all of a sudden like hit on one thing as said, the whole journey was building blocks that led to that moment.
Jason Jacobs: And so there's some of that here where it's like well, there's so many different things around hammering it from so many different perspectives, and yeah, we don't have like the tangible gratifying progress to put our arms around and celebrate. But there's a lot of underlying foundation that's getting laid. There is another side [inaudible 00:28:48] that says, yo, we are not on the path. It's like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. And here's the iceberg, and we're going to hit it, and we're not trying to turn the boat, right? And so what are we doing? And maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I don't know, I'm still sorting through it. It's very interesting for me to hear your perspective because again, I mean you're so much deeper. And you've also seen the cycles over a much more prolonged period.
Nat Keohane: I think your point about patients is a really interesting one. And I sometimes say, climate..., we have to realize that we need to be doing much more today. We should be doing much more yesterday, five years ago, 10 years ago. Like it is urgent that we do more, and climate is a long game. And what I mean by that is, we're not going to solve it tomorrow. We're not going to solve it overnight. We're not going to solve it in a year, or five years, 10 years. We're going to be working on this problem for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. It's that big of a problem.
Nat Keohane: And so when we think about solutions, and I'll give you an example of this. In a minute, when you think about solutions, we need to be thinking about building solutions. We need to have the patience to build solutions that are going to have impacts over that timeframe, and not try to do everything by next year, or by five years from now.
Nat Keohane: Here's an example. That's a real example. I was talking to the head of a Major Family Foundation. Talking about what I personally think is a core part of the policy solution, which is comprehensive legislation in the U S Congress, that puts a limit and a price on carbon pollution. But a limit on carbon pollution and have the flexibility to allow individual firms to figure out how to get there. Whether that's through a carbon fee, or whether that's through an emissions trading system, that lots of ways to do it. But it's a limit on pollution, and the flexibility to get there. And you need legislation to do that. You need legislation in the U S Congress. Now, saying you need legislation, the U S Congress, is always a hard thing. Right now in the current partisan political atmosphere, it seems like it's impossible.
Nat Keohane: So the point is, I was talking with the person from the foundation. I said, yeah, we've got it, is making the case for why we need carbon, why don't we need to be ramping up now to put in place comprehensive climate legislation. And the response I got back was basically, yeah, I agree with you.
Nat Keohane: But when I talk to my board, they say, well gee, it's going to be like at least three, or four years before we get that legislation in place. It's a couple more years before it takes effect. That's like 2025, 2026. We don't have that much time. Because they've just read the IPCC report, and the headlines said the world ends in 2030. They're like, we need to do things by 2030. And that response makes me want to scream because, if we continue to live year to year, and we say, Oh, we can never try to do something now that's going to pay off in five years with real systemic transformational change, we're just going to do little shit around the edges now. That like makes a little bit of a difference in the next 12 months, or that we can see happening in the next two years, but we're not going to take on the big transformational systemic changes, then we're going to lose.
Nat Keohane: And so this gets back to your point about patients. We have to have the balance, and it's very hard to strike. We have to feel that sense of urgency, and the sense that we are way behind. Where we need to be, and we should have. What did I tell you about doing stuff now that we should have done 20 years ago. And we have to have the patience, and the foresight to understand that, if we're going to tackle this, it's going to be through changes in policy, in markets, in behavior that are really transformational. And that some of those are going take time to put in place. And we need to have the patience to go after those big ideas and get them done.
Jason Jacobs: That's definitely how I think about it. Some of these arguments about..., we need to deploy what we've got, or we need breakthrough stuff. It's like you have to choose, and I know very little about portfolio management in the finance world. But one thing I know about portfolio management, and the finance world is that, if you manage a hundred billion dollar pension fund or something like that, it's not all going to go into venture capital, and it's not all going to go into the S and P. It's going to be diversified, and you're going to have like a core bread and butter that's predictable, and safe, and maybe income generating or whatever, and then you're going to have an alternative bucket, that's maybe doing the risky, more speculative stuff, and there's place for all of it. It's not squabbling about it's this or that, it's just about the percentages of allocation, but we need it all.
