"How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need"
Author :Bill Gates
Originally published: Feb 16, 2021
Publisher : Random House of Canada
Paperback : 272 pages
So let us begin with clearing the elephant in the room, Bill Gates is a rich white dude with an opinion. Do we really need another one of those? The people he rubs shoulders with have arguably done the most to put us in this terrifying mess with our climate that we’re in now.
Despite that caveat, in my opinion Bill Gates is still someone with valuable insight that a pragmatic climate activist will want to tap into. Yes, he’s a crafty billionaire. Also, a yes is that he’s a genius in at least a couple key ways. One, he seems to have a fantastic ability to absorb detailed knowledge on a subject quickly. Two, he successfully turns that knowledge around into brilliantly simple and poignant questions about the crux of the problem. If we can look past our instinct to “other” him, we can take lessons that will make us more effective at getting to the solutions that are going to save this planet from the worst on the horizon.
We’ve highlighted some things we found valuable in this book,
1. The honest, terrifying truth about the problem.
The first, easiest, thing to get right in any book about climate change is the honest assessment of the problem. The honest assessment is, we already have much more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than has ever been there for the last 800,000 years – almost the entirety of time that our species has been on the Earth.
2. The best gift for concerned citizens – the right questions to ask.
This, in our opinion, is Bill Gates’ real talent. He asks good questions. For example, “What’s your plan for cement?” might sound arcane and technical. It’s actually a major consideration because cement is used in apartment buildings, bridges, sidewalks, even dams and power plants. Also, with cement, no one knows a way to make it yet without burning fossil fuels.
In the meantime, countries that are successfully pulling their people out of poverty, are making cement and lots of it. So, clearly, we need to fund the research which will make carbon neutral cement a possibility. That’s just one example, there’s also steel, asphalt, fertilizer, and lots of others.
3. He talks about the entire scope of the problem, a global society drowning in fossil fuels
Similar to the point above, he points out something you don’t see in the news. That is, if you look at sources of emissions, it’s pretty evenly distributed between things like transportation, manufacturing, electricity generation, heating homes, and even agriculture. Part of why fossil fuels are so hard to get away from is that they are woven into every part of our society. If you bought bread at the grocery store, fossil fuels probably made the fertilizer for the grain and fueled the transport truck that brought it to your home. If you use a toaster, coal was used to make the steel it is made of. For the electricity the toaster uses, your power plant might be natural gas.
It’s everywhere and so there’s no magic bullet. Tesla cars aren’t going to fix this problem. Our whole society has to swing in an entirely different direction to get to net zero carbon emissions.
4. He over, and over (and over) advocates for the people who stand to lose the most
One story I really appreciated reading in his book is about a family of farmers in Kenya he met on two separate occasions. They are the global poor. They own a plot of land just large enough to feed their family and make a little extra money with the meager excess. They till the land with their hands. They contribute about fifty-five times less greenhouse gases than the average American.
They have done nothing to put us in this terrible place we are with global warming and they will still be the people who suffer most. They will be more exposed to droughts and, due to the ironic science of a warmer world, more likely to have floods in those times that it rains. We, on the other hand, have contributed the most to global warming, and have the most resources to research the technologies we need to keep the problem from becoming worse than it already is. We don’t care if it’s a pampered billionaire who delivers that message, it’s one we all need to hear.
it offers a call to action in the form of getting vocal about what we can do about climate change with our politicians and with people around us to help galvanise a growing movement. A preparedness project recommended read!