Book Review: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates

Written in 2020, the first thing sticking out was that there is no mention of the European Green Deal. I am not sure why.

Another thing is that Gates is calling readers to run for office in an election. I am not aware of any political office Gates is running for himself. Maybe he thinks it is not the most efficient use of his time to work as a President of the United States, which is what I assume he would choose if he followed his own advice here.

The main solution he proposes is to get more technical options developed faster. Gates’ own efforts at helping with new nuclear technology are an example of that.

To get more development faster, he wants more tax dollars and more private sector activity. I found the idea of having companies work with each other more expressed on page 222 especially interesting, since that is the basic idea I am advocating for too. In my view, oil companies should work together to set up a production schedule similar to the Bitcoin production schedule. Have production reduced by half every four years. Then lean back and watch the price and your profits skyrocket, while saving the planet from a climate disaster at the same time.

I also liked the market based thinking in much of the book. If you want to achieve zero carbon, it would seem to be a good idea to have a market for carbon removal. Said market has received some boosts lately, but is still in its infancy.

As Gates notes, there are 51 billions of tons of CO2 equivalent now emitted each year. In contrast, until the recent announcements in April, the world collectively has only financed removing 10,000 tons, ever. That changed for the better, with several projects investing large sums, but it is still far less than necessary in the long term.

If you develop technology to remove carbon from the air directly, who is going to buy that?

And if I buy 1 ton of carbon removal from some vendor or other, will I be able to sell that 1 ton removal on a secondary market 20 years from now to someone else, when the market is established and the price of 1 ton of removal is much higher?

Or could I sell that 1 ton of removal to the European Central Bank one week later for whatever I just paid, like the ECB is doing with bonds emitted by European Union Member States? How would such a transaction even work?

The answer to these questions is that they do not work right now. There is no way to sell now to the ECB or twenty years later to Bill Gates (in that case turning a profit from the transaction).

I think that should change. I wonder if there are some smart people who could figure out how to use Bitcoin for this purpose. Or in the alternative prove that it is impossible to do.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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