Arvind co-leads Mayfield’s engineering biology follow and is founder and enterprise advisor at IndieBio. He was the primary investor in breakout bio firms resembling Geltor, Synthex, Prime Roots, NotCo, Prellis, New Tradition, DNA Lite and Memphis Meats.
Local weather within the final decade has been unprecedented in some ways, none of them good.
Wildfires in California have consumed whole cities; 1000’s of miles away, New Yorkers inhale the ashes. Throughout Europe and Japan, flash floods wreak widespread devastation. All of us see the movies on YouTube and CNN. And we shrug.
The just lately launched sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change report concluded that human-created local weather change is going down quicker than we thought, calling it a “code-red alert.” At simply 2 levels hotter than at the moment, one estimate predicts greater than 300,000,000 climate-related deaths globally by 2100. And that’s the optimistic estimate. International warming is overwhelming and feels unattainable to repair. What the hell can we do?
Like lots of you, I’m an optimist. Humanity has come to the boundaries of nature many instances previously, and has overcome them with know-how. We have now at all times tailored ourselves to our surroundings; altering our know-how and habits because of environmental change is a part of our historical past.
Regulation will assist incentivize companies to wash up, however solely know-how can clear up the intractable downside of sustainably giving us what we need. Inconsiderate consumption introduced us local weather change, however additionally it is true that conscious consumption can get us out of it.
How can we use capitalism to remove greenhouse gasoline emissions worldwide? Comply with the carbon. That leads us to the three principal bottlenecks on the highway to net-zero carbon emissions.
What follows is essentially a high-level overview of big and sophisticated industries. I’ve purposely neglected granular particulars so we may deal with the overarching points.
Electrification: 36 gigatons CO2 emitted
TAM: $7 trillion
International carbon utilization is highest in power manufacturing as we burn coal, oil and pure gasoline to energy our automobiles, cities and trade (sure, coal continues to be mined and burned in 2021). That’s a whopping 36 gigatons of CO2 emissions per 12 months. Why can we nonetheless burn coal? It’s low-cost, on-demand, common, transportable, an order of magnitude extra environment friendly than lithium-ion batteries, and far safer.
Nevertheless it must be eradicated, very quickly.
The IPCC report discovered that 89% of world CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels. Additional, it tells us we should lower these emissions in half over the following decade or danger a 1.5-degree Celsius enhance in common world temperatures.
At present, wind and photo voltaic can’t produce electrical energy 100% of the time; generated power have to be saved slightly than simply dumped if unused, as it’s performed at the moment. There are various methods of manufacturing clear power at the moment, together with nuclear, tidal, hydroelectric, geothermal and different means. Fusion is advancing yearly.
Civilization was born alongside the sheep and cow, however 10,000 years later, the sheep, cow and pig are killing us. They emit 10% of world greenhouse gases, and world demand for meat is skyrocketing.
We are going to want greater than double at the moment’s clear power output to service rising demand. However till we are able to retailer this power and use it in automobiles, boats, airplanes and extra, clear power manufacturing is not going to remove the necessity for oil and coal. Vitality storage is the principle bottleneck for a world electrical economic system. We’d like greater, safer and cleaner batteries that can be utilized in every single place from the grid to our automobiles to our properties, and maintain the lights on after we want them most.
You and I received’t be shopping for these batteries, however they may energy the whole lot we do purchase. From automobiles to the cargo ships that ship them to the airplanes that carry us, they may all finally be electrical. Boeing simply ordered 100 electrical planes from Coronary heart Aerospace, during which it additionally invested. The world’s first electrical cargo ship, the Yara Birkeland, constructed by Marin Teknikk, is scheduled to have its maiden voyage quickly.
There aren’t any fewer than a dozen electrical plane firms and 6 dozen electrical automobile firms. However the bottleneck for these efforts to scale and change all fossil gasoline planes, ships and automobiles with equal efficiency is a humble battery able to delivering sustained, excessive energy output over a protracted time period. With out that elementary development, these firms will keep within the conceptual stage for a very long time.
