Design at Large: Climate Risk Reduction and Technology
[MUSIC] Welcome, everybody, welcome to our students. Our guests here in the room and also on Zoom, we've got our live audience who are streaming this. I'm Mai Nguyen, Director of the Design Lab. I'm here with Karthick Ramakrishnan, Executive Director of California 100. We are excited to have our second Design at Large series of speakers. Last week we talked about alternative transportation futures and this week we get to talk about climate change and how technology can be used and harnessed in order to mitigate and prepare us for climate risks.
We get to talk to some real experts, some pre-eminent scholars, and practitioners about the topic of climate change today. But to tell us more about California's long-term future and also about this topic, I'm going to turn it over to Karthick. Thank you so much, Mai. Thank you, everyone, for not only having us here but being such amazing partners in the work. California 100 is a relatively new initiative.
It's a statewide effort to envision a much better future for California. What do we mean by better? We want not only a state of innovation but a state of inclusion. Core values in the work are innovation, resilience, inclusion, sustainability, and equity. It spells, IRISE. We know that California is often seen as the conscience of the country and as a global leader when it comes to a lot of this work. But there are many other entities among us now, especially when it comes to climate change and environmental sustainability more generally.
The kind of long-term thinking that we're going to be talking about today is not new to California. We'll hear about how native peoples in California have been doing long-range intergenerational work on sustainability for much longer than there has been in California. But even coming more closer to the present, thinking about the clean air regulations that California pioneered and essentially got the Federal Government to agree to a set of waivers that created a California standard that many other states follow.
That's been in contention in recent years depending on who's in the White House. But that's the kind of thinking that California needs and that you will see in this report. California is already doing some of this work.
The work we do here is so consequential. As many of you may have heard, we're the fifth-largest economy in the world. We have our Governor who has talked about us as being a nation-state, even though we can't print our own money and stand our own armies and the like.
But shy of that, what we're trying to figure out is what are the limits of what we can do given our legal constitutional framework, political realities of today, but really to imagine what is possible and then create the conditions for that to occur. To not take many of the constraints that we see today as given, but things that could likely change if we put our best minds and our best efforts to it. Many of you have had the chance to read the report. You can see it at california100.org. What we've done is work with some of the strongest research centers around the state that have national reputations in these particular issue areas and get them to stretch. I say this as someone who has a background in political science and political behavior, some background in demographics, and who gets very uncomfortable thinking about predictions or projections beyond 5-10 years.
But we're not projecting into the future. What we're doing is considering different scenarios that seem implausible today, but that could be very likely 20 years from now, 40 years from now, 50 years from now. Part of that work is what we do with a two-by-two scenario framework. Our research experts in different issue areas, and in this case it's the Environmental Policy Center and the Goldman School of Public Policy, worked with various stakeholders as well as their own researchers to come up with two dimensions that could lay out four different futures for California. This is not in the very long term. This is something in the next 10-20 years.
Essentially these two dimensions relate to whether or not we have a political will to tackle climate change in a big and transformative way. Then whether or not the economic realities support the bold investments we need. That's how we get these two-by-two scenarios. I think previously you saw some artwork to dare to suggest what those four different scenarios could be for California.
Danny Kennedy is one of our commissioners who's been advising us in this work, along with Louise Bedsworth, who co-chairs the Energy and Environment track for California 100. That's all I'll say about California 100 for now. Really looking forward to the conversation from our expert panelists.
Great. Well, we're really excited to have this esteemed panel here, Laurie Johnson, Danny Kennedy, Ilkay Altintas, and Michael Posmant here, let's welcome them. [APPLAUSE] I'm going to start with Laurie.
Laurie is the Chief Catastrophe Response and Resiliency Officer, a big job in California. This is for the California Earthquake Authority and the newly established California Wildfire Fund. She's also a globally recognized urban planner who's helped communities really think about the complex challenges of post-by disasters. As one of the most populous states and also the largest economies as Karthick just mentioned, you have a really big job, especially at a time when disasters and extreme weather events are becoming more extreme and more frequent. We've got in California, droughts, wildfires, heat, storms, flooding, you name it, earthquakes. We've got all of it. Talk to
us about the difference between mitigating these disasters and adapting to these disasters. Well, thank you for that question and thank you all for coming. I'm excited to be here. I think one of the things as I was reflecting on this, as somebody who was an earth scientists who became an urban planner, a lot of my career is really focused around earthquakes. We can't yet predict earthquakes and we can't stop earthquakes from happening. We can mitigate the effects of earthquakes, but we can't actually mitigate the cause.
That's where climate change is so interesting to me as a design professional and for many of you in this room. We actually as design professionals can mitigate the cause. We can mitigate it through how we build our built environment in particular.
