Bill Gates “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” Live Event

Bill Gates has released a new book about Climate Change, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, available for purchase here and in all bookshops. I have not read the book yet! However this evening I virtually attended a talk by Gates as part of the launch of the book. Gates was interviewed by Alok Sharma, MP who is president for the COP 26 talks that will be taking place in Glasgow in November this year.

The key figure from the talk was the annual global CO2 emissions of 51 billion tonnes. The challenge is to go to 0 tonnes while still meeting the needs of the global population. This is a constant challenge and one of the key metrics is the green premium (the fact it costs more to do the thing that is more environmentally friendly / carbon neutral). Gates gave the example of the cost per mile of electric vehicles, for the Chevrolet Bolt Electric Vehicle the cost is $0.73 per mile; whereas for the Chevrolet Malibu, it is £0.63 per mile. This is based on the total cost of ownership for over eight years. This green premium is relatively small, though still significant, whereas for other products it can be much higher, in many cases more than double. There is more information on green premiums on Gate’s website here.

He stressed the importance of considering all sources of carbon and use a graph similar to the graph below.

Graph Taken from: https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/We-should-discuss-soil-as-much-as-coal

The talk then discussed the fact that there are solutions to many emissions, such as Electric Vehicles, Lithium Batteries, and Solar and Wind energy,all of which are reducing in cost. However thwere is no real green solution to som things for example steel and cement. 20% of our emissions come from Aviation Fuel, Steel and Cement so there needs to be solutions for all sectors. At the moment many things are so cheap that people don’t necessarily pay attention. The challenge for example for the electricyt sector is to ensrue that 20% of sources are non weather dependent, this either means investing in nuclear or improving battery storage.

There are signs of success, for example, the UK has grown its economy by 75% from 1990 to 2018 while reducing emissions by 40%. We are willing to legislate to make buildings more expensive for other reasons, for example, building codes to make buildings earthquake-proof. The same needs to be done to make buildings climate-proof. Governments need to drive this change, this is why COP 26 is needed. We need to accelerate innovation. Climate needs to be a bipartisan issue, and need to make it easy to reduce climate change by reducing the green premium.

Carbon capture and storage is a potential solution, but the key issue is cost per tonne. This is either carbon capture at source (e.g. on a chimney) or from the atmosphere at large. The current cheapest cost is predicted to be in the region of $100 per tonne; for it to be viable at a large scale the cost needs to come down to $10 or $20 per tonne.

There a three things that individuals can do:

  1. Political voice and convince people you know about the cause.
  2. Choice as a consumer – make effective choices.
  3. Your employer – lobby your employer to make effective choices.

This is hard, so we have to be talking more about it, reducing our personal consumption will not be enough to get us to zero. If we don’t make progress cynicism will kick in and the green premium will be higher. We need to make short term sacrifices to make a long term change. This may end up with some skills being devalued, for example, coal mining and meat farming. There are trade-offs and new jo opportunities and this needs part of the government plans -there are transitional costs. The UK has reduced coal as a percentage of its energy production from 40% to 1%.

Overall this was an interesting talk and I am looking forward to receiving my copy of the book. This talk was hosted by the HowToAcademy (https://howtoacademy.com/) which look like they have a number of other interesting events that may be of interest to geographers.

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