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December 18, 2015 | We Are the CEO of This Planet

It is up to us to solve climate change.

The human species has evolved into the most powerful species on the planet. After a long evolutionary journey and after our achievements, we are now facing the single greatest threat to human existence. And when people ask me if I am being melodramatic, I am not. There is a reason why climate change has been referred to as "global warming" and "global cooling." There is not a single country or person in the world this does not affect. Even with mountainous evidence, there are those people who deny the existence of climate change. I would like to make one last attempt to convince them and finally attempt to galvanize a movement to sidestep the problem entirely.

Unfortunately, those who deny climate change are centered around positions of power in the United States of America. These people, who may or may not be funded by oil and other fossil fuel companies, constantly deny climate change and are ready to vote against climate policy hindering renewable energy development at the Congress level in the U.S. The most commonly heard argument is that even though the Earth is warming, we are not the ones causing it; rather, it is simply a natural cycle. Departing from the usual scientific argument that shows that the speed of warming is not natural, this is where I note that we are the CEO of this planet. If there is a threat to the company, whether internal or external, it is the CEO’s headache and his or her job to fix it. Any problem that a company might face is the CEO’s problem.

If a gigantic asteroid were headed towards the earth, it would be our obligation to stop it. It would be ludicrous to argue, "Well, we didn’t cause the asteroid to come to us, so we should not do anything about it." So, why is that not the case with climate change? No other species on this planet can help us; in fact, a lot of them are dying and we are trying to protect them. No one from outside our planet can help us. There is no doubt in my mind that whether or not we are causing climate change — most people agree that we are — we must be taking steps to solve it.

Now to sidestep this problem entirely, the two major ways to develop renewable energy are to remove fossil fuel subsidies and to innovate in the renewable energy space such that fossil fuels pale in comparison in the free market. When I asked Lyndon Rive, the CEO of Solar City, when it would be possible and what needs to happen for solar energy to be competitive without subsidies, he stared at me as though I had offended him. He responded, "Now, I take issue with that question, because I wonder when fossil fuels will be able to compete with renewable energy technologies without subsidies. Fossil fuels are insanely subsidized."

I knew he was right but I never stopped to consider for a moment what that exact number was. So, I sought to find out. It was $21.6 billion in 2013, which is 45% higher than it was in 2009 when President Obama took office.[1] It should be going in the other direction; however, it is not for lack of trying, as he has repeatedly attempted to cut these subsidies. He has failed, though, every time, as Republicans in Congress who are backed by these oil and fossil fuel companies vote against it every time. If these subsidies were somehow phased out, the renewable energy industry could grow exponentially.

While the rest of us are not policy makers, there is only one thing we can do: We must continue to innovate. We must reduce the costs of the installation of solar panels and reduce the levelized cost of energy for distributed solar power. This constant innovation will not go unnoticed. This is what I personally intend to do. I want to be part of this innovation that is driving down the cost of solar, wind, and energy storage so that in a few years, there will be no other option but to switch entirely to renewable energy, especially for electricity generation.

The human species is the CEO on this planet. Climate change is the major threat facing our company. And who else is going to solve it? We do this by reducing — and eventually eliminating — fossil fuel subsidies and innovating to such a point fossil fuels make no economic sense. Even those who deny climate change backed by the fossil fuel industry will not be able to squirm their way out of the argument that renewable energy is economically superior. We still have part of the journey left to achieve that and I intend to join in to provide my helping hand.

 

Rohith Desikan is one of Conergy's Future Solar Leaders. Rohith is a first year Master's student studying Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Atmosphere/Energy at Stanford University.

[1] Makhijani, Shakunthala. "Cashing in on All of the Above: U.S. Fossil Fuel Production Subsidies under Obama - Oil Change International." Oil Change International. Oil Change International, 09 July 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2015. <http://priceofoil.org/2014/07/09/cashing-in-on-all-of-the-above-u-s-foss...