Professor of Management Practice Joe Lassiter is inspired by small teams that dream about how to change the world. He serves as the Faculty Chair of the University-wide Harvard Innovation Lab, which he describes as “a place where students can learn how to put their ideas to use.”

“Small teams empowered by ingenuity, passion and collaboration have often provided highly innovative solutions to many of the world’s most complex and pressing challenges.”

Much of Lassiter’s recent case writing focuses on low-carbon energy technologies. Having studied biofuels, electric vehicles, solar, shale gas and nuclear, he believes the core challenges of managing climate change are much more political and regulatory than technical or economic.

One of those challenges is that carbon emitters, as well as the users of carbon-intensive products, don’t have direct accountability for the impacts of carbon emissions on the consequences of climate change. Regulatory change and the political support to keep the regulations enforced will be glacially slow to muster, he predicts, and a great deal of carbon will be emitted in the meantime. “Carbon will be emitted in most cases, not because the emitters are stupid or evil,” says Lassiter, “but because they genuinely believe that for the people they serve, the certain benefit of the present outweighs the potential pain of the future.”

Unless we create alternatives that are cost-competitive with natural (unsequestered) coal in India and China, he does not think world-wide carbon emissions will fall soon enough to avoid material impacts, particular on the world’s poor. As a result, Lassiter believes that the world truly needs an “energy miracle” and he has not given up searching for one. He feels the most pressing areas for study today are carbon capture, new nuclear and geoengineering – technologies that may have the scalability “to deal with our changing world, if we choose to let them.”

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