Opinion | The Planet Is Burning. Are Billionaires the Answer?

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kara swisher

I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” My guest today is John Doerr. I’ve known John for a very long time, since the early 1990s when I moved to San Francisco to cover the early internet revolution. John knows all about that. He’s a billionaire tech investor and the chair of the storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, which is early to investments in tech companies like Google and Slack and Amazon.

But these days, Doerr says climate science is the new computer science. Since the early aughts, he’s doubled down on climate tech and sustainable investments. This year, he gave a billion bucks to stand up a new climate school at Stanford University.

And he published a book called “Speed and Scale.” It’s a 10-step plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. It’s laid out in the kind of painstaking detail you expect from a computer engineer, with an earnestness I appreciate from John. Step 7 is to, quote, “win politics and policy.” That shouldn’t be too hard.

John Doerr, welcome to “Sway.”

john doerr

Hello.

kara swisher

How’s it going? We haven’t talked in a long time.

john doerr

It’s been too long.

kara swisher

It’s been too long.

john doerr

There’s a lot going on.

kara swisher

There is. First, I want to talk about what you just did, which you’ve pledged $1.1 billion to Stanford University to fund a school focused on climate change and sustainability. You said climate and sustainability is going to be the new computer science. As someone who was invested in computer science most of their career, it’s something to say. So why don’t you talk a little bit about how you thought about doing this?

john doerr

So I think the climate crisis is the challenge of our generation and the next generation. And Stanford started an effort two years ago to build a consensus among the faculty and students about what they were going to do not only to address the immediate challenge, but to create the university of the future.

And the universities of the last century really solve specialized technical problems with departments of polymer chemistry. And they really bear little relation to the kinds of problems that we need to solve today, which are systems problems that require multidisciplinary solutions, and where we want to measure impact, not just the scholarly research, which remains important.

kara swisher

So why did you think a school was the answer?

john doerr

The argument for a school, as opposed to some more departments or an institute or an accelerator, was, you could bring the full force of one of the world’s great universities, not just the school, but other schools like business and law and engineering, to bear on this problem. And that’s just what the problem demanded.

kara swisher

Well, Stanford’s not lacking in money, as you know. So why pick Stanford over somewhere else, in the Midwest, where they need jobs, where they need innovation and things like that?

john doerr

Well, Stanford’s not lacking in funding, but they have a budget and they’re spending from their endowment as much as they responsibly can. So this $1.6 billion is really incremental. It will fund the school to full strength. And we should also fund all those other climate schools. What I’ve heard is the commitment that these donors have made have raised the bar for all the other climate schools around the country. You know, right now, only 2 percent of the world’s philanthropy is devoted to climate?

kara swisher

I’m not surprised. I am not surprised.

john doerr

It needs to be 20 percent, 30 percent.

kara swisher

Why is that? Why is it 2 percent? Because there’s a lot of money. You and your friends have a lot of money. Why is that where it’s devoted?

john doerr

I think the payoff takes a long time to come. It’s not as easy as putting another building on a campus for a medical cause, which are very good causes as well.

kara swisher

One of the things I wrote many years ago was the world’s first trillionaire was going to be a climate change tech person. And I just made it up off the top of my head. But I was thinking about all those different tech companies that started in computer science at Stanford. I made this up, and I was appealing to greed, honestly, which I think always works.

john doerr

It does. Do you think that trillionaire will be Elon?

kara swisher

I don’t know. No, no. Maybe not. We’ll talk about him in a minute. We’ll get to him in a minute. But when you think about that, is it more for capitalism or knowledge?

john doerr

I think capitalism and knowledge are both essential, but they’re not the key ingredient. I think what we have to measure is impact. And what impressed me about the school was, this was not just bright shiny objects or innovation. It was a school with a commitment to environmental justice and social concerns, and most important of all, achieving policy innovation. You’ve known me a long time, and I believe there’s a very important role for policy entrepreneurs who will engage with policymakers. And it’s hard for our policymakers to get ahead of their populace, their voting public. So we have a lot of work to do in order to solve this problem.

