How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates [8/10]

Should billionaire philanthropists issue books from their elevated towers? Normally, I would counsel them not to, but “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need” is an apt, honest, quirky take on a subject that Bill Gates is throwing money at, the biggest topic of them all, the climate emergency. Very early on, Gates cautions that his expertise is in tech and analysis, not politics (even though he meddles in the latter necessarily) but even with that bracelet of modesty, it’s clear that How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is an uber geek’s synthesis. So if you’re after radicalism or political ire, this narrative might disappoint, but I found it to be a tonic. Using the kind of geeky focus I myself might attempt (no doubt ineffectually), Gates sets up, in effect, a huge spreadsheet in which he dissects our current annual global 51 billion tons of carbon emissions between five macro categories and then explores what the current “green premium” (how much more expensive the carbon-free options are) is for each cell. Some will find his emphasis on technology too emphatic, others will bridle at broad-brush simplifications, but geeky old me found the whole explication refreshing and fascinating. Even if you disagree with his analysis, or his remedies, and I’m sure we’d all find such disagreements, the analytical generosity and clarity he employs means that evaluating his dissection is open and useful. And if he pushes those solutions he has invested in, why not? His work with poverty and pandemics shows his approach is not only generous but rigorous. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is an individualistic must-read at the start of the 2020s, our decade of destiny.

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