How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By Bill Gates (2021)

During the last ice age, the average temperature was just 6 degrees Celsius lower than it is today. During the age of the dinosaurs, when the average temperature was perhaps 4 degrees Celsius higher than today, there were crocodiles living above the Arctic Circle. 🐊

Today, when businesses make products or consumers buy things, they don’t bear any extra cost for the carbon involved, even though that carbon imposes a very real cost on society.

The countries that build great zero-carbon companies and industries will be the ones that lead the global economy in the coming decades.

My Notes

From 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, to zero by 2050:

National leaders around the world will need to articulate a vision for how the global economy will make the transition to zero carbon.


Making reductions by 2030 the wrong way might actually prevent us from ever getting to zero. Why? Because the things we’d do to get small reductions by 2030 are radically different from the things we’d do to get to zero by 2050. They’re really two different pathways, with different measures of success…


… Biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics, engineering, and other sciences.

… Breakthroughs that will give birth to new industries composed of major new companies, creating jobs and reducing emissions at the same time.


Source Emissions
Manufacturing: cement, steel, plastic 31%
Electricity 27%
Plant and animal produce 19%
Transport: planes, trucks, ships 16%
Heating and cooling 7%
What Consumption
The world 5,000 gigawatts
USA 1,000 gigawatts
Mid-size city 1 gigawatt
Small town 1 megawatt
Average US house 1 kilowatt
Energy source Watts/sq m
Fossil fuels 500 - 10,000
Nuclear 500 - 1,000
Solar 5 - 20
Hydropower (dams) 5 - 50
Wind 1 - 2
Wood and other biomass < 1


Yes, but not enough. E.g., to power Tokyo for three days during a storm you need “more storage capacity than the world produces in a decade.”


It’s the only carbon-free energy source that can reliably deliver power day and night, through every season, almost anywhere on earth, that has been proven to work on a large scale.

US is 20% nuclear; France 70%.

Alternative Fuels

Electrofuels/biofuels when electricity isn’t viable: long-distance trucks, trains, airplanes and container ships.

Or for containerships, nuclear (like submarines).

Direct-Air Capture (DAC)

It’s probably the most expensive solution; in many cases, it will be cheaper not to emit greenhouse gases in the first place.


Half the world’s land mass worth to absorb the emissions of the US population 😣

What Can We Do?

Reduce emissions yes, but more powerful is sending “a signal to the market that people want zero-carbon alternatives and are willing to pay for them.”

When you pay more for an electric car, a heat pump, or a plant-based burger, you’re saying, “There’s a market for this stuff. We’ll buy it.”

Make calls, write letters, attend town halls.