Scientists have reached consensus that the earth is warming up and our conservation policies are not doing enough to stop it. The question remains: if the political will for conservation isn't there, can we pursue more radical technological solutions?
Some of our greatest minds seem to think so.
In 2016, Bill Gates announced a multi-billion-dollar fund to fund big technology ideas to combat climate change; everything from low emissions solar to the dream goal of nuclear fusion. He was joined in this effort by a handful of the world's leading technology visionaries and philanthropists.
So, what types of technologies could radically change the planet's future?
Broadly, the list splits into two parts: making existing technologies more affordable for mass adoption and the moon-shot opportunities.
Looking at the first, there are critical areas where there is already a key impact being made; one that new executive regulations and attitudes are unlikely to reverse.
The biggest is how much more affordable solar, wind, and natural gas are today than they were a half-decade ago, let alone during the last hostile period towards clean energy, the Bush Administration. Today, forward thinking cities such as San Francisco have already looked at the numbers and announced aggressive net zero-emissions goals within the next two decades. And, more broadly, cities comprising over 70% of America's population have begun announcing their own plans for less aggressive but still significant embraces of clean energy and efficiency technologies.
This speaks to the broader trend that might do the most to push technology solutions to global warming: more and more of the world's population are moving to urban areas and, at the same time, cities are becoming radically more progressive. This is especially true in the US and Europe but true globally as well. So even as countries and (in America's case) states may lag in the application of broad national standards, the metro areas taking the lead can radically transform emissions and efficiency anyways.
Potentially, those same nation-states could try to apply regressive national standards to slow these urban pioneers, however the embrace of clean technologies by a myriad of corporate interests makes this an unlikely outcome.
The second technology bucket is the moonshots, and the 'half-moonshots." One notable half-moonshot is embracing more efficient, more safe nuclear power, which would radically lower emissions. The true moonshot version of it is nuclear fusion, which scientists are beginning to believe could be achieved sooner rather than later due to the initial success of several major experiments in the last couple years.
Ultimately, technology looks like it will play a critical role in the prevention of global warming, driven by a mixture of significant private backing, new corporate support, and urban technology pioneering. As we have in the past, humans will look to technology to radically invent our next future.