kara swisher

Sure, so one of the things is the idea of a school when it was received. It’s an enormous amount of money, $1.6 billion. Had you thought of more impactful ways to spend money, like spend it on making climate a top voting issue, lobbying for a carbon tax? A lot of people said he could have spent his money elsewhere better. I mean, everyone has an opinion, obviously.

john doerr

Well, I think they’re right. I am spending my money in other places. And I put together, with Bill Gates, a couple billion dollar tech funds called Breakthrough Energy for really out there, kind of aggressively making things wouldn’t believe possible, affordable, lowering the green premium. I’ve also helped raise nearly a billion dollars for advocacy, targeting precision policies in the 20 largest emitting regions around the world. So Stanford is not the only initiative I’m working on. But it’s one I’m really proud to be part of and join with others to make happen.

kara swisher

But I want people to understand the motivations and history of your climate advocacy because it’s been going on for a long time. You had a 2007 TED Talk that I recall — I think I was there — where you said green tech going green is bigger than the internet. It could be the biggest economic opportunity in the 21st century. You put a billion dollars into 70 companies. Many of them didn’t make it. You were very early to this. So talk about what got it going and when and how you assess your record.

john doerr

Well, my journey with climate began in 2006, when I saw Al Gore’s movie with my family and friends. And —

kara swisher

This is “An Inconvenient Truth.”

john doerr

Yeah, and I had an inconvenient youth whose name was Mary Doerr. And she saw the movie with me, and at dinner afterwards, we went around the table to find out what people thought. And some of my Republican friends said, look, the planet’s warming. We’re not sure it’s manmade. This is not the urgent problem that you may think it is, John.

But what was compelling, Kara, was when it came to 15-year-old Mary Doerr. And she said — she looked straight at me. And she said, Dad, I’m scared, and I’m angry. Your generation created this problem. You better fix it. And the room went silent. I had no idea what to say or what to do.

kara swisher

So what did you say? OK, honey, I’ll put a billion dollars into —

john doerr

No, I went back to my partners, to Vinod and Brooke and others and said, let’s get smart about this. So we started networking like crazy, traveling around the world. We went to China. We went to the Mojave Desert. We went to Brazil and began gradually, over the course of three funds, to invest a billion dollars in 70 — green tech, we called them — new ventures.

kara swisher

I remember the note. I remember Vinod talking about corn.

john doerr

Correct, and we were going to eliminate petroleum. And we invested in eight solar companies, seven of which were crushed by incentives from the Chinese government. So we learned a lot of really valuable lessons. But we stayed with that portfolio. And at the time that my last computer did when the book came out, that billion dollars of investment was worth $3 billion.

kara swisher

Right, which I have to tell you is not a great return in your world, correct?

john doerr

That’s correct. It’s not as great as $16 billion from WhatsApp in two years of work. But it’s not a wipeout either. And we made one fundamental decision wrong. And that was to back Fisker instead of backing Tesla.

kara swisher

So talk about the Fisker investment and why you didn’t invest in Tesla.

john doerr

So we saw both opportunities at the same time. Both were very risky propositions. Neither of them had the money that they needed to succeed. Henrik Fisker was a proven executive, an auto designer from the automobile industry. Elon Musk was a proven entrepreneur who had a radically new approach to building a car, which was to integrate all the software in one system, one stack, if you will. And I won’t point any fingers. I’ll just say we got it wrong. And had we invested — the way to have done well in clean tech investing in the last decade is to have backed Elon.

kara swisher

That’s it.

john doerr

Well, that’s one simple way to do it. There’s others.

kara swisher

What was the difference? Why didn’t you back him? What was the thing that struck you?