California has really led the way of the world in thinking about that. Going back to 2006 when actually some initial work was done in 2000, 2001. But 2006, the Global Warming Solutions Act was passed AB Assembly Bill 32. That actually set in motion a tremendous amount of work that's gone on for the past 15, coming on 20 years to actually mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in California and show other states and other countries how to do this. People at the time said, "My gosh, we can't do this. This is too big."
Going to Karthick's point. It's too much of a stretch, it'll kill California's economy. What we've proven is actually that's not the case. We can actually mitigate greenhouse gas emissions where we've exceeded the targets we set for 2020. As you may know, the governor's now basically raise the target to go to net-zero carbon neutrality by 2050, is it? 2045? Thank you. That just shows how aggressive we've been in that front.
There's a whole bunch of stuff I could talk to on the side of mitigation but what's interesting is that when you look at other natural hazards, we typically talk about hazard mitigation as being what is really in the climate world more talked about as adaptation. That's really, how do we deal with the effects of climate change? Those effects are, as Mike just said, the negative effects are sea level rise, flooding, increased rainfall, drought, more variable rainfall, which affects our water supply in California and wildfires and extreme heat. On this side of the policy equation, there's a lot of great things that happened. Because California is are very populous state and because we had big events happen of other parallels like earthquakes, there's actually a strong foundation of work that has allowed us to start to build the toolkit to deal with adaptation. For example, after a big earthquake in Los Angeles in 1971, the state said, "Hey, when a local government does its general plan, basically the land use doctrine of a city, that you actually need to have another element in that general plan. Another piece and another chapter of your general plan needs to deal with seismic safety."
That safety element now is being adapted to deal with all the effects of climate change. There has been legislation done recently that has added over time, wildfires, flooding, addressing climate change vulnerability as well as adaptation. All of that having to fit into the safety element of a general plan and that our plan needs to be consistent.
You can't say in one element of the plan, "Hey, we're going to tackle climate change and we're going to reduce our exposure to flooding", but then have land-use going right into the floodplain. We have the teeth that ties that together. That might sound like a practical thing to you, but that's actually unique in urban planning. There are, I think less than a dozen states that actually require hazards to be addressed in local plants. Many states don't even require cities to plan. These are foundational things that are allowing us now to add more teeth into the work that we're doing for different hazards.
Unfortunately, I think we tend to be a little bit more reactive when it comes to the adaptation piece than we have been on the mitigation side. What you see is a slew of legislation that typically follows an event. We've had a slew of legislation in 2017, 2018 when we had the drought. Then now it's been the last couple of years, we've really invested a lot in wildfire related legislation. Now instead of just looking at fighting fires, which is where predominantly in the past our money went to, we're now investing much more in vegetation management and home hardening and other aspects of prevention and evacuation planning.
But with that foundation of work really stems from the other hazards and really has given us a leg up to start to deal with adaptation. Where I'd say we're still weak is really thinking about sea-level rise because that requires coordination among our jurisdictions that are on the water's edge, which really takes a regional leadership. Some regions are getting going on that in California's and some not as much. Our Coastal Commission is doing a lot. We have a statewide agency that deals with all coast that's looking at that.
Again, something that we have that many other states don't have that we're building on. The other one that we're just starting to think about is extreme heat. Just last year, the states updated with the state adaptation strategy included the chapter for the first time an action plan on extreme heat. When you look at our progress so far and all of these hazards, I'd say we're dealing fairly well with flooding. We're dealing now better with wild fire but we're probably going to see the benefits of that in two or three, maybe five years from now. We've been dealing with drought and get to do more in that front, but we need to do more work when it comes to thinking about sea level rise and thinking about extreme heat.
Thanks Laurie. I'm going to turn to Danny, CEO of New Energy Nexus. New Energy Nexus is a global platform organization for funds and incubators with chapters in the USA, Asia, as well as Africa. He's working to connect entrepreneurs to capital in order to build an abundant clean energy economy that is equitable and works for all of us. I'm going to maybe tap into what Laurie just said about how when we first start to come up with new technologies like solar, everybody says it's too expensive to adopt, it's too costly.
Or electric vehicles, for example. In California, we're already there. We're adopting all of these technologies. But it's probably not as equitable as we want it to be.
In undeserved communities for example, how are we doing in terms of this transition of energy in undeserved communities and how can we make it so that they can benefit from this transition and also make their communities more livable? Some good news is not just that in 2006 we passed The Global Warming Solutions Act. Thank you Fran Pavley in setting California's on that train. But this month, we've been on several days at 97 percent wind and solar powered. In the electricity system of the state of California, 97 percent, fifth largest economy in the world. When we passed that puppy in 2006, had we said in 2022 we're going to be close to 100 percent wind and solar power, y'all bullshit. It's not possible.
