51,000 million and 0 are the two figures that, according to Bill Gates, we need to keep in mind when talking about climate change.
And overcoming this challenge would be “the most amazing thing humanity has ever done,” says Microsoft’s billionaire founder.
In comparison, ending the covid-19 pandemic is something “very, very easy “, he says.
Gates’ new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” is a guide to tackling global warming.
And when we spoke last week he told me that do not underestimate the scale of the challenge.
“We have never made a transition like the one we need to do in the next 30 years. There is no precedent for this,” he says.
In fact, 51 billion is the amount of tons of greenhouse gases that the world usually adds to the atmosphere every year.
And net zero is where we need to get.
This means reducing emissions to a level where any emission of greenhouse gases is balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.
One way to do this is by planting trees, which absorb CO2 through their leaves.
But Gates’s focus is on how technology can serve bya achieve it.
Renewable sources like wind and solar can help us decarbonize electricity, but, as Gates points out, that’s less than 30% of total emissions.
We will also have to decarbonize the other 70% of the world economy: steel, cement, transportation systems, fertilizer production and much, much more.
And we just don’t have ways to do that right now in many of these sectors.
“Governments must lead”
The answer, Gates says, lies in an innovation effort on a scale the world has never seen before.
And this has to start with governments, he argues.
At the moment, the economic system does not calculate the real cost of using fossil fuels.
Most users you pay nothing for damage to the environment caused by contamination from gasoline in your car or the coal or gas that generates electricity in your home.
“Right now, you don’t see the pain that you’re causing by emitting carbon dioxide,” says Gates.
That’s why it says that governments have to intervene.
“We need to use prices to tell the private sector that we want green products,” he argues.
That is going to require a large investment by governments in Investigation and development, Gates anticipates, as well as support to allow the market for new products and technologies to grow, thus helping to lower prices.
When he was turning Microsoft into the billionaire giant it is now, however, Gates used to argue that regulation stifled innovation.
Is not a little hypocrite that now requires government intervention?
Gates responds that he has always supported “the basic role of government in the areas of roads, justice, education and scientific research.”
And, in the case of the climate, he argues that it will be impossible to avoid a disaster, particularly for those who live near the equator, without governments around the world support the effort.
The Republican Party in the United States must recognize the importance of addressing climate change, Gates says.
This must be a “constant 30-year momentum”, he maintains.
“Companies just can’t change all that physical infrastructure unless the market signals are constant and very clear,” he adds.
Who is Bill Gates?
- He co-founded Microsoft in 1975
- He is the fourth richest person in the world with a net worth of $ 124 billion, according to Forbes
- He has donated nearly $ 50 billion through the charitable foundation he created with his wife Melinda in 1994
- He resigned from his day job at Microsoft in 2008 to focus on philanthropic efforts.
- His current focus includes global health and development, education and climate change.
Private jets allowed
For Gates, simply consuming fewer things – taking fewer flights, more locally produced food, using less electricity and gas – will not solve the problem.
“India is going to build housing for its people, provide lighting at night, air conditioning to make conditions livable,” Gates believes, so world demand will not decline.
He argues that political action is more important, demanding that the government do the right thing and, using our voices as consumers, insisting on the same with business.
“If you buy an electric car, a hamburger made with a meat substitute, an electric heat pump for your home, you are helping to increase the production of these products and therefore helping to lower prices“, Explain.
Gates, however, still enjoys the privileges of the billionaire lifestyle.
Use private jetsBut he insists that they run on aviation biofuels made from plant products.
“I pay three times as much now for my aviation fuel, you know, more than $ 7 million a year to offset my emissions,” he says.
And he has joined a multi-million dollar bidding war to buy one of the world’s largest private jet services companies, a company called Signature Aviation.
But is it appropriate when you have just written a book telling the world how to avoid a climate disaster?
“I don’t think it makes sense to stop flying,” he replies. “That kind of strategy brute force it won’t take us there. “
For him, the answer has to be “a kind of aviation fuel that doesn’t cost much more and has zero emissions and that means biofuels or electrical energy or perhaps using green hydrogen to power the plane.”
Gates has also become something of a ghost for coronavirus conspiracy theorists.
He’s been charged with everything from invent the virus in a secret laboratory as part of a project by global elites to depopulate the world, even using vaccines to implant microchips in people to track and control them.
He laughs when asked about this.
“Why would you want to track people? Nor am i so interested in knowing where people go“, dice.
The main focus of his enormous charitable efforts to date has been to address health problems in developing countries.
And he tells me that he’s used to people getting bored when he talks about tuberculosis and malaria in cocktails, so this is a real change from what he calls “the normal darkness of working on infectious diseases“.
Gates, however, says he was concerned that talking about the weather could spark a similar controversy.
“I don’t want to dilute my voice on issues like polio or malaria eradication,” explains Gates, who nonetheless says he felt it was the right moment to publish its plan to address climate change.
He says he wants his ideas to feed into green stimulus packages being proposed around the world and discussed in the run-up to the crucial climate conference the UK is hosting in Glasgow in November this year.
We are in a crucial point of the climate debate, he says.
And he believes that the young generation has a “moral conviction” that they must participate in order to achieve a change in the subject that it is necessary to take advantage of.
“We have to take that energy and make sure it is directed at the policies that will make a difference,” he argues.
But it will not be easy, he warns.
This has to remain a high priority for the world year after year.
The hope is that “we have a bit of luck“and we succeed in developing new innovative technologies that really solve the difficult areas, he says.
But he is optimistic that we can still avoid the worst effects of climate change.
“You know, I’ve seen it many times, innovation surprises us in a positive way“, he concludes.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.