Nat Keohane: I mean, I think that's right. And you can look at that across the board. So you mentioned, do we deploy things we have now versus develop breakthrough technologies? The answer is yes. We do both of those, right? We have to do both of those. We have lots of technologies we can deploy now. We should be deploying them at scale. We should be having policies in place that create economic incentives to do that and, we should be doubling, tripling the R and D budget, and promoting private investment as well into new technologies. Same thing people fight about should we have carbon tax, or cap and trade system versus energy efficiency standards, car standards. Yes, we need them all, right? We need them all. And I think some of the temptation to have that debate, part of that is, everyone wants to have the right solution. There's always a temptation. There's also frankly, the advocacy world. You're raising money, you're trying to show that your idea is a great one. And there's just a natural temptation to sort of talk about all the stuff you're doing.
Nat Keohane: But the reality is we're going to need it all. And I think finding ways to talk about that, and to embrace that idea, is an important part of getting to that whole portfolio, as you say, of solutions.
Jason Jacobs: There's another way that I find that my perspective has been evolving where when I started down this path, I think I had, it's probably come from my venture capital backed startup roots, where it's like everything's going to be a home run swing. And I think what I'm coming around to is that, well at the time and prospective was like, we don't have ..., I mean you hear like breakthrough energy ventures with their gigaton, it's going to be a gigaton or it, not that it doesn't matter, but it's not like worthy of their time and attention. Right? It's like these big bolts. And so it's like, okay, there's a place for that, but there's also a place for just a local sustainable farm.
Jason Jacobs: Or if you look at the percentage of people that are mobilized in any way, it's so low. That if we just drive the percentage up, and you're doing something, it could be a small thing, or a big thing, or a moonshot or whatever. But maybe if we just focus on that percentage, that's the most effective thing we could do.
Nat Keohane: I think there's a lot of truth to that in the sense that we were just saying you need both the current technologies, and the breakthroughs. We need to be doing small scale, individual level behavioral changes, and we need to be thinking about the big home runs that will be transformational changes. The one thing I will say where there is a potential conflict, and this is the toughest part of advocacy on policy side is, when we're talking about specifically about policy advocacy, it's just part of the broader portfolio. But there are times in policy advocacy, when a window opens, and the danger that I'm worried about, or the concern I have is that we will settle for less than we can get because we're not ambitious enough when that window opens. And I'll give you an example.
Nat Keohane: Just recently, early this spring, some EDF was involved in, not me personally, but some of my colleagues. Many other groups who were involved in. Colorado governor, Colorado legislature passed into law the most ambitious climate targets of any state in the Lower 48. So Colorado became the first state to put into law statutory requirement that they will cut emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, and the governor Paul sign it. Now, hat was much more ambitious, than many people thought going into the legislative session that they could get. And there were a lot of voices, even in the environmental community saying, no, let's not go for that. That's really..., let's stick to renewable energy standard in the power sector. Let's go for less ambitious targets.
Nat Keohane: And if we had done that, we would've missed a huge opportunity, which instead we were able to get. And we were able to get it because of the leadership, and the vision of the four leaders in the Colorado legislature, who drove it, and the some of the advocates who made that happen. But I will say, that came across as an example of these windows of opportunity. They don't just open, they were crow barred opened by lots of advocates throughout Colorado for years on the political side. Getting the right people elected in legislators, getting these ideas on the table. But when you have that open, when that window opens, we need to be ready with bold, ambitious ideas. So we don't fritter those opportunities away on half measures. And that's the only place where I'll, say you do need some times to swing for the fences. Because we are going to need some home runs to extend that analogy if we're going to solve this.