It literally was not possible. We did it, we did the impossible. That's one of the things California does. To the question of how do we ensure that this energy transition happens in an equitable way that brings all the benefits to everyone, and particularly those that were hurt worse than first by the fossil fuel histories and heritage we have and the weirding of the weather that's coming. That is our challenge now, this transition is unstoppable.
I mean, 10 years from now, you won't remember what an internal combustion engine car was. You won't have many options to buy one. Fifteen years from now, it'll be illegal to sell one in the state first at least. You can probably sell them second-hand, but I don't want you know that, but that's where the load is going. 2035, ICE vehicles no more in California.
Then shortly thereafter we won't remember. How many of you rode here on an electric scooter? That technology wasn't available five years ago, because lithium-ion batteries weren't powerful enough to carry this 200-pound man across the campus, which I just tried to do and then it stopped me because I wasn't allowed to ride in that zone. But the technology transition is fast and furious, point of phrase, but how do we ensure that it gets into East LA, into the chop shops? How do we ensure that the folk that are doing the work in the internal combustion engine industry are trained to work on EVs, and make them work and stay on the roads, and safe, and all the rest of it? We need to invest in policies that are out of the box, and doing different design now in preparation for this future that we can imagine is so close, because we have got this heuristic of the last century, and we're so stuck in the past that we think the future is going to be like it was.
It's going to be very different. My answer to the how do we ensure, is we support entrepreneurs, particularly from those disadvantaged area communities, particularly the women that have been left out of the venture capital game, 94 percent of all venture capital for example goes to White males. Terrible, shocking statistic, but true. Idiot investment strategy because they've just left on the table the genius of half the world's population, women, and people of color, dah, you're missing all the smart deals that no one else is investing in, so we go out and we find innovators and entrepreneurs that are from the places of adversity that are facing the in-equal distribution of the burden of air pollution, of the impacts of heatwaves and crises, and wildfires, and droughts, and all the rest of it. In California, that means going to, under the environmental screening methodology, is literally disadvantaged communities in Central Valley and inland counties in Southern California, and we find and fund and foster those startups, and those innovators, and we get them to lead the way and find the solutions that are coming.
The good news is, they're driving amazing things. Just to name an example, a company that we got out of a hackathon, not similar to the process for generating these ideas here maybe eight years ago at an Oakland incubator, was trying to deal with how do you do demand response in an electricity grid with modern variable inputs like wind and solar. They came up with a gamification strategy, cell phones in everyone's pockets, we can turn this into this cool tool to get people to beat their neighbors at saving energy during flexure power hours, if you know those campaigns. It's called OM Connect, they're now in hundreds of thousands of homes. One of the other strategies they have developed as they pivoted is a smart plug they put in the wall between the electricity grid and your fridge. If you're giving them permission, they'll turn your fridge off for half an hour when there's a flexure hour power, and they'll pay you the demand chart that they save.
Effectively you get paid to save energy, and this is mostly Central Valley communities, mostly low-income families getting paid to participate in the demand response strategies of the electricity grid of California, as it balances this wild variable input of the wind and solar that's now at 97 percent some days. Just as one example. But solar is now no longer an expensive proposition, it's actually the lower cost proposition for a residential consumer in California. If you can afford it, that's a big if, can you afford it, it's a green discount. It's not a green premium.
You save money on your electricity bill monthly if you got solar. Not everyone can afford it upfront, so they need it financed. Not everyone can get a loan or a lease because they don't have a FICO score. So we need innovators to develop credit scoring and credit products that can apply to those communities. That's happening at scale, and speed, and pace was a great Californian innovation innovated by a city, not a private sector entrepreneur. Same with EVs. We've got lots of like the free EV program, if you go and search Spring Free EV, is a program for gig economy workers to get electric vehicles, because the pain at the pump is so great now that gig workers can't drive Uber and Lyft and so on, unless they get in an EV, and there's this whole program to finance the adoption of EVs for gig economy drivers who can't otherwise afford it, which is a business developed by an entrepreneur here in Southern California.
I could bore you to death with lots more examples, but suffice to say, it's happening. It's actually cheaper, better, faster than you think, and it is applying to the communities that we're most concerned about rightly, for a just an equitable outcome in this energy transition. The people that are going to deliver it are the entrepreneurs of California, which guess what, who have always innovated and created the great futures for California.
Great. Sounds like we need to invest in entrepreneurs, but in the end, it'll pay for itself. I'm going to turn to Ilkay, Chief Data Science Officer of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and also our co-sponsor for today. Ilkay is also the founding director of the workflows of Data Science Center of Excellence, and the wildFIRE Lab.
