How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

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How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need is a book published on February 16, 2021 which was written by software entrepreneur, billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates.

"To avoid a climate disaster [1] we have to get to zero {net emissions by the year 2050}." - One of the many risks associated with climate change is an increased risk of catastrophic floods.
"To avoid a climate disaster [2] We need to deploy the tools we already have, like solar and wind, faster and smarter." - This logo depicts four common, currently-available sources of renewable energy: wind power, solar power, biofuels and hydropower.
"To avoid a climate disaster [3] we need to create and roll out breakthrough technologies that can take us the rest of the way." - Pictured above is Thomas Edison, considered one of the greatest inventors of all time.
"Deploying today’s renewables and improving transmission couldn’t be more important." - This photo shows solar panels, wind turbines, and components of the electrical grid that carry the electricity generated to consumers.
"[W]e’re going to need much more clean electricity in the coming years. . . . [B]y 2050 . . . the world will need much more than three times the electricity we generate now." - Click on the above image to enlarge a depiction of one possible "smart grid" configuration.
"In most locations, your overall costs will go down if you get rid of an electric air conditioner and gas (or oil) furnace and replace both with an electric heat pump." - This photo shows the exterior heat exchanger for an air source heat pump.
"[G]overnments need to . . . [q]uintuple clean energy and climate-related [research and development] over the next decade." - The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory researches photovoltaics, biofuels, renewables commercialization, wind power, electric infrastructure systems, hydrogen and fuel cells, etc.
"By the middle of this century, the cost of climate change to all coastal cities could exceed $1 trillion . . . each year." - Click on the map above to show the locations of major cities threatened by rising sea levels, including New York, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Mumbai.
"Technologies needed [to avoid a climate disaster]: Hydrogen produced without emitting carbon . . . ." - This illustration shows a hydrogen tank in the back of a fuel cell electric vehicle.
"As a Citizen . . . Make calls, write letters, attend town halls. . . . [M]ake clear that this is an issue that will help determine how you vote." - Londoners voting in a UK general election.
"We should spend the next decade focusing on the technologies, {governmental} policies and market structures that will put us on the path to eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050." - The "Blue Marble" image of Earth, or the entire planet in one photo.
"[Bill Gates has a] touching, admirable faith in science and reason, [but he also] knows that the solution he seeks is inextricably tied up in political decisions." - Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010.
"[I]n 2015, Gates . . . launched Breakthrough Energy, an interlinked venture capital fund [that invests] in energy innovation [and] an international pact called Mission Innovation [that persuades governments to fund] clean-energy research and development. These various endeavors are the through line for [the] book."- Leah Stokes, Canadian-American political scientist.

The book is organized into five parts. In part one (chapter 1), Gates explains why the world must completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions ("getting to zero"), rather than simply reducing them. In part two (chapter 2) he discusses the challenges that will make achieving this goal very difficult. In part three (chapter 3) he outlines five pragmatic questions a reader can ask to evaluate any conversation they have about climate change. Part four (the longest part of the book, or chapters 4 through 9) analyzes currently-available technologies that can be utilized now to adapt to and mitigate climate change ("the solutions we have") and those areas where innovation is needed to make climate-friendly technologies cost competitive with their fossil fuel counterparts ("the breakthroughs we need"). In the final part (chapters 10 through 12) Gates suggests specific steps that can be taken by government leaders, market participants and individuals to collectively avoid a climate disaster.

Introduction: 51 Billion to Zero[edit]

Chapter 1: Why Zero?[edit]

Chapter 2: This Will Be Hard[edit]

Chapter 3: Five Questions to Ask in Every Climate Conversation[edit]

  • [Question] 2. What’s Your Plan for Cement? . . . [This question] is just a shorthand reminder that if you're trying to come up with a comprehensive plan for climate change, you have to account for much more than electricity and cars.
    • Page 54
Making things (cement, steel, plastic) . . . . . 31%
Plugging in (electricity) . . . . . 27%
Growing things (plants, animals) . . . . . 19%
Getting around (planes, trucks, cargo ships) . . . . . 16%
Keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration) . . . . . 7%
  • Page 55
  • [Question] 5: How Much Is This Going to Cost? . . . Most . . . zero-carbon solutions are more expensive than their fossil-fuel counterparts. . . . These additional costs are what I call Green Premiums. . . . Green Premiums [can help us] decide which zero-carbon solutions we should deploy now [those with low or negative premiums] and where we should pursue breakthroughs because the clean alternatives aren't cheap enough.
    • Pages 59 to 61

Chapter 4: How We Plug In[edit]

27 percent of 51 billion tons per year

Chapter 5: How We Make Things[edit]

31 percent of 51 billion tons per year

Chapter 6: How We Grow Things[edit]

19 percent of 51 billion tons a year

Chapter 7: How We Get Around[edit]

16 percent of 51 billion tons a year

Chapter 8: How We Keep Cool and Stay Warm[edit]

7 percent of 51 billion tons a year

  • In most locations, your overall costs will go down if you get rid of an electric air conditioner and gas (or oil) furnace and replace both with an electric heat pump.
    • Page 153

Chapter 9: Adapting to a Warmer World[edit]

Chapter 10: Why Government Policies Matter[edit]

Chapter 11: A Plan for Getting to Zero[edit]

  • [I]f you want a measuring stick for which countries are making progress on climate change . . . don't simply look for the ones that are reducing their emissions. Look for the ones that are setting themselves up to get to zero.
    • Page 197
  • To get these [breakthroughs on the "Technologies needed" list] ready soon enough to make a difference, governments need to . . . [q]uintuple clean energy and climate-related R&D over the next decade. . . .
    • Page 200
  • It helps to set ambitious goals and commit to meeting them, the way countries around the world did with the 2015 Paris Agreement. It’s easy to mock international agreements, but they’re part of how progress happens: If you like having an ozone layer, you can thank an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol.
    • Page 215
  • There are markets worth billions of dollars waiting for someone to invent low-cost, zero-carbon cement or steel, or a net-zero liquid fuel. As I’ve tried to show, making these breakthroughs and getting them to scale will be hard, but the opportunities are so big that it’s worth getting out in front of the rest of the world.
    • Pages 216 and 217

Chapter 12: What Each of Us Can Do[edit]

  • As a Citizen . . . Make calls, write letters, attend town halls. . . . [M]ake clear that this is an issue that will help determine how you vote. . . . Look locally as well as nationally. . . . Run for office.
    • Pages 218 to 220
  • As an Employee or Employer . . . Prioritize innovation in low-carbon solutions. . . . Be an early adopter. . . . Connect with government-funded research.
    • Pages 222 to 224

Afterword: Climate Change and COVID-19[edit]

  • We should spend the next decade focusing on the technologies, [governmental] policies and market structures that will put us on the path to eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050. It's hard to think of a better response to a miserable [year of COVID-19 disruptions during] 2020 than spending the next ten years dedicating ourselves to this ambitious goal.
    • Page 230

Quotes about How to Avoid a Climate Disaster[edit]

Gordon Brown[edit]

Bill McKibben[edit]

The Economist[edit]

Leah Stokes[edit]

Paul Hockenos[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]