Jason Jacobs: I absolutely think that you should swing for the fences. I think the thing that I was maybe skeptical of, my opinion is still forming. But things for example, that aren't going to be big movers of the math, if you just look at first order impact. So for example, services that help people improve their personal carbon footprint, right? You look at that, and it's like, wow. In terms of the math, like we don't have that kind of time, and I came in hugely skeptical. While I'm still probably skeptical from a business standpoint, where I've been persuaded in some way is that getting more people to care, we'll make them aware. Once they're aware, it's a foot in the door. They're more inclined to vote, for someone that runs on a climate focus platform. They're more inclined to pressure their employer to do better, as it relates to climate, not just with their actions, but to be advocates of their peer as well. They are building more in class. So it's, it's more those like second, and third order effects that maybe are under almost like brand.
Jason Jacobs: It's like when you build brand, you can't measure it, like if you run a Facebook ad or something, right? But it's got longer term payback that is intangible but important. As like, well how do you know? And to some respect it's like a leap that you take because you believe in the power of brand. Right?
Nat Keohane: You asked earlier, how has my thinking changed. And I probably would put more weight now for all the reasons you're saying on individual action than when I was teaching economics in academia, and thinking like, well this is a collective action problem, so nobody can possibly solve this on their own. Which is all true and, you want to build awareness, as you say. you want to build a movement. You want to build people to care about this. The one thing I'll say, and I say this with the important grain of salt, that I am not, by no means a social psychologist, or behavioral psychologist. I try to consume some of that literature. I have seen interesting findings, or I've heard interesting findings that suggest that there are some things you can do that you think might build awareness and engagement, but actually backfire. Because the human brain is a funny thing, right?
Nat Keohane: So I was at a talk the other day, and people were talking about media and climate. And someone brought up a study again, this is like third hand, and I'm probably going to butcher this study. But it gets the gist. Which is there has been some studies showing that, even if somebody watch a movie about climate change, they'll be less inclined if you ask them on a survey or whatever afterwards to act, or to take a concrete [inaudible 00:40:06]. Because they feel like the brain is like, yeah, did that, check, I care about this, I'm a good person, I watched the movie, and now I'm going to move on. So finding ways to your point, I'm sure there are ways there are people smarter than I on this stuff that know how to have that ladder of engagement. That's critical. But the funny thing is, there are some ways where you can end up, people sort of check the box on this. So how do you do that in a way that actually gets people more engaged? That seems to me to be the critical issue.
Jason Jacobs: I'm CEO of like an industrial processes company and, or huge emitters, but that's okay. I don't need to deal with it because I drive a Tesla.
Nat Keohane: Right? Yeah, exactly. Don't get me started on plastic straw. I was like, I don't use a plastic straw. So I can drive home from the Starbucks in my giant SUV.
Jason Jacobs: So we've talked about how we need it all, and more shots on goal, and moving the percentage, and the second and third order effects. But I get the sense from you, that there are some kind of hammer things that it could have outsize returns relative to anything else we could do. Is that true?
Nat Keohane: Yes.
Jason Jacobs: What are they?
Nat Keohane: I think in terms of policy, and so the way I like to talk about this is, and this does go back a little bit to how we think about our strategy here at EDF. Which is, identify the biggest emitters, the biggest sources of emitters in the world, the biggest countries that are meeting. And then think about a transformational change that could happen, that will fundamentally shift the trajectory of those mentors.
Nat Keohane: So for example, take China, right? So any discussion of climate has to start with China, or at least it has to be China in the U S got to be the two clearly, I think most important to mentors out there. Both, because of their biggest emitters, also because they're the dominant economies in the world. China right now is the biggest emitter in the world, I think if it's not yet twice the U S it's getting there. As an aside, when I started working on this issue, the U S was still the largest emitter, and that was only 12 years ago. I remember people saying, yeah, at some point China is going to pass the U S as the world large. Oh, you know what? We just looked at the numbers again. That happened last year. In other words, like China passed the U S as the world's largest emitter basically before people even had caught up to that fact.
