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Bill Gates says Covid pandemic ‘easier’ to end than climate change

Bill Gates says Covid pandemic ‘easier’ to end than climate change

Ending the coronavirus pandemic is 'very, very easy' when compared to the challenges involved in tackling the climate change crisis, warns Bill Gates.

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Ending the coronavirus pandemic is ‘very, very easy’ when compared to the challenges involved in tackling the climate change crisis, warns Bill Gates. 

The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft has a new book out called How to Avoid a Climate Disaster where he sets out the ‘urgency of addressing climate change’.

In his book Gates says he is an ‘imperfect messenger’ due to his wealth, houses and travel, admitting he even took a private jet to the 2015 Paris climate summit. 

During promotion for the book Gates told BBC News that solving climate change would be ‘the most amazing thing humanity has ever done’.   

He said that compared to the sacrifices and efforts required to properly forestall a major life ending climate crisis, ending Covid-19 was ‘very, very easy’.

‘The pandemic will come to an end because these amazing vaccines were invented in a year and we’re trying to scale them up and adapt to the variance,’ he said.

Ending the coronavirus pandemic is 'very, very easy' when compared to the challenges involved in tackling the climate change crisis, warns Bill Gates. Stock image

Ending the coronavirus pandemic is 'very, very easy' when compared to the challenges involved in tackling the climate change crisis, warns Bill Gates. Stock image

Ending the coronavirus pandemic is ‘very, very easy’ when compared to the challenges involved in tackling the climate change crisis, warns Bill Gates. Stock image

In his book Gates says he is an 'imperfect messenger' due to his wealth, houses and travel, admitting he even took a private jet to the 2015 Paris climate summit. Stock image

In his book Gates says he is an 'imperfect messenger' due to his wealth, houses and travel, admitting he even took a private jet to the 2015 Paris climate summit. Stock image

In his book Gates says he is an ‘imperfect messenger’ due to his wealth, houses and travel, admitting he even took a private jet to the 2015 Paris climate summit. Stock image

BILL GATES PUSHES FOR GREEN ECONOMY 

Bill Gates was born in 1955 and in 1975, aged 20, co-founded Microsoft after dropping out of Harvard.

During his tenure at Microsoft CEO he saw the firm grow to become the world’s largest PC software company.

He stepped down in 2000 and started his transition into becoming a philanthropist. 

Gates committed to giving away his $124 billion fortune through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This includes moves to eradicate malaria, campaigning on climate change and reduce poverty. 

In his latest book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster Gates proposes a combination of new technology, market forces and regulation to solve the global climate change crisis.

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Solving climate change will require a major global transition to renewable power and changes to our way of life, says Gates, adding there is ‘no precedent for this’.  

The billionaire was inspired to write his new book while determining the best way to bring electricity to the remotest parts of the world without building coal plants.

He said the challenge facing the world is to reduce greenhouse gases – from the 51 billion added to the atmosphere annually now, to zero by 2050.

Not everyone believes Gates is the right person to speak on this issue. 

Rolf Skar at Greenpeace USA told Wired that while the book is focused on avoiding a climate disaster, the author isn’t doing enough to change his personal habits.

‘His investment in private jets and Microsoft’s AI contracts with Exxon, Chevron and BP to extract more fossil fuels are adding to the crisis. Billionaires like Mr Gates need to lead by example or they won’t be taken seriously.’

Gates believes a combination of new technology, regulation and market forces is the solution, rather than asking people to change their way of life.

‘India is going to build housing for their people, provide lighting at night, air condition to make conditions liveable,’ he told BBC News, adding that global demand will not reduce even if it does reduce in some countries. 

A focus on new technology can help reach that target, Gates told the BBC, adding that renewable sources like wind and solar can help decarbonise electricity.

However, electricity accounts for 30 per cent of total emissions, with the remaining 70 per cent through transport, steel, cement, fertiliser production and more. 

Decarbonising the rest of the economy will be a ‘major transition’ that will require new technologies and techniques – as there currently is no way to do it effectively.

Gates says the government needs to lead efforts to create a new global innovation effort on a scale the ‘world has never seen before’.

This includes new regulations that price fossil fuels based on the cost of the damage they do to the environment, not just the cost of production and generation.

Currently users don’t usually pay for any environmental damage caused by pollutants in fossil fuels – from petrol or heating – but Gates says that should change, to the point where we are paying for the pain caused by emitting carbon dioxide. 

‘We need to have price signals to tell the private sector that we want green products,’ Gates said in a promotional interview with BBC News.

His ‘green premium’ plan would allow for a wholesale transformation while maintaining lifestyles in high income countries and lift billions out of poverty. 

