Net Zero by 2050: Technology for a Changing Climate

Many organizations — both government agencies and private companies — have adopted the mantra ‘Net Zero by 2050’. They have declared that they will emit no greenhouse gases from any of their operations just 30 years from now. This commitment covers all types of activity: domestic, transportation, industry — everything. (The word ‘Net’ in the phrase does provide some wriggle room. Some activities, such as air travel, will continue to emit CO2 — the principal greenhouse gas.

The Net Zero Professional

When discussing Net Zero programs a question that people in the energy and process industries frequently ask is, “How will it affect my career? What do I need to do to stay employed?” Professionals in those industries are rightly concerned that their skills will be less needed in a rapidly changing world, particularly in a world where oil companies have stated that they intend to leave the oil business. And who can blame them for their concern? Change is coming, and change is threatening.

The Shape of Energy in a Net Zero World

The transition to Net Zero poses many, many problems. It is much more complicated than simply switching from one form of energy to another and then going on with Business as Usual. Net Zero implies a radical transformation of the way industry works — in effect, a second Industrial Revolution. (The first Industrial Revolution is better called the Fossil Fuel Revolution — it occurred when we learned how to exploit the buried energy embedded in coal, oil and gas.)