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SAN FRANCISCO — Technology and business leaders gathered here on Thursday to discuss solutions to rising global temperatures at ClimateTECH, a conference hosted by The New York Times.
The conversation ranged from detailed plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy, like improving energy storage, to transformative ideas like producing meat without raising animals and engineering a solution to the air-conditioning crisis.
Here are some of the major themes from the conference:
A strong theme running through the discussions with clean technology entrepreneurs was that the Trump administration’s position on climate change was disappointing, but not worrisome.
“Just stay out of the freaking way and let us innovate and move forward as fast as we possibly can,” Mary Powell, president and chief executive of the Vermont utility Green Mountain Power, said of the federal government.
Others said they were essentially ignoring Washington as they worked to find practical solutions to cut carbon emissions and encourage clean energy — “bypassing the politics,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer at Walmart. “I wouldn’t say that political winds are favorable to the climate agenda right now,” she said, “but we’re trying to make it practical and favorable from a common-sense point of view.”
Not everyone bought in to that line of thought. Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, made a very different prediction.
“All the companies that thought the last eight years were too over-regulated, in eight years they’re going to be begging for regulation,” he said. “You cannot create the Wild West on energy.”
The future of agriculture might be taking shape in Silicon Valley.
Agriculture, forestry and changes in land use together produce about 21 percent of global emissions, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. With the global population expected to approach 10 billion by 2050, agriculture is a critical part of the climate puzzle.
One proposal came from Uma Valeti, a co-founder of Memphis Meats in San Leandro, Calif., which is racing to develop “clean” meats for humans that are grown from animal cells in a lab. The company hopes to to start selling its product by 2021.
The Farmers Business Network, based in San Carlos, Calif., is helping farmers aggregate data for more efficient agriculture. Nancy E. Pfund, whose venture capital firm DBL Partners is helping to finance the group, said the fund was helping farmers understand when they use too much water, electricity or seeds, “not because they’re doing it wrong, but because they haven’t had that data to understand how to optimize.”
Both Mr. Emanuel and Edwin M. Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, said climate change was increasingly a municipal issue.
“As we get these rains that come in torrents, my Embarcadero roadway gets flooded,” Mr. Lee said. “It comes over the piers. It used to never happen like that.”
Mr. Emanuel said his city was experiencing unusual weather extremes. Just a few years ago a blizzard dumped 24 inches of snow in less than 12 hours — while last year Chicago saw its driest winter since record-keeping began.
Mayors of 80 North American cities will meet in Chicago next week, Mr. Emanuel said, to sign “customized, very specific benchmark plans” to help meet former President Barack Obama’s pledge under the Paris agreement to cut domestic emissions at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Michael Shellenberger, the founder of the nuclear advocacy group Environmental Progress, announced on Thursday that he intends to run for governor of California. Support for nuclear energy is, not surprisingly, is a key part of his platform.
Mr. Shellenberger, who described himself as a lifelong Democrat, said he was running as an independent. He declined to say how much money he had raised, and said his sole endorsement so far came from James Hansen, the former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies who is a supporter of nuclear energy.
“He’s the only one I’ve asked,” Mr. Shellenberger said. But, he added, “I’m running to win.”