In his interview with the BBC Gates says the government needs to lead efforts to create a new global innovation effort on a scale the 'world has never seen before'

In his interview with the BBC Gates says the government needs to lead efforts to create a new global innovation effort on a scale the 'world has never seen before'

In his interview with the BBC Gates says the government needs to lead efforts to create a new global innovation effort on a scale the ‘world has never seen before’

Solving climate change will require a major global transition to renewable power and changes to our way of life, says Gates, adding there is 'no precedent for this'. Stock image

Solving climate change will require a major global transition to renewable power and changes to our way of life, says Gates, adding there is 'no precedent for this'. Stock image

Solving climate change will require a major global transition to renewable power and changes to our way of life, says Gates, adding there is ‘no precedent for this’. Stock image

THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES THROUGH CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS 

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions.

In June 2017, President Trump announced his intention for the US, the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, to withdraw from the agreement.  

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Goverments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

 

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The solution presented by Gates in his book is to price the ‘externalities’ of carbon production including its negative impact on the environment.

He says doing so would better reflect the ‘true cost’ of fossil fuels and make greener alternatives more financially viable in comparison.

Currently many green alternatives cost more than carbon producing versions of the same technology and in some nations this deters transition, especially in fast-growing parts of Asia, Africa and South America.

There needs to be huge investment by governments in research and development and support through regulation to allow the market for new technologies to thrive, said Gates, adding that will also bring down the price of green solutions.

Gates says it will be ‘impossible’ to avoid disaster from climate change without governments globally working to reduce emissions and backing green technology.

He said there needs to be a ‘constant 30-year push’ from government and business to address the problem as business can’t change infrastructure unless market signals are ‘constant and very clear’.

Gates says that ‘consuming less’ isn’t the solution to solving the climate crisis. 

Political action and a change to carbon neutral solutions is more important than just asking people to ‘use less’, he said, adding governments should ‘do the right thing’.

He has faith in the ability of the market to solve part of the rising climate crisis, especially if consumers do their part in demanding green alternatives.

‘If you buy an electric car, a hamburger made of a meat substitute, an electric heat pump for your home you are helping increase the production of these products and therefore helping drive prices down,’ he told BBC News. 

Gates hasn’t stopped living the billionaire lifestyle, he still travels by private jet and has nice houses – but he says he has changed ‘how’ he does it.

His jets are now powered by biofuels made from plant products rather than fossil fuels which ‘costs three times as much’ but acts against his offset spending.

‘I don’t think getting rid of flying would make sense,’ he said in the BBC interview. ‘That type of brute force technique won’t get us there.’

The billionaire believes that instead the answer is to develop new fuels that are zero emissions – moving to green hydrogen or electricity to power a plane. 

He supports the idea of a green recovery from Covid-19 – with stimulus packages focused on solving the issues of climate change.

Climate change and tackling the issue is a ‘huge priority’ for the world and Gates says leaders should feed on the ‘moral conviction’ young people have for the issue.

Gates says that 'consuming less' isn't the solution to solving the climate crisis as India and fast-growing nations will still want to ensure their citizens are happy and thriving

Gates says that 'consuming less' isn't the solution to solving the climate crisis as India and fast-growing nations will still want to ensure their citizens are happy and thriving

Gates says that ‘consuming less’ isn’t the solution to solving the climate crisis as India and fast-growing nations will still want to ensure their citizens are happy and thriving

Gates says it will be 'impossible' to avoid disaster from climate change without governments globally working to reduce emissions and backing green technology. Stock image

Gates says it will be 'impossible' to avoid disaster from climate change without governments globally working to reduce emissions and backing green technology. Stock image

Gates says it will be ‘impossible’ to avoid disaster from climate change without governments globally working to reduce emissions and backing green technology. Stock image

Adding: ‘Now we have to take that energy and make sure it’s directed at the policies that will make a difference.’

He told Bloomberg that there are stark choices for the world and that achieving the goal of reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 it would be significant.

He said ‘It makes the Covid-19 vaccine look like nothing because of the number of people and activities and interventions required to transform the entire physical economy to reduce emissions as we need.’

Gates says the current generation of young people care a lot about the issue and failing to achieve the goal of 50 per cent reduction would leave them very cynical.

Achieving the goal would be something equivalent to ending World War II or stopping Nazism, Gates added in his Bloomberg interview. 

Revealed: MailOnline dissects the impact greenhouse gases have on the planet – and what is being done to stop air pollution

Emissions

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. After the gas is released into the atmosphere it stays there, making it difficult for heat to escape – and warming up the planet in the process. 

