* Climate change algebra
* Now the topic is also cement
Among the immense number of books and reports that are published these days on environmental threats, the latest by Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, entitled “How to avoid the disaster of climate change”, has the merit of clarity and forcefulness .
Its central thesis is simple but fundamental: in the world 51 trillion tons of particles with greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere every year, and it is essential to reduce them to zero in the coming decades if we want to do something resounding against the phenomenon.
Perhaps the most original thing about Gates in this book is the methodology he uses, which we could call the “algebra” of global warming. Each greenhouse effect particle ejector is carefully quantified and the cost and technological possibilities that exist to replace the energy used by other sources that are not harmful to the environment are calculated. What the author calls the “climate award”.
Thus, the causes of greenhouse effect particle emissions are distributed as follows: production of cement, steel and plastics, 31%; for the generation of electrical energy through fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), 27%; in agriculture, and mainly in the production of animal feed which, in turn, generate organic waste with a greenhouse effect, 19%; transportation by automobiles, fluvial means and airplanes, 16%; and finally, cooling mechanisms, 7%.
An interesting first observation by Gates is that, contrary to what is often said, it is not only with the combustion of fossil sources in the production of electrical energy that harmful effects are caused to the environment. There are also other processes equally responsible for global warming, such as the industrial mechanisms used in the manufacture of cement, steel and plastics. What are the three paradigmatic cases analyzed by the author.
The central thesis in Gates’ research is certainly not to stop producing, for example, these three indispensable goods in manufacturing, construction and various industrial processes. Its fundamental recommendation is to produce these goods with less electrical energy generated based on fossil fuels. Hence, of course, his call to vigorously pursue electricity generation programs in photovoltaic and wind farms. The book makes a call not to mix up energies based on renewable sources that, although important, still play a moderate role in the fight against climate change. The author is also optimistic about the future and controlled production of energy from nuclear sources. Which has also been the central thesis of the discoverer of climate change, James Lovelock.
Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the book is that Gates neatly quantifies the costs of making the transition from polluting energy to cleaner energy. The global consumption matrix of the various energy sources to date shows this: coal consumption continues to represent 36% of total energy use, natural gas 23%, hydroelectric generation 16%, nuclear the 10%, renewable sources 11%, and other sources 3%.
In some aspects, there are already technological processes that allow us to visualize, at reasonable costs, the transition from polluting energy consumption to cleaner energy. As is the case with electric vehicles and new generations of batteries, whose cost and storage capacity have been reducing in the former and increasing in the latter, which explains the significant increase in electric cars and the transformation of conventional ones into the last years.
For Gates, at bottom, everything is a broad economic exercise: the processes that today consume polluting energy and can be replaced by clean mechanisms must be supported. In other cases, such as cement, to date no viable economic substitution is in sight, but it is the substantial scenario – according to the author – to combat climate change.
In short: it is the voice of an environmental activist who has the worldwide respectability of having been the founder of Microsoft. It is the voice of an academic, based on his business experience, concerned about climate change. From someone who understands and proves throughout the book that the transformations in consumption patterns necessary to combat this phenomenon will only be those that allow an economic balance. And that they have technological possibilities to be put into practice.