Zero Carbon: Bill Gates’ Way to Save the World

Zero Carbon: Bill Gates' Way to Save the World

Since July, the United States and Canada have been hit by high-temperature heat waves. Hundreds of people have died from extreme high temperatures, most of them poor and elderly. Floods in northern Germany have killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds of others. The extreme weather in these countries is believed to be related to global warming and climate deterioration caused by the greenhouse effect, making the topic of global warming and climate disasters once again into the public eye.

In the heat wave, reading Bill Gates’ “Climate Economy and the Future of Mankind” can be described as the right time. The original English title of the book is ” How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and The Break throughs We Need ” (How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and The Break throughs We Need) . It is the richest man in the world, Bill Gay A new work that discusses climate disasters. After the book was published in the United States in early 2021, translations of French, Spanish, Chinese and other languages ​​soon became available, which had a wide range of international influences.


The author of this book, Bill Gates, needs no introduction. As a Harvard student who dropped out of school, Gates is the world’s richest man in a wealthy country. In the writing of this book, he has demonstrated his amazing self-learning and life-long learning capabilities. As Gates said, his major is software engineering, not climate science, but Gates spent ten years studying the causes and effects of climate change, and his gains can be seen in this book. Although the book is not a professional work, and the contribution of “shadow writers” is indispensable, it is clear in reasoning, easy in language, and extremely readable.

Over the years, Gates is eager to learn and tirelessly. With the support of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and economics, he has focused on exploring new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this book, Gates analyzes the challenges facing “zero net emissions” from the main areas of carbon emissions such as electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation, the technical tools that can be used, and the technological breakthroughs we need, and provides A set of action plans that cover a wide range but are practical at every step.

Gates pointed out that in order to prevent global warming and avoid the effects of climate change, mankind needs to stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; the goal of achieving zero emissions must be driven by innovation. In the book, Gates also predicted future investment opportunities, pointing out that the “zero-carbon” industry is a huge economic opportunity. Those countries that can make a breakthrough in this field will be the countries that will lead the global economy in the next ten years.

Gates emphasized in the book that achieving zero emissions is not easy, but if he follows his vision, this goal can be achieved-mankind can work together to make the world avoid climate disasters.


In 2018, a report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the international community has 12 years to limit climate change disasters-by 2030, global warming must be controlled to a ceiling of 1.5 degrees Celsius. If global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, even if it only warms by another 0.5 degrees Celsius, hundreds of millions of people will be at risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty.

The IPCC proposed four ways to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target through different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation, shifting to electric transportation systems, and greater adoption of carbon capture technologies are all critical. The goal is: by 2030, carbon pollution must be reduced by 45%; by 2050, carbon pollution must be reduced to zero.

Gates’s book is basically in accordance with the goal set by this report, and plans to reduce global net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

Gates elaborated on the strategy to achieve global zero net carbon emissions, including: replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and nuclear energy, achieving zero carbon emissions in power generation, and electrifying human activities as much as possible . A key concept he provided is “green premium.” , That is, to calculate the cost of clean alternatives to fossil fuels, and the difference between the two is the “green premium.”

In his book, Gates elaborated on how to reduce this premium through technological innovation and government policies, and ultimately achieve the 2050 goal of global zero net carbon emissions. Gates pointed out that we need to use more renewable energy, less fossil fuel (accounting for about 27% of current emissions) , change the way we produce goods (31%) , the way we grow food (18%) , Ways to travel (16%) , and ways to keep our buildings warm or cool (6%) .

In order to achieve this goal, Gates advocated the Green New Deal, carbon pricing and strengthening corporate social responsibility. But Gates’ most important proposal involves new technology. He wrote in the book: “Give me a problem, and I will look for a technology to solve it”; his main interest is technological breakthroughs, just like the Manhattan Project or the Moon Project in terms of the environment.

Gates’ starting point is to develop a plan to develop clean energy and reduce costs. Advances in science have led to an astonishing drop in the prices of solar, wind and wave energy, battery storage, electric vehicles, remote sensing monitoring, and smart grids. But if we are to provide affordable clean energy, we need to go further.