Jason Jacobs: But not per person though?
Nat Keohane: Not per person. No, not at all. That's right. Although China now has per capita emissions around the same as France. The French could say, wow, look at that, we have low per capita emissions. I think we'd say, wow, China's per capita emissions no longer that low. But the point is, you look at China for example, so you've got to tackle China.
Nat Keohane: If we're going to tackle climate change. Again, there's no one silver bullet, but one thing that could be transformational, to give you an example, is if China were able to use the kind of flexible market-based mechanism that the EU is using, that California is using. If China could implement an emissions trading program that kept its emissions from its entire economy, and then drove that cap down. If China instead of talking about, well maybe we'll peak and then we'll plateau, but if China was talking about how to drive emissions down by 20, 30, 40, 50% by the middle of the century, and doing that in a way that had that flexibility to get the deepest cuts fastest wherever it made the most sense, that would be a critical, huge step. Multiple gigatons in terms of the solution.
Nat Keohane: And China's in the process of doing that. They are in the process at the provincial level. They got seven cities and provinces that have put cap and trade programs in place. They're putting a national cap and trade program in place for the power sector that's going to launch next year. Now I will tell you, when it launches next year, it's not going to be everything we want. It's actually just going to be a carbon market. It's not going to have a top down cap, so it's not going to have a firm limit. It's going to be bottom up, built from the facility's. Just going to be the power sector. This is part of what I mean about like a long game.
Nat Keohane: If we can get that institution in place, and then start strengthening it, making it robust over time, maybe by 2025 we have a firm cap over multiple industries. And then by 2030 we're talking about really driving down emissions, that would be transformational. And so that's one example. I could tell you others in tropical forests, in the U S and elsewhere. Maybe we'll have time to do that. But the point is, from my money, and of course I'm an economist, of course I'm going to say this. But for my money, what a critical part of the solution is going to be ambitious policies at scale, at economy-wide into world's major economies, that put enforceable limit on pollution and then create the flexibility, whether it's through market mechanisms or something else. Create the flexibility to meet limit in the fastest, cheapest possible way. And get the cuts when whatever sector is going to be able to do them quickest. We're going to need those kinds of policies. This kind of economic incentives if we're going to succeed.
Jason Jacobs: And when you say cap versus something like a tax, how much of that is driven by the substance of one versus the other, versus what you think can get through politically?
Nat Keohane: I'm just talking about the substance. And I'm not even talking about specific policy mechanisms right now. Like if I really boil it down. So I don't think we've ever solved a pollution problem. And people will say with some justification, climate's not just a pollution problem as much deeper. But fundamentally is pollution that we're talking about. I don't think we've ever solved the pollution problem without an enforceable limit that declines over time. So fundamentally, this isn't just about making something more expensive. This is about putting less of it into the air. I mean, really boil it down. How are we going to solve this? We're going to solve this by not putting pollution into the air. That's how we're going to solve it. How are we going to get to that point? Well, a pretty important part of that in policy is to put a limit in place, and that limit declines over time to net zero.
Nat Keohane: Now, how you implement that limit, how you achieve that, you've got to have some flexibility. A carbon tax can come in there. You can have a carbon tax. It's wedded to that limit. You can have the trading scheme, of a emissions trading program. You can have hybrid approaches, you can have other things. But to me if you really boil it down, it's a limit on carbon pollution, and a flexible mechanism to achieve that limit. And what I mean by flexible is, if you have a limit on pollution and then you say, okay, every facility in the world, every power sector or, in a country, every power sector, every steel mill, every concrete, every concrete mill factory, if you say every facility has to do the same thing, that's going to be enormously expensive. We're never going to get that done.