It is primarily released from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, as well as cement production. 

The average monthly concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, as of April 2019, is 413 parts per million (ppm). Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration was just 280 ppm. 

CO2 concentration has fluctuated over the last 800,000 years between 180 to 280ppm, but has been vastly accelerated by pollution caused by humans. 

Nitrogen dioxide 

The gas nitrogen dioxide (NO2) comes from burning fossil fuels, car exhaust emissions and the use of nitrogen-based fertilisers used in agriculture.

Although there is far less NO2 in the atmosphere than CO2, it is between 200 and 300 times more effective at trapping heat.

Sulfur dioxide 

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) also primarily comes from fossil fuel burning, but can also be released from car exhausts.

SO2 can react with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to cause acid rain. 

Carbon monoxide 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an indirect greenhouse gas as it reacts with hydroxyl radicals, removing them. Hydroxyl radicals reduce the lifetime of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Particulates

What is particulate matter?

Particulate matter refers to tiny parts of solids or liquid materials in the air. 

Some are visible, such as dust, whereas others cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

Materials such as metals, microplastics, soil and chemicals can be in particulate matter.

Particulate matter (or PM) is described in micrometres. The two main ones mentioned in reports and studies are PM10 (less than 10 micrometres) and PM2.5 (less than 2.5 micrometres).

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture

Air pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, cars, cement making and agriculture 

Scientists measure the rate of particulates in the air by cubic metre.

Particulate matter is sent into the air by a number of processes including burning fossil fuels, driving cars and steel making.

Why are particulates dangerous?

Particulates are dangerous because those less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs, or even pass into your bloodstream. Particulates are found in higher concentrations in urban areas, particularly along main roads. 

Health impact

What sort of health problems can pollution cause?

According to the World Health Organization, a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease can be linked to air pollution. 

Some of the effects of air pollution on the body are not understood, but pollution may increase inflammation which narrows the arteries leading to heart attacks or strokes. 

As well as this, almost one in 10 lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution. 

Particulates find their way into the lungs and get lodged there, causing inflammation and damage. As well as this, some chemicals in particulates that make their way into the body can cause cancer. 

Deaths from pollution 

Around seven million people die prematurely because of air pollution every year. Pollution can cause a number of issues including asthma attacks, strokes, various cancers and cardiovascular problems. 

 

Asthma triggers

Air pollution can cause problems for asthma sufferers for a number of reasons. Pollutants in traffic fumes can irritate the airways, and particulates can get into your lungs and throat and make these areas inflamed. 

Problems in pregnancy 

Women exposed to air pollution before getting pregnant are nearly 20 per cent more likely to have babies with birth defects, research suggested in January 2018.

Living within 3.1 miles (5km) of a highly-polluted area one month before conceiving makes women more likely to give birth to babies with defects such as cleft palates or lips, a study by University of Cincinnati found.

For every 0.01mg/m3 increase in fine air particles, birth defects rise by 19 per cent, the research adds. 

Previous research suggests this causes birth defects as a result of women suffering inflammation and ‘internal stress’. 

What is being done to tackle air pollution? 

Paris agreement on climate change

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. 

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

Carbon neutral by 2050 

The UK government has announced plans to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. 

They plan to do this by planting more trees and by installing ‘carbon capture’ technology at the source of the pollution.

Some critics are worried that this first option will be used by the government to export its carbon offsetting to other countries.

International carbon credits let nations continue emitting carbon while paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, balancing out their emissions.

No new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040

In 2017, the UK government announced the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned by 2040.  

However,  MPs on the climate change committee have urged the government to bring the ban forward to 2030, as by then they will have an equivalent range and price.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change. Pictured: air pollution over Paris in 2019.

Norway’s electric car subsidies

The speedy electrification of Norway’s automotive fleet is attributed mainly to generous state subsidies. Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

A VW Golf with a standard combustion engine costs nearly 334,000 kroner (34,500 euros, $38,600), while its electric cousin the e-Golf costs 326,000 kroner thanks to a lower tax quotient. 

Criticisms of inaction on climate change

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said there is a ‘shocking’ lack of Government preparation for the risks to the country from climate change. 

The committee assessed 33 areas where the risks of climate change had to be addressed – from flood resilience of properties to impacts on farmland and supply chains – and found no real progress in any of them.

The UK is not prepared for 2°C of warming, the level at which countries have pledged to curb temperature rises, let alone a 4°C rise, which is possible if greenhouse gases are not cut globally, the committee said.

It added that cities need more green spaces to stop the urban ‘heat island’ effect, and to prevent floods by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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