Sadly, lithium-based battery know-how nonetheless solely has one-tenth the utmost power density of gasoline (which is round 50 megajoules per kilogram). It isn’t sufficient. The closest we are able to get with lithium-ion know-how is the lithium-air battery, which has a theoretical power density of 40 megajoules per kilogram, however new electrolytes have to be invented for it to work. Like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier to usher within the supersonic period, we have to break via this density barrier to energy our inexperienced future.
Latest research have demonstrated that melanin, our pores and skin pigment, has additionally proven promise as a potent cathode that may make rechargeable sodium batteries a chance. This is able to allow large-scale “salt” batteries that can be utilized to create a protected and clear grid storage answer. Researchers have additionally used viruses to create nanolayers of various components to make higher-performance cathodes. Different strains of analysis have proven that batteries pushed by enzymatic catalysts can probably use sugar water to slowly cost your automobile or home with bio-electricity. Not one of the options above are inside a decade to market; all are within the analysis stage.
The winners of the electrification wars will mixture these applied sciences throughout industries and supply customers with a seamless, great expertise. From quick wi-fi charging of electronics and autos to self-adapting nationwide electrical grids, an electrified world shall be quieter, environment friendly and clear. I’m excited concerning the prospect of residing in a completely electrical world.
Rematerialization: 10.2 gigatons emitted
TAM: $12 trillion
Each object within the room you’re sitting in was made unsustainably and reeks of carbon emissions. The cement ground, couch, eating desk, desk, fridge, sink, chairs, even the partitions contribute to local weather change. Shoppers don’t have any selection; they will’t purchase inexperienced, and we have to change this.
Sturdy items and our constructed atmosphere alone account for greater than 10.2 gigatons of CO2 emissions yearly, or almost one-third of complete emissions. The heights of soiled trade have to be toppled and rebuilt from scratch with a brand new purpose in thoughts: Sustainable manufacturing for lots of of years to come back.
International cement manufacturing emits almost 2.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide per 12 months. There are dozens of inexperienced cement firms now attempting numerous approaches to eliminating CO2 emissions from cement and concrete. At IndieBio, I invested in Carbix, an organization that takes CO2 emissions and makes use of them to make olivine cement. They’ve made just a few bricks and are years from the market.
The principle barrier for many inexperienced cement formulators is proving equal structural efficiency. Attending to scale is dear. Nonetheless, just a few firms promising greener concrete are coming to market within the subsequent few years.
Making metal and aluminum is energy-intensive. In actual fact, aluminum is referred to by many commodity merchants as “power in strong type.” Powering our foundries with clear power and decreasing their carbon utilization will assist remove 8% of emissions.
Bushes are our largest carbon sinks. They suck in CO2 from the air and exhale the oxygen we breathe. So why can we nonetheless lower them down?
Hopefully, quickly we received’t should. Corporations are utilizing flax and different pure fibers to create bio-composites which are stiffer than metal and lighter than wooden, or growing sustainable bamboo for exterior constructing panels. Others are experimenting with mushroom mycelium to develop whole buildings.
Leather-based and materials
Cows contribute 7.1 gigatons of CO2 per 12 months to world warming, a full 14.5% of the full. We don’t simply eat them, we use their pores and skin quite a bit. Leather-based is in every single place, from footwear and couches to purses and clothes. We have to change this materials if we’re to remove cows from our provide chain.
Happily, a dozen firms are making headway into eliminating plastic and leather-based from style. All are discovering great traction with client firms seeking to present their customers with vegan and sustainable merchandise.
Materials like polyester are manufactured from petrochemicals. Fermentation applied sciences excel at making oils from sugar water through the use of algae or yeast as a manufacturing unit. Fermentation is scalable and exists at the moment, whereas a more moderen know-how known as cell-free synthesis is being utilized to those similar issues. We are able to count on new inexperienced materials within the subsequent 5 years.
Industrial chemical substances
Break down oil and also you get an inventory of unpronounceable names that make a lot of our world. These chemical substances are utilized in engines, antifreeze, cosmetics and even meals. To remove any want for oil, these merchandise have to be changed via fermentation, which converts sugar into chemical substances.