Nat Keohane: So you have to have a system that allows flexibility. If that this power plant can cut much more quickly than that one, great. That's what we want. Have some ability for the power plants, or the factories, or the emitters that can do more sooner, cheaper, faster. Give them incentives to do that. But make sure that the total amount is going down. That's what we need, and there are lots of ways to do that. We got hung up 10 or 12 years ago, and I was part of this. We got really hung up on, as a cap and trade versus tax. Let's debate that. We shouldn't be debating those things. We should be figuring out what all the possibilities are for how we could do what I just did, what I just talked about. How we could get a limit in place with a flexibility. And then whenever one of those ways works, that's great.
Jason Jacobs: If you're advocating for China to do something, is it advocating to the Chinese government directly or, is it advocating to the U S government to then advocate to the Chinese government?
Nat Keohane: Yeah, it's really both of those because, so the way I think about this is, any good advocacy starts with understanding the problems of the decision makers that you're trying to influence. Right? So what are the drivers for China? Why is it putting in place this emissions trading system? Why is it starting to care about its emissions at all?
Nat Keohane: Well, there's a couple of main drivers. The big one is, air quality in China is terrible. It's getting a little better, because the Chinese government is improving it, but Beijing five or 10 years, is one of the most polluted cities in the planet. You have kids dying of asthma, you have people with measurably shorter lives because of air pollution, not just Beijing, but throughout the country. That accompanied the rise in industry, the rise in economic growth, because that was all coal fired, that was all powered by coal. And so the number one reason the Chinese government cares about this is because, air quality is so bad that their population is demanding cleaner air. And one great way to get cleaner air is going to be to cut coal fire power plants, and that sort of thing. And that also helps out with climate. So climate policy can be a means of achieving the goal of cleaner air.
Nat Keohane: But there are others as well. The Chinese government has figured out that this is the direction the world is going, in terms of Europe. Eventually the U S will get there in terms of trying to other parts. That in other words, at some point, we're going to have to mobilize at a much bigger scale. And that means huge demand for clean energy, technologies, wind and so on. We're already seeing that on solar. When the Chinese government figured out, well this is it, economic opportunity for us. So let's invest the hell out of building solar panels, and becoming leaders on clean energy. And they're making huge investments into electric vehicles, and battery storage and so on, as a bet on the direction the world economy's going. So that's another driver of climate policy, because if they can have policies in place that support a domestic market for those things, that helps them with that economic policy.
Nat Keohane: Then the third thing is, international pressure. China wants to be seen just like every great country wants to be seen, as a leader, as a global leader, as a genuine global power. And certainly under the Obama administration, the price of entry into the club of great nations was action on climate change. And that was very effective. That's part of what got the Chinese to the table. And part of what made the Paris agreement of 2015 succeed, which the Chinese saw this is important. You don't have that now with Trump?
Nat Keohane: Okay. We're going in the other direction, but I think to your point, if we're going to continue to drive China forward, those first two drivers, air quality, and their sense of demand for technologies are going to remain. But we're going to need an American administration, green in the U S administration, that is once again willing to lead on climate, and put pressure on China. But once you have a drivers in place by the way, then it's working with the Chinese government on the design of the policy, and the implementation of it.
Jason Jacobs: But I think what I'm hearing from you is that, you'll just focus on the substance and then that stuff will work itself out over time. But meanwhile the substance will be there for when we have the political will.
Nat Keohane: So from an advocacy point of view, my colleagues in Beijing are working with the Chinese government, with the provinces I mentioned, but with the national government as well, to design and implement an effective emissions trading program. So we are in there in the trenches on the policy in the substance. And in the U S side, when we think about okay, what is our U S advocacy look like, going forward three, five years. Part of that U S advocacy is, how do we create a dynamic in the U S, so that the U S administration wants to be a leader again, and therefore will keep creating that pressure on the Chinese to do more. It's an iterative approach. Obama got the Chinese to commit to do more in Paris. They're now implementing that. Now we need the next administration, to step up its leadership, and in turn put more pressure on the Chinese to do more. And that can play back into the U S, and getting the U S to do more. Because if China is acting, then the U S doesn't have that excuse that China is not doing anything.
