On a day with unseasonably high temperatures in New York, record rains in the Bay Area, and warnings that skiing could disappear in parts of Europe, climate tech executives at Fortune Brainstorm Tech’s dinner in Las Vegas were optimistic that climate change could be managed and hopefully contained.
The reasons for the cautiously upbeat tone? Climate tech is far more affordable, private companies are more serious about tackling the problem, and governments are passing more favorable laws.
“We’re really at an inflection point for climate tech, and in all of history, 2022 is going to go down as the year where everything changed,” Bill Gross, founder, chairman and CEO of Heliogen and founder and chairman of Idealab, told the audience. “It was always about mitigating risk. And now it’s about creating opportunity,” he said.
Other speakers at the dinner shared similar sentiments. “2022 was massively pivotal in so many different ways. When you look at the market fundamentals, solar and wind are the cheapest energy sources in modern history,” said Rushad Nanavatty, managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, also noting that fossil fuel consumption peaked in 2019.
And speaking of sources of renewable energy: Jennifer Majernik Huffstetler, chief product sustainability officer for Intel, said that their growing use would be key to fighting climate change. “How fast we can all get to renewables everywhere is how we’re going to solve this problem,” she said. Huffstetler added that 80% of the electricity used to make Intel’s chips comes from renewable sources.
Government has a role to play too, as panelists praised new laws like the CHIPS and Science Act. Maria Belousova, chief digital officer of ag-tech company Indigo Ag, which helps farmers get more out of their land, said her company had been working more closely with agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I definitely see a significant shift in how the government is playing its role,” she said.
So there’s ample reason to be hopeful, despite all the crazy weather.