Book review: How to avoid a climate disaster

The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

By Bill Gates

Review written by YES-Europe Greece team member, Kyriakos Zagkoumidis.

51 billion tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions to zero. That is the clear goal that Bill Gates sets from the very beginning and spends the rest of the book explaining how we could achieve it.

The author has spent the last decade investigating the complex causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts from a variety of scientific and economic fields, he has focused on what has to be done in order to avoid a global environmental and climate disaster.

Throughout this book the major sectors of human activity that contribute to climate change are addressed individually. These sectors are power generation, production of construction materials, agriculture/ livestock farming, transportation and heating/cooling. In the respective chapters of each sector, Gates provides an overview of its contribution to the issue and presents the current available technologies in order to combat it. In addition, he addresses the financial aspect of the transition to a more green technology using the term “Green Premiums” to state how expensive each transition would be based on current data.

The main goal, in his opinion, is to bring the Green Premiums down as low as possible by incentivizing zero-carbon solutions and investing in R&D, so that the cost of a zero-emissions alternative is financially viable and thus preferable over its carbon-emitting counterpart. The incentives for the green transition are further addressed in the chapter regarding legislation and government policies. In short, Gates states that it’s essential for governments to promote and fund research as well as creating financial incentives in order to accelerate the transition and achieve the goal of zero carbon emissions. Lastly, the author offers a valuable chapter named “What each of us can do” which offers advice and paths of action to each citizen, consumer and employer.

Overall, the book is simply written and easy to read yet filled with insightful information. Most of all, it provides a good overview of the climate change issue and its various contributors and can therefore be used as an awareness spreading tool for the broader public.

Knowing that the author has spent a great deal of time studying the issue of climate change and trying to promote technological solutions to combat it made the choice of this book apparent. While reading it, you gain a brief yet broad overview of the subject, the available zero-carbon technologies and the politico-economic factors that need to be taken into account. After all, as members of YES-Europe it’s essential for us to broaden our knowledge on climate change, an issue deeply connected to the energy sector and sustainability in general.

“I’m an optimist because I know what technology can accomplish and because I know what people can accomplish. I’m profoundly inspired by all the passion I see, especially among young people, for solving this problem. If we keep our eye on the big goal — getting to zero — and we make serious plans to achieve that goal, we can avoid a disaster”. — Bill Gates

YES-Europe Greece as part of YES-Europe aims to build a network of empowered students and young professionals active in the fields of Energy and Sustainability