Kevin Surace: Building Climate Change Solutions

Kevin Surace: Building Climate Change Solutions

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh DialoguesKevin Surace on Fresh Dialogues

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Kevin Surace is serious about tackling global warming and argues that producing energy saving building materials can go a long way to cutting down CO2 emissions and reducing energy consumption in the United States. He’s CEO of Serious Materials, a Sunnyvale based maker of eco drywall, windows and other building materials; and frequent speaker * on global warming and the built environment. *His TED speech is worth checking out.

We discussed the influence of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in helping create a market for green products; the pace of global warming; and whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for green. Kevin outlined how his company uses new media to get its message out and why his company is growing rapidly, despite the shrinking economy.

On how climate awareness grew in 2005

 “By 2005, there was much more awareness of the climate change issue, but even clean tech wasn’t a term before that. By 2005, the climate issue had come to the front of minds:  on scientists’ minds, at the United Nations, in the world.”

On the relative importance of buildings vs. cars in CO2 emissions

Kevin argues that residential and commercial buildings account for the largest proportion of CO2 emissions (52% of world emissions for buildings and their operations) compared to passanger cars which only make up only 9% of world CO2 emissions.

On the influence of An Inconvenient Truth

“It allowed the American public to get the story in a way they never got it before and that’s when I could step back and say: there’s an opportunity here to actually make a difference.”

On the pace of global warming

“When you look at the raw data, everything’s happening five or ten times faster than the IPCC  (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) said it was going to. So this is extremely scary and wakes you up.”

Are consumers willing to pay a premium for green?

“I don’t think they’ll ever be willing to pay a premium. That’s been our thinking from Day One.”

The interview was recorded on June 30, 2009 at Serious Materials in Sunnyvale, California.