Careers Focused On Climate Solutions
“Climate Change is Catastrophic. We’re All in Over Our Heads. We’re Doomed.”
As individuals, we’re constantly ridden with the idea that there is nothing much for us to do, and enduring the worsening effects of climate change will ultimately become everyone’s reality.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hi, my name’s Natalie and I’m a self-proclaimed “climate optimist.” I’m here to tell you how you can position yourself as part of the solution in the greater environmental movement.
While, yes, climate change is bad, and quite frankly, we are to blame. We all know this. The IPCC says humans have caused climate change and urgent action is needed to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming. We must limit our global temperature rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius or the detrimental effects could be irreversible by 2030. This doomsday environmental rhetoric is factually correct. If we continue living the way we do, life won’t be too fun in the coming decades.
All of that aside, I’m here to tell you that your individual actions matter and the steps you take today can and will impact tomorrow for not only you but for everyone on this planet.
There are countless ways to escape this anxiety-ridden feedback loop, anything from attending climate protests to eating less beef. However, I work at a ClimateTech recruiting firm, so I will stick to what I know best. One of the easiest ways to make a difference is by starting with things that you know well. Something like your job, the very thing that you’re already funneling 40+ hours a week into. I challenge you to take a critical look at your career path and see it as a track for climate opportunity.
“What Is ClimateTech?”
Due to its recent emergence and rapidly changing landscape, there are countless definitions of ClimateTech. I break the term up into three unique specifications — greenhouse gas mitigation, carbon adaptation, and carbon removal.
All of the technology that actively works to alleviate carbon in the atmosphere falls into the mitigation sector. Whereas technology that works to reduce the inevitable harms of climate change falls into the adaptability category. Lastly, technology that actively removes carbon from the atmosphere falls into the carbon removal bracket.
Essentially, any technological service — whether that be software as a service, a web-based tool, a physical satellite, etc. — that works to eliminate/remove or reduce the harms of these emissions, can be considered a ClimateTech product. These innovative technologies can be industry-specific or more general.
The incredible thing about ClimateTech is that it applies to every single industry. The very premise of this field is to rewrite the traditional frameworks and reinvent the wheelhouse with more sustainable and equitable solutions.
There are many sectors within ClimateTech here are a few:
- Materials and Industry: This sector works to decarbonize the entire lifecycle of the production of goods we use from raw material form, through manufacturing, disposal, repurposing, and recycling.
- Transportation: This sector prioritizes electrifying how we move people and things: electric vehicles, micro-mobility, public transportation, aviation, shipping, and trucking.
- Energy: This sector focuses on the switch to renewable and clean energy, long-term energy storage, distribution, DERs, and microgrids.
- Food, Agriculture, Land Use & Water: This sector revolves around nature-based solutions and technology advancements in how we sustainably produce food while protecting all living systems on land and in the water.
- Built Environment: This sector focuses on transforming the built environment through carbon-negative construction, making our buildings more energy-efficient, and supporting more equitable and healthier communities.
- Carbon Solutions: This sector revolves around capturing carbon to reduce the harmful CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.
- Climate, Risk, and Earth Data: Lastly, this sector prioritizes the data, tools, and observations of the earth, ocean, and atmosphere to help drive environmental policymaking as well as business and financial decisions based on timely, accurate data and predictive tools.
“Do I Have To Be A Scientist or Environmentalist?”
When talking about jobs in climate it’s so much broader than a solar panel or a wind turbine technician. I encourage you to think of every job as a “climate role.” This is the very basis of ClimateTech — it’s all about reinventing the traditional ways that we do everything. With Biden’s “aggressive national commitment to electrification” there will be 15 million good-paying American jobs by the end of 2025. So a climate job can be anything from, yes, a wind turbine technician, to a construction engineer, and everything in between.
Let’s dive deeper into that construction engineering firm example I just provided. On average, construction emissions account for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. Engineers can act as the link between the idea and the implementation of green building practices. These engineers are seeing first-hand the problem and the possibility. These engineers, directly and indirectly, have the ability to impact the carbon emissions of these buildings.
If we take this one step further, we can critically examine the embodied carbon that’s going into these buildings. Embodied carbon is essentially any CO2 that’s emitted in producing materials — these engineers know all about this. These buildings need a heating system, energy source, cement, lighting, glass, etc. There are countless ways to make these buildings more carbon-smart, let’s take inventive glass for example. This glass needs to be produced, manufactured, scaled, distributed, sold, and installed. I argue that every step along that process can be a climate job. So, yes, the engineer behind the inventive glass is working in a climate role, but so is the marketing professional, the salesperson, the delivery driver, and the installation technician.
“But, I Can’t Sacrifice My Salary.”
ClimateTech is a rapidly growing industry — According to Climate Tech Venture Capital, approximately $16 billion of ClimateTech venture capital funding was announced in H1 2021, $16.3 billion was invested in all of 2019. Approximately 250 unique climate tech venture deals occurred in the first 2 quarters of 2021 and Q2’21 exhibited an approximately 50% increase in deal activity compared to the prior twelve months.
With this much industry funding, comes rapid growth which is directly correlated with more hiring. The more people we have working on climate solutions, the more direct impact we will make. Climate change is single-handedly the most important issue facing humanity and I see mobilizing a workforce as part of the larger solution. Through networking, engaging, and hiring in the various sectors, we can create and enhance pivotal technologies that will ultimately decarbonize the global economy and lessen the harmful effects of climate change. When mission-driven individuals, conscious companies, and sustainable organizations join forces to mitigate the climate crisis, we can make a true and profound impact.
“I’m Not Fully Convinced…”
Demand aside, it also just feels good to have a job that’s rooted in making a difference. According to BetterUp Labs, employees value salary, benefits, and company leadership, but meaningful work drives job satisfaction more than ever. Their research shows that 9 out of 10 career professionals told researchers that they would sacrifice 23 percent of their future earnings—an average of $21,000 a year—for “work that is always meaningful.”
Follow these 5 steps for landing your next ClimateTech role:
- Open your eyes to the possibilities of a ClimateTech career. I encourage you to recognize both the problem and the possibility. The problem is rooted in the detrimental effects of climate change – but the possibility lies within the wide breadth of opportunity to reverse this harm through ClimateTech innovation.
- Dive into the industry head first. There are countless resources that provide in-depth and relevant industry insights. It’s essential to be well-versed and knowledgeable about all the various sectors and recent advancements.
- Update your LinkedIn, resume, and cover letter. Sell your experiences with quantitative impact statements while also showing your mission alignment. Many ClimateTech companies are start-ups and the founders are actively involved in the hiring processes — they care about your dedication to tackling climate change.
- Make a name for yourself! Use all the resources that you’ve discovered in step 2 and apply them here. Be active and make genuine connections. The ClimateTech community is very open, but you have to do the legwork.
- Apply for jobs! Solely submitting applications won’t land you a job, you have to follow up. Don’t let daunting requirements scare you out of applying. Remember to sell what you have to offer and don’t dwell on what you don’t bring to the table.
Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be well on your way to landing a career in climate solutions. Remember, this isn’t your traditional job search, people in this space want to help and the more hands we have on deck, the greater impact we can make.
With this much opportunity for change, I encourage you to take a critical look at your career and take note of the possibilities. Whether you’re looking to embark on an entirely new path or just rework some of the traditional ways your company is currently operating — those small steps matter.
Flip your perspective, transform your stress into steps, and reek the benefits of doing your part in this battle against climate change.
Feeling inspired? My company, Climate People, specializes in placing mission-aligned individuals in roles where they can make that true impact. Our inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) is always open if you need some assistance on your journey.