A genius book that explains big problems and concepts in an easy to grasp manner.
Do you read lots of books and articles about climate change but still find you have only a foggy idea of what it all really means? If so, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster will set you on the right path. Bill Gates brings his considerable analytic skills to the planet's biggest and most complicated challenge, translating it into an accessible explainer. All those facts and figures, graphs and computer models, are boiled down to two simple numbers, 51 and zero. Currently we put 51 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere per year. That figure needs to be brought down to zero. Otherwise the planet's temperature will undoubtedly continue to rise. Babies born today, without effective action, will experience a planet eight degrees hotter than today in their old age.
This task will not be easy. Our economy, dependent on cheap fossil fuels, has been baked in over centuries. To change the world's power grid to renewables will take decades, not years. Emissions from agriculture pose a special problem, as people's diets are cultural and difficult to change. In a world where millions of people need to be lifted out of poverty, more pressure will be put on global emissions, as poor countries improve their standard of living, consuming more energy and meat.
The solution, according to Gates, is a mixture of technology, business and government. Governments can legislate to price carbon, creating a more level playing field. Technology, especially the riskier research and development, when backed with government money, can produce winners that business can capitalise on and improve.
Avoiding a climate disaster will be a huge task, not fixed by merely buying electric bulbs and purchasing an electric car, although all this helps. It will involve huge technological change, government commitment and global co-ordination. Perhaps some changes in our behaviour. To not do anything seems impossible. Leaving today's children with a planet eight degrees hotter – with the chaos and destruction that will cause – can't be an option.
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, by Bill Gates. Published by Allen Lane. $39.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books