Sharing my learnings from the book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.
He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete, practical plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions—suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise.
As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.
- Convinced by the testimonials of experts and his own extensive research, Gates has a bottom line: we need to get to zero emissions by 2050.
- To bring our planet back from the brink of disaster, we need to get our greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
- The term “greenhouse gases” does a pretty good job of describing the problem these gases cause. They let the sun’s energy in, but they don’t let the resulting heat escape once it’s bounced back off the earth’s surface. As a result, the heat is trapped, much like the heat inside a greenhouse. It’s the same process that makes the inside of your car hotter than the outside on a sunny, summer afternoon.
- increased temperatures cause more moisture from the earth’s surface to evaporate into the atmosphere. As a result, there are more droughts around the world, more wildfires, and more flooding in areas already in danger of being consumed by water. We need to get to zero emissions because every second we don’t, the situation gets worse.
- Harmful emissions are caused by many things that we’ve come to take for granted. Electricity, heating, transportation, large-scale agriculture, and fundamental construction tools like iron and cement – all of these areas will require serious rethinking if we’re to reach the goal. the only realistic approach for reaching zero is to aim for net zero emissions.
- the biggest contributors to the climate crisis can be broken down into five categories:
- Making things, such as steel and plastic, accounts for 31 percent of our 51 billion tons of emissions.
- Plugging in, or electricity, accounts for 27 percent.
- Growing things, like plants and animals for food, accounts for 19 percent.
- Getting around – be it cars, planes, or cargo ships – accounts for 16 percent.
- Keeping warm and cool, with regard to both ourselves and our things, accounts for 7 percent.
- Electricity is a good place to start because it affects all the other categories. Right now, two-thirds of the world’s electricity is supplied by burning fossil fuels. our innovation efforts should be focused on infrastructure. As things stand, power grids are old, outdated, and reliant on fossil fuels. They need to be updated to allow for alternative sources like solar and wind power to travel over large stretches of land. And if we could supplement that energy with nuclear power, we’d be on our way to getting to zero.
- Things like steel and concrete are being produced in abundance around the world, resulting in great amounts of harmful emissions. And this will only increase as more countries become more prosperous.
- When it comes to alternative, affordable ways of creating carbon, there are already some interesting possibilities. One is carbon capture technology. Theoretically, we could capture and use the carbon emissions from a power plant.
- With regard to plastic, using captured carbon could turn it into a net-negative emission product. We’d be taking away and storing more carbon inside plastic than we’d be releasing.
- our food practices account for more harmful emissions than our transportation practices. throwing away food is also a significant contributor. When food rots, it also produces methane. And we throw away lots of food every year – the equivalent of 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, to be exact. Another hidden cause of food-related emissions is fertilizer.
- When the issue differs from place to place, solutions can be hard to find – which is why we need a coordinated, global approach if we’ve any hope at getting to zero. Governments need to offer incentives for farmers to adopt new practices. But we, as consumers, can do our part by eating less meat, wasting less food, and supporting businesses that employ clean practices.
- Green Premiums essentially highlight the cost differences between current practices and the clean practices that will get us to zero.
- a ton of concrete currently costs around $125 to make. Using carbon capture technology, that cost would be somewhere between $219 and $300. That means the Green Premium, at its highest, is a 140 percent increase. This difference shows that carbon capture technology needs more funding and research in order to become an economically viable option.
- Electrofuels, or hydrocarbon fuels, are also “drop-in” fuels. These work by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and using electricity to combine it with the hydrogen in water. This would, of course, require clean electricity. While advanced biofuels cost a little over twice as much as gasoline, with a 106 percent Green Premium, electrofuels come with a 237 percent Green Premium. Clearly, these are two innovations that need more attention and funding in order to bring their costs down.
- Air conditioning is a good example of a fixable problem. One of the biggest issues with AC is that most countries don’t set minimum standards for energy efficiency. If policies were updated, the energy demand caused by AC units would drop by 45 percent by 2050.
- As for heating, statistics show that furnaces and water heaters are responsible for one-third of all the emissions created by the world’s buildings. In many places, it’s possible to replace your current gas heaters and furnaces with an electric heat pump. This essentially works like your refrigerator, by pumping warm air outside during the summer and inside during the winter. The bonus is that, in the long run, you can save quite a bit of money by installing an electric heat pump.
- there are a lot of steps standing in our way to zero emissions. But there’s also a lot of work to do to adapt and prepare ourselves for the climate change that’s already underway. We need to create better early warning systems for impending floods, storm surges, and rising water levels. We also need to start building more energy efficient homes and updating our infrastructure to accommodate clean energy.
- Something similar needs to happen for carbon capture, biofuels, and other technologies to help us get to zero emissions by 2050. We also need to establish worldwide minimum standards on emissions, with more and better incentives for businesses that meet those standards – and tax penalties for businesses that don’t.
- We need to hit zero by 2050. And if we stay focused, demand action, and put our resources toward the right technologies, we can accomplish this.