Selling lifeboats on the Titanic …

Speaking at a cleantech-y event recently, I bemoaned the lack of urgency in capital movement to the sector. Carbon builds, capital barely moves. Climate growls, capital purrs. Our national and global efforts to mitigate climate risk looks an awful lot like bailing the Titantic out with a teaspoon. And gosh, it’s not like our civic institutions and food security is at risk, right? … So I expressed my usual impatience.

The speaker after me was in a sunnier mood. Hey – if there’s a few people at the back of the boat who don’t care about the boat sinking – why worry? “I’ll be the one selling them lifeboats!” A classic view from pure financial players – hey, if others are too stupid to get it, I’ll arbitrage the opportunity and make big bucks.

There’s at least two problems with this view:

1. If the boat sinks, lifeboats ain’t gonna get us to shore. I’m worried about boat sinking, not how much I can make off it going down!

2. Those people who act as if the boat isn’t sinking? It’s the captain and all his buddies, getting drunk and ignoring the engineers’ warnings. Those most ardently opposing action on climate are those with their hands on the steering wheel. So yes, it matters what they believe – it’s OUR boat.

To my fellow cleantech capitalists: the boat is sinking and we’re all on it – welcome to the Anthropocene. There’s more to cleantech than mere IRR. Let’s get some urgency, dammit.

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