He quit Google to work on climate change. Now, he’s helping others do the same thing

By Adele Peters

Three years ago, while working as a software engineer at Google, Eugene Kirpichov happened to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth on a long flight. On the flight back, he watched the sequel. Afterward, he couldn’t stop thinking about climate change. “Every time I would meet someone who was a real [climate] expert, I would ask them, ‘Is it really that bad?'” he says. “And they’d say, ‘Yeah, it’s really that bad.'”

The more he learned about the problem, the more anxiety and despair he felt. Then the pandemic hit, adding a new source of anxiety. But Kirpichov, now 34 years old, started volunteering on a project to build a low-cost ventilator, and it changed how he felt about COVID-19: He was focused on finding a solution rather than fear. He realized that he might have the same experience with climate. And even though he had a plum job in machine learning at Google—and had been there for seven and a half years—he decided to leave to find new work on climate solutions. Cassandra Xia, a friend at Google, decided to leave at the same time, as each convinced the other that it was the right choice.

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