The sugar can come from corn and even waste CO2 in chimneys. Cells don’t should be alive both, as cell-free synthesis permits the enzymes themselves to do the work. An enormous variety of firms have been began to remake all these chemical substances via types of fermentation and synthesis.
Rematerializing our planets with sustainable, carbon-neutral sources can take away as much as 10 gigatons of emissions from our economic system. Our homes and the whole lot inside them will finally grow to be carbon-neutral via rematerialization. I’m enthusiastic about breaking this bottleneck to progress as a result of it naturally results in higher merchandise for everybody.
Meals: 3.6 gigatons C02 emitted
TAM: $10 trillion
The primary slide of a presentation I gave to elucidate the brand new meals revolution depicted cavemen with spears being mauled by an enormous prehistoric bear. The purpose? Protein is essential sufficient to die for. As we transitioned from searching to farming, our society reorganized round cities and the division of labor.
Civilization was born alongside the sheep and cow, however 10,000 years later, the sheep, cow and pig are killing us. They emit 10% of world greenhouse gases, and world demand for meat is skyrocketing. Over the previous six years at IndieBio, I’ve invested in Clara Meals, Geltor, Memphis Meats (now Upside Meals), NotCo,and lots of others to reinvent agriculture via fermentation, plant-based formulations and cell-based tradition.
These startups reinvented acquainted meals like burgers, mayonnaise, popcorn shrimp, egg whites, poke bowls, sausages and rooster wings. As prosperous societies started consuming extra processed meals, meals grew to become merchandise: Cows grew to become burgers, pigs grew to become bacon and chickens at the moment are nuggets. A legion of food-as-product firms have adopted of their footsteps and there are whole conferences devoted to them. “Meals is sizzling” is an understatement in Silicon Valley.
Having been part of the meals revolution from its earliest days, I’m struck by the magnitude of those revolutions as soon as they actually get going. I’m additionally cautious of revolutions that stall. Cell-based meals must be in the marketplace subsequent 12 months and customers will get to resolve for themselves if the revolution is for them. So the ultimate form and type of the world as soon as the revolutions roll via society and grow to be the brand new regular is just not straightforward to foretell.
I’m a fan of historical past, so I look into the previous to see the place we’re going subsequent. My mom’s recipe for curry rooster is an efficient place to begin. It requires rooster thighs with the bone in, chopped. If I need to make a low-carbon, animal-free model of that recipe, I’d have to make use of one thing aside from rooster, however what? Simply’s cell-based rooster nuggets? No, breaded rooster nuggets received’t work, nor would soy alternate options. Past Curry? My mother wouldn’t approve.
Biofarming actual meals
For agriculture to be reinvented for everybody, not simply the 1%, we should make meals. Actual, pure meals. Steaks, rooster breasts and thighs, bone-in meats and spare ribs. Not a processed model of those merchandise, however elements to make whole-food dishes.
Meals 3.0 is biofarming. Biofarming must clear up for style and healthful diet. Scrumptious meals with no processing aside from mother’s recipe. Regenerative agriculture will allow carbon-neutral greens and vegetation if we can assist farmers get their yields excessive sufficient to show a revenue whereas a subject is fallow for a season. Quite a few applied sciences are serving to to realize this.
We aren’t F’d but
Bloomberg just lately reported that there have been over 5 million deaths a 12 months globally from local weather change-related occasions from 2009 to 2019. That’s 1 in 10 deaths on the planet. Since we don’t monitor this statistic (we monitor warmth stroke, drowning, landslide, suicide, and the issues that instantly kill us), nor different results like folks not having youngsters and excessive nervousness, it’s unattainable to know the true magnitude of distress local weather change will convey. How far will we let this go earlier than all of us act? What number of extra must die?
The brand new regular doesn’t have to be this fashion. Scientists can select to use their work to unravel the paradox of carbon and manufacturing. Traders can select to place cash into firms rebuilding our world to be light and inexperienced. And entrepreneurs can select to construct firms that reshape our carbon economic system for the best alternative in historical past. The above highway map represents the power to erase almost all carbon emissions by humanity.
We’re removed from doomed. Collectively, we’ll all construct and we’ll all struggle for our future.