Let me start with one aspect of this book that can make a big difference on how you perceive it. I think it is very important to try and forget who the author is. So, before you start reading this book, please try to ignore that it’s written by Bill Gates. Unlike Steve Jobs, who was and still is worshipped by many, Bill Gates kind of got more of a we-hate-you fan club. And there are a lot of reviews condemning this book just based on the fact that he is the author – even worse, based on some incorrect statements, it seems that many of them did not even read it, but just assumed it’s bad/wrong because it’s from Gates. That is a very sad thing because it’s actually worth reading. But only if you can manage to have an open mind and listen … something that seems to be a rare thing in this time and age.
Of course, I don’t want to say that we should now all worship Bill as if he wrote the new climate bible and thereby founded the new and only true climate change religion. Because it is not all perfect.
Here’s what I did not like too much:
Bill Gates is still a big nerd and seems to be a firm believer that science and technology will save us. I agree that new technologies will play a big role by helping us to save energy, improve recycling methods and produce goods and services with eventually no CO2 emissions at all. But if the world’s population and its consumption of resources will continue to grow at the current rate, will technology ever manage to catch up? I highly doubt that we can produce enough clean energy to waste it as much as we do now. So, I feel that he almost ignored the fact that we need to consume less – it’s just mentioned on the side. Of course, it is not a pleasant thought for a businessman that is used to the idea of perpetual growth … maybe even unthinkable?
Also, it’s a bold move to propose nuclear power as a part of the solution. True, it doesn’t produce any CO2 emissions. But what about nuclear waste and the risk of nuclear accidents? I’m still digesting that thought and I’m not sure yet if I can ever accept it – it will take a lot of proof to convince me that new developments could make nuclear power safe enough to use in the future. But okay – we are keeping an open mind, right? So, let’s look into that, too, and do more research in that field.
That being said, there are quite a few things that I liked:
The chapter “Five questions to ask in every climate conversation” does provide you with a good foundation and I think it’s a good basis for such discussions – it sure helps you detect some greenwashing. How much impact does it really have if an airline reduces its CO2 emissions by 50%? Not as much as they would like you to think.
I myself have been interested in green living for a while. But I have to admit that I hadn’t looked too much into the technological aspect of solutions to the climate crisis. Due to that, this was a good introduction for me to the topic and I learned a lot about it. It gives you a good overview of what is already available and also on what new technologies would be helpful.
For example, solar and wind energy are great and will play a big role – but how to store the energy for times when there isn’t enough sun/wind? … that will be the trick. Oh, and cement: how to produce that CO2 neutral? Heidelberg –the small German city where we live– likes to brag about its new green and sustainable quarter called Bahnstadt – but did they ever factor in all the emissions caused by the cement to build it?
Also, Gates got the thought across that we need to aim for zero CO2 emissions – just trying to reduce it will only have us install technologies that will still produce CO2 for a long time; because once installed, they will be around for a while.
He makes it clear, too, that it’s not just the consumer’s job but that governments, as well as the industry, need to get involved and work together.
So, my suggestion is: keep an open mind and read this book – it might surprise you a bit and even teach you a few new things. And it might be a good exercise to listen to people outside of your comfort zone. 😉
If you read this book, let us know your opinion and if you have other book recommendations around this topic, please drop them in the comments box. We will truly appreciate it 🙂
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