#5 Jane Flegal of UC Berkeley, and Dr. Andrew Maynard of Arizona State University

January 2, 2018

In a world where ideology informs decision-making and policy-makers have little understanding of what is plausible when it comes to negative emissions technology, challenging doesn’t even begin to describe the task of reversing climate change. In this top-down approach, a small number of academics, activists and politicians are making the decisions for 7.5 billion people—and spending a lot of time arguing hypotheticals rather than taking action. 

Nori is using a different methodology: establishing a carbon removal market through the blockchain. Implementing principles similar to that of Agile governance, the platform seeks to improve systems as data is received and publish its verification protocol for stakeholder feedback, allowing the market to determine a range of carbon sequestration methodologies.

Today Ross and Christophe are joined by UC Berkeley Environmental Science, Policy and Management doctoral candidate Jane Flegal and Professor Andrew Maynard of the ASU School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Jane explains the role of politics in constructing negative emissions models and the social dimensions of technological innovation. They speak to the challenge of scaling widely accepted carbon removal techniques, the intellectual debates in the space, and the significance of having a diverse portfolio of responses to climate change. Professor Maynard asks Ross and Christophe about the challenges Nori faces and examines the benefits of their approach. Listen in to understand the technical, social, political and cultural hurdles around tech innovation in the geoengineering space.

Key Takeaways

[6:21] The connotation around the term geoengineering

  • Seen as negative, indicative of hubris
  • Ideological fights within community
  • Disapproval of additional interference
  • Public awareness of geoengineering limited (under 10%)

[9:37] The role of politics in negative emissions models

  • Include assumptions of technology that doesn’t exist yet
  • Suggests lack of awareness at policy-making level
  • Policy-makers must have idea what is plausible
  • Establish mechanism to facilitate development of tech

[12:20] The process of direct air capture

  • Extract CO2 from atmosphere, permanently sequester

[15:23] The challenge around scaling soft techniques

  • Meaningful impact would require exponential growth
  • Technical, social, political and cultural hurdles

[14:55] The significance of having a diverse portfolio of responses

  • Cutting emissions entirely won’t remove risk
  • Sun, greenhouse gasses and human behavior all play role

[18:28] The taboo around adaptation strategies (i.e.: planning for sea level rise) 

  • Perceived as resignation, admission
  • Comes back to ideologies

[22:42] The intellectual debates in the space

  • Will the option to offset emissions cause people to pollute more?
  • Who is responsible for funding negative emissions?

[20:45] The feasibility of addressing energy access in the developing world with renewables

  • Some NGOs, foundations and academics discount negative emissions tech
  • Responsible to invest in wide range of approaches in terms of risk-management

[25:39] The hurdles Nori faces

  • Trust, verification
  • Adoption
  • Development of hardware (e.g.: IOT) for dynamic feedback
  • Public perception of carbon markets
  • Incentivizing verifiers (i.e.: cost, political challenge)

[34:09] The benefits of the Nori approach

  • System built to improve as data received
  • Market decides new methodologies
  • Publish verification protocol for stakeholder engagement

[35:12] The concept of agile governance

  • Learn from mistakes, adapt and move forward quickly
  • Freedom to try new solutions (sandboxing)
  • Engage those impacted (inclusivity)

[41:00] Andrew’s approach to thinking about complex problems 

  • Can’t stand still 
  • Must be careful moving forward
  • Take small signals from early warnings
  • Change course as necessary

[44:06] Jane’s take on the social, political dimensions of tech innovation

  • Can’t simply speak truth to power
  • Decision-making is political, involves ideology

[46:18] Andrew’s hope for the future of climate change conversations

  • Less ideology driving discussions, far less pragmatism
  • Consider portfolio of solutions, learn early and fast

Connect with Ross & Christophe


Carbon A List

Geagora’s Hackathon Submission


Jane A. Flegal

Andrew Maynard

ASU School of Sustainability

Climeworks Project in Switzerland

The Collusion Deterrence with Prisoner's Dilemma

Aldyen Donnelly