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Climate Change: An Economic Game Changer

By The Editorial Board

As our evolving global climate brings us ghastly fires, devastating floods, burning heat waves and shrinking ice caps, it also brings our world a tremendous economic opportunity.

Hundreds of companies and startups are answering the call for products and systems that move us away from reliance on fossil fuels into a new world of sustainable, renewable energy. From wood products to transportation, entrepreneurs are launching new energy industries freeing us from the grip of fossil fuel’s carbon emissions.

Concern about climate change is “a core motivation for everything we do,” said Rick Luebbe, one-time CEO of an information technology firm who switched gears to join the sustainable energy movement.  “If I’m going to invest this much energy into a start-up, it has to be something I feel good about,” he said.

His career shift led him to found a firm that produces materials for batteries that he claims will revolutionize energy for everything from medical devices to aircraft, adding that “our goal is the electrification of everything and am most excited about electrical vehicles with radically extended range and charging capability as fast as filling a tank.”

A company founded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates is developing safer nuclear power generation systems that use nuclear waste as fuel. “In addition to energy and climate solutions, we are exploring ways to miniaturize cancer treatment to preserve the healthy nearby tissue,” said company CEO Chris Levesque.  

Building airplanes fueled by electricity is the goal of ZeroAvia, a company with offices in London, California and Everett, Washington. The opportunity to do something to combat climate change is a big incentive for his company’s employees, said CEO Val Miftakhov. “We found people excited by the mission of our company and of making a real contribution,” he said.

Another firm, Eviation, is deeply invested in producing all-electric commuter airplanes and is on the verge of a test flight for it’s nine-passenger, quiet running electric airplane.

Another example of climate-sensitive entrepreneurship is a Netherlands-based company InFarms which grows healthy greens and mushrooms indoors, in a Seattle suburban warehouse, eliminating the need for pesticides, tractors less land disruption and less water requirements.

Also, a Wood Innovation Center recently won a grant to produce cross-laminated timber products that are stronger than traditional lumber and are manufactured without clear-cutting carbon-storing forests, leaving oxygen-forming trees intact, and by storing more carbon longer than today’s two-by-fours.

Says one city’s economic development director in Washington, “ Climate change is real, it’s nasty, it’s affecting all of our lives. But on the business side, it’s an opportunity for investment.”

The push against climate change is driving job and life changes throughout the country. As transit systems go electric, as solar power, wind power and tidal power evolves, as reliance on fossil fuels abates and carbon emission decreases economic opportunities are opening up everywhere.

It appears a true green economic revolution is upon us. As one business consultant put it, “There’s no going back from de-carbonization.”  The future is here for those who take it.