Innovation to Power the Nation and the World: Reinventing our Climate Future


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USPTO Graphic with Quote from USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee on Climate Innovation
USPTO Graphic with Quote from USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee on Climate Innovation

Climate change is both a real and a growing threat. Federal agencies such as the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) demonstrate this threat regularly through powerful statistics. For example, 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, and last year officially marked the warmest year ever recorded.  Additionally, May 2016 was the 13th consecutive warmest month on record and the warmest May on record for the globe. And while global sea levels rose about 6.7 inches over the course of the 20th Century, that rate has nearly doubled in just the last decade.

What do we need to address this growing threat? Innovation.

That’s why the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in partnership with the Carnegie Institution for Science, the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), hosted Innovation to Power the Nation (and the World) on June 29 to discuss the challenge of man-made climate change – and what we can do to change course.  

As America’s “Innovation Agency,” we at the USPTO promote creative problem-solving of our world’s most vexing problems. Climate change is a formidable challenge indeed, almost unparalleled in its complexity. And a complex problem like this needs a complex solution, one approached from all angles by many innovative minds.

Innovation in the generation, conservation, storage, and transmission of energy will help the U.S. and other nations meet the ambitious goals set at the United Nations climate change conference held in Paris in December 2015. This agreement signaled to the world our collective commitment to embrace investment and ingenuity in solving our climate change challenges.

Patents historically have been behind groundbreaking advances in energy production, and that won’t change. In fact, data tells us the role of patents in promoting energy innovation is increasing. According to the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index, the number of annual clean energy patents has increased five-fold since 2002, and that number is expected this year to break another record after eight consecutive increases.           

As new energy sources have made their way into our lives, innovative entrepreneurs have found ways to make use of those sources. They’ve launched businesses, created jobs, grown the economy, and without a doubt, improved our standard of living. In fact, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker frequently highlights the significant opportunities that will arise for U.S. businesses as a direct result of new policies and actions to address climate change. As she noted earlier this year in Denver, Colorado, there’s an “enormous demand for goods and services offered by our renewable companies and great innovators.”

Innovation to Power the Nation (and the World) featured two inventors inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame—Drs. Bandval Jayant Baliga and Kristina Johnson—as well as former Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator and now C2ES President Bob Perciasepe, and Hewlett-Packard Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer Nathan Hurst. I encourage you to view the webcast of this insightful event, read my own remarks, and think about what you can do to be part of our innovative future.

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Last updated: 2016-06-30 10:37

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