Saturday, March 13, 2021

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

Bill Gates needs no introduction. In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, he discusses how we can get from 51 billion tons of carbon emitted down to zero by 2050.

He starts out by making the case that humans are warming the earth due to our carbon emissions, and that this is probably not a good thing for either us or other species. He does allow that predictions about what will happen are incredibly difficult and could very well be wrong, but otherwise seems very sure that it's worth defending the current climate anyway because of the risk of what a change in climate *could* do. I sympathize with this point of view.

At the same time, he is appreciative of what fossil fuels have done for humankind, and what they can still do to lift the poorest on earth out of poverty. Access to fossil fuels can still mean life or death for a number of people, and so the onus is on us in the rich countries to get our emissions down by developing new technologies so that when the technologies are available, we can then help the poorest make the transition. No arguments from me!

Then he gets into what is causing all our emissions (broken down by category), and what are some technologies that can help us maintain our living standards while getting our emissions to zero. Some of the potential technologies are fascinating. Learning about what's "dirty" and what's "clean" (from a carbon emissions point of view) was educating, and at times counter-intuitive.

This is clearly a political problem as well as a technological one, however. To be frank, the goal seems very daunting from what I can tell; I'm not sure we can do it. So I appreciated his chapter on adapting to a warmer climate as well, which is not something I've read much of.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about climate change.

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