Chesley Bonestell, “The Exploration of Mars” (1953), oil on board, 143/8 x 28 inches, gift of William Estler, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Reproduced courtesy of Bonestell LLC.

Can Bureaucracy Start a Climate Revolution?

Kartikeya Singh and Lisa Margonelli

Illustration by Joycelyn Cabrera.

The struggle to limit carbon emissions often pits sustainable energy against fossil fuels. But does it have to be this way? As Kartikeya Singh writes in a new essay for Issues in Science and Technology, India’s carbon-heavy government ministries have shown a surprising ability to engineer deep change: the nation brought electricity to over half a billion citizens between 2009 and 2019, then presided over a grid where wind and solar became cheaper than power from coal. Could these ministries—which employ millions of people—transform the country’s energy sector to be ecologically and economically sustainable? Instead of pinning all our hopes on technology, entrepreneurs, and politicians, what can the world accomplish by harnessing fossil fuel bureaucracies for the future?

In partnership with Zócalo, Kartikeya Singh, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Issues editor-in-chief Lisa Margonelli ask how bureaucracies might embrace obsolescence and reinvent themselves to address today’s most urgent problems.

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