Her work really cuts across scientific and societal domains including bioinformatics, geoinformatics, smart cities, smart manufacturing, she does a lot. [LAUGHTER] Talk to us about how this next generation of fire science using technology and data, artificial intelligence, for example, how this can be used for mitigation response to wildfires. Thank you. I think
one thing to recognize about these fires is, it's climate-induced as much as other reasons. Our climate is changing fast, but the factors and human involvement in these are influence in what we call the wildland urban interface, also is a big contributor. On top of that, as he said, over the last 100 years, fire suppression policy, we actually suppress any fire we can. What that means is when the fire is low-intensity, it's suppressed.
Fire is inevitable in nature, actually it's needed in nature, some seeds won't see the ecosystems need to be healthy through fire. If we suppress all these what happens is we actually have a fire deficit. That means we have too little fire. Then you can say it's counter-intuitive. Why are we having so many news of these wildfires or the mega fires? Because of having too little low-intensity fire, which are the good fires that nature needs, we start having fires when we can't control them, the bad fires, and we learn as a society to be scared of fire instead of living with it and being at peace with it. You can tell the difference between being at peace and being at war.
We are at war right now, and we are constantly in reactive mode. When the fire comes and hits us, we are trying to hit it fast and respond to it. It's a very reactive regime. The fire itself is changing behavior, and we are developing more science and technology to fight it. But I think our thinking is now shifting as a nation, with the recent infrastructure bill for instance, there are new approaches to increase mitigation measures. One of them is a prescribed fire or vegetation treatment.
With those we are learning now, can we use more science and technology and science-driven policy through putting fire on the ground more in a scalable fashion, so that we can actually clean some of these aspects? Like vegetation accumulation is one of them. So that when we have a wildfire situation, at least there'll be less intense, less devastating, and we can start balancing. But one of the measures in California, for instance, we can burn through prescribed fire to clean low-intensity by 100,000 acres.
Now there's a thing called million-acre strategy. We need to burn 10 times as much, a million acres a year for 20 years to bring the ecosystem back to a healthy state. These are important things, and science and technology, we do that really well in California, how do we now create human-centered design solutions to create use inspired products? So we can actually get what we build through science and technology, to the hands of practical communities, to policymakers, to emergency management. In all phases of emergency management, from response, to recovery, but also preparedness and mitigation. All of these can use more science and technology.
If we can bridge that gap between science to practice, so to say, or science and technology to practice. Right now it's the average of 10 years for something to be useful, can we cut that down to two years? We work under National Science Foundation in a accelerated program for convergence research. The goal there is to increase collaboration, a cross-sector collaboration, and public-private partnerships. So we can in two years maybe put the solutions out there so we can get to those solutions. I think the bottom line is, there are so many things we do well, and we are learning from the impacts of the climate and what we're experiencing, and we need to learn to collaborate. That is a good segue to our next panelist, Michael, who is a National Science Foundation Program director, and also a part of the convergence accelerator where he leads two tracks, AI, this is artificial intelligence innovation, and trust and authenticity in communication systems.
Michael, we were talking earlier about how important it is to have these cross-disciplinary collaborations in order to move the needle forward on some of these really complex societal issues like climate change. Can you talk about why this convergence accelerator was started and why it's necessary, and what you're doing in terms of taking science out of the university and into the real world? The convergence accelerator was started and basically because we have a lot of just enormous challenges facing us as a society and they can't be solved by a single technology, a single discipline of research. It has to be a combination of a lot of different areas. What we're doing is enforcing on our researchers to go out and find people from other disciplines and you can hear some of that in what Danny was talking about, of course, Ilkay who's in our program. But when you look at for instance some of the climate or some of the renewable energy strides that have been made that required policy, that required the gamification tool.
How do you get humans engaged in this? That's not just we have all this great solar technology or wind technology, you had to have an impetus to put it to use and that's where the policy and the human element came into this and so where we look at our teams and we say, "Okay. Great, you've got set a computer scientist to solve this problem. Well, who's going to use the tool? Are you thinking about who's going to use it? Are you thinking about these other aspects that are going to drive adoption?" Then as we looked at it on another dimension, how do you do that outreach or how do you bring in the expertise to combine with researchers and academics to actually build stuff because understanding a topic and researching a topic is very different than building a product and so what we said is not only do you have all of these different disciplines that are going to help you solve the problem, but you also have to have the right combinations of types of organizations, so academic institutions, non-profits, government, private sector. You bring all of these groups together to take advantage of the knowledge, the expertise, the capabilities of all of them to solve the grand challenges that we have. That's really where we began. Of course, in the context of National Science Foundation, we fund so much basic research, how do we start getting more output? How do we start getting more impact from all of the billions of dollars of basic research that we're funding because there's a lot of impact that comes out of it? Many times that's years down the line.
