Many individuals lack the knowledge to make a difference in the ongoing climate crisis humans are facing. Bill Gates has been an environmental activist and philanthropist and determined that educating individuals is the first step. Gates recently wrote a book called “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” where he shares these 5 basic concepts to help slow the climate changes earth is experiencing.
“When I started learning about climate change, I kept encountering facts that were hard to get my head around,” Gates writes in the book. “For one thing, the numbers were so large they were hard to picture....Another problem was that the data I was seeing often appeared devoid of any context.”
“These are complex subjects that can be confusing,” Gates writes. “This framework will help you cut through the clutter.”
Following are the 5 concepts Gates refers to in his new book.
51 billion tons of greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere annually
In 2020, emissions decreased amid the coronavirus pandemic that decimated travel and brought on stay-at-home orders. On average though, humans contribute 51 billion tons, or 2.2 trillion pounds, of greenhouse gases annually.
To help combat the emission of greenhouse gases, Gates has contributed capital to Breakthrough Energy, an energy innovation investment fund. “At Breakthrough Energy, we fund only technologies that could remove at least 500 million tons a year if they are successful and fully implemented,” Gates said. “That’s roughly one percent of global emissions.”
Cement and steel production is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions
Many people believe travel and electricity are the largest contributors to climate change. In his book, Gates debunks this belief and shares a breakdown of various processes and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Cement, steel, and plastic production: 31%
- Electricity: 27%
- Growing things, including plants and animals: 19%
- Transportation, including planes, trucks, and cargo ships: 16%
- Temperature regulation, meaning heating, cooling, and refrigeration: 7%
5,000 gigawatts are needed to power the entire world
Gigawatts are an energy measurement. “If you were measuring the flow of water out of your kitchen faucet, you might count how many cups came out per second,” Gates says. “Measuring power is similar, only your measuring the flow of energy instead of water. Watts are equivalent to ‘cups per second,’” he explains.
- The world: 5,000 gigawatts
- The United States: 1,000 gigawatts
- Mid-size city: 1 gigawatt
- Small town: 1 megawatt
- Average American household: 1 kilowatt
Different power sources require different amounts of space
Here Gates explains that power sources can be massive. “Some power sources take up more room than others. This matters for the obvious reason that there is only so much land and water to go around,” Gates writes. “Space is by far from the only consideration, of course, but it’s an important one that we should be talking about more often than we do.”
“If you want to use wind instead of solar, you’ll need far more land, all other things being equal,” Gates writes. “That doesn’t mean that wind is bad and solar is good. It just means that they have different requirements that should be part of the conversation.”
Cheaper costs are the reason greenhouse gas emissions are so high
“The reason the world emits so much greenhouse gas is that — as long as you ignore the long-term damage they do — our current energy technologies are by and large the cheapest ones available,” Gates says. Sustainable energy is more expensive then fossil fuels and for corporations looking to please shareholders, the choice is simple.