One question left unanswered by the 2015 Paris Agreement is exactly how the world will meet the daunting technological challenges that lie ahead. This article proposes a global strategy to build up human capital oriented towards two bodies of knowledge: alternative, non-fossil systems of energy generation, delivery and consumption; and a deeper understanding of climate systems that might be geoengineered to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Simply committing funding to climate technology is insufficient; a global climate technology policy must take into account the unique growth properties of human capital, and the conditions under which it can grow.
Human capital should be the focus of an international climate agreement for three reasons. Firstly, the wrong kind of human capital (attached to fossil fuel-related methods of energy generation and consumption) has helped to create an unfavourable political economy for climate policy. Secondly, the right kind of human capital (broader, and building on fundamental understandings of energy systems and climate systems) can create a more favourable political economy for climate policy. Thirdly, the technological changes needed for both mitigation and geoengineering technologies are so profound that a human capital stock must be developed with a conscious focus on radical technological change that can be delivered quickly. While individual countries may pursue an enlightened human capital policy on their own, cooperation at the international level would maximize the scale economies of inventive effort.