How do we accelerate that process? Build that connection so that we can take the outputs of the basic research for our funding and turned it into products of all sorts, whether it's software, hardware, education systems, procedures. Well, we don't do policy specifically because that gets us into trouble as a federal agency but we can do things that do drive decision-making as the outputs of the projects that we're funding. Thank you. As you can see,
we need all of these people in order for us to make change. The private sector, the public sector, researchers, and scientists. It takes this whole community approach to actually solve some of these very difficult challenges. Well, thank you for an amazing set of opening remarks. I'm going to ask a question that hopefully, it's not too much of a downer. We're hearing a lot of optimism here, maybe even triumphalism, Danny, the way you framed that up.
Yes, we're the fifth-largest economy in the world, but we are one state among 50. For every California, there's a Texas, there's a Florida. There's a fair amount of questioning and even opposition of having science dictate policy. We've had administrations in the past that have gone from being lukewarm to hostile to scientific research driving economic development agendas. It's not clear that we are out of the woods in terms of what might happen in 2024 or 2028 or in the future.
Then there's this global context. This notion of polluting our way to prosperity is something that the United States has done, California has done, and there are other countries with large populations who think that's probably going to be their future as well. What can we do in little old California here? Yes, we're the fifth-largest economy, but pretty small in terms of these other jurisdictions and populations to bend the curve, if you will. Would love to hear anyone's thoughts.
First of all, we're both from Texas originally [LAUGHTER] so maybe it says something that we're not there anymore, but there's a lot of great science going on in Texas. Texas gets a bad rap. It's gone crazy in the last 20 years, but it used to not be that way at all.
I just wonder what that looks like and whether California can play a role or maybe not. California is exporting a lot of entrepreneurs to Texas right now, so it's a more favorable tax environment there. But Texas has always been a technology center in different ways, whether it's Houston or Austin or Dallas. I think what gets lost is all the stuff that's going on in those urban centers, gets overshadowed by some of the other things that are happening with the stance of the government there right now.
But I think, eventually it's going to change because when you bring so many intelligent people doing such great things into the ecosystem, it can't help but eventually have an impact there. So I think Texas will regain its sanity at some point, in part because a lot of people are heading to Austin from Silicon Valley and other stuff like that. Well, let's start with the national government then. If you get the politicization or the bureaucracy which we've had in the EPA, in many of the science agencies, what can we do to be better prepared for even worse swings in the future? Well, I think the whipsaw that's going on from a policy perspective within the government where every four or eight years we're changing administrations, and then we're going to the complete opposite side of the spectrum on what the policy is going to be, particularly with environmental policy, that's obviously not sustainable and that's not good for business either. If you're in a regulated industry and the regulations are swinging back and forth constantly, it's a problem.
But I think where we're really going to mitigate that is not by specific policies, but it's by informing people and educating people so that they're making better decisions when they go to the voting booth. I think so much politics is driven by what they think voters want. If voters are saying they want something different then the political system will adapt to that.
I can talk about something that I'm very passionate about; data and how it could help because data right now we don't have the luxury of ignoring it. With climate learnings from data and the dynamic changes in all these challenges and the environment, and policies around that is very fertile ground for progress. We can use data as a collaboration. First of all, it needs investments and data infrastructure itself. Data is infrastructure.
If we can get this in our heads and invest in collaborative data infrastructure that increase collaborations within agencies and stakeholders in this space, we can build tools around that. Once we have that some data is open, some it's not. There are policies around that.
These are solvable problems if we mean to solve them. Once we have a federated data system between these agencies and knowledge platforms that turn the data into insights that we can build solutions around, then we are going into a form that we can use it to inform public and communicate. We can use it to develop multipliers of solutions. This is public solutions, private solutions, governments solutions, everything. It's a currency at that point that we could use to create solutions at the magnitude we did not even think of building. One of our missions is actually to turn data into a utility for many forms, and work within public private settings and cross-sector settings with entities like Designlab to create these human-centered ways to actually develop products.
If we can turn those products into things that are used at scale, then I think we are at least solving one part of the challenge which is how they inform. Those countries you're saying are looking at continued pasts into the future I disagree. Fossil fuels, you may have heard this here first, but I will point you to many resources that are saying this about this time peaked in 2019. The pandemic was the endpoint of the growth of fossil fuel consumption on this Earth. You have the IEA this year backing away from triumphalist prognosis of the 2020s when they were claiming that oil would go back over 100 million barrels a day.
They are now refocusing every month a million barrels down and a million barrels down. That's what war is going to do. The shock in the supply side of the economy that this Russian war has caused is the final nail in the coffin of fossil fuel demand. There's no more systemic growth. There are sporadic points of growth and there are dumb countries that are going to try to get inside that noise fluctuation and ignore the signal.