john doerr

I recall that the partnership judged it would be challenging to work with Elon. And I had partners who were very skeptical that venture capitalists should fund car companies at all. If it has wheels, don’t invest in it, was the prevailing maxim. And today, it’s worth more than its eight competitors combined.

kara swisher

Is it worth that, from your perspective? I mean, it is what it is, but from a value perspective.

john doerr

Look, I’m not good at making judgments about individual stocks in the public market. I think that the transition to electrified transportation is the second biggest opportunity that we have in the overall reinvention of the worldwide economy. And that will be the headline story of this century.

kara swisher

So what is in the way of getting to that pot at the end of the rainbow? Your experience in investing was OK. But how do you get that to be something even bigger the way the internet was, whether it was Netscape or Amazon or Google?

john doerr

Well, the most important thing you must do is lower the cost. You’ve got to take what Bill Gates calls the green premium to zero or near zero. As best I can tell, consumers will pay a green premium for what they eat and what they put on their face, but for nothing else.

kara swisher

OK, put it on your face. You’re talking about facial lotions that are more expensive because they’re made in a way that’s more —

john doerr

Natural. They’re argued to be better and so forth. But everything else must compete in price. And what we must do is actually very clearly laid out in this action plan that we have called “Speed and Scale.” And so we say, one of two personal vehicles purchased worldwide need to be electric vehicles by 2030, and 95 percent of them by 2040. That’s a huge lift.

kara swisher

All right, we’re going to get to your book, as I said. As a climate activist, what can you do that, say, a Greta Thunberg can’t do? What do you bring to the table?

john doerr

Ooh, what a good question. First of all, I think Greta Thunberg is amazing. And when she can go to a COP proceeding, where there’s lots of functionaries and delegates working to try to get national accords, and say, it’s blah, blah, blah, more talk. We need more action. I think one of the real reasons to be hopeful and even optimistic is the anger and passion of young people.

But what I can bring to this is technological breakthroughs. I can bring capital. And I can bring advocacy.

kara swisher

How do you think the Biden administration is doing on climate change right now? Obviously, every administration is different.

john doerr

The Biden administration has the boldest environmental agenda and the deepest record of persisting, sticking to it, of any administration in my lifetime. And the next few weeks here are crucial.

kara swisher

So explain what’s at stake right now — in the political equation now.

john doerr

The principal thing at stake is the energy incentives for clean energy deployment, for decarbonizing the grid. Overall, the problem, Kara, is 59 gigatons. That’s how much CO2 pollution we are dumping in our precious atmosphere every year like it’s some kind of free and open sewer. Now, for these energy incentives, Biden has declared that he wants to cut U.S emissions by 50 percent by 2030. And the biggest way to get there will be by putting incentives in place for solar and wind. We can take 24 gigatons of current emissions down to 3 gigatons globally if we get the appropriate energy incentives.

kara swisher

But even if we could get there, can’t the next president just undo it?

john doerr

Yes.

kara swisher

Say it’s President Trump, for example.

john doerr

Yes, the president could, which is why my dream is that we would get bipartisan agreement and not have to rely on Build Back Smaller or a reconciliation bill that would pass with 50 plus 1 Democrats.

kara swisher

So how do we get to that bipartisan understanding? Because it seems like they can’t agree on lunch on Capitol Hill at this point.

john doerr

I think you have to work at it. You have to mobilize voters more than anything else. But the most important thing we could do in the U.S. is make the climate crisis a top two voting issue. And right now, climate is ranked number nine in the minds of the average US voter. It’s not even that high in China. It’s not a top two issue in India.

kara swisher

No, what happened to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is the number one issue right now among people, I think. But why not put, then, a billion dollars into lobbying or influence campaigns?

john doerr

Well, what we have to do — and I support advocacy efforts from a variety of proven, aggressive, great organizations — is turn this into a kitchen table kind of issue — that it affects health. One in five deaths are premature due to carbon pollution. The Biden administration said that passing the clean energy incentives, according to utility executives, will immediately start saving American families $500 a year. That’s a pocketbook issue.

