5 Questions to Ask in Climate

I'm on Chapter 3 of Bill Gates' book on climate.

He talks about how when he started learning about climate change, he kept encountering facts that were hard to wrap his heard around.

The data he saw often was devoid of context.

If a program reduces carbon footprint by 17 million tons per year, what does that mean? How much is that? Is that a lot?

So he built a framework for the things he learned. It helped him figure out how much was a lot and how much was a little, and how expensive something might be.

This framework consists of five questions.

  1. How much of the 52 Billion Tons?
    • connect everything to the main goal of eliminating 52 billion tons a year
    • divide X amount of GHG by 52 billion
    • convert it into a percentage
    • now you know the big picture goal of how many % of annual global emissions.
  2. What's your plan for cement?
    • electricity and cars get a lot of attention, but you have to consider everything humans do to cause GHG.
    • 5 activities
      • 29%: making things (cement, steel, plastic)
      • 26%: plugging in (electricity)
      • 22%: growing things (animal, plants)
      • 16%: getting around (planes, trucks, cargo ships)
      • 7%: keeping warm and cool (heating, cooling, refrigeration)
  3. How much power are we talking about?
    • 1 watt = a big of energy per second
    • think of it like measuring the flow of water out of a faucet, counting cups that came out per second, measuring power is similar, only you're measuring the flow of energy. Watts is similar to "cups per second"
    • A small incandescent bulb uses 40 watts. A hair dryer uses 1,500. The largest power station in the world: Three Gorges Dam in china produces 22 billion watts
    • hack
      • kilowatt: house
      • gigawatt: city
      • > 100 gigawatt: big country
  4. How much space?
    • for a given energy source (wind, solar, nuclear) find out how much space will be required to produce that energy
    • power density: how much power you can get from different sources for a given amount of land (or water) measured in Watts per square meter
    • examples
      • fossil fuels (500 - 10,000)
      • nuclear (500 - 1,000)
      • solar (5-20)
      • hydropower(5-50)
      • wind (1-2)
      • wood and other biomass (<1)
  5. How much is this going to cost?
    • moving to cleaner energy sources will cost something, this cost is what he calls Green Premiums (GP)
    • ex: jet fuel
      • average retail price of jet fuel in USA is $2.22/gallon
      • advanced biofuel cost $5.35/gallon
      • green premium for zero carbon fuel (5.35 - 2.22)/2.22 * 100 = 140%
    • Helps answer two questions:
      • which zero-carbon option to deploy?(the ones with low GP or no premium at all)
      • where to focus research and development spending, early investors, and best inventors? (wherever the GPs are too high so it makes it more affordable for poorer countries)
    • it's a measurement system that shows u the progress we're making toward stopping climate change