Who Will Be the World’s First Climate Trillionaire?

Chunka Mui
5 min readOct 5, 2021

You may never have heard of Mukesh Ambani. He’s the wealthiest person in Asia with a net worth just shy of $100B. He is also currently number eleven on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List. Ambani’s net worth jumped $3.7B recently just on the announcement that his company will “aggressively” pursue the production of cheap green hydrogen.

You have likely heard of Elon Musk. Musk’s net worth hovers closer to $200B, and he and Jeff Bezos are neck and neck for the top spot on the Forbes list. Elon Musk’s fortune is primarily due to the market value of Tesla, which as of this writing is approximately $750B.

Musk and Ambani are high on my shortlist of people who might become the world’s first trillionaire. That’s because the common thread between Musk’s fortune and Ambani’s recent multibillion-dollar jump in wealth is climate change. Or, more precisely, the prospect that their future ventures will significantly slow climate change and mitigate its worse effects.

Tesla, for instance, is worth more than most of the rest of the automotive industry combined — even though its market share in 2020 was only about 1% of global new car sales. That’s because market values are a bet on future growth, and investors believe the need to address climate change will drive the wholesale replacement of gas-burning vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs). This will drive massive growth for Tesla.

However, EVs are just a small part of the massive economic transition necessary to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Globally, we emit about 50 billion tons of carbon each year. Transportation is only responsible for about 16% of those emissions. What’s more, cars and trucks are only responsible for nearly half (or 8%) of transportation-related emissions. If Tesla sells enough cars to reduce a significant part of that 8%, Musk’s worth will shoot well past the trillion-dollar mark.

The other 92% of carbon emissions that still needs to be reduced provides ample opportunity for Ambani and other climate innovators to develop and deliver other breakthrough products needed to save the planet. It’s like selling umbrellas when it’s raining, but with an astronomical worldwide addressable market.

Chunka Mui

Futurist and Innovation Advisor. I try to carry out Alan Kay’s exhortation that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”