How to Avoid A Climate Disaster: A Short Book Review

I began reading How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates just as India was entering its second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic. In the weeks that followed, the onslaught of bad news pouring in from every part of the country was, to say the least, relentless. In hindsight, reading a book about the bleak future we face, while oscillating between pandemic-induced fear and fatalism, wasn’t a very good idea… It was almost as if the mere act of distancing myself from the reality of climate change and the contents of the book, would somehow make them less true… Less worrisome…

In lucid language peppered with self-deprecating comments, Bill Gates writes a book that I can only hope becomes mandatory reading material in high schools. Its scale and scope, as I suspect is the norm for most literature on global warming, is extensive. He defines the problem (from 51B tons of CO2 emissions per annum to net zero), lists out the reasons why we must act now (fires, famine, floods, food, etc.) and then examines the four categories of emissions in detail (making things, generating electricity, growing things for meat and food, transportation and moving around, keeping warm and cool). For each of these, he talks about the solutions that exist and the areas that need investments and innovation, and in doing so provides a framework for understanding the climate change conversation better. Sample some of the more surprising revelations from one of its chapters: climate change provided the spark for the Syrian civil war; asylum applications to the EU could go up by 28% by the end of the century, even with moderate warming; lower crop yields will force 2 to 10% of all adults in Mexico to cross the border into the US by 2080; mortality from climate change by 2050 is expected to be same as that from the Spanish Flu and Covid 19 averaged over a century, i.e., 14 deaths per 100,000.

The work that the Gates Foundation does is too important to be marred by the recent controversies that he’s been involved in. His connection to Jeffrey Epstein notwithstanding, his credentials as a technophile and a self-made expert in global healthcare and climate change are impeccable. If the story around his efforts to lobby for a Nobel Peace Prize via Epstein’s network is true, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world… In any case, dwelling on it on a Friday evening isn’t going to help! Time to take Ruki’s advice and move on to some fiction. Stay safe and love to all!

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