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+ Your AuthorsArchive @michaeltefula team @my_tickr | venture partner @adaventures | volunteer @diversityvc | my books in link below | views my own Mar. 24, 2021 4 min read

0/ Finished reading the new Bill Gates book on climate change a few weeks ago. It's not the best book on the topic but it's definitely one of the more accessible ones for people new to the topic. Here are some notes I took from it 👇🏾 

1/ We add 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually. That’s about 1 billion a week. The warming impact is equivalent to detonating 1 Hiroshima-sized nuke every second of every day, all year round. 

2/ Greenhouse gases are roughly composed of CO2 (76%), methane (16%) & nitrous oxide (6%). But even though the latter two are a smaller portion of the total, their warming impact is significantly larger. Methane causes 28x more warming than CO2. Nitrous oxide is 265x worse.

3/ The fossil fuel energy industry is huge and will be resistant to change. It generates $2-3 trillion of revenues a year. That’s like the GDP of a rich country. For example it’s more than the GDP of Canada or Italy, and close to that of the UK.

4/ The energy sector currently only invests around 0.3% to 0.4% of its revenue in R&D. The electronics and pharmaceutical industries do over 30 times that amount, with 10% or more of revenues invested.

5/ A small rise in global warming seems harmless but it isn’t...If we go from 1.5 to 2.0°C of warming it won’t just be 33% worse. The damage could be 100% worse or more since climate is a non-linear system.

6/ Oil is so cheap that it’s cheaper than a soft drink. In 2020 a barrel of oil cost around $40—that’s just 25 cents per litre vs. $1.48 for Coke. (Notice that even though oil is cheap today, the price doesn’t reflect the potentially irreversible costs of climate change.)

7/ Around 50% of global CO2 emissions come from just 15% of the world’s countries. These are China (27%), USA (15%), EU and the UK (10%). 

8/ The major sources of greenhouse gases are listed below.

9/ Cement is especially worth highlighting. The following statistic isn’t from Bill Gates’ book but it’s telling nonetheless: “If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the word,” according to Carbon Brief. 

10/ If we transition to clean energy for all our electricity, we’d have to pay a bit more in the short term. For Americans this would be around 15% (a Green Premium of $18/month for the average home) and around 20% for Europeans.

11/ Transmission and distribution make up a considerable portion of the cost of electricity. Bill Gates cites that this is more than a third of the final cost. The number I found for the UK is around a fifth. 

12/ Although solar cells are almost 10x cheaper since 2010 (which is fantastic progress), they are starting to reach their efficiency limits. The best solar panels convert less than 25% of sunlight into electricity and the theoretical limit for current technology is around 33%.

13/ Lithium-ion batteries might also be reaching their peak in terms of how long they can last and the number of charge-discharge-cycles they can go through. Bill Gates believes that we can probably make batteries 3x better but we’re unlikely to get a 50x improvement.

14/ Nuclear energy sounds scary. People often cite accidents like Fukushima & Chernobyl as reasons for why we shouldn’t use it for electricity. However deaths per terawatt hour (“TWh”) are far less for nuclear (0.07 people) compared to oil (18 people). 

15/ The UK is currently the biggest user of offshore wind energy but China will likely take that position within a decade. (Ps. Offshore wind powers around 10% of the UK’s electricity and could be cheaper than gas by 2023.) 

16/ Carbon capture is an exciting new technology that can remove CO2 from the air directly. However, it’s technically challenging and expensive. This is because CO2 makes up just 1 molecule for every 2,500 molecules in the atmosphere (or 3.8 per 10,000).

17/ Americans waste 30-40% of their food while in the UK it’s about 16-18%. (For Europe it’s 20%.) 

18/ Since 1990 the world has lost an area of forest that’s almost 4 times the size of Germany. That’s around 1.3 million square kilometres of forest cover. 

19/ The poorest countries will suffer the most from climate change yet they are the least responsible. For example, Africa accounts for just 2-3% of global emissions but it will be the hardest hit by climate change. 

20/ More links and data sources are in the blog post I wrote here 

You can follow @michaeltefula.


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