Nat Keohane: So it is an iterative thing, and to your answer we're thinking about both the substance of the policy, especially in China. But also the global diplomacy of this, and how to mobilize American leadership on it, which is going to be so critical to the overall dynamic.
Jason Jacobs: Do you think that as it relates to federal policy, that it's possible to find common ground with certain climate focused issues to bring about any kind of meaningful change?
Nat Keohane: I've got to say, I think I've written off this administration. And I imagine pretty much everybody in the climate community did. If didn't win when Scott Pruitt was appointed EPA administrator, they certainly did after Trump's Rose Garden Speech in 2017, when he said he was pulling the U S out of the Paris agreement. I think it's very clear that this administration, this president has no interest in addressing the crisis of climate change. And frankly doesn't have much interest in serving Americans interests more broadly. But that is to a large degree, that's about this particular administration.
Nat Keohane: I do believe that there are voices especially, newer generation of voices in the Republican party. But also some folks who have been in the Senate for a long time. I do think there are voices in the Republican party who see the urgency, see the need, believe this is a real existential threat to the planet, but also believe this is an economic opportunity for the U S, and an opportunity for American prosperity and economic growth.
Nat Keohane: And so I do think there are Republican voices, that if we have a different administration, and maybe different leadership in the Senate, that we can find common ground and bipartisan action on climate. I'll just say in 2008, which seems like a lifetime ago, you had both candidates for the presidency calling for strong comprehensive legislation for climate change with cap and trade programs that we'd cut emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. So you had both presidential candidates calling for strong climate policy, as recently as 2008. So I don't think it's impossible to get back to that point.
Jason Jacobs: That's something that I've been wrestling with. I mean, I don't know if I can ask you this on the pod, so just tell me if I can. But given two choices, someone that has the strongest climate position that's a Democrat, and someone that the best odds of beating Trump, who doesn't have the strongest climate position. Then it feels like maybe the best thing to do if you're concerned about climate change, is to go with whatever is going to have the highest likelihood of getting that guy out of office.
Nat Keohane: That's true. Not only for climate, but for all those other issues. So from a personal point of view, it's about how do you get somebody who can win? Right. Again, I don't think that's incompatible with voting your issue. I mean, what I would love to see, and we're starting to see it, we're starting to see signs. If you look at polls, you're starting to see climate climbing to the top of the list for Democratic primary voters. That has never happened before.
Nat Keohane: So what I'd like to see is that voters of all stripes vote climate is their issue. I do think if we're really going to get change in this country, we need to get to the point where more and more voters are voting on climate, on both sides of the aisle, by the way. So both Republicans and Democrats, we're starting to see that in the Democratic party. If you just look at the polling data, that's never happened before. Climate has always been buried way down the list. We need that happen more broadly. But that to me is one of the brightest glimmers of optimism or hope, is that if people really start voting climate as an issue, then maybe we'll start mobilizing the political will and the Congress that we need.
Jason Jacobs: So to enact meaningful climate legislation, in your view, does it require bipartisan support?
Nat Keohane: In my view, yes. As you will see, I'm sure you probably already had this conversation or you certainly will with others. I mean, this is a split in the climate community right now, is a big split. There are some people who think that the Republican party is irretrievably lost, and that people like me who talk about bipartisan approaches are hopelessly naive. We're never going back to the glory days of the 1990 clean air act amendment, which was bipartisan [inaudible 00:55:18]. And so there are some people, and I understand their views. There are some people, some of the people have suggested you talk to. Will say, you know what, that's just hopelessly naive. This has got to be party line. The way that healthcare was party line, and we got to figure out how to either get 60 Democrats in the Senate, or do reconciliation 51.