The United States maybe one of those trying to become Saudi America just as the oil century ends. Dumb decision but one that we seem to be making in both Republican and Democratic administrations, but the fact of the matter is, we're never going back over 100 million barrels and coal is gone. It's going to grow in certain places, but it is not the generating asset of choice anymore for the electricity system, solar and wind are. Eighty five percent of all new additions to the grid last year were solar and wind. You won't find a financier doing a coal-fired power plant unless they're Chinese and they've been told to. That's just what the banks think now.
As for oil, forget about it like I do investment. If I wanted to go drill a new well in Kern County or Alaska, 24 percent rent on the money, guess what the project finance costs for a wind or a solar farm is in America? Three, four percent. It's done and the big end of town has already backed it in. We've peak fossils started this decade. I'll give you this decade; whatever it is. It's pandemics followed by wars, followed by what's going to happen next including the weird weather and whatever catastrophes come, and the volatility uncertainty makes it very difficult for us to imagine.
To your question, what can California do in this? Continue to be the light on the hill, continue to be the state that does do it, and as goes California and so goes America, so goes the world. Continue to use information as power, continue to be the policy innovators that accept the crisis that's coming and write the Global Warming Solutions Act that stands like a bellwether for the times and dictates what the rest of the world does. What we do at New Energy Nexus is export the innovation, culture, and entrepreneurship of Silicon Valley, and Sand Hill Road, and all that admittedly complicated and nuanced, difficult tech-pro VC stuff to places that are going to actually determine the fate of the climate which are not anymore America. Another weird fact for you is our emissions are flat and declining because of all this adoption of clean energy and our demographics and our economics. We decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions in California before the turn of the century just for the record where the atmosphere will be determined and the parts per million which will dictate whether it's three degrees, four degrees or two degrees is Asia and Africa. The puck is already there.
What we have to do as Californians is be a lab for the world, demonstrate what can be done and export the hell out of it so that the world has solutions to adopt the speed and scale required by the crisis. Great. One area I would love to see California be a leader in is to actually work with the most vulnerable populations. Laurie you know this, disasters often hit in places where they're the most vulnerable populations and they're slowest to recover. They get the least amount of aid and take longer to recover. How can we use data to actually address climate effects on underserved populations? How do we plan and mitigate for the most vulnerable populations: the elderly, low-income communities, minority communities? How do we do that? I'll speak to one other thing which is the regulatory environment in California.
Now many people will say, oh, that's why they're leaving and going to Texas and other places, but at the same time we've managed to accommodate 40 million people, be the fifth largest economy, and still preserve a great part of our environment. The governor had just passed another goal of 30 by 30. Is that it? I just wanted to get the slang right. But the idea of really preserving our environment and ensuring that we preserve another 30 million. Is that right? I don't remember what 30 by 30 stands for. Thirty percent.
Thirty percent; that's right, by 2030. We're doing that. We have land trusts and conservation easements, things that California innovated. Just like I was talking about.
A safety element. We've had the open space element as part of our general plans forever, and we have land trusts that have been created that are allowing us to preserve our agricultural land and keep our working lands, as well as our environmental, natural habitat through these systems where we pay a small amount of fee, people invest, and we use our philanthropic means to buy out the development rights. In particular of lots of areas where I live up in Marin County, which is just across the Golden Gate Bridge, is a great example of the first legislation was actually fought right on the supreme court case around the use of conservation easements actually happened in just in Southern Sonoma County, Marin County, where these conservation approaches were starting to take place. There was so much rapid urbanization going on in the Bay Area at the time, and the community said we want to actually preserve our working lands.
We want to keep our agricultural close to where we live. That is a movement now that's taking off across the world as we look at climate change, people wanted to have sustainably locally grown agriculture rather than big international agriculture going on, which is highly energy intensive and consumptive. I think there's a regulatory environment piece to California that the world still looks too as well to go to Kathy's point. So to build on your question, within that, we have also been leading even AB 32 back in 2006, talked about making sure there was an environmental justice component, and we have an environmental justice requirement in our general plans, and are things like planning for hazards. Now, doing climate change vulnerability assessments isn't about just looking at the vulnerability of the environment. It's about looking at the vulnerability of the people relative to that change.
Those are the hooks that you need across your planning processes and policy-making. Some of the recent legislation that's come out around wildfires is really hooking in dealing with smoke and the impacts of a fires on the communities that have been historically hit hard through fossil fuel consumption, and live near the freeways really trying to remedy some of that air quality issues in California and how they affect some of our most vulnerable populations. We're actually feeding a lot of the wealth at some of the wildfires, legislation actually bleeds into dealing with just air quality and environmental justice issues for the populations that really bear the brunt of asthma and other effects from the previous 30 years. Quick point on environmental justice with the Justice 40 initiative, the Biden administration, I think that's a good example of California values or designs influencing the Fed also that justice 40 initiatives that 40 percent of climate investments need to be targeted at disadvantaged communities through something that's akin to the Callin virus screen type of measure.
