America needs to take the lead in the shift toward green energy, and Yale students can help. At least according to Yosef Abramowitz, the president and CEO of Energiya Global Capital and co-founder of the Arava Power Company.
Abramowitz spoke to about 40 students Sunday about the dangers of climate change and how solar power can have a positive environmental impact. As Israel’s leading solar developer, the Arava Power Company built the first grid-connected solar field in Israel and aims to provide at least 10 percent of Israel’s electricity through solar power.
“It’s not rocket science,” Abramowitz told the crowd. “The world you are inheriting is rapidly changing. What are we going to do about it? What’s our responsibility?”
Abramowitz said the grim effects of climate change — such as severe droughts in Africa, tropical storms in the United States, floods in low-lying regions and water shortages — exacerbate world poverty and hinder educational efforts.
Rising carbon dioxide levels in developed regions are especially problematic, Abramowitz said, explaining that the resulting damage to the ozone layer will become irreversible within four to five years unless action is taken.
When Abramowitz first arrived in Israel, he said he found barren deserts and lots of sunlight but no solar power infrastructure. With years of experience at non-governmental organizations under his belt, Abramowitz, along with a few colleagues, decided to found the Arava Power Company, he said.
“When we got started, we had no idea what we were doing,” he said.
Though his company is for-profit, Abramowitz said its mission is to promote positive environmental change for the planet. He added that he believes incorporating business practices with a nonprofit-like mission is an effective way to handle a crisis like global warming.
Non-governmental organizations do not have the resources to bring electricity to the masses, but companies can often use their capital to find efficient ways to solve world problems, he said.
“You have to be prepared to fail,” Abramowitz said. “In Israel, people are not afraid to fail, so we are risk takers. And by taking risks, we innovate.”
Abramowitz said the world is locked into a system in which thousands of people are killed because of disputes over oil reserves. Oil companies are indirectly affecting global politics and harming the planet because of their negative influence on geopolitics and oil’s contributions to global warming, he said.
People should be “outraged” at oil companies for their irresponsibility, and Yale students should take risks to bring about change, he said.
“It’s kind of obvious,” Abramowitz said. “We are being irresponsible. Somebody has to lead. America has to lead. You have to lead — good luck with that.”
Students interviewed said they thought Abramowitz provided a thought-provoking perspective on how to deal with climate change.
“It was inspiring and hopeful that individuals can bring together private capital and structure to make positive change,” Jon Silverstone ’15 said. But he added, “It’s going to take a global effort to bring positive change.”
Emma Ryan ’17 said she found Abramowitz’s arguments for using a business model to bring about social justice interesting. Eliza Dach ’17 said she was struck by Abramowitz’s description of how oil companies are indirectly affecting wars.
“America is an influential power — why aren’t we acting?” she said.
The Arava Power Company was founded in 2006.