Last week Global Thermostat met with an oil producing firm that uses CO2 to produce oil from Enhanced Oil Recovery in Canada. The idea of hooking up with GT, who is possibly the lowest cost producer of CO2 in the world today, and who can produce unlimited amounts of CO2, is obviously appealing in a region of the world that has over 1.4 billion barrels of oil to be recovered by using CO2. Global Thermostat can produce virtually unlimited amounts of CO2 - gigatons of CO2 - out of the atmosphere, since humans alone are injecting 30 gigatons of CO2 each year.
The interest in GT seems therefore predictable, though I was taken aback by a question from one of their executives: "How do you find the time to do what you are doing at Global Thermostat?” In response I said - truthfully - that I had no choice. Working for Global Thermostat and its technology's commercialization I was doing what I had to do to move on with the rest of my life, since Global Thermostat's commercial success stands in the crossroads - in the critical path - of everything that matters to me. My work with the United Nations Climate Negotiations, the UNFCCC, my creation and the ultimate success of the carbon market of the Kyoto Protocol - as I explain in my recent book "Saving Kyoto" - requires at this point carbon negative technologies, the building of carbon negative power plants that can suck carbon from air. They are 45% of the emissions and without a true transformation of these sources of carbon into sinks - there is no real solution. This is the Global Thermostat solution, and I need the commercial success of Global Thermostat to develop my own scientific thinking and writing about the economics of the 21st Century - the solar economy - which depends on being able to produce sources of power in the developing nations that clean the atmosphere and preserve a stable climate. I need Global Thermostat to succeed for everything that I have to do in the rest of my life.
One thing led to another and we started discussing how innovation and the creativity that is embodied in the Global Thermostat technology is a cause of pain and abuse more than satisfaction and relaxation. Relaxation, I said? The word is an oxymoron in this context. Relaxation, indeed.
They suggested that I write a blog on the topic of innovation and abuse. Good suggestion. The list of examples is dizzying. For example, my book "Saving Kyoto" provides a step by step report of the abuse I received as the author of the carbon market of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol, in particular the responses I received while I designed and then wrote the carbon market itself into the Protocol, which was signed by 160 nations in December 1997. Initially I was accused of being an unabashed capitalist who was trying to find a market approach to the sacred values of the environment, allowing emitters to get off easy if they paid - and not too different from 'selling one's own grandmother'. More recently the tide shifted and now 195 nations in the world have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and its carbon market that is international law since 2005, trading $200 billion a year. However, in the US - who signed but did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol - the carbon market is now construed as 'too favorable to the environment' and to the developing nations. The only constant in all this is the abuse: you can't win.
There are other less political examples on my website such as this article that I published in a book entitled "Rejected" that documents the most important recent works in economics and how they were rejected time and time again from publication - a book where a large number of the other authors are Nobel Laureates who reported on the persistent and abject rejection of what turned out to be their most important and innovative works. I am not alone in receiving abuse from innovation. It happens to the best of us.
Innovation is possible only if one is willing to live with extreme forms of abuse: social ostracism. Rabid attacks from the academic community. In Global Thermostat, the situation is extreme, and Peter Eisenberger and I have been considered crazy - after lifelong scientific successes as conventionally defined in the scientific community.
I have some training in this form of abuse because in creating the concept of satisfaction of Basic Needs to measure economic progress, rather than standard GDP, I apparently stepped on many toes - judging by the publication record of the first book we wrote in Argentina on the Bariloche Model in 1974, "Catastrophe or New Society", where I introduced Basic Needs as the basis of Sustainable Development. While subsequently published in 13 languages and becoming a world's best seller, this book was never published in Argentina or in Latin America its home, or even the Spanish language at all.
There is no need to belabor the point. This blog is to alert the reader of the amount of abuse to be expected when one engages in serious innovation. Very few months ago, serious scientific reports appeared to say that Global Thermostat technology was impossible in economic terms, only to be overcome by a barrage of experimental evidence, and scientific and commercial third party results showing exactly the opposite. Only to be expected. Sigh.
Innovation, in truth, is not for the faint of heart. There is satisfaction at the end of the rainbow, but it is only the satisfaction of fighting the right battle - not of winning it. There is no acceptance at the end of the rainbow. If one's work is accepted peacefully or deserving of prizes - beware! One's ability to innovate and create may be compromised, it may be over. Judging by the reaction we receive about Global Thermostat technology, the reception is enormously gratifying - but the fight is not over. Long live innovation!