Your Stories: Cool, Fascinating and Fun Climate Jobs

Your Stories: Cool, Fascinating and Fun Climate Jobs

Can you find a rewarding career in the climate? Yes, definitely. How do we know? You told us.

Two weeks ago, we asked them to talk about their careers in the field. I am not surprised that almost everyone who has written to us has said that they enjoy what they are doing. (Me too.)

Many of you have changed careers. Why? Because you cared, you needed meaning, you felt compelled to do something. For some, that meant going back to school to learn new skills. Online communities that post jobs and offer tips have also helped.

We hear from people working in investment, climate technology, education, outreach, consulting, engineering, research and more. You said your job is exciting and makes you feel more engaged.

Now for the downsides: many of you said you took a pay cut for changing careers. Not everyone can do this. But you mostly said the switch was worth it.

And you said it can be overwhelming and scary to think about the climate crisis all day at work. But some of you said you’re more optimistic now that you’re doing something about it.

We read all your responses and learned a lot. Here are a few, edited for length and clarity.

Rogier Groeneveld, energy consultant for sustainable housing, The Hague:

I love helping people with their homes, especially now with the energy/gas crisis. It’s wonderful to receive visitors at home and feel where the owners are better served. Both technically and financially, there are many options to choose from. It’s really nice to hear that people like to have a real conversation about their options. The “downside” is that it’s a struggle to actually DO something with impact. Not to lose faith, since the steps are very small and the challenge is enormous.

Ana Yoerg, Venture Capital, Media, Pennsylvania:

I’m the head of marketing for a venture capital firm that invests in climate tech start-ups. It was a mid-career shift from working for a big personal brand, doing content and editorial, to following my passion of helping deep tech start-ups with marketing and communications.

They were incredibly compassionate and deeply caring people. I felt like I had hit the jackpot. VCs with a heart. And a mission to save the planet. Through technology, yes, but also through pure capitalism. They only invest in start-ups with better unit economics than their existing solution. Because they are practical and understand that a green premium will never catalyze a change in buying behavior.

The biggest pro right now, I would say, is street cred. That is, the interest of others. Other marketing people in VC are like, wow, weather? That’s great. It must be a good narrative. Vaccines for bees, biodegradable styrofoam, drones that plant trees at 120/minute? Yes please. My 9 and 11 year olds also think what I’m doing is incredibly cool. They still haven’t invited me to speak to their class. So maybe I’m overestimating the hip factor. Dinner conversations are fun.

Mary Goldman, Financial Reporting, Cambridge, England:

I like being in a position where I can challenge the C-suite to think more about climate change and how it will affect their business and start conversations about how they need to adjust their strategy to respond to climate risk. Cons include the internal politics and the feeling of always shouting into the void. Sometimes I have to take clients on a long journey, even acknowledging that climate change is real.

Scott Hackel, non-profit research, Madison, Wisconsin:

We conduct applied research on new approaches, both technological and human, to equitably mitigate climate change. It’s really fun to always be working on new and innovative approaches. It is constantly evolving. And the applied nature of the work means interacting with all the people using these new approaches and those working to bring them to market. Watching the community interact with innovation is rewarding and fascinating. The downside is that applied research takes a lot longer than conventional implementation, is fraught with all sorts of practical barriers, and ultimately means a fair amount of failure.

Alexander Flake, Patent Law, Boulder, Colorado:

As a legal services professional, I found it difficult to find purpose in my previous roles. There didn’t seem to be a patent agency with that focus on climate, so I created one myself. Since then, I have found my work much more rewarding. Even though I’m doing very similar work, it feels like I’m part of something bigger than myself rather than being primarily motivated by profit. The downside is that I’m making a lot less money than I did at the established company where I worked previously. As the space as a whole grows, I am confident that I will be able to secure more business and improve business profitability without sacrificing values.

And here’s a final thought: Don’t want to change careers? All work can be climate work, as some readers have observed. You could be the person pushing your employer to reduce company emissions, start recycling, adapt to rising flood risks. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write!

Do not mention ESG: Concerned about accusations of greenwashing and “awakened capitalism,” some business advisers are urging clients to avoid talking about climate initiatives.

Mapping superstorms at sea: Understanding the secrets of a warming ocean sometimes requires navigating straight into the biggest hurricanes. It can be a wild ride.

Common sense composting tips: Don’t dwell on details. Just do it and focus on the big picture.

Free parking land: In “Paved Paradise,” Henry Grabar examines how America’s obsession with parking has transformed streets and cities, none of which for the better.

Jigar Shah runs a federal program that suddenly has a flood of money to borrow before the next election. As part of the Reducing Inflation Act, Congress overstretched its agency’s authority to obtain loans for clean energy companies, increasing it tenfold to more than $400 billion. The task comes with huge expectations – and high stakes.

Claire O’Neill, Chris Plourde and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward


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