Catalyst Fall 2018
Member Profile

This LinkedIn Employee Goes All In for UCS

Photo: Tyler Mussetter/mportraitsgallery.com

Ben Lai is a problem solver. As a senior software engineer at the professional networking service LinkedIn, he leads a team that supports and improves internal software development tools used by every LinkedIn engineer. And as a concerned parent, worried about what climate change will mean for his children’s future, he sees a wide gap between what science tells us about global warming and what people understand. So, he wrote and published a book about climate change titled Never Were. And he became a supporter of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Climate change is such a complicated beast,” Lai says. “People have to be able to grasp its consequences. We need translators who can explain technical concepts so they can be shared democratically. UCS is seen by many people as a definitive source of information. It’s a great source for educating ourselves.”

Last year, Lai and his coworker Neha Jain, a software engineering manager equally passionate about climate change, worked together to raise funds for UCS through a LinkedIn initiative that donated three dollars for every one dollar that employees contributed. “You’ve got to enlist as many people as you can,” says Lai. “When I see that UCS is working on policy and legislation, and promoting renewable energy in a variety of states, and also fighting back against what President Trump and his administration are trying to do, it’s like David versus Goliath.”

For Future Generations

Lai says he and Jain plan to keep rallying their colleagues and others to support UCS. “If you care about what happens five years or 10 years from now, then you have to care about climate change. And if you do, UCS is one of only a few institutions that carry the flag for fighting climate change with information and resources.”

Frame the problem correctly, Lai says—as UCS works to do—and people will come together to solve it. “If we screw up this planet, it’s not something we can easily reverse,” he says. “We’re either going to make life really hard for our descendants, or not. When we recognize that, people can begin to cooperate and throw themselves into solving hard problems. We can achieve amazing results.”