Gates before the flood gates!
In his recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need,” Bill Gates discusses the daunting challenge of mitigating climate change with clarity and optimism. He describes the current situation – how we are adding billions of tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually – and stresses that in order to avoid catastrophic consequences, we need to make many significant changes until we are no longer adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gates acknowledges that this will be a massive undertaking. Today, the emission of greenhouse gases is integral to almost everything we do, from how we get our electricity and produce the materials we use every day to how we feed ourselves, travel, and heat and cool our homes and buildings. The transition to zero emissions will require a massive global effort in which governments, businesses, and individuals must dramatically change their policies, practices, and habits. And it will take time. Given how far away we are from zero emissions, while also considering how urgent the situation is, Gates sets the date at 2050, which is the year by which science tells us that rich countries should reach net-zero emissions in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.
Climate science tells us that we need to make changes, but it doesn’t tell us how. While we have some technological solutions available today in the form of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power, and more efficient heating and cooling systems like electric heat pumps, these technologies alone are not enough to bring us to net-zero emissions. They will certainly be part of the equation, but more innovation will be required. To name a few of the many other technologies needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Gates points to things like carbon capture, zero-carbon cement, steel, plastics, fertilizer, and zero-carbon alternatives to palm oil, as well as drought-and flood-tolerant food crops. In order to develop these technologies and the many others we will need in time, governments must begin to focus on, and fund, clean energy and climate-related research and development. Gates details many other actions that governments can take to help push these technologies along, including purchasing green products directly and creating incentives such as tax credits and loan guarantees to lower costs and reduce risks associated with new green technologies.
As a reader, it is hard to feel empowered reading about all the actions that our governments must take, but Gates also discusses what each of us as individual citizens can do. The single most important step he suggests is engaging in the political process, not only on the national level but also on the state and local level, in order to urge our leaders to make climate policy more of a priority. He also suggests purchasing electric vehicles and reducing your home’s emissions with efficient appliances such as heat pumps. Although individual action may seem insignificant in the face of a global issue of this magnitude, it is individual action that will eventually spur the large-scale change, so don’t hesitate to make a change because it doesn’t seem “worth it.” I would highly recommend reading Bill Gates’ “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” whether you’re interested in the topic or just starting to think about it. And if you’re looking to take Bill Gates’ advice and make some individual changes, get in
touch with the Solar Initiative right here on Block Island today!