Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist, and green energy investor Bill Gates recently released How To Avoid a Climate Disaster book. After spending ten years studying the causes of climate change, he developed a detailed plan for humankind to achieve zero CO2 emissions.
Knife journalists have read an excerpt from this book, which was published in Time magazine, to learn how to approach the problem of ecology with a cool head and count on benefits. Let’s check their summary.
I became interested in the issue of climate change in the early 2000s, when I learned that about a billion people in the world do not have constant access to electricity. Half of them are the population of Tropical Africa. (The situation has improved slightly since then, but some 860 million people still live without electricity.) In remote villages, Melinda and I saw girls and women collecting brushwood for hours every day to cook over open fires in their homes and children doing their homework by candlelight.
I remembered the motto of our foundation: “Everyone has the right to a healthy and productive life” – and that it is challenging to be healthy if the local clinic cannot keep vaccines in the cold because the refrigerators do not work. You can’t build an economy and create jobs if you don’t have enough electricity to power your offices, factories, and call centers. So I started thinking about how to make energy more accessible to poor people.
The more I learned, the more I realized that everything comes down to a dilemma: we must provide all people with access to energy, but at the same time, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The climate is like a bath that gradually fills up. Even if you reduce the water pressure, sooner or later, the tub will overflow, and the water will overflow. We must prevent this catastrophe. For the bathtub to stop filling – that is, for the planet to stop heating up – we need to identify all the sources of emissions.
Did you brush your teeth this morning? A toothbrush is most likely made of plastic, which in turn is made from petroleum or fossil fuels.
The beans that make up your breakfast toast were grown with fertilizers and produced greenhouse gases. The crop was harvested by a tractor made of steel produced using fossil fuels. In addition, it ran on gasoline.
If you ate a burger for lunch, remember that raising livestock is also associated with greenhouse gas emissions.
In short, fossil fuels are everywhere.
Some sources of greenhouse gas emissions – such as electricity generation and automobiles – have received much attention, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The industry is a significant contributor to climate change, especially steel, cement, and plastics. It accounts for 31% of the world’s CO2 emissions. In second place is electricity generation – 27%. Next comes the growing of cereals – 19%. The fourth and fifth places are occupied by transport (16%) and heating or cooling of premises.
Any comprehensive plan to combat climate change must consider all sources of harmful emissions.
How much will green solutions cost?
It is also essential to understand how much it will cost to achieve zero emissions. The main reason why greenhouse gas emissions are so abundant today is the cheapness of fossil fuels. And they are cheap, in part because they don’t cost the environment in their price tag. This means that it will be expensive to switch from a dirty-tech economy to a zero-emission economy.
I call these additional costs the environmental markup.
- The average US retail price for a gallon of jet fuel is $2.22.
- The latest aircraft biofuels cost an average of $5.35 per gallon.
- The carbon-neutral environmental premium is the difference between these prices, which is $3.13, or 140%.
Every time I participate in a discussion of climate change, I think about the environmental premium. To get down to a substantive debate on this topic, you first need to calculate the environmental premium for all major carbon-neutral options.
How much are we willing to pay for sustainability? Will anyone buy biofuels and eco-cement, which are twice as expensive as their traditional counterparts? When I say we, I mean the whole world. It’s not about whether the Americans and Europeans can afford it. The markups should be low enough to make decarbonization possible in all countries.
Which technologies should be applied first?
The green premium concept answers many vital questions. Which carbon-neutral technologies should you use first? Answer: technologies with low or no environmental premium.
A good example in the USA is electricity. In this case, the environmental allowance is the additional costs that are necessary to receive energy only from wind, solar, nuclear, coal, and gas power plants equipped with carbon capture systems.
The electricity generated from these sources will cost 15% more. The environmental premium will thus average $ 18 per American household, as solar energy has dropped significantly in recent years. The situation is similar in Europe.
Unfortunately, not all countries are as lucky as the United States. Some have enough sunshine but no wind, or there is wind but the very little sun. Or their credit rating is too low, so it is difficult for them to find funding for large projects. Such countries will be forced to look for other carbon-neutral ways to generate electricity.
What technologies should be invested in first?
Another question that the idea of an environmental premium can answer is: what should scientists and investors focus on now? Answer: on those energy sources for which the environmental premium is too high.
“The cleaner did not understand why I need dirty candy wrappers and a glass of liquid.” Why did the journalist save up trash for a month, and what came of it
For example, the latest biofuels are 600% more expensive than naval fuel oil used in cargo ships. No transportation service would drive up fuel costs so much.
Countries that excel in scientific research must produce new products, make them more affordable, and export them to countries that cannot pay high premiums. Then there will be no debate as to whether all countries are making an equal contribution to preventing climate catastrophe; instead, governments and companies will strive to create and disseminate affordable innovation that will help the world achieve zero carbon emissions.
Environmental allowance is a benchmark for governments and citizens
There is another advantage to the idea of an ecological premium: it can serve as a measure of progress in the fight against climate change. How much will it cost to use the carbon-neutral technologies available to us now? What innovations will dramatically reduce emissions?
The environmental premium shows how much it will cost to achieve carbon neutrality separately for each sector of the economy, and helps to understand where new solutions are needed.
World leaders need to develop a plan to reduce the environmental premium and move towards zero emissions that can guide businesses and individuals.
Governments must establish laws that define the permissible levels of CO2 emissions for factories, factories and automobiles. They also need to educate the public about the impacts of climate change and address the hidden costs of carbon dioxide products.
But you don’t have to be a politician to do your bit. Each voter has the right to demand that officials develop a plan to reduce emissions and an environmental premium.
Consumers can also send a signal to manufacturers that they are willing to pay for carbon-neutral alternatives: every time they buy an electric car, heat pump, or veggie burger, you are sending that signal.
In the face of the threat of a climate catastrophe, it is difficult to remain optimistic. But as my late friend Hans Rosling wrote in his excellent book “Factulness”: “When our picture of the world is based on facts, we understand that everything in the world is not as bad as it seems, and we see what needs to be done to improve the situation.”
If our understanding of climate change is factual, we see what we must avoid preventing a climate catastrophe; we know what hinders the implementation of existing solutions; and we see the work to be done to overcome these obstacles.
Microsoft founder Billionaire Bill Gates believes that by mid-2022, mortality and morbidity of COVID-19 may fall below the level of seasonal flu. This will happen if new dangerous strains do not appear by then. Read the full story here.