It's measured using a similar GIS methodology to embarrass screen for federal allocation. I know what the formula is to determine the zip code allocation, but that's a great example of California's leading the country. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems in case some of you don't know, I'm going to take some audience questions. If it's possible that California can already provide 97 percent renewable energy on certain days.
Why is the Utility Commission considering reducing solar panel incentives at the request of electric and gas production corporation. This comes from AC on Zoom. My answer why is because they're thinking from a past incumbent mindset and they're not doing design thinking about a future which is going to be radically different. To answer your question, we have been protecting these monopoly investor-owned utilities. Some of which down here in Southern California do a lot better than some of them up in Northern California in terms of managing the state's public goods and public interests.
But why we even have a monopoly? Regulatory construct like that for power provision is beyond me. A competitive market is theoretically what America is all about. Yet we don't do it in this very dynamic market and where you have now competitive electricity markets. Even though I recall JPSM, Australia, you have far greater distributed renewable energy adoption rooftop solar, for example, which is to the benefit of communities and poor people because they get to own the assets. The nature of the distributed architecture of energy could be much more pro-community if it were taken out of the hands of these monopolies. So yeah, I'm with you.
Okay. I'm going to open it up to audience questions. Who has a question? I'm going to take a student question first. I think you're student, you look like a student [LAUGHTER]. Perfect. Thanks for all of your comments. I'm curious. I think there's been a lot of talk about it almost seems like there's an emphasis on private sector leading the way tech entrepreneurship, and funding that hasn't seemed to work with respect to climate change in a lot of ways. You think about, first of all right, so we reach 97 percent solar, a lot of that, we had massive subsidies for the building, that type of grid.
If you look at venture capital funding over the past couple of years, there's something like four percent has gone into like Greentech as opposed to the billions that are going into like cryptocurrencies and blockchain. If the thesis is that somehow we can accelerate or incentivize and push out entrepreneurs to make private market feasible solutions to climate change and that's going to work. The markets don't seem to be paying attention to that signal. So how do you guys think about getting around that? Yeah, this is Danny's territory. It's a bridge to something I wanted to address, which is lithium Valley Cathy knows this is my pet hobby holes right now.
You're 100 percent right. I mean, do not have faith in the market to deliver us from evil. Just for the record, I may look like the private sector guy and I may manage other people's money and sound off about investments. But by no means is the private sector alone going to do this without being bludgeoned and and kicking and screaming by state action and community action and social movements.
Who are the real people that make history. Just for the record, markets will follow, excuse me, my phones going off. What the community wants. My thought for you is that California is like the archetype poll, and I hate to use archetypes because I've been taught by California 100 that those are bad things for design thinking. But an entrepreneurial state, I don't know if any of you are familiar with the book, The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato who I think will go down as the Keane's of our time.
She's the woman who's advising the European Union on their Green deal and was the inspiration behind a lot of the Green new deal thinking of the sunrise movement and so on. Basically when you have state action with private sector action in really creative ways, you create real dynamism and spill-over effects in the economy. Case in point, Silicon Valley.
The myth of Silicon Valley is that that was the genius of Steve Jobs and a few white guys. That they invented everything that we have, the supercomputer in my pocket, all that stuff. Silicon Valley is the story of the United States of America facing up against a foe who is very familiar right now called Russia who was beating us at something called microchips and the digitization of the economy which was the macro trend of its time. We needed better microchips to direct missiles but bluntly. They funded through department of defense budgets for decades thousands and thousands of companies. There was a Cambrian explosion of companies that made silicon chips and semiconductors in a place called Palo Alto around a big research university that has some genius and had cheap land because the agriculture there wasn't very effective.
That thing became a consolidation into seven companies, Fairchild and its children, Intel, these names that you might know. Then that thing became the web and the names you do know like Apple and Google and Facebook and whatever, trillion dollar companies and the science of Stanford became the tech bros we were talking about earlier. That huge public good and public value story because I think there is good for everyone there as well as problems and inequity in tech space and all the rest of it, is a function of both state action, policy, and private sector genius and entrepreneurial type things, and my story of lithium valley and I'm sorry if I'm taking too long, is that we have this opportunity right now two hours East of here in Southern California, in the poorest county in California we have the richest resource of what's called geothermal brines for lithium which is the silicon of the next macro trend in the economy. This century is not going to be about digitization, it's going to be about electrification because we didn't finish the job in the 20th century of electricity spreading to all end users.
We just did the power grid. We didn't do transport and vehicles, we didn't do industry, we didn't do all the other things we might come up with to do with electricity when it becomes super abundant and free and cheap because 97 percent isn't where it stops by the way. It goes to 100, it goes to 150, it goes to 200, it goes to 300 percent production of electricity to what we think we need to use because that's the way you would best manage the grid. Then we have lots of electricity. We need to store it. The way we will store it is in an element called lithium largely.