kara swisher

How do you assess the political climate in getting here, though? I mean, you’ve described yourself as an impatient optimist. I get the impatient part, but what makes you an optimist? The political climate is pessimistic to almost everything.

john doerr

Well, I’m an engineer from Missouri. And engineers like solving problems. And I got one great thing from my family and country, and that was a great education. And so I do believe that Biden’s done a remarkable job unifying the world. And he’s hard at work trying to build unification within our country. I think that’s crucial. But more money flows through markets in a day than all the governments in the world in a year. And that, for me, is the recipe for change.

kara swisher

Right. How do you do that? Because something Obama said, you’re not going to tech your way out of this. And it’s typical of tech to think you can do things, but is there a tech way out of this climate change?

john doerr

Yes, if we have supportive policy. So tech alone will not get the job done. And that’s why all the young people want to study technology for all the right reasons. I say climate science is the new computer science. The markets are enormous. If you have clean energy that can be deployed at lower cost, more rapidly than the fossil fuel alternatives, eventually, you’ll overcome the incumbent business and political interests.

And to be clear, one of the lessons I learned is, there are incumbents who will oppose you every step of the way, because the gain for the clean solution is the loss for the dirty solution. We’re not having some kind of climate kumbaya party here. This is a real revolution. And in revolutions, there are winners, and there are losers.

kara swisher

But it’s not quite like Amazon taking over retail. For example, it’s not quite the same thing because these incumbents aren’t just — they may be dirty incumbents, but they’re not just powerful, but the stuff works, right? And it’s cheaper. It works. They have political power.

john doerr

What we’re experiencing — and we have to press the point — is it’s now cheaper to save the planet than it is to ruin it. And so you look at the election in Australia, where a bare majority in favor of coal extractive industries flipped over to renewable clean energies. That didn’t happen by accident. There was a lot of advocacy, a lot of education.

kara swisher

We’ll be back in a minute.

If you like this interview and want to hear others, follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with Bill Gates. And you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with John Doerr after the break.

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All right, so you have a plan in the book. One of your OKRs — and for people who don’t know, they’re Objective and Key Results, right? Which is something that you have talked about, you wrote a whole book about, I recall. And it’s how you run tech companies. One of them is, end the fossil fuel subsidy, which, that’s a pretty hard key result to get to, I think, politically speaking. How does that happen?

john doerr

Well, you build a campaign. You fund the organizations. You state the benefits to the voters. You elect pro-climate legislators. The 7.2 specifically calls for ending direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuel companies and for harmful agricultural processes. We spent billions a year, and the AG bill should emphasize regenerative farming, not conventional roe and till ways of growing food. Food is a big opportunity. It’s the third largest opportunity in this. And I’ll admit this is daunting. But it’s imperative.

kara swisher

Walk us through some of the top line goals here, one of which is to electrify transportation. There is protect nature. Atlantic called these quotes extremely broad, if not simplistic. And in your book, you say to stay on track, one of three vehicle purchases worldwide must be EVs by 2025. Are we going to get there?

john doerr

Well, we are making amazing progress. In the fourth quarter of last year, 10 percent of vehicles were electric, majority of those in China, but that doesn’t surprise me. And so on some of these objectives, we’re making progress and we’re ahead. And others, we’re falling behind. But if we achieve the objectives, we will take 8 gigatons of emissions this year down to 2 gigatons.

kara swisher

So amazing progress might not cut it. What can get us there? Is it policies like Gavin Newsom’s requiring new car purchases to be electric by 2035?

john doerr

Yes.

kara swisher

Which is not going to be replicated elsewhere in other states necessarily.

john doerr

Well, California has been an environmental leader and an innovation leader. I wouldn’t be so sure it won’t be replicated. There’s more than a dozen states with Democratic governors and assemblies that are moving forward on climate agenda, whether Trump is president or not, and working with Biden. And standards that are set in California get adopted by virtue of the size of the market across the rest of the country.

