Fifty-one billion and zero – the two numbers Bill Gates says you need to know about climate. Solving climate change would be “the most amazing thing humanity has ever done”, says the billionaire founder of Microsoft. By comparison, ending the pandemic is “very, very easy”, he claims. Mr Gates’s new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, is a guide to tackling global warming. Don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge, he told me when we spoke last week. “We’ve never made a transition like we’re talking about doing in the next 30 years. There is no precedent for this.” Fifty-one billion is how many tonnes of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. Zero is where we need to get to. Mr Gates’ focus is on how technology can help us make that journey. Renewable sources like wind and solar can help us decarbonise electricity but, as Mr Gates points out, that’s less than 30% of total emissions. We are also going to have to decarbonise the other 70% of the world economy – steel, cement, transport systems, fertiliser production and much, much more. We simply don’t have ways of doing that at the moment for many of these sectors. The answer, says Mr Gates, will be an innovation effort on a scale the world has never seen before.
BBC 15th Feb 2021 read more »
Of the Green New Deal, the proposal backed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that raises the goal of carbon neutrality in a decade, he is flatly dismissive. “Well, it’s a fairytale. It’s like saying vaccines don’t work – that’s a form of science denialism. Why peddle fantasies to people?” This seems a little harsh, and one suspects that Gates’ vehemence is powered by a broader disapproval of Ocasio-Cortez’s politics. But his point is that there isn’t the time, money or political will to reconfigure the energy industry in a decade; by encouraging an impossible goal, you doom yourself to short-termist measures that prove insufficient. How helpful does he consider protest movements like Extinction Rebellion, with their habit of shutting down busy thoroughfares at rush hour? “Well, what we need is innovation. So if they’re really strategic about what street they cut off, and some poor guy is blocked in traffic and he sits there and says: ‘God, I’ve got to figure out a way to make steel [carbon neutral]. I was being lazy, but now that I’m sitting here in traffic, I’m going to go home tonight and figure how to do this.’ Then it’s a very direct connection between blocking the traffic and solving climate change.” He smiles sarcastically. “I don’t mean to make fun of it – in a way their passion is valuable. But it’s going to manifest in some ways that aren’t that constructive. So we need to channel that energy in a way that takes 51bn and moves it towards zero.”
Guardian 15th Feb 2021 read more »
Gates is also caught in the crosshairs in Professor Michael E Mann’s book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, which criticises the 2016 edition of the billionaire’s annual letter, written with Melinda, for highlighting the challenges of cutting emissions and declaring “we need an energy miracle”. Mann, America’s most famous climate scientist, points out that many zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels. He even suggests that, far from needing a miracle, we could achieve 100% clean electricity with current renewable technologies alone.
Guardian 14th Feb 2021 read more »