In their annual open letter, Bill and Melinda Gates outline what they plan to focus their philanthropic efforts on, and have this year highlighted three major issues: climate change, energy poverty, and gender inequality. The only way to avoid the dramatic and devastating effects that climate change will bring, writes Bill Gates, is to develop a clean and cheap form of energy. Regardless of population size or the amount of energy we consume, this is the only way to prevent wide-scale climatic shifts.
In his section of the letter, Gates focuses on what has to be done in order to cut the current global carbon dioxide emissions of 36 billion tons to zero (or as close to it as possible). He outlines a simple equation he has developed, in which on one side there is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) being pumped into the atmosphere, and on the other is “the world’s population (P) multiplied by the services (S) used by each person; the energy (E) needed to provide each of those services; and finally, the carbon dioxide (C) produced by that energy.”
The equation in Bill and Melinda Gate’s 2016 Annual Letter
He writes that in order to get CO2 to equal zero, one of the variables on the left also needs to be zero. Out of each of the variables, says Gates, the only one for which this is feasible is C. If we can develop a clean and cheap form of energy, then we can get the amount of carbon that’s emitted down to zero. Check out Gates explaining his climate change equation in the video below.
That’s all well and good, you might say, but how is it possible? He goes on to state that we need a “miracle.” But don’t be put off by that, as he then clarifies: “When I say ‘miracle,’ I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine. None of them happened by chance. They are the result of research and development and the human capacity to innovate.” In fact, Gates predicts that within the next 15 years, researchers will hit on the solution.
The letter penned by Gates is directed at teenagers, a generation that he says is “one of the most globally minded in history.” He calls on the younger members of society to help work towards a solution and to find a cheap, clean source of energy that could provide power for the billions of people still living without it. “If you’re someone with some crazy-sounding ideas to solve our energy challenge, the world needs you. Study extra hard in your math and sciences,” he writes. “You might just have the answer.”
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