We have the biggest resource of lithium in the poorest county in California two hours East of here. Yesterday we announced a $4 billion deal to start actually producing that at some scale and making homegrown batteries. But what it's going to require to really make homegrown batteries like Californian lithium for Californian sunshine, driving Californian cars around Californian streets is policy, is procurement strategies, is the white government agencies of departments of defenses, budgets of all these actions in collaboration to define that better future.
It's not going to just happen because some guy turned up and said I'm going to spend $4 billion here and build a factory. There needs to be a whole concept of action taken and it is this entrepreneurial state that I think California is one of the standout places despite complaints to do that. I had one thing. Okay, go ahead. Sorry but there's a lot of big problems that we face that industry is not going to support or fund because venture capitalists for the most part are out to make money. They have to return their fund.
There may be some public good that comes from it and there may be VCs that are focused on that, they've got a bunch of people that gave them, a bunch of LPs that gave them money that they've got to return. We can look to venture capital to do certain things but it's not the answer to everything. The government is going to have a role, communities are going to have a role, universities are going to have a role, non-profits are going to have a role, and a lot of these big societal challenges and in some cases the money is going to be hard to come by. We were talking about this earlier on the disinformation topics. So much stuff is focused at the community level, who's going to pay for that stuff? That's where the government comes in and a lot of these other organizations is really where we have to band together and figure out ways to coalesce around certain groupings and consortiums to solve some of these big problems.
I think companies are going to try to make money first and foremost and that's probably what you're seeing with them trying to get the rollback policy. It's in their interest to their shareholders or bottom line. Okay, I'm going to let Don Norman, Founding Director of the Design Lab have the last question.
It's not really a question. [LAUGHTER] Let me stand up. I've enjoyed the panel but I think you suffer from several problems. One of them is that you are much too illogical. The real issue is this, that people have very, very simple models of causality and they are linear, and they can understand our feedback loop but that's about it and yet this world now is filled with chaotic systems in the technical sense of chaos with very complex systems.
For example, people respond very well to crises but they don't respond at all to prevent it in the first place. We have the problem that people put short-term against long-term because long-term we can't see. So one of the problems we face is indeed the problems of policy. Somebody said we should have more sciences leading policy, that's absolutely wrong. Scientists should not do policy.
It's the same statement that we made earlier about products. The researchers are not the people to be the CEOs of really successful companies. The purpose of policy decisions by politicians is to weigh these factors.
But the other problem we have and then I'll shut up is that we have the people in power who are going to be hurt for all the things you're talking about. They're the ones who run the fossil fuels, the coal plants, the existing electric grid, etc. That's why the problem, solar panels, why are we subsidizing solar panels that would kill our business, etc. We have to be much more practical about the human side. Technological issues basic us we know how to solve. It's human behavior that we have to work on.
That is a great closure. I'm going to let Cothic actually close this out. Any final comments? No, this is precisely the kinds of conversations we need to be having. We're just so fortunate to be able to partner with the Design Lab on this journey. Thank you Mike for the continued partnership and please let's continue the conversation. I also want to thank our sponsors.
I think Tad Parson is here, is he still here from the Burnham Center? Tad and the Burnham Center have sponsored Design at large this quarter. We also have another sponsor, I'm going to invite Melissa Flocker up here. Thank you. Who in the room participated in our design of fun? Lots of people. Fantastic, excellent.
Well, we had a lot of fun or I had a lot of fun. I hope you all had a lot of fun too thinking about human-centered design and going through the design thinking process with KP to help solve the issue of magnifiers and tonight we're going to announce all of our posters from all 23 of the project submissions are here in the room and out in the foyer and we're going to announce the winners who will have the opportunity to do a summer internship this summer and to build on the projects that they proposed during the design of thon. So before I get to the winners, first we have the honorable mentions for creativity. We had some amazing, amazing projects and there were some that were just so so creative.
We had cycling through fires, embrace the blaze, small sacrifices save big, prescribed to burn, and pyropath which we would like to honor with an honorable mention for their creativity. Congratulations to all of you. [APPLAUSE] Then in addition to this we chose seven projects to move on to the internship part of the process so we have become a burn boss, mission burn boss, fire for kids, cool off California, transforming fire, flames for good, and board game on fire, and so those seven teams are going to hopefully work with us over the summer to make your concepts.
Thank you for all of your creativity and all of the work that went into the submissions and I hope folks can stick around and take a look at them. They're fantastic and we can't wait for them to be a reality. Also our speakers, our panelists will stick around for an hour.
So if you have other burning questions. [LAUGHTER] I know there's so many puns, right? A cooling question. There you go. Will be around for a while.
Thank you. [MUSIC]