kara swisher

So that could work. So what else? So do you think, for example, that the recent Tesla nosedive helps or hurts the EV movement? Or does just there need to be a lot of these companies, not just Tesla?

john doerr

Oh, there need to be a lot of these companies, not just Tesla. And Tesla has been the best thing that’s happened to the EV movement because whatever the emissions reductions are from rich people buying Tesla’s, Elon’s impact — my rough estimate is, he’s accelerated the electrification of transportation on the planet by at least five years. And that overall is a six gigaton part of our plan.

kara swisher

We can’t just rely on Elon. So what next? If he’s now wandering over to Twitter and doing other things — the Tesla stock has taken a nosedive. Obviously, he’s worried about the economy, as are many people. What is more important than Tesla at this time? What is emerging? Do you think Apple will eventually make an electric vehicle, for example? I think they will. But when?

john doerr

I think they will. I discuss this regularly with Steve. And he said no. [LAUGHS] We’re going to stay focused. But what’s next is the momentum you can see from General Motors, from Ford, from our friends at Volkswagen, from the Chinese automakers. The move to electrification is unstoppable. The question will be, how fast can we go?

kara swisher

But again, we can’t just rely on Elon’s. I’m really fascinated with Steve Jobs not into combating climate change — he just didn’t want to make cars?

john doerr

Steve wanted to make great product. And I thought Apple would make a great car.

kara swisher

Yeah. Where do you think their chances are? Because I would imagine this would be something quite popular, if they got into it.

john doerr

I would think they could be very successful.

kara swisher

How far do you think they are?

john doerr

I don’t know what their plans are.

kara swisher

Who is the second most important, after Elon, among the companies doing this, besides charging stations and things like that?

john doerr

I think the — look, the historic largest emitter is the United States, but the largest current emitter is China. And so, hands down, the most important player to get fully into this game is China. BYD.

kara swisher

Yeah, what else is critically important in your plan?

john doerr

Well, the climate problem is a wicked problem. And by that, I mean that we’re not going to make progress fighting climate change, unless we harness the full power of capitalism and markets. You need public funding. You need private capital. You need innovation. We need policy. We need charging networks. We need better communications. We need all the elements of the Speed and Scale plan to get there. I’m not here to tell you it’s the only plan or even that it’s the best plan. But it differs from others in that it’s more than a set of goals. It’s specific, measurable, time bound, trackable, and the numbers all add up.

kara swisher

So talk a little bit about some of the other figures in tech. Who’s not done enough? Is it Bezos? I mean, are you still on the board of Amazon? I don’t think so.

john doerr

No, I’m not.

kara swisher

But you were an early investor in it. That’s a company that has to be thinking about its carbon impact.

john doerr

Amazon, among the tech companies — and I’m happy to talk about any of them — has taken really bold steps. They have something called the Amazon Climate Pledge, where they’ve lined up businesses to commit to achieve net zero in some facet of their operations by 2040, 10 full years ahead of the Paris Accord.

Jeff personally is the world’s biggest climate philanthropist. He committed $10 billion to the Bezos Earth Fund, hired Andrew Steer from WRI, brilliant leader, and has already given away a billion and a half or $2 billion of that money to natural regenerative agenda items, and not for bright shiny objects, if you know what I mean. You might think —

kara swisher

Yeah, no, I got it. But he does also have an escape hatch to Mars, apparently, from what I understand. So they all have escape hatches, John. I just don’t — I don’t think you do, though, do you?

john doerr

No, I don’t.

kara swisher

You go for New Zealand.

john doerr

I’m sticking on the planet we’ve got. But —

kara swisher

I could never imagine you with an escape plan. And that is a compliment, by the way.

john doerr

Oh, thank you.

kara swisher

So who has not done enough among the tech companies? I mean, obviously, Google uses an enormous amount of energy. They’ve been trying to do all kinds of things with geothermal.

