Monday 1 March 2021
According to Bill Gates, there are two numbers that matter when it comes to climate change – 51 billion and zero. The first is the tonnes of greenhouse gas added to the atmosphere every year. The second is what it needs to be.
In his recent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he outlines his case for how we achieve that second number while maintaining lifestyles in high income countries and continuing to lift billions of people out of poverty. A tall task.
In this article, Bill is interviewed about his book and his thoughts on what the world needs to do to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He introduces a concept of a green premium, basically the cost differential between a greenhouse gas-emitting product and its zero carbon alternative. Much of his thinking centres on using innovation and technology to reduce the green premium as much as possible.
One industry where the world has come together and reduced the green premium is electricity. Solar and wind electricity stack up economically beside coal and natural gas. There is no economic reason for someone not to choose the green alternative (although as we keep seeing from our politicians, they can always find a political reason). The question now becomes, how can reduce the green premium in other industries such as cement production and agriculture.
Bill Gates has done plenty of press for his new book recently, but we found this article to be one of the more valuable pieces from the press tour. It is hopeful, Gates remains a believer that humanity can confront this challenge, but it also doesn’t shy away from the enormity of the problem.
He also calls out some of the recent moves companies have made to move with the trend towards ethical investing – sustainability reporting, tracking emissions, divesting parts of their business – claiming they are “bullshit”. His thinking is simple, we have 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas a year to remove from our economy. If actions don’t directly contribute to that goal, in his mind, they aren’t worth celebrating.