Dec 16, 2022Liked by Packy McCormick, Daniel McCormick

Favorite Optimism post yet! The fact that humans have achieved Q>1 nuclear fusion already is unbelievable. Definitely think you should do a year in review of Optimism if possible: Include all the optimistic things people have done in 2022 and a brief summary of what to be optimistic about going into 2023. Just food for thought!

Expand full comment
Dec 16, 2022Liked by Packy McCormick, Daniel McCormick

Love that Stripe is taking on this initiate. I can't wait until this is the standard in Tech, rather than the exception. Carbon removal is an important and necessary strategy for addressing climate change and reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It's so important because:

- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change. It is the most abundant greenhouse gas, and it traps heat in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to warming temperatures and a range of negative impacts on the planet. Carbon removal helps to reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and mitigate its warming effects.

- The more CO2 that is present in the atmosphere, the harder it becomes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon removal is a necessary complement to emission reduction efforts, as it helps to "buy time" and slow the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations while we work to transition to cleaner energy sources and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

- Carbon removal can help to reduce the impacts of climate change that are already underway. While it is important to reduce emissions to prevent future warming, we are already experiencing the consequences of a warming planet, such as sea level rise, extreme weather events, and harm to ecosystems and biodiversity. Carbon removal can help to reduce some of these impacts by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in a stable form.

- Carbon removal can provide economic and social benefits. Many carbon removal technologies, such as afforestation and reforestation, can create jobs and support local communities. Additionally, investing in carbon removal can help to reduce the costs of climate change, which are likely to be significant if we fail to address the problem.

Overall, carbon removal is one of the most essential part of the solution to climate change. It is necessary to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations, slow the pace of global warming, and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already underway. Love that Stripe is leading the way here, well done!

Expand full comment

I'm going to comment the exact same comment than on Noah's newsletter because I feel that you too might be *massively* downplaying climate change threats: yes the IEA revised it's estimates upwards, but we are still lagging behind on both annual investment needs and annual emission reductions.

From the same IEA report: "For electricity, in order to reach the installed capacity needed to generate 69% of electricity from renewables by 2030, average annual net additions need to be *30% higher for solar PV and more than twice as high for wind*.

Clean energy investments should roughly triple from $1tn/annum today to $3tn every year for the next 30 years if we want to stay at 1.5 (i.e. we won't). And that's assuming we can (i.e. we have enough space, smart grids are developed, we have enough resources and space to build those RE power plants, etc.). (https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/11/03/the-world-is-missing-its-lofty-climate-targets-time-for-some-realism)

👆 and that just for energy generation, but investments are also lagging behind on batteries, hydrogen, carbon capture, biofuels, etc. (see: (https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-investment-2022/overview-and-key-findings)). We are also miles away from the energy efficiency progress we should be making if we wanted to see the annual GDP/emissions decoupling of 7.5% needed for IEA's scenarios to work.

Also, battery prices are going up because supply chains are not ready to match the growing demand, which itself is due to lack of supply chain investments. Supply chain underdevelopments risk derailing the energy transition (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/oil-and-gas/our-insights/could-supply-chain-issues-derail-the-energy-transition).

So the IEA revising its estimates upwards does not mean we're going to save the planet from destruction (and anyways, the planet will be fine in long-run. We might just not be there to enjoy the views). The reality is that we're still lagging behind on every existing metric ...

Same thing with fusion - I agree it is exciting and that we should be optimists. But even the most optimists agree we won't have it in time for it to be meaningful at keeping temperature below 1.5/2 degrees.

Expand full comment

Sorry dude, but 1.5/2 degrees is already "baked in", according to IPCC.

While climate change is real, what is far, far less credible are the nonsense economic models built to estimate the net damages from climate change.

As such, "climate change threats" from garbage economic models are highly suspect, particularly given the real world financial agendas involved on all sides. This doesn't even get into the not -great GCM climate models themselves.

Expand full comment

Far less credible according to whom? What is the financial agenda of people promoting a clean transition?

I personally don't have the knowledge to assess whether IPCC's estimates are BS or not, but i) I tend to trust a global community of scientists (who have no agenda as far as I know), and ii) I see all the negative impacts already happening today (more frequent extreme climate events, people dying and being displace, rising see levels threatening cities and farming, affected crop yields, loss of biodiversity, etc.).

Even if you throw away all economic models, at the end of the day people will die, agricultural yiels will fall, economic integration will diminish, conflicts and migration will increase, biodiversity will continue to disappear, and this is going to end up affecting you one way or another.

Expand full comment

Financial agenda: fossil fuel production and exploration is around 3.8% of global GDP = 0.38 * $96 trillion = $3.7 trillion a year.

Replacing that means $3.7 trillion a year going to someone else. This isn't a financial agenda? Even just 10% of that would be a mere $370 billion a year...

As for IPCC estimates: there are certainly climate scientists who seek truth, but there are even more certainly climate scientists who actively promote an agenda because their fame and fortune derives from it. The United States alone has earmarked $5 billion for 2023 for climate change research; the EU is likely earmarking a comparable number. To put this in perspective: total US cancer research (public and private) is around $6.4 billion.

