SPEED & SCALE – John Doerr

The one-sentence summary: This is a global action plan for solving our climate crisis now.


  • The author is an engineer, philanthropist and venture capital backer who has drawn together a plan based on specific objectives and key results (OKRs).
  • Speed & scale has aligned its targets with the most ambitious target, a warming of no more than 1.5°C. The 6 action areas (with their required gigaton reductions) are:
    1. Electrify transportation: switch from gasoline and diesel engines to fleets of plug-in bikes, cars, trucks and buses. 6Gt
    2. Decarbonize the grid: replace fossil fuels with solar, wind and other zero-emissions sources. 21 Gt
    3. Fix food: restore carbon-rich topsoil, adopt better fertilization practices, motivate people to eat more proteins and less beef, and reduce food waste. 7 Gt
    4. Protect nature: interventions for forests, soil and oceans. 7 Gt
    5. Clean up industry: all manufacturing, particularly cement and steel, must sharply lower their carbon emissions. 8 Gt
    6. Remove carbon: remove CO2 and store it for the long term, using natural and engineered solutions. 10 Gt
  • There are four areas that can accelerate the transition: Policy & politics, Movements, Innovation, and Investment.
  • The plan is geared to the timelines of two other initiatives: E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth challenge to commit 50% of the planet to nature (50×50) and the Campaign for Nature’s call to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 (30×30).


  • What we’re doing is not nearly enough. We need both the now and the new. There is a time when panic is the appropriate response. It is now cheaper to save the earth than to ruin it.
  • Moore’s Law predicted that the number of transistors that could be packed onto a silicon wafer would double roughly every two years. Wright’s Law (named after an aeroplane engineer) calculated that for every doubling of production, aircraft manufacturers could derive a reliable decline in costs. This is exactly what has happened to the price of lithium batteries.
  • Big change needs big investment. Hermann Scheer pushed through a plan in the 90s for Germany to become the first large country to replace coal with solar and wind. It went well at first but enthusiasm waned and the Chinese took over.
  • Emissions by kilogram of food are highest for beef (beef herd – 59.6), lamb & mutton (24.5), cheese (21.2), beef (dairy herd – 21.1), dark chocolate (18.7), coffee (16.5), shrimps (farmed – 11.8), palm oil (7.6) and pig meat (7.2). Interestingly, rice has a score of 4 because the cultivation technique of flooding paddies creates an ideal environment for methane-producing microbes. Controlled, shallow flooding can reduce this by 90% – an important development since rice is a cornerstone food for 3 billion people and provides 20% of calories consumed in the world.
  • 33% of the world’s food is wasted every year.
  • Deforestation funding outpaces forest protection funding by a ratio of forty to one. Indigenous peoples are only 5% of the population while their land contains 80% of the world’s biodiversity.
  • After oceans, peatlands hold the second largest store of carbon in the world.
  • Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, while 75% of the world’s aluminium remains in use today – proof of the potential of the circular economy.


  • The action plan is thoroughly laudable, but a plan is still only a plan. The big frustration is the failure of the big nations and companies to make significant changes.