Do You Even Decarbonize, Bro?

The decarb bros think that new technology is the best way to combat climate change, and they are focusing on that instead of the gloom of earlier environmentalism.

Do You Even Decarbonize, Bro?

Decarb Bros think it will all be fine.

They think that I.P.A.s are best paired with conversation about smart grid management and electric vehicle infrastructure. They trade memes on Twitter, and form messaging groups around their enthusiasm for technology.

The bros are a loose association of young climate technologists, researchers, policymakers, and those who follow along online. They believe in making light of themselves at least a bit. They call themselves 'Decarb Bros', regardless of their gender identity or ability to lift weights.

Billy Casagrande is a Climate Tech start-up employee at Scale Microgrids. He said, "We are against doomerism." He was referring a pessimistic belief that humanity is no longer able to combat climate change.

Decarb Bro, a 25-year-old self described decarb, continued, "The consensus among young people appears to be that we are screwed in relation to climate." Mr. Casagrande is one of the dozens who attend a monthly clean energy meet-up held in Brooklyn's Williamsburg district. He believes that there are other ways.

"The solutions are right here." The solutions are here.

Decarb bros have adopted the rallying cry "Deploy". They claim that by deploying climate technologies -- such as solar panels, heat pumps and electric cars -- they can decarbonize our economy, while also generating huge financial returns.

Kyri Bakker, assistant professor of engineering and self-described "decarb bro", said that the environmental movement is traditionally seen as altruistic. It was all about giving stuff away and making sacrifices.

The decarbbro flips these associations on their head, rejecting pure gloom and placing faith in government spending and business innovation to combat climate change.

According to Dr. Baker, the term bro has been historically associated with toxic masculinity. She believes that the term has shifted and is now inclusive of both genders. She said that a decarb bro was'someone working towards something we all care about,' without adopting a sacrificial attitude of traditional environmentalism.

Dr. Baker views the decarb bro-culture as an antidote for the self-seriousness and wonkiness of some parts of the environment movement. She cited in particular the Twitter account Bros for decarbonization which shares memes connecting bro-approved activities – namely drinking and lifting weights – with decarbonizing our economy.

As a competitive powerlifter Dr. Baker enjoyed the frequent gym references in this account. She said, 'It is a bro thing to store your weights. It is a bro thing to store your carbon emissions.'


James McGinniss felt the same way as Dr. Baker. He is the founder of David Energy a climate technology start-up that has received over $20 million dollars in funding.

For decades, saving our planet was seen to require sacrifice. Paul Sabin, Yale's environmental historian, said that environmentalists were concerned primarily with scarcity, consumption reduction and population growth.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist. He said that green technology development was at a different phase. Solar panels weren't yet commercially viable, and electric vehicles were still decades from becoming mainstream.

McKibben stated that 'in the past, we thought of clean energy as alternative energy -- the Whole Foods for energy.' He continued that now that pointing a piece of glass towards the sun was the cheapest method to generate power on the planet, green-powered goods can be the "Safeway."

For many, the change in technology has changed what it means to be involved with climate. In the first decade of the 21st century, limiting emissions was usually done by a government agency or NGO. Working for a financial institution, a consultancy, or a new start-up can also be an option today.

Mr. Sabin stated that the business has caught up.

Sabin warned against an over-reliance on technology in the fight against climate change. He said that a strategy of abundance is based on the belief that technological innovation will allow us to achieve all our goals. But we haven’t produced this solution yet.

The decarbbro is unfazed.

According to Mr. Casagrande, the only way for us to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 will be through abundance – that is, creating products that are both emission-reducing and people want to purchase.

By using a business mindset to scale up decarbonized technologies, you can entice consumers with products not only because they have a lower carbon footprint but also because they are more appealing. The products must be either faster (think of high-torque, electric vehicles) cheaper (think solar panels that provide electricity for free or almost free), or cooler (that's subjective).

Washington has at least one supporter of the decarb bro philosophy - 'the carrot instead of a stick'. Jigar Shah, the Director of the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office which provides debt financing for energy projects, is a fan of the decarb bro philosophy. He is a frequent Twitter user of the Bros for Decarbonization account, responding to tweets, and highlighting its pro-tech, growth philosophy.

In an interview, Mr. Shah stated that the modern environmental movement aims to accelerate climate solutions by using technology. "Bros for Decarb" shows how persistence and a positive attitude are important in achieving this goal.


Dr. Baker stated that even talking about cars or other (guilt free) goods you can buy represents a significant change in the way environmentalism is perceived. In the past, practicing environmentalism meant buying less or downsizing one's car. This is no longer true.

She said, 'The Nissan Leaf is not cool.' "But if you go into a Tesla, that is something indescribable."

Decarb Bros may find that people are looking for work.

Climate Tech VC, a newsletter, reported that more than $64 billion was invested in firms investing in climate start ups last year. The excitement about climate technology has continued despite fears that a recession is coming.

McGinniss said that the anti-doom and gloom, techno-optimist ethos of decarb bro is present in the entire climate tech ecosystem. Climate tech, he said, embraces optimism. 'There are incredible solutions out there.

Naya Shim is an associate in a climate technology fellowship program. She says that the tech "is bright, shiny, new and screams opportunities." It's like a goldmine.

According to Ms. Shim there is a social urgency in highlighting the economic advantages of the climate change movement. She does not consider her self a decarbbro, but she has seen the impact the decarbbro philosophy and its message of opportunity for economic growth have on her peers.

Previously, people wanted to work in cryptography or at high-paying software companies that sold ads. Ms. Shim finds it encouraging to see that more of her friends, including her finance bros, are interested in working in climate change.

She said, 'The planet is the next big thing'. Without it, NFTs will not exist.

Sara Hastings Simon, a decarb-bro enthusiast, scientist and craft beer drinker, explained that the decarbbro aligns profit incentives with good deeds for the world. She said that the decarb bro was a 'bro for climate' who is "enlightened".

Isaias Hernandez is an environmental educator who founded the Instagram account queerbrownvegan. He's not so sure. He said: 'We cannot frame the ecological crises as a means to profit.' He fears that this incentive structure will lead to greenwashing, and even inequality.

He said that when you speak to climate-tech bros, they are very fixated on one solution.

Hernandez instead wants his audience think about tackling climate change by organizing at the grass-roots level. He said that when we rely on big technocratic solutions for saving our communities, these don't often involve the community.

Mr. Hernandez's critical examination of the role played by business in combating climate change is not unique. Degrowth, a subset of environmentalism, believes that economic growth no longer benefits humanity, and that combating climate change requires a shift away from the focus on Gross Domestic Product.

Money is still a powerful motivation for the decarb brother to solve the planet crisis. Casagrande stated that there are many economic opportunities. I don't believe people should feel bad about it.