Nat Keohane: That's not my view for two reasons. Number one, because again go back to this point I raised that climate is a long game. It's a long game, and all the sense that we were talking about before, but it's also a long game in the sense that it's going to require making long lived investments. Major capital investments need to be made on a low carbon pathway, in power sector and industry, and all the sectors, steel, cement and buildings, and everything else. So we need durable signals, durable policy signals, lasting policy for people to be willing to make those 20, 30, 40 year investments, and make them in a low carbon direction.
Nat Keohane: And that puts in a particular premium on making sure that whatever we get is lasting and durable. Everyone sees it that way. And so, if you look at what's happened to healthcare, since Obamacare passed, since the ACA passed, it's been permanently under threat. Then the Republicans do this, then there's an attack, then they do this, and the States do this, that say too, is it up? It's down this way. Depending on the Supreme court, it has been a really a ping pong game because, the ACA was strong enough that the core is still intact. But it's been in perpetual doubt since it was passed in 2010.
Nat Keohane: And if we have that for climate, if we pass legislation on climate change, and 10 years later, it's still up in the air, whether that's going to hold, then that's a failure. And so that's fundamentally why I think we need to be aiming for bipartisan support. Because I think we need durable policy. And the way I think we get there, is by having some form of bipartisan support. I'm not saying it's going be even, nobody's saying that you're going to get 50 Republican votes, at least not the way that the Senate is currently constructed. But I do think we need to be going for bipartisan support, and I think we have champions in the Republican party who could be part of that conversation if we approach it the right way.
Jason Jacobs: So switching gears, and we are winding down, you know I've kept you for quite a while, but if, if you had a big pot of money, let's say $100 billion, and you could allocate it towards anything to maximize its impact on the climate fight, where would it go? How would you allocate it?
Nat Keohane: First of all, I think we need a redoubled concerted effort to mobilize political will, and social concern, and awareness around this issue in the major emitters of the world. And to do so in a way where the call to action is voting, and the call to action is driving political change. And I think a campaign to do that, would be a top priority, to really catalyze, not just awareness but mobilization in China, the U S, India, which is a future enormous emitter, the EU, and maybe Brazil or tropical forest sector generally. That I think would be a priority. That's not 100 billion. That's if you gave me a couple billion, I think I could put that together. I do think that kind of advocacy, and tides of policy advocacy. But really mobilizing political will to accelerate change. I think that's important.
Nat Keohane: Another piece that I think is important, and by the way I think if you get those policies in place, that's what is going to transform the economic incentives that the companies face, that entrepreneurs and innovators face, that's going to transform the economic incentives that are shaping markets. I'm a big believer in market forces being the most powerful force we have. But they respond to policy, and so we need to put the policies in place to create those economic incentives. And I think that would be one of the most powerful things we could do.
Nat Keohane: I think the other thing that it has been long ignored, and that you could get a big dent into, with a big chunk of that 100 billion is real research, real ramping up effort in innovation into clean breakthrough energy technologies. So again, like we said before, it's not the only thing, but we know we're going to need dramatic improvement in technologies, if we're going to get all the way to where we need to go, to net zero by let's say the first 2050 in the U S, and soon thereafter globally. And some of those breakthrough technologies are things like; radically improved battery storage that could make wide-scale renewables integrated into the grid in a much bigger way. I'm sure there are billion other technologies that people are working on, electrification vehicles and so on. A big one is negative emissions technologies, direct air capture. And I'm going to be talking with a guy from Carbon Engineering.
Nat Keohane: This is something that's just come on the radar in the last couple of years, and I think we need to begin to understand that, as we say, as part of plan A not part of plan B. Direct air capture, other negative emissions technologies are going to be critical, if we're going to make the math work. We can't make the math work without..., I don't think we can make the math work to get the emissions reductions, to get to net zero as fast as we need to, without being able to take carbon out of the air. I think we're getting close to that happening. That's an important piece too. So in those breakthrough technologies, that would be an important piece.
