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4 common traps for carbon removal innovators

April 10, 2021

During COVID, I've spent evenings playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends. Dungeons and Dragons has these things called "traps". In the game, when you fall into traps, you get stuck, injured, or worse.

I've been thinking about what "traps" there are in carbon removal. To make progress on carbon removal, we need to avoid as many traps as possible. I talk to so many innovators in the space and I want to help people avoid these.

Here's 4 traps I see over and over again in the carbon removal world -- with the video being a better/extended version.

1. The Doom trap
Some people are attracted to the changing climate because they like doom. You're not here for solutions, you're here for the dark narrative. In this trap, even good things, or things that seem positive start to actually just seem like more proof that the world is doomed. This trap seems almost deadly, I rarely see people get unstuck.

2. The Newbie trap
“It can sometimes seem as if one must learn everything old before one can try anything new. But that is not the case” -Peter Thiel. This is a new industry, we need new thinking. As a small step, you can try to help someone who is a few steps behind you, you know more than them right? Don't let learning be an excuse to keep you on the sidelines.

3. The Superior trap
Thinking that “technology” solutions are better than “natural” solutions or vice versa. Solutions are solutions, let’s figure out what works. Let “works or not” be your guide.

4. The Gigaton thinking trap
“Gigaton mindset” is coined by Matt Lucas, who wrote a great blog post that talks further about this. Gigaton thinking means getting stuck because your solution isn't the whole solution to the entire climate challenge. In the end it's paralysis. The way to get unstuck seems to be simplifying and getting started. On the flip side, I haven’t seen anyone getting stuck “thinking too small”, which makes me think you need to start somewhere and get going already.

Today there are dozens of carbon removal companies getting started. We'll all be better off ifif they avoid these common traps.

What traps are you caught in? What traps have you struggled with? What traps do you see other people falling in? Hit reply and let me know!

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