The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change often releases dour studies on global warming. Last week, though, looked especially gloomy, even by those standards.
The result is that global warming has already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius and is on course to reach the “safe” limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius established by the Paris Agreement in the early 2030s. Hence, in only 10 years, the globe will have already exceeded the level of warming considered safe unless we make radical adjustments.
There is a significant likelihood that the globe will be shitting the bed by the time people in their 30s and 40s reach retirement age. We’ll look back with fondness on those times when we had to prepare for natural disasters like hurricanes, heat waves, polar vortexes, fires, floods, and droughts by stocking up on food and supplies, buying generators, and increasing our insurance coverage. It’s funny to think back on how awful we had it.
Exactly where is everyone freaking out?
There is no doubt that many individuals are concerned. The issue is that most of them do not have (or are unable to muster) the necessary amounts to make a significant dent in the issue. However, those who don’t are missing out on one of the greatest chances as well as crises of their lives.
Although some investors may “understand it,” the vast majority do not. They don’t seem to mind pouring money into metaverse-related technologies like ad optimisation software, corporate spend cards, corporate SaaS platforms for CRM, marketing, or payments, rather than fusion reactors, batteries, carbon capture technology, or grid management tools. One after the other, after the next. (Soon, artificial intelligence chatbots will be added to the roster; after all, have you seen what occurs when a new gadget is shown on “60 Minutes”? It’s like a bunch of teenagers trying to copy the hottest thing on TikTok at the moment.
They finance incrementalism when they aren’t handing out hundreds of millions to failing wunderkinds or stoking runs on smaller banks. Is it the pinnacle of their ambition?
If venture money wasn’t specifically designed to address this issue, it wouldn’t be quite so irritating. Big but not insurmountable dangers? Check. Technologies that manipulate needles? Check. Huge potential benefits and the chance to reshape markets worth trillions of dollars? Verified and verified.
Nobody seems to be around
To further understand the issue, let’s look at two completely unrelated marketplaces. Thus, investors have showered money and attention on software as a service since it generates recurring income, which is often steadier and more predictable than initial revenue. According to PitchBook, $122 billion was invested in SaaS businesses throughout the globe in 2017. To rephrase, venture capitalists have put more money than Slovakia’s whole GDP into firms that lease software on a monthly basis rather than sell permanent licences.
Clean energy, on the other hand, encompasses a wide range of technologies, from batteries to renewable fuels to the electrification of buildings to solar power and wind power, and beyond. Around $40 billion was wagered here by investors in 2017. In case you aren’t good with numbers, monthly software sales accounted for just one-third of the investment budget compared to projects that would reduce carbon emissions across several economic sectors.
Companies that took risks with significant consequences used to get funding from venture capital firms. High Voltage Engineering was founded in 1946 with a $200,000 investment from venture capital trailblazer American Research and Development to study the potential of X-rays in cancer treatment. In today’s economy, $2.8 million may not seem like a lot of money. Yet, keep in mind that prior to the advent of ARD, private venture capital was nonexistent.
These once massive fluctuations are now vanishingly little. Likely too humble. The figures should show that investors are increasing their aggregate goals, but that isn’t the case. Carbon capture and fusion power are two such “huge swing” technologies. According to PitchBook, venture capitalists only put $4.25 billion into carbon capture and $1.1 billion towards fusion energy worldwide in 2017. Combined, they amount to a “get out of jail free” card, freeing humans from the burden of undoing almost 200 years of unregulated carbon pollution, which requires massive amounts of energy.
Fusion is perhaps the riskiest option available. Even if the science has advanced fast in recent years and many entrepreneurs are feeling more confident about their schedules, there is still a significant amount of uncertainty. The climatic and financial benefits of this technology are so promising that huge quantities of money should be invested in the market.
Fusion provides a roadmap for progress in this regard. Most fusion startups will fail despite the high funding requirements. But, those who do will reap substantial benefits. The energy industry has grown to a $10 trillion industry worldwide. A company’s worth would skyrocket if it could grab even a fraction of that market.
For the purpose of argument, let’s say that investors will require a 1,000x return from a winner to balance out losses from their unsuccessful bets, given the hazardous but promising character of a fusion-heavy portfolio. In order to generate the same level of return as current portfolios, venture capital firms would have to increase their risk profile by a factor of 100. Thus, either businesses should grow to enormous proportions or there should be many more of them. Naturally, the simplest answer would be for more companies to begin exploring fusion. But then a lot of people would fail if that happened.
The good news is that fusion isn’t the only climate technology that needs funding. The possibilities get more every day. While certain wagers on the future are more risky than others, they are still bets nevertheless. Considering that the environment affects our collective destiny, if any of these wagers pay off, we will all benefit. Venture capital has an opportunity to return to its origins in climate technology by investing not only for profit but to effect social change.
Subtly charming pop culture geek. Amateur analyst. Freelance tv buff. Coffee lover