Nat Keohane: And then if I have a little bit more of the 100 billion leftover, I do think there's scope, while we're getting the social mobilization ready to mobilize the policies that can be truly transformational, and take a little bit of that 100 billion, and protect the world's tropical forests. Which is one of the most immediate opportunities we have now to reduce emissions, and conserve carbon. And then I would take a few billion and create funds to radically ramp up deployment of clean energy. So I think with $100 billion you could do a fair amount of good.
Jason Jacobs: Amazing. And it, gosh, I feel like we could have a whole episode on any one of those things. So last question is our audience, a lot of them are people that might be coming from different perspectives, but what they share in common is that they care about climate change, and they're looking to better understand the scope of the problem, and nature of the problem, and how to help. So I guess speaking to them whether it's someone who's got a career doing something different, and is just looking to better understand the issue, maybe for when they go to the polls or, an entrepreneurial like me look into maybe start a company, what message do you have for those people? And you can take that as one message or, if you want to take it by segment, that's fine too.
Nat Keohane: I guess I would have two levels of message, right? So I do think, as I said in the beginning of our conversation, there are more and more people that I talk to that are on the journey you're on Jason, who are thinking about maybe a different phase of their lives. Maybe they've had a lot of success in another area. Maybe they're just looking to do something different. Maybe they're fortunate enough to have resources, and they can open up a new phase in their lives, whatever it is. And I talked to more and more of those people who are thinking about how to make climate the focus of their efforts. And I think that is critical if we're going to win on climate, we need more people in to the fight in a significant way. It's not going to be everybody, that's going to be my second tier.
Nat Keohane: But in terms of people who are looking for what's the next big thing? I think tackling the climate crisis is the defining challenge of our generation, and we need all the help we can. Whether that's a new tech startup that's going to help with some climate technology, or some data thing on climate or whatever it is, or whether that's investing resources in advocacy, or in research, or a new clean technologies, whether that's investing, building an investment fund for deployment, or whatever it is. There are lots of ways that people with time and resources and dedication can get involved, that I think are going to be critical.
Nat Keohane: Then to the rest of folks who are saying, hold on a minute, I'm not ready to quit my job and join the climate fight, or I'm not in the position to do that. I guess the things I say are two things that are pretty easy to do, or ought to be. One is vote climate. It doesn't have to be the only thing. But if we get people in this country, and then in other countries that have democracies, if we get people voting climate, whatever that means for them, as we said before, both sides of the aisle, that will be the most important thing we can do to transform the political conversation. Because the members and candidates will respond to that.
Nat Keohane: And the other piece of that which can also help is talk to people about climate. And I think one of the things that's really held us back in this country is that climate has gotten sucked into that polarization. I'm somebody actually, maybe I'm living in my own bubble, because I don't have friends or family who are climate deniers, but I talked to lots of people, including some of my colleagues at EDF. Who their uncle, or their brother-in-law, or a friend of their cousins, or whoever it is, the climate denier, Or I should say, a climate skeptic, doesn't believe this is real. They heard on Fox news that this is all bullshit.
Nat Keohane: If we're going to really mobilize change in this country, we have to get beyond that, and so talking to people, explaining why you care about this issue, why you understand it to be an important issue facing our children, and our grandchildren, and ourselves, and getting people to open their minds about it. I think that's one of the most important things that we all can do.
Jason Jacobs: This has been amazing.
Nat Keohane: Well thanks. It's been a lot of fun.
Jason Jacobs: Covered a lot of ground.
Nat Keohane: Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: I've learned a lot. I think our listeners will too. So Nat, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Nat Keohane: Well, Jason, thanks a lot for having me and happy to pick up this conversation anytime.
Jason Jacobs: Al be back then.
Nat Keohane: All right, great.
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 myclimatejourney.co
Jason Jacobs: Note that is .co not that .com. Someday we'll get to .com but right now, .co. You can also find me on Twitter at @jjacobs 22, 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 enjoy the show, please share an episode with a friend, or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that.
Jason Jacobs: Thank you.