Five Questions For An Informed Discussion on Climate Change

Bill Says “Five Questions To Ask In Every Climate Conservation”

At earthrhize we are fans of Bill Gates' latest opus How To Avoid A Climate Disaster.

Bill Gates is marmite to many people but we believe his new work distinguishes itself from the current crop of apocalyptic literature on climate change through its level-headedness and high level analysis of the practical issues getting to zero actually represents in the real world.

We like particularly Mr. Gates' section on how to conduct an informed discussion on climate change.

Diplomatically Bill is possibly suggesting that most people who discuss climate change have a very shaky handle on the issues when it comes to context resulting in knee jerk assertions that are often crass and when examined carefully just don't make any sense.

So as a handy aide memoire to break the conversational ice at that first sophisticated dinner party post-COVID when someone says with absolute conviction that "it's all the fault of the aviation industry" or that "solar energy could easily solve the climate crisis" here are the five questions to ask that might lead to an informed, reflective discussion.

Q1. How much of the 51 billion tonnes are we talking about ?

Commentary: Numbers in isolation are meaningless. Whenever a statement is made about emissions divide by 51 billion to understand the magnitude of the topic being discussed. Aviation is a good example – regarded as the incarnation of climate change evil and producing 17 million tonnes of emissions per year. But divide this by 51 billion and the number is 0.03 % of annual global emissions …where the hell is the rest coming from ?

Q2. What’s Your Plan For Cement ?

Shorthand for "what’s your plan for each sphere of human activity?"

Billy G. speaks of five major activities that create our annual 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

Making Things, Plugging In, Growing Things, Getting Around, Keeping Cool & Warm.

Cement is used as a proxy for Making Things. Cement is a massive contributor to emissions (along with steel), central to our way of life (and improving the living standards of billions) and currently impossible to produce at scale without carbon emissions.

The core mantra of How To Avoid A Climate Disaster is that this will not be easy.

Q3. How Much Power Are We Talking About ?

Another maze of big numbers. Rule of thumb: Kilowatts = households, Gigawatt = mid-size city, 100’s of Gigawatts = big, rich country, 5,000 Gigawatts = the world

Q4. How Much Space Do You Need ?

Another question bringing it back to reality – yes, we could cover America with solar panels, but where would we locate the Wal-Marts and McDonald’s? Oh and grow the food and have somewhere to live.

Q5. How Much Is This Going to Cost?

Reforms are not going to be effective unless the cost of getting there from Business As Usual is affordable. The “Green Premium” has to be affordable for the consumers in middle income countries to pay – otherwise this is a meaningless discussion.

Check out our instagram @earthrhize for our "Bill Says" series where we will try to condense some of the thought provoking issues covered into easily digestible nuggets of Bill wisdom.