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.

The Aging brain – Proven Steps To Prevent Dementia And Sharpen Your Mind

I have completed reading the second book of the year and writing down a summary as per the promise I made to myself. It is the previous book that motivated me to pick a book that talks about human brains. In the book “Conversational Intelligence,” the author Judith E. Glaser provided many insights into how our brain reacts to threats or fear. So, I picked the following book as my next choice, expecting that it will give me a deeper understanding of Judith E. Glaser’s concepts.

2021 Book #2:

I started reading this book on February 10 and completed it on February 17, five hours of reading over eight days. This book focused on explaining how our brain ages, changes, evolves, along with recommendations on lifestyle changes to prevent dementia. My interest was mostly around understanding how brain functions deteriorate and how to improve brain health. So, I skipped sections of the book, which talked in-depth about dementia and other illnesses. Similarly, I cut portions that talked extensively about the health impacts of alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc., because those were not applicable for me, and I do not have any intentions to start such habits anytime soon 🙂

Healthy Body for a Healthy Brain

“If you want to get something stronger, you must exercise it. If you don’t use it, you lose it!”

Citing several studies and examples, the author establishes that the body and brain are intimately connected, and one cannot maintain brain health without keeping a healthy body. So, naturally, healthy practices such as healthy food, regular exercise, ample sleep are essential to keep the brain in good health.

“Environmental factors, life experiences, and even the thoughts we think can impact how our DNA is being expressed.”

The benefits of being grounded

“Direct contact with the earth, such as walking barefoot on grass, swimming in the ocean, touching a tree, etc., helps to be grounded and achieve electrical balance.”

Daily electrical reset results in improved sleep, reduced pain, normalization of cortisol levels, less fatigue, better energy, and lower blood pressure. For those of you interested, given below are a few additional references for this.

Intermittent Fasting

“Intermittent fasting slows aging, improves brain health, and prolongs life.”

Several studies highlight that intermittent fasting or caloric restriction can improve brain health, slow down aging, and prolong life. This reminded me of the Nobel Prize-winning discoveries of mechanism for autophagy by Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi in 2016.

Key Takeaways

  • Chronic anxiety, worry, conflict, and stress cause too much damage to our body and brain, including accelerated aging. 
  • Stress Reduction, meditation, physical exercise, a healthy plant-based diet, etc., can increase telomeres’ length, slowing down aging. 
  • While high sugar consumption reduces the length of telomeres.
  • Standing several hours a day does increase the length of telomeres (One more reason for me to love my standing workstation, where I spend several hours working each day :))
  • Continuous exposure to loud noise activates the brain’s fear/stress circuitry.
  • Bring different experiences to life. Stimulate your interest and expand your imagination: art, music, crafts, bird watching, visiting national parks, and so on.

Summary

I enjoyed reading this book, and in fact, it motivated me to read many scientific and medical research papers and studies referenced in the book. This book inspired me to continue some of the healthy practices I started some time ago because now I have proven reasons and research conclusions to support those practices. For example, intermittent fasting, adopting a more plant-based diet, trying to work more from my standing workstation (sitting less), regular exercise, yoga, meditation, staying more time “grounded to the earth,” etc.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand more about how our lifestyle and environments, such as food habits, constant exposure to loud noise, stress, etc., impact our body, brain, expression of genes, and overall health. Many health improvement recommendations in this book are already well known; however, this book adds a lot of value by explaining why and how by citing real-life examples, scientific studies, and research findings.

Additional Reading

Two additional books I added to my reading list, based on the references given in this book, are the following:

2021 Reading Progress