Tomer Shalit: Encouraging Cities to Tackle Climate Change, One Step at a Time
Hi everyone, it’s Spiffy, your friendly interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on climate change. Today I’m excited to have Tomer Shalit, founder of ClimateView, with us today.
Spiffy: Tomer, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. I’ve been learning all about climate action. Can you tell me about your work and the environmental issues you’re trying to solve?
Tomer: It’s great to be here, Spiffy. You know, climate change is the biggest, most complex challenge of our era. In fact, it’s a complexity that has paralyzed and prevented progress for too long. I founded ClimateView based on agile methodologies because climate change is a challenge that desperately requires a new approach.
Spiffy: So, you’ve noticed that things are stuck. What new approach have you envisioned?
Tomer: Well, Spiffy, I’m a strong believer in the fact that climate change can only be tackled by focusing on hope, rather than fear. This means emphasizing the fact that there is a way ahead, and celebrating the progress happening everyday. Looking at climate change as a whole, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it’s easier to be optimistic when applying agile methodology principles and breaking down the challenge into small, manageable pieces — taking one step at a time, focusing on the short term and solving the problem together. ClimateView does just that by focusing on the city-level — enabling the city to think and act at its own level, about its own problems and emissions — and by breaking down its overall goals into small, actionable pieces. We also encourage the formation of learning networks between cities.
Spiffy: That sounds very unique. What motivated you to approach it in this way?
Tomer: I used to work as a consultant in agile transitions. I guided businesses and enhanced their capacity at tackling complex projects and problems. This agile strategy functioned well and yielded great results. What always bothered me was realizing that if this strategy was so good, why weren’t we using it to solve bigger problems, like those of a nation attempting to transition to a fossil-free economy? This disconnect between the multiplicity of powerful methods that are available to us, and how little we make use of them to solve big problems, led me to start ClimateView.
Spiffy: Wow, how do you maintain your energy level and stay so agile?
Tomer: Great question, Spiffy! What keeps me going is that everyday I meet so many people, on so many levels, who are determined to make a change. That kind of thing energizes me more than ever.
Spiffy: And we need that more than ever, don’t we? So how do you think your work will address the inequality that is so prevalent today?
Tomer: At the source of climate change is an inequitable world: the world’s richest 1% produce double the CO2 emissions of the world’s poorest 50%. Climate change is forecast to make our world even more inequitable by disproportionately affecting certain communities and regions. With the technology we’ve developed, we believe we’ve found a way to solve the climate crisis at the global level, by starting small and moving incrementally, which we are hopeful will prevent a drift towards more inequity.
Spiffy: “Slow and steady wins the race,” isn’t that the saying? I understand you’ve embarked on a few new projects.
Tomer: We have! In May 2020, we launched Transition Targets. These are software encapsulations of the shifts that cities need to make to achieve meaningful carbon abatement results. For the first time, this created a clear framework for cities to take action. We’re also really proud to be launching the Transition Project, an Open Data Initiative which we hope will create synergies, prompt more innovation and solutions for the climate, and take the work that ClimateView has done even further.
Spiffy: It sounds like this could open the door to so many possibilities! You have all of these great innovations, but have you ever encountered failure?
Tomer: Absolutely, Spiffy. You know, we spent substantial resources to develop a new module at ClimateView and we hit a dead end. For a time, it felt like we didn’t know how to dig ourselves out. The process gave us some pretty deep insights into our underlying simulation model and provided us with a new and powerful way forward on which to deliver. More importantly, digging ourselves out of that impasse gave the team a profound feeling of trust and unity and highlighted so many of our core values as a company. We realized we actually thrive and enjoy solving difficult problems together!
Spiffy: There’s nothing like successful group work! I have one final question for you: I always love hearing about the unexpected lessons that entrepreneurs are learning. Do you have anything to add to my story collection?
Tomer: We’ve learned a lot from our interns recently, Spiffy! They bring incredible and invaluable perspectives to challenging problems. We recently had an intern solve a complicated UX (user experience) problem by applying a completely fresh lense and creating something both really useful and beautiful, so we’re extremely grateful.
Spiffy: Useful and beautiful — just like the Planet Earth. Thank you for inspiring us to think outside the box, Tomer. It’s been a pleasure.
Tomer Shalit is an agile development expert and co-founder and CEO of ClimateView, a platform designed to enable rapid and lasting carbon abatement in cities. (Nominated by Gaingels)