Gates proposed the establishment of a “renewable portfolio standard” for energy pricing, which will quadruple climate-related research and development, including investment in nuclear fusion and nuclear fission, geothermal, carbon mineralization, and ocean-based carbon removal. Innovative technologies such as reducing the acidification of the ocean and directly capturing the air with cleaning machines; it is also necessary to capture carbon emissions from energy, transportation, and manufacturing before being released into the atmosphere, bury them deep or store them in concrete, or even use them. Calcium combines with carbon dioxide to produce limestone to replace concrete.

Gates also mentioned sci-fi movie-like “geoengineering”, such as spreading particulate matter into clouds or making volcanic ash to reflect more sunlight to reduce the temperature of the earth.

Gates believes that the combination of these technological innovation measures can achieve the goal of net zero carbon in the world- if the government can take immediate action to carry out institutional innovation and policy incentives. However, Gates is very clear that he is good at science, not politics. He wrote in the book: “I feel more like an engineer than a political scientist.” He also humbly wrote: “I don’t have a political solution to climate change,” although he knows that the technical solution he seeks is inseparable from political decision-making.

Gates has repeatedly and fairly emphasized in his book that industrialized countries should take more responsibility in preventing global warming and climate disasters, because they are the most responsible for global warming; poor agricultural countries need more help and Support is not only because they have the least responsibility for global warming, but also because the poor are more vulnerable to climate disasters such as droughts, floods, and heat waves. At the same time, people in poor countries pursue a reasonable right to use more electricity and energy. It should be protected.


As soon as Gates’s book was published, it had a wide-ranging international influence. Its French, Spanish, and Chinese translations were soon released. Some internationally renowned personalities also wrote book reviews, both praised and criticized, and dissent.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown published a book review in The Guardian and spoke highly of the book. While agreeing with the proposal in Gates’ book, Brown also proposed four “further measures”:

  • First, the core of the global fiscal stimulus measures needed to coordinate the economic recovery after the new crown pneumonia epidemic is a “green new deal”, that is, the large-scale expansion of “environmentally sustainable infrastructure” and the creation of millions of much-needed new employment position.
  • Second, the new company law should be implemented globally to ensure that multinational companies disclose their carbon footprints, adopt impact-weighted accounting to reveal the full environmental costs of their operations, and publish a transition plan to a zero-carbon economy.
  • Third, by reaching an agreement to abolish fossil fuel subsidies, and by adopting Biden’s plan on border adjustment mechanisms to promote carbon pricing-the mechanism for the first time imposes taxes on carbon-intensive import and export products.
  • Fourth, vigorously promote nature-based solutions, from afforestation to better land use, in order to realize the commitment of the US$100 billion Green Climate Fund planned ten years ago, which aims to help developing countries’ climate mitigation and Adapt to raise funds.

Brown pointed out that people need to realize that sharing sovereignty is beneficial to all countries, and coordinated global collective action is the only feasible way to solve global environmental problems.

While some commentators spoke highly of Gates’ “technological innovation optimism,” they also implicitly pointed out that simply emphasizing technological innovation without comprehensively considering international and domestic politics and power games is the weakness of Gates’s argument.

For example, American climate activist Bill McGibbon believes that Gates correctly understands the major challenge facing the world, that is, to “achieve zero (emissions) ” as soon as possible . Gates’ proposal to increase investment in a wide range of new technologies is correct, but it is not enough, because it is difficult to solve the global “net zero carbon emission” problem without politics. McKibben pointed out that the power / authority (power) can take many forms, from geothermal and nuclear energy and the economy to Congress, Gates to make progress on the climate issue, but also a thorough study of the impact of global warming forces – which also Including international/domestic politics.

Before and after Gates’s writing, two other books on global warming and climate disasters came out, namely “Under the White Sky” by Elizabeth Colbert and “The New Climate War: Taking Back Our Planet” by Michael Mann. battle”.

Colbert is a well-known environmental writer, and “Under the White Sky” is deeply skeptical of “technological optimism” or “technological fatalism”. Colbert believes that outstanding people like Bill Gates come forward to advocate technological innovation to prevent global warming and strive to achieve global decarbonization. This is definitely an important step forward. However, the fundamental solution is still A power game in global politics is needed, and a global collective action is needed.

