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Decoding: Avoiding a climate disaster by Bill Gates

By: Tanya Arora

‘Avoiding A Climate Disaster by Bill Gates’ is a book not only for the environmentalists. It’s for the businessmen who invest billions in the wrong technology. For the politicians and lawmakers who control the country’s legislature, for scientists, engineers, and designers who need to come up with ideas and technology for the future and most importantly, for the Boomers, the Millenials, and the Gen-Z of our world, whose demands decide our fates.

Avoiding A Climate Disaster
Image Source: Amazon

The book connects people from all walks of life and gives them a cause to work for. It brings you up to date with how we have been accelerating climate change, what technologies we need to get to the table, why the cost is a problem, and most importantly, why the marginalized and poverty-stricken need to be given the topmost priority.

Stay tuned for a synopsis of the book, a culmination of Bill Gates’s thoughts, one of the most intellectual people of our generation, on Climate Change!

Why do we need to get to zero?

The book starts by spelling out our troubles for us, what we need to do, and what lies in store for us if we cannot change the way our world functions.

A climate disaster isn’t limited to environmental changes. It includes the impact that the 5 billion people around the planet go through. It’s the poverty, food insecurity, unavailability of energy, and disease outbreaks.

The first target on the agenda is to get our annual carbon emissions from a whopping 51 billion tonnes to zero.

Greenhouse gases are known to trap the sun’s heat to keep the earth at its ambient temperature. When anthropogenic activities lead to the emission of these gases, their effect continues to be felt for hundreds of years. This is precisely why we need to not only cut down our annual emissions to zero but also capture emissions from the air to prevent further warming of the earth. The author predicts that if nothing were to change, the average global rise in temperatures would likely cross 2 degrees celsius. 

And what would be the repercussions of these actions:

  1. Glacial melting and rising sea levels
  2. Warmer and acidic oceans
  3. Unprecedented global pandemics and natural disasters
  4. Loss of wildlife and ecosystems
  5. Drop-in crop yields leading to poverty and hunger

The only way we would be able to get through is by adapting to the warming world and mitigating further warming!

Why will getting down to zero be hard?

In the present age, humans are overly dependent on fossil fuels. When we use these fossil fuels, we unlock years old carbon, which exists as coal, natural gas, and oil, and release it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Our transition to clean and renewable energy sources is likely to take us years to profess due to energy inertia.

Energy inertia is due to the lack of political reforms, incentives, new technology, and mass mobilization, which would otherwise help us reduce the cost of going green and counteract global warming effectively.

Questions you need to answer before supporting a technology

With 51 billion tonnes of annual greenhouse gas emissions, we need to prioritize our focus areas. Here’s a list of five questions you need to get answers to in every climate conversation:

  1. What percentage of 51 billion tonnes will that technology help us counteract? (Should be greater than 1% of total emissions)
  2. What’s the plan for cutting down emissions?
  3. The rate of consumption and production of energy by that technology?
  4. How much power would we be generating per unit area with that technology?
  5. Is that technology affordable? Can it replace conventional sources of energy?

The absence of carbon taxes, reliable renewable resources, and expensive batteries are some of the reasons why clean energy will be a lot more expensive. 

Problems, Solutions, Innovations, and Breakthroughs

Emissions from% out of 51BTSolutionsGrey areas: Technologies to look out for
How we plug-in?Generating electricity from fossil fuels27%Exploiting renewable resources efficiently.Building unified national grids that interconnect citiesShipping zero-emission electrons. Hydrogen produced without emitting carbonUnderground electricity transmission Pumped Hydro-Thermal storageNext-generation nuclear fission Nuclear fusion
How we make thingsManufacturing cement, steel, plastics31%Electrifying manufacturing processesUsing the materials procured effectively.Zero-carbon cement and steelZero-carbon plasticsGeothermal plastics Carbon capture (both direct and point capture)
How we grow thingsCow burps, pig manure, meat consumption, deforestation of land for plantations and agriculture, and synthetic fertilizers19%Satellite-based monitoring for climate change and deforestationPolitical and economic incentives to prevent deforestationPlanting trees to capture CO2 (in the tropics and not in the snowy regions where they cause warming)Plant and cell-based meat and dairyZero-carbon fertilizerZero-carbon alternatives to palm oil Drought- and flood-tolerant food crops 
Getting aroundGasoline is cheap and highly concentrated in energy, serves as fuel for most vehicles16%Switch to EV’s and alternate fuelsDerive renewable energy from solar, nuclear, and hydrogen power plantsElectrofuelsAdvanced biofuels
Keeping warm and coolFurnaces and heaters run on fossil fuels, while coolers contain refrigerants that are 1000 times more potent.7%Efficient devices Green buildingsCoolants that don’t contain F-gases

Plan Of Action

The local, state, national, and global governments need to work together cohesively to realize their zero-carbon vision. He engages the reader about the policies the government should get on the table, how it must support start-up technologies, create awareness, and reduce green premiums. With unforeseen natural disasters, he asserts how shoring up our national defences holds critical importance.

We all have a role to play in this journey to prevent climate change, and we mustn’t feel powerless. As Bill Gates quotes in the last chapter, you don’t have to be a politician or a philanthropist to make and lead change. We can exert an influence on those around us as a citizen or employer or a consumer. Whilst nearing the end of the book, Bill Gates carves out for us, A plan of action. 

Tanya Arora

Tanya Arora

Tanya is a sophomore, studying environmental engineering at Delhi Technological University. She’s currently heading the research team at Svadhyaya Youth Organisation.

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