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How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

By Bill Gates
15-minute read
Audio available
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (2021) is a guidebook to getting the world to an important milestone: zero greenhouse gas emissions. Bill Gates shares the knowledge he’s gained through his role on international climate commissions and as a go-to source of funding for climate solution startups. He pinpoints the ideas that show the most promise and explains the work that still needs to be done. 

  • Anyone concerned about climate change
  • Investors interested in new funding opportunities
  • Business leaders looking for ways to help

Bill Gates is a business leader, philanthropist, and cofounder of Microsoft. Along with his wife, he is the cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting poverty and related health issues around the world. He is also a founder of Breakthrough Energy, a group of organizations that strive to push forward clean energy products and initiatives.

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How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

By Bill Gates
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
Synopsis

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (2021) is a guidebook to getting the world to an important milestone: zero greenhouse gas emissions. Bill Gates shares the knowledge he’s gained through his role on international climate commissions and as a go-to source of funding for climate solution startups. He pinpoints the ideas that show the most promise and explains the work that still needs to be done. 

Key idea 1 of 9

To bring our planet back from the brink of disaster, we need to get our greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975, they were living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Back then, the city was already pretty hot; temperatures climbed to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit an average of 36 days a year. But by 2050, that number of days is expected to double. And by the end of the century, it will triple. The health and economic consequences will be profound.

The reason for this rapid increase in temperature is that we’re currently pumping around 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. And while efforts are underway to improve the situation, this number isn’t going down; in fact, it’s only getting bigger. 

The key message here is: To bring our planet back from the brink of disaster, we need to get our greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

So what can we do? Well, to start, we need to understand what greenhouse gases are and how they work.

There are many different greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Some are more harmful than others, but carbon dioxide alone accounts for more than 70 percent of yearly emissions. So, to keep the numbers simple, the collective term “greenhouse gases” also goes by the more scientific name of carbon dioxide equivalents – and this is the 51 billion tons that we’re dealing with.

The term “greenhouse gases” does a pretty good job of describing the problem these gases cause. They let the sun’s energy in, but they don’t let the resulting heat escape once it’s bounced back off the earth’s surface. As a result, the heat is trapped, much like the heat inside a greenhouse. It’s the same process that makes the inside of your car hotter than the outside on a sunny, summer afternoon.

The effect of these greenhouse gases is that the planet has gotten hotter. Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the average global temperature has risen one degree Celsius; some areas have even experienced a rise of over two degrees. That may not sound like much, but, on a global scale, it is. And there are many far-reaching consequences.

For example, increased temperatures cause more moisture from the earth’s surface to evaporate into the atmosphere. As a result, there are more droughts around the world, more wildfires, and more flooding in areas already in danger of being consumed by water. Already, 20 to 30 percent of Bangladesh is underwater on a regular basis. This problem will only get worse – and more common around the world. This means more displaced people, as well as fewer habitats for both plants and animals.

We need to get to zero emissions because every second we don’t, the situation gets worse. Greenhouse gases don’t vanish overnight. They stick around for tens of thousands of years. Think of it like a bathtub on the verge of overflowing. Even a small but steady drip will cause the water to start spilling over. 

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