I had the privilege to attend the last Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment Energy Seminar, featuring Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, for Google.org, the philanthropist arm of Google.
The folks at Google have a plan and it makes lots of sense. They have two major initiatives currently at work:
To develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C): Create utility-scale electricity from clean renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal. For RE<C to work, Google is betting on four arms: R&D, Investment, Policy, and Information Tools.
To accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT): Seed innovation, demonstrate technology, inform the debate, and stimulate market demand to foster mass commercialization of plug-in vehicles.
Most striking in the Google plan, is its exclusive reliance on technology and policy, not unlike the recent McKinsey recommendations. At the end of his talk, I asked Dan Reicher if Google was considering any people driven initiatives? According to him, Google has just started looking into consumers’ behaviors and their impact on climate change.
In a way, Google‘s emphasis should be of no surprise. Google is a technology company, and they cannot tackle every possible angle of the problem. Instead they are focusing on their core competencies, engineering and technology. Google‘s top-down approach should be considered alongside bottom-up strategies such as David Holmgren‘s Permaculture Project, for instance.
For more on the Google approach to climate change, here is a video of Google.org‘s introductory course for Google employees. The session tackles global development, global health, and climate change, and explores how the three domain areas relate to each other. Well worth sitting for an hour. The bulk of the climate change lecture is towards the end:
Of course, I was particularly interested in the Information Tools aspect of the Google plan. Here is the list of all the Google tools that can be used to further the climate fight, as presented by Dan Reicher during his talk:
If you are not familiar with some of these tools, I urge you to play with them.