How To Avoid A Climate Disaster (my notes)

Happy labor day… Over the weekend, I breezed through How To Avoid A Climate Disaster. This book seems extraordinarily relevant when looking at the headlines over the past week alone – NYC streets flooding and fires destroying homes and lives in Lake Tahoe.

A few notes / takeaways:

  • There are 51 Billion tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year, and we should not be focused on just reducing it, we need to drive it to zero.
  • Rich countries use significantly more energy per person vs. poor countries, but this is good and we want all people to use more energy. Energy usage is a sign of progress, leading to a higher quality of life. We just need it to be carbon free energy.
  • We will continue to develop. The world will be building the equivalent of another New York City every month for the next 40 years. This is good as well.
    • Making things (cement, steel, plastic) is the top emitter of Greenhouse gasses and responsible for 31% of emissions (vs. 16% for transportation). Make a ton of cement and you will make a ton of carbon dioxide.
  • Oil is a powerful force when it comes to powering energy and costs about $1 per gallon (@ $42 p/barrel), while a gallon of soda from Costco costs $2.85. Oil is cheaper than soda. Think about that.
  • The poorest have the most to lose across and climate change will increase the wealth gap.
  • Opposite of the way that computer chips work, it takes a long time to adopt new sources of energy.
    • Ford’s production line in 1908 got 21 miles to the gallon, the top hybrid today gets 58 MPG (not much improvement over 100 years).
    • We demand reliable electricity (the lights better work when we flip the switch).
  • Bill looks for solutions and his questions are all about thinking big. Two examples:
    • How much of the 51B is your solution going to solve?
    • What is your plan for cement?
  • Current solutions are available, but they currently come w/ “green premiums” and we need to remove the additional expenses to let the market work its magic.
  • Government policies need to intersect with the creation of supply and demand w/ a big vision to get to zero. Having a 2030 reduction goal is not enough. We need to have a focus on a 2050 goal, with intermediate milestones along the way.
  • Re: pandemics, health experts were telling us that a massive outbreak was virtually inevitable. Despite the warnings, we did not do enough to prepare. We should not make the same mistake with climate change.

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