john doerr

Google has one of the boldest agendas, and they said that by 2030, they’re going to run 100 percent of their operations on clean energy, not a molecule of carbon. And they don’t know how to do it yet, but they’ve been early in finance, early in buying renewables, early in funding offsets. So I judge their efforts to be big and bold.

kara swisher

Who needs to do more? If you had to pick. I know you don’t like insulting people, John, but who would you urge to do more?

john doerr

I think Apple is doing great work with their supply chain.

kara swisher

Yeah, OK.

john doerr

And another company that I admire enormously is Walmart. This guy, Doug McMillon, I don’t know if you’ve met him or not.

kara swisher

I do know him very well.

john doerr

But they’re moving their whole supply chain. And they and their family, the Walton family, have been at this for a very long time. I think the people that need to do more are the fossil fuel companies and the airlines.

kara swisher

Because they haven’t innovated correctly, right. But they’re beyond petroleum, John, didn’t you know that? BP?

john doerr

I think that might be a marketing slogan.

kara swisher

I believe it is.

john doerr

I think they have a hard problem. This transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, it’s not going to be overnight. And it’s going to be most difficult, I think, for the people with an economic interest in selling fossil fuels.

kara swisher

What about crypto? Obviously, there was a lot of attention to that.

john doerr

Crypto is an exciting technology, but on an environmental front, it’s a disaster. I think Bitcoin alone generates 60 megatons of CO2 emissions.

kara swisher

And your investment firm has invested in crypto, correct?

john doerr

We’ve invested in some of those firms. And they tell us they understand the problem. They’ve got to get off to renewable clean energy sources.

kara swisher

And could it solve climate change? Or do they have to change their practices?

john doerr

They are not enough of the climate problem to solve it, but I do think that I have a hope, maybe a fantasy, that we might use the blockchain in a way to authenticate carbon coins and carbon reduction. I understand Adam from WeWork has such a proposal. I haven’t seen it.

kara swisher

Yeah, you didn’t make an investment in that. That was an interesting thing. So what are the promising technologies? Is it in batteries? You mentioned batteries. Is it in carbon capture, which, to me, is just a mitigation technique, blasting stuff out into space? I don’t know. What are the most promising things you’ve seen?

john doerr

Well, I describe it into two categories — what we need and can deploy now and what we must do that’s new for the future. And we’ve got to do both at once. The most important thing that we can do right now is decarbonize grids all around the world and honestly put in place the infrastructure to more rapidly deploy things like solar and wind. So Kara, if we wanted to deploy solar in Thailand or in an emerging region, we would have to negotiate financing arrangements and siting arrangements.

And all those done custom, one at a time, would take five years, maybe 10 years. We don’t have that much time. So I’m calling on the world’s finance organizations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, to develop cookie cutter templates, standards, if you will, so that they can take on the first party country risk. And then the Larry Finks of the world can come in, and BlackRocks, and fund the capital that we need to deploy these renewables now.

The US doesn’t have a good enough grid to deploy renewables at the scale that we want. So those are the kinds of things that can be done in the here and now in policy and in innovation. Further out to the future, I think one of the hardest things will be to do economical carbon removal. And our plan calls for five gigatons of each per year, both natural means, which means planting more trees. That we know how to do.

kara swisher

Although Bill Gates says that’s not enough. It’s kind of what makes people feel good.

john doerr

No, it’s not enough, but it could amount to five gigatons per year. I’ll take every gigaton. And then there are mechanical trees, ways to remove carbon permanently and sequester it. And I’ve invested in a half dozen of those, and God bless the entrepreneur that figures out how to do that for $100 a ton. She may be one of those trillionaires.

kara swisher

Yes, she. I like that you said she. I appreciate that. You have a spinoff firm, G2VP, which is focused on emerging sustainable technologies. How are the returns versus the whole Kleiner basket? Tell me the number difference, is you’re going to have the same situation as you had before when you were investing in green technologies.

