How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

I just completed reading Bill Gate’s book, “How to avoid a climate disaster.” I was skeptical when I started reading it because I wasn’t sure whether I would grasp it well, considering that I am not a climate expert. The closest exposure I had was the classes taken about atmosphere and weather as part of my flight training. But that was an entirely different scope, and I wasn’t expecting any overlaps.

But once I started reading it, it was hard to stop because the author has done an excellent job using simple language to explain complicated scientific stuff. Through Interesting examples and simple analogies, the author has presented his thoughts, facts, and ideas so that every reader can follow the conversation regardless of the background.

Book Name: How To Avoid A Climate Disaster
Author: Bill Gates
Number of Pages: 236

I started reading on 27th February and completed it by 7th March. It took eight hours to complete the book over nine days.

Did I like it?

Yes, I did like the book. I do see a lot of people criticizing this book on various social platforms. But most of those are climate experts, and there may be disagreements with some of the ideas and approaches. Reading this as a person with relatively less exposure to climate science, this was an excellent read that enlightened me in several ways and enhanced my knowledge and awareness in many different areas. I am pleased with the time I invested into reading this book.

Highlights

The book presents a lot of statistics related to emissions and related activities which produce greenhouse gases. However, reading was so smooth and fun because of the natural flow of the conversation, simplicity of the language, the efforts taken to provide relevant backgrounds for people who are not familiar with the concepts. I found several analogies very interesting such as using “cups of water per second” to explain Watts. 

“In climate terms, a small change in the global temperature is a big deal. During the last ice age, the average temperature was just six degrees Celcius lower than today.”

The author makes the point very clear that uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases is causing a rise in global temperature. He then identifies the different sectors contributing to 51 Billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. He presents several ideas and action items that may help us reduce the emissions. The author reiterates that reducing emissions is not enough; instead, we need to get it to zero to control global warming. Zero-emission is especially important because once greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, they stay there for a very long time; something like one-fifth of the carbon dioxide emitted today will still be there in 10,000 years. That is very scary!

Key Contributors

31% of the total emission of 51 Billion tons a year comes from “Making things” such as cement, steel, plastic, etc. Electricity is in the second place, contributing 27% of emissions. “Growing things” such as plants and animals contribute to 19%, and transportation causes 16%. Many innovations and breakthrough inventions are needed in several different sectors to reach zero emissions by 2050. 

“Making 1 ton of steel produces 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide. By 2050, the world will be producing roughly 2.8 billion tons of steel every year.”

I was always wondering why the electric lines are still not underground. Cities like Ahmedabad, where I lived for many years, have achieved this decades ago. The author indicates that the challenge with underground power lines is more expensive by a factor of five to ten because of the heat. Power lines get hot when there is electricity running through them, and if the temperature gets too high, they melt.

“climate change will have the worst impact on the world’s poorest people, and most of the world’s poorest people are farmers.”

What can I do as a consumer to help reduce emissions?

This book discusses many ideas and directions to get emissions to zero within the next few decades. Most of those need a tremendous amount of commitment and involvement from businesses, the scientific community, and political leaders. However, the author recommends several things that we all can do as a consumer to help reduce emissions.

The author recommends we pay conscious attention to reduce energy usage, which will reduce our energy expenses and help reduce greenhouse emissions. Besides, when there is an opportunity, choose a carbon-free alternative that will signal the market that people want such products and drive innovations in that area. We could take a few other steps, such as using energy-efficient appliances, buying an electric vehicle, and trying a plant-based burger.

What is going to be my immediate contribution?

I have already been working on a few home projects to reduce my grid power utilization. One of the projects is to set up a solar-powered water heater at home (which is currently in progress), and the other is to set up a roof-top solar farm that can meet my home’s electricity needs and even feed some surplus energy to the grid. After reading this book, I am even more motivated to continue and speed up these projects.

Other books of interest

This book has references to several other books discussing some of the topics in very detail. A few that I found interesting and may get into my reading list are the following.

Conclusions

How To Avoid A Climate Disaster is one of the best books I could read this year. I am aware that many climate experts and visionaries disagree either partially or entirely with various ideas presented in this book. But for the rest of the people out there, this could be a knowledge-rich package that gives a good level of understanding of the problem, its magnitude, what is being done already, and what could be done in the future. I would highly recommend this book.

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