Highlights from the New Bill Gates Book on Climate Change

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster’ is a fantastic read for people who are new to climate change. To my surprise, Bill Gates is also relatively new to the space (although he’s ahead by over a decade compared to most people!) He changed his mind on the topic in 2006 and I believe his newness to the topic led to a more accessible climate book. In the introduction he writes:

“Things changed for me in late 2006 when I met with two former Microsoft colleagues who were starting nonprofits focused on energy and climate. They brought along two climate scientists who were well versed in the issues, and the four of them showed me the data connecting greenhouse gas emissions to climate change.

I knew that greenhouse gases were making the temperature rise, but I had assumed that there were cyclical variations or other factors that would naturally prevent a true climate disaster. And it was hard to accept that as long as humans kept emitting any amount of greenhouse gases, temperatures would keep going up.

I went back to the group several times with follow-up questions. Eventually it sank in. The world needs to provide more energy so the poorest can thrive, but we need to provide that energy without releasing any more greenhouse gases.”

— How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Hardback version, Page 7)

Bill Gates does well to avoid technical jargon in the book, and balances pessimistic realism with reasons to be optimistic. This makes the book an easy and encouraging read.

Below are some of the highlights I made in the book but the full title is worth reading if you’d like to learn more about climate change and what we can do about it.

  • We add 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually. That’s about 1 billion a week. The warming impact is equivalent to detonating 1 Hiroshima-sized nuke every second of every day, all year round.
  • Oil is so cheap that it’s cheaper than a soft drink. In 2020 a barrel of oil cost around $40 — that’s just 25 cents per litre. In pound sterling today that’s 18 pence, while a litre of coke at Tesco costs £1.45. (Notice that even though oil is cheap today, the price doesn’t reflect the potentially irreversible costs of climate change.)
  • Around 50% of global CO2 emissions come from just 15% of the world’s countries. These are China (27%), USA (15%), EU and the UK (10%). (Bill Gates framed this slightly differently in his book, noting that “nearly 40% of the world’s emissions are produced by the richest 16% of the population.”)
  • Cement is especially worth highlighting. The following statistic isn’t from Bill Gates’ book but it’s telling nonetheless: “If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the word,” according to Carbon Brief.
  • The UK is currently the biggest user of offshore wind energy but China will likely take that position within a decade. (Ps. Offshore wind powers around 10% of the UK’s electricity and could be cheaper than gas by 2023.)
  • Carbon capture is an exciting new technology that can remove CO2 from the air directly. However, it’s technically challenging and expensive. This is because CO2 makes up just 1 molecule for every 2,500 molecules in the atmosphere (or 3.8 per 10,000).
  • The poorest countries will suffer the most from climate change yet they are the least responsible. For example, Africa accounts for just 2–3% of global emissions but it will be the hardest hit by climate change. This BBC article covers why this is the case.

Originally published at https://michaeltefula.com on March 23, 2021.

team @CIRCA5000 | venture partner @adaventures | volunteer @diversityvc | my books in link below | views my own

team @CIRCA5000 | venture partner @adaventures | volunteer @diversityvc | my books in link below | views my own