john doerr

I don’t the returns for G2VP, but my belief is that they’re competitive. They’re in the top tier of venture returns. That’s a very capable team. But as a broader measure of the industry as opposed to any individual firm, we called in our plan for venture capital 10.3, to grow it from $13.6 billion to $50 billion a year. Do you know what it is, what it was for the last year?

kara swisher

No, please tell me.

john doerr

$53 billion.

kara swisher

So it was either moving into it, yeah.

john doerr

The field is growing. I don’t think it’s growing out of bounds with the demand and the opportunity. Make no mistake, momentum is there.

kara swisher

And do you imagine — I mean, because Elon himself thought ESG funds and things like that were — he’s calling them fake. What do you think about that, the idea that people are doing virtue signaling or marketing or whatever that part of it?

john doerr

So I didn’t hear him criticize ESG funds or ESG —

kara swisher

He did.

john doerr

— measurements. I think they’re a good thing. And one ESG fund, the one that Al Gore founded with David Blood, which I profiled the group, they won’t allow me to disclose their returns. But they’re top. They’re absolutely outstanding.

kara swisher

And Al Gore works for Kleiner, for people who don’t know that part.

john doerr

Well, he’s been affiliated —

kara swisher

Affiliated, excuse me.

john doerr

— partner for some time. What we really need to make this happen isn’t greater scale. We need greater speed. I’m worried we’re going to run out of time. And we need better measurements also. And that is going to be a sea change this year. There’s a project called Climate TRACE. Have you heard of it?

kara swisher

No.

john doerr

So it’s a nonprofit coalition of some 50 companies that are pooling their data in real-time over emissions and will be reporting by major source authenticated by November of this year. And this is kind of like Google Earth that you can track the emissions of this carbon pollution all around the world. And they’ve agreed to standardize this information, make it available through APIs. And our hero, Andy Grove, he said, if you can’t measure it, I guess it doesn’t matter. And you’re not going to manage it. So we’re going to bring measurement to this field this year.

kara swisher

So one of the things that I think about is shaming — shaming and taxing. A lot of change at Facebook has come after there was a lot of scrutiny to them. It’s still changing, obviously, there right now. But who should be shamed on — do you think it’s an effective tool to do that, like fossil fuel companies or anybody else?

john doerr

Totally effective. Yes, I do. I think that we should take the real data that’s authenticated from the carbon emitting sources and then expect, attached to each one of those sources, the plan for reduction and track their progress.

kara swisher

And say who they are. So name and shame is what you’re essentially saying.

john doerr

The Climate TRACE project, the tracker project will call those out.

kara swisher

Call those out. Would you support a carbon tax in the U.S.?

john doerr

Yes. In fact, the plan calls for a price on carbon 7.3, national prices on greenhouse gases, minimum of $55 a ton, rising 5 percent annually.

kara swisher

Politically feasible?

john doerr

Pardon me?

kara swisher

I think it’s about as politically feasible as a wealth tax, but that’s just me.

john doerr

Well, I’m from the Andy Grove school of stretch goals and ambitious key results. And we will have a carbon tax before we finish solving this problem.

kara swisher

Yeah, you think a carbon before a wealth tax? I don’t know what you think about a wealth tax, John. What do you think about —

john doerr

I’m prepared to pay higher taxes. I’ve been on record for that for some time.

kara swisher

What year will we see a carbon tax?

john doerr

I don’t know, Kara. I would say Christiana Figueres, who architected the Paris Accord, hoped that we would get it out of COP26. We did not. There is a carbon tax. It’s effective in Europe. She hoped to get the nations of the world to agree. So I think sooner than you may think, maybe five years.

kara swisher

So when it comes to climate change, are you more hopeful about China’s government or the American government? Or is there another player here that you think is critical?

john doerr

Oh, that’s such a great question. Well, first of all, I’m hopeful about both of them. And I’m encouraged that despite the growing competition, and I guess I’ll say hostility between China and the US, the leaders of those nations have agreed that on climate, they will cooperate.