Michael Man himself is a well-known climate scientist and active climate activist. In his book “The New Climate War”, he criticized Gates and Melinda’s 2016 annual letter. In the letter, Gates and Melinda emphasized the challenge of reducing emissions and declared that mankind needs a new energy miracle. Man pointed out that many zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels are already competitive in terms of cost. We don’t need miracles. We only need to rely on current renewable technologies to achieve 100% clean electricity.

Mann supports systemic changes to “decarbonize” the world. He pointed out that technologies in the form of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are an important part of achieving decarbonization goals, but don’t rely too much on unproven solutions, such as the “geoengineering” mentioned in Gates’ book. Because this may distract people from simpler, cheaper, and safer alternatives-“geoengineering” only attracts conservatives in the free market, because it caters to market-driven technological innovation, that is, it can The view of solving any problems without government intervention or supervision.


In 2001, the US government reached a final settlement of Microsoft’s antitrust lawsuit, and Gates has since enjoyed the reputation of a “good billionaire.” Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other institutions’ wide-ranging charitable projects, Gates funded global anti-poverty, anti-epidemic, environmental protection and technological innovation programs, sharing its huge wealth with the society.

In the book, Gates tirelessly emphasized that he is very vigilant about inequality in the international community: all emissions are emitted by rich countries, but the victims are poor countries-this kind of injustice on a global scale is shocking!

In 1972, the young philosopher Peter Singer wrote the book “Famine, Wealth and Morality”, advocating that people have the same moral obligations towards people far away and those around them; Giving money to hungry people on the other side of the planet is morally equivalent to neglecting to save drowning children because we don’t want to stain our shoes. If we can help, we must help- any excuses are hypocritical.

Gates and Melinda’s arguments against Singer can be described as “weak in heart”, and their charitable actions are also “practical actions” on Singer’s position. The two wrote in the preface to the 2016 release of Singer’s book: “In the forty years since Singer wrote “Famine, Wealth, and Morality”, the world has improved significantly… This shows that (International) The aid is indeed effective and refutes the destructive myth that foreign aid is not good. Singh’s research shows that we can work together to prevent very bad things from happening, such as child deaths… Some people might think that Singh’s article was originally published It’s ahead-but maybe the time is right now!”

However, for some critics of Gates, although he has helped many poor and weak in the world through philanthropy, Gates’ biggest weakness is still his “belief that progress is the function of capitalist growth.”

For example, the American writer Nicole Marie Aschoff, who claims to be a “public sociologist” , sharply criticized Gates’ “philanthropic capitalism” in his book “The New Prophet of Capital.”

Ashkoff pointed out that since the triumph of capitalism in the 1990s, a new generation of “capital prophets” has appeared. These most powerful prophets are not the poor or the working class, but the super elite. For example, the most resounding critics of capitalism are people like Gates: they condemn poverty and inequality, tell us what the problem of society is and how to solve it.

But in Ashkoff’s view, Gates’ critique of “philanthropic capitalism” does not mean to end capitalism. The Gates Foundation’s policies have not only failed to alleviate the ills of the capitalist market, but have deepened the capitalist market’s influence in providing basic human needs such as health care and education, and exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor. Gates’ visions and solutions support capitalism, allowing capitalism to develop and absorb criticism, thereby maintaining its own systemic status.

Ashkoff believes that at the moment when the world is full of uncertainties and crises, a new spirit of capitalism is forming, which integrates and absorbs the criticism and ideas of elites such as Gates. However, the new prophets should not have the final say.

Ashkoff emphasized that social movements are also telling stories and developing plans. By emphasizing democracy, anti-commercialization and redistribution, they fundamentally challenge the status quo of capitalism and are brewing a new social vision-a vision for the people, not for the people. A society designed for profit.

Ashkoff’s argument can be seen as a sharp critique of Gates’ “philanthropic capitalism” and “technological innovation optimism”. Of course, how to use “social movement” to create a “society designed for the people, not for profit” and save the human society that has been plagued and threatened by increased global inequality, global warming and climate catastrophe is more complicated and more complicated. It is a long-standing issue for far-reaching litigation.

This article comes from WeChat public account : Economic Observation Network (ID: eeojjgcw) , author: Liu Jun

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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