I recently listened to the new Bill Gates’ book on climate change. Here I’ll introduce some of the ideas that resonated with me:
- We could call “green premium” to the difference in price between products that emit CO2 and their zero-emission alternatives. The green premium in different products/industries can be used as an indicator of how much we’re progressing. When the premium is low or below zero people will use the green alternatives — even in low and middle-income countries — because their price is similar or cheaper.
- Not only buying an electric car, artificial meet, green air fuel, etc. help because they require fewer emissions, but mostly because their demand helps to develop the industries and lower their price — reducing the green premium — until they get cheaper than the alternative due to economies of scale.
- If we focus only on what can be done for 2030 — but not to reach zero emissions in 2050 — we’ll do things like moving from coal to natural gas. This would reduce emissions in 2030 but wouldn’t help us to be carbon neutral in 2050. This is because natural gas emits less CO2 than coal but not zero and these new natural gas plants would still be working in 2050 because plants need to be run for decades to be cost-effective.
- Clean electricity is key. It not only is a large percentage of our energy consumption, but also the single most important thing that would help industries such as manufacturing to become carbon neutral.
- Rich countries should introduce more policies to subsidise zero-carbon alternatives or make pollution more expensive — ideally both. With time, this will make the green premium lower and lower until low and middle-income countries switch to green products because their cost is similar or lower.
- Gates also recommends governments fund new large-scale projects such as the Human Genome Project — which mapped the human genome and released it open for everyone. This project was led by the US with partners in the UK, France, Japan and China and it’s estimated that for every dollar spent by the US, the US economy got 140 back. For example, governments should invest more in projects related to clean energy research.