Today Bill Gates’ new book, How to avoid a climate disaster, is officially being released. The book is Gates’ view on “the solutions we have and the breakthroughs we need” on how best to “get to zero”.
Gates is a firm believer in the need to electrify human activity as far as possible – from the way we cook and heat our homes, to the way we transport ourselves and manufacture our day-to-day requirements.
Gates’ take on the lingering efficiency issues for solar panels being part of the issue has been dismissed by some critics as not focussing on the right elements. Bill McKibben implied in the New York Times that because “the price of solar has dropped astonishingly in the last decade” we should be less concerned with efficiency, saying “every time we double the number of panels installed, the price drops another 30 to 40 per cent, and there’s plenty of runway left.” While McKibben may well have a point, one does wonder how much of the world’s surface we would like to see covered in solar panels or wind turbines.
The book, says Gates, was written in order to “explain the science in a clear and compelling way.” But is also an attempt to address the difficult problem of furthering development while reducing emissions. His purpose is to bring attention to the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere annually and consider how we can get to zero tons by 2050.
The power sector accounts for 27% of all emissions globally, but it is manufacturing that still is responsible for the biggest share of emissions. “The hardest problems to solve are in areas like steel and concrete and even transportation things like aviation fuel,” Gates told Forbes reporter Kerry Dolan. One part of the solution, says Gates, is to encourage as much government R&D into reducing emissions in manufacturing as possible.
Gates estimates that in the US alone more than $35 billion annually would be needed to encourage the level of R&D needed to appropriately tackle energy innovation.
He is clear, however, that climate change is a global challenge, and needs to be tackled by everyone. Hence, he is a firm believer that whatever the technological innovations are, they must be affordable to even the poorest countries.
In the past, Gates has been criticised for his continued support of carbon-emitting companies. In his book, Gates writes “In 2019, I divested all my direct holdings in oil and gas companies, as did the trust that manages the Gates Foundation’s endowment.” That being said, according to Bloomberg, more than $100 million of Gates Foundation money remains invested in stocks oil and gas companies. It appears that divesting of stocks is not a simple or a quick process – and in fact, activists estimate that it takes up to 5 years for full divestment to occur. Of course, with more and more traditional oil and gas companies moving into new energy ventures, divesting from them may not be as easy as originally anticipated.
What do you think? Would you be interested in reading Bill Gates’ book? Do you think Gates has the credibility to write on this subject with any authority or is he, as he says himself, merely a rich guy with an opinion? If you had almost unlimited resourced, what would your suggestion be for addressing climate change? Is climate change just a bunch of nonsense, scaremongering by scientists with too much time on their hands?
Have a great week!
Until next time,