And so one of the side agreements that came out of COP26 was a bilateral pledge, which is underway from China and the US to work on things like methane emissions and standards for those and carbon removal. And we have to keep that up because the ozone doesn’t have a border. This is a planetary problem.

The other place where I’m focused is on India. And in fact, you know the chapter of the book that describes the five largest emitting regions compares each of them very objectively and their progress. And they don’t all get good grades yet. We have a lot of work to do globally to solve this problem.

kara swisher

All right, and I just have a Silicon Valley question. Something had warped there in Silicon Valley, the wealth, the great wealth, the amazing power. Have you become worried about that? And what advice would you have for those tech leaders, like Mark Zuckerberg or any of them, right now? Or maybe they wouldn’t listen to your advice anymore. I don’t know.

john doerr

Well, I’d say this. Solving climate change is the greatest opportunity that humankind has ever been presented with. It’s the mother of all problems. It’s large. It’s systemic. And in the process of solving that, we can achieve education equity.

One of the most powerful things we can do is to educate all the girls on the planet. We can achieve health equity. We can eliminate gaps from racial and socioeconomic groups on greenhouse gas related mortality. And it’s a great economic opportunity. It’s 65 million new jobs to build this new clean economy. We need to make sure they’re equitably distributed.

But the climate crisis, the wildfires and the floods, the devastation, those are going to increase. And they’re a reminder of potentially greater peril to come. And so we should use that to inspire people to take action to make a truly better world.

kara swisher

Would you say to them stop your idiotic tweeting or creating the Metaverse and focus on this? I feel like sometimes Silicon Valley has become a lot of smart people working on trivial things.

john doerr

Who was it who said something about we wanted flying cars, and they brought us 140 characters?

kara swisher

I think it was Peter Thiel.

john doerr

Yeah.

kara swisher

Yeah.

john doerr

What Elon and his team have accomplished —

kara swisher

Yes, agreed.

john doerr

— in e-vehicles and space is remarkable.

kara swisher

100 percent.

john doerr

And if everything else he touches fails, he will still be remarkable.

kara swisher

Agreed, agreed.

john doerr

Metaverse is a big, bold bet. I like big, bold, disruptive bets.

kara swisher

OK, but that’s a place that doesn’t exist. The Earth does right at this moment. How do you get these leaders to focus on that, or not?

john doerr

Schroep, who is retiring as chief technical officer —

kara swisher

Mike Schroepfer.

john doerr

— he’s decided to make climate his number one priority. He organized a convening two weeks ago of climate leaders that I was able to kick off. The energy among the innovators, people who don’t have to work, people who desperately want to work on something important for this mission is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

kara swisher

All right, we’re going to end it on that then. John, you’re an optimist. You really are. I would like them to stop this silliness and focus on —

john doerr

Well, you have the platform. Tell them to —

kara swisher

I do. I yell at them. They don’t want to hear me anymore, John.

john doerr

No, they do want to hear from you.

kara swisher

I guess.

john doerr

I would imagine the ratings on your diatribes are the highest that there are.

kara swisher

They’re not diatribes. Anyway, John, as usual, you’re fantastic. And let’s talk soon.

john doerr

Bless you. Thank you.

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kara swisher

“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Caitlin O’Keefe and Wyatt Orme; with original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Sonia Herrero and Carole Sabouraud; and fact checking by Ashley Braun. Special thanks to Shannon Busta, Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski. The senior editor of “Sway” is Nayeema Raza. And the executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Irene Noguchi.

If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts, so follow this one. If you’re listening on the Times website and want to get each new episode of “Sway” delivered to you, along with an invitation to a climate kumbaya party, download any podcast app, then search for “Sway,” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening.

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