Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 17: Trade secrets and climate change: uncovering secret solutions to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions
Climate change is a significant and complex problem facing the world today. But despite general scientific consensus, and the recent adoption of the Paris Climate Treaty, actual solutions remain elusive; ‘Sir Mark Walport, the [British] government's top science adviser, said the climate change debate had to move on from arguments over the reality of global warming to more pressing questions of what the country should do in response.’ To solve the problem will require the coordinated efforts of both the public and private sectors. As with earlier challenges of global significance (such as the polio epidemic), new and improved technologies promise solutions. If we can develop and employ technologies that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can impede global warming and stem the tide of negative consequences. However, recognizing that technologies might hold promise for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and actually discovering and implementing those technologies are two different things. Trade secrecy will need to be deployed correctly so as to encourage the creation of these new technologies while not becoming a barrier to understanding them. For example, the obstacles to solving the polio epidemic were two-fold: find a cure and effectively disseminate the cure throughout the world. Both of these obstacles were overcome when Jonas Salk dedicated himself to finding a cure and decided not to patent his invention or keep it secret.
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