There is a whole lot of gold in that climate change mine...

As for your other scare topics:

extreme climate events: more fires, but nothing else is actually increasing.

People dying: people die far more from cold than from heat. Thus a warming world means less people dying from temperature.

Rising sea levels: utter bollocks. Most coastal cities are sinking because they're generally built on marshes; that plus falling water tables due to human consumption is the far greater issue than sea levels rising (which incidentally have been rising long before fossil fuel use was prevalent).

Crop yields: more utter bollocks. More CO2 = more plant growth. At least 10% to 15% of crop yield increases in the past 50 years is because of more CO2. This is also why the Sahara is greening: more CO2 = plants needing less water to grow.

Loss of biodiversity: yet more utter bollocks. Temperature isn't what is killing species - it is people and their farms, roads, cities and hunting.

But the biggest problem with you self-admitted ignorance is that you didn't address what I stated: even by IPCC's own admission, ceasing all CO2 emissions this instant will not avert the 1.5 to 2 degree C climate change which is professed as doom. So what exactly is the point?

On the other hand: 10,000 more Britons than "normal" will die this winter due to energy poverty = too cold. Certainly comparable numbers in continental Europe as energy prices there skyrocket entirely due to failed green energy promises. Green energy as exemplified by solar PV and wind is simply not capable of sustaining 1st world infrastructure if more than a relatively small percentage of say, electricity production.

Germany paid 807 million euros just for wind electricity NOT produced in 2021. The UK has paid. The UK has paid 216.5 million GBP in 2022 to date for wind electricity NOT produced. Texas throws away around 12 million megawatt hours per year at an average annual cost of $210 million. California has less than 5.5% of its electricity generation capacity from solar PV but threw away 1.5 million megawatt hours per year.

Wind and solar PV are intermittent - this means they MUST be backed up 100% by dispatchable electricity production, pretty much always fossil fuels ranging from diesel to natural gas.

I am all for alternate energy sources, but not crappy unreliable ones that are more expensive to boot especially when the climate rationale for doing so is specious to start with.

Expand full comment

I'm concious the NL is about optimism so I agree it's great to read that we are doing better than previously estimated, but I think it should not obscure the fact that we are still far behind what we should be doing :D.

But let's be optimistic about the future and hope we can continue to beat estimates!!

Expand full comment

Peer reviewed science is dead.

We need a new kind of science based on what science really is: Can your experiment be independently replicated?

Listen to the


Srinivasan talking about this on The Knowledge Project podcast:

Start at 26:10


Read about decentralized and transparent systems here:


Expand full comment

Re: Fusion

Don't hold your breath.

I see minimal progress to reverse the "fusion is 10 years away, for the last 70 years" reality.

Nuclear fission never had a problem with net energy gain - it was all about control.

This fusion test is nice but the reality is that the example generated enough excess power to light a 100 watt bulb for maybe 3 hours.

It is nowhere remotely close to even replacing the energy required to consolidate the fusion materials (tritium), to mine the commodities and build the structures used in the experiment or even to generate the electricity needed to charge the capacitors that held the energy that was "exceeded".

>1 EROEI has not been demonstrated, control at useful scale has not been advanced, etc etc. much less a clear path to grid level power generation at 60%+ cap factors required to actually be of use.

The counterpart to this "success" is how nuclear fission works: literally throw (or even just drop) sufficient fissionable mass into a ball. In Japan in 1999, a couple of nuclear workers started a net energy gain nuclear fission reaction when they decided to smartly skip over some steps in their nuclear fuel movement labor by dumping several multiples of nuclear fuel into a bucket instead of moving specified amounts, one at a time, as they were supposed to.

Expand full comment
Dec 18, 2022·edited Dec 18, 2022

while the experiment did not really achieve net energy gain (it took 100x more energy to charge the capacitors than the energy gained from the reaction, and then you also have to take into account the fact that not all energy from the reaction can be captured to turn into electricity), a company called helion which has designed a very unique way to generate energy from fusion looks like it will have energy production by 2024 (they are on their 7th full-scale iteration, of which they expect net energy from (unclear if they already have; possibly so as the need for the 7th iteration is better thermal containment of the ions which they discovered do not quite obey the simulated laws of physics) and be robust enough to operate at scale)

Expand full comment

Let me put it this way: if Helion actually produces a real, working product - Great!

On the other hand: the line of fusion/cold fusion/perpetual motion scams is centuries old.

I am not holding my breath. The sun controls fusion using gravity; gravity is not apparently affected by magnetically active particles or radiation whereas magnets definitely are.

Nor apparently does the sun have any issues with supply chains.

Terrestrial fusion operations have always floundered on the control issue; this experiment was a cute way to get around the control issue but it neither proves this approach works at scale nor is the result the least bit promising in terms of actual outcomes.

Any startup promising at-scale fusion in 2 years or less - I would view with a literal mountain of salt.

Expand full comment