The Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation is planning to address the disastrous global climate change — and it’s not expensive as expected.
51 billion and zero are actually the two numbers Bill Gates would like to reveal. The first one refers to the quantity of tons of CO2 emissions that are usually emitted to the atmosphere resulted from human activity per year. In order to prevent a climate catastrophe, the “zero” milestone is the number of tons that requires to be achieved by 2050.
The fourth-richest individual in the world has a strategy for these goals, and he’s proud to say it won’t be labeled with trillion-dollar price tag. He might be supposed to do this somehow relating to tech, actually, the proposed approach of the billionaire is primarily related to creativity.
In his new book published on February 16, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have And The Breakthroughs We Need, he points out his vision. Gates spoke to Forbes before the book release about the published reason for the work. He also provided further information excluded in the book, like the amount of money he’s invested in zero-carbon businesses, aspects he’s most enthusiastic about, along with the latest type of nuclear power facility, and the near-future plan he’s likely to engage.
Gates states that the first goal of the book is to specifically spell out which economic sectors generate the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases usually released into the environment per year. In a video interview in his company meeting room in Seattle, he notes that the actual numerical structure, which is the most fundamental thing about every subject you want to solve… that’s still lacking. (For the percentage breakdown, see table.) The target we are heading for is zero emission by 2050. Gates is confident about its possibility, as complicated as it seems.
Global Make-Up Emission: 51 Billion Tons
As a result of the pandemic, emissions fall by around 5 percent in 2020, Gates reports. However, the planet contributes to the atmosphere amount of 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases in a typical year, writes Gates in his writing.
In both his book and when we met, Gates acknowledges that he is an incomplete ambassador of climate change. He shared that if one person actually thinks they understand what we can do, there’s a few certain pushback, accordingly. In his novel, he further explains the role of wealthy and powerful people with big ideas to influence others, or individuals’ belief about the technology capacity to address whatever issue, all are existing in the world. Gate confessed his personal finance, that he has big houses and private planes and still feels aware of paying $400 for any ton of carbon released from those private jet flights.
In a 2015 speech, Gates predictively cautioned of the risks of a global pandemic and must-do responsibilities to brace for it. Likewise, it’s just one in many of his public recommendations for the environment. He delivered a TED presentation in 2010, asking for the need to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. He has tended to collaborate and dig into the latest in climate research and strategy with specialists in the area. He engaged in the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, trying to call on the then President of France, Francois Hollande, and urging him to get governments to commit to increasing their renewable energy innovation R&D budgets. 20 nations have signed up.
Gates and his team offered a concept called “Green Premium” to help place a structure around the development and the expense of emerging carbon-free technologies and published it in his blog, Gates Notes, in September last year. As he states, in one that does, the Green Premium points out the cost differential for a production system that doesn’t produce carbon.In the passenger car market, eco premiums have decreased to the level that more consumers would like to own electric vehicles (though Gates figures out that just 2 percent of global auto sales are electric vehicles). Conversely, Renewable Premiums are much greater in the manufacturing sector.
What’s it all going to cost?
In December, in his blog, Gates recommended that the U.S. establish a National Institutes of Energy Innovation to assist the country to lead in innovation in environmental issues. The intention is to model it after the cornerstone of U.S. medical research, the National Institutes of Health, which has a budget of around $37 billion per year. Gates reports that actual U.S. government R&D spending on energy innovation is around $7 billion each year; to balance government expenditure on the NIH, that will need to be five-fold.
Gates also gives another suggestion: apply the tax credits, which are used for solar and wind, for some kind of new sources such as offshore wind, energy storage, and new types of steel. He explains for that suggestion: “If you do that, and maybe double or triple the amount you spend on those tax benefits, then I do think that will be just a monumental contribution from the Biden administration.”
Gates reveals that any modernization of technology in the world has to be feasible enough to apply to other countries such as India. The reason for that is the number of emissions of a single country like the U.S. is 14%; therefore, this problem will not be solved if just a country reaches the target of zero carbon emissions.
The investment of Gates
Gates writes in the book that he’s invested “more than $1 billion” into companies working towards zero emissions. He also shares to Forbes that he spends about $2 billion on these investments. His venture is put into technology to capture air directly which is used for capture carbon in the air. He also invests in two plant-based-meat-producing companies: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. He also defines some spending as charitable activities like an investment for an open-source climate change model that aims at generating electricity in extreme weather.
His biggest investment is starting a business in a nuclear power company named TerraPower whose fuels for the reactor are depleted uranium. He and some companions established it more than a decade ago. There was a cooperation with a China company to establish a reactor in China in 2017. However, in late 2019, the U.S government restricted the association with China on civilian nuclear power aspects which lead to the cancellation of the agreement and the decision to establish a plant in the U.S. In October, TerraPower received an investment fund of $80 million from the Department of Energy to build the plant and the remaining amount will be the private source. Gates shares, “That’s coming largely from me.” With the expectation to get it done in the next five to seven years, he says “If things go well, that means that maybe in 10 years, commercial plant builders would take that design and build it ideally in the hundreds—which is what you need to have an impact on climate change.”
Gates also formed a group called Breakthrough Energy Ventures in December 2016 to invest in zero-carbon companies. Beside the largest investors is Gates, there are some billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, John Arnold, and John Doerr, also invested in this group. The group has spent money on 40 companies. QuantumScape, which has publicly approved SPAC in November of last year, is one of those companies. This company concentrated on lithium metal batteries for electric vehicles, but it has not brought in revenue yet. Gates considers some of the early-stage companies in those invested companies as “really wild”, which includes QuidNet. This company focuses on keeping power in pressured underground wells through pumping water. Whenever there is a need for electricity, the water is discharged and goes through a turbine, making power.
Gates intends to invest more into technologies related to zero-carbon emission in the next five years. He says “I’ll put in at least $2 billion”. The investment fund of $4 billion is a huge amount of money; however, for a person who has more than $120 billion of the asset, it is a small number in his personal finance. Gates says “It’s more limited by what is out there that can have a high impact.”
Are there any impacts of Gates’ book on policymakers and the need of changing into zero-emission technology? It contributes to the ranking of fighting against climate change on the top four priorities of the U.S government. His book is about his thought and even including the photo with his son Rory on the journey to a geothermal power plant.
In his book, Gates also wants to enhance the conversation of people. He writes “My hope is that we can shift the conversation by sharing the facts with the people in our lives— our family members, friends, and leaders. And not just the facts that tell us why we need to act, but also those that show us the actions that will do the most good.”
Any adoptions of his policy proposals from the U.S government will be a larger success for Gates. He says, “I do think that with those increases [in spending], we’ll be doing exactly what we need to do, not just for us, but for the entire world.”