Bill Gates is one of those people for whom “needs no introduction” is actually true. The polymathic Microsoft founder now leads the world’s largest and most important private foundation, and he’s using that platform to predict that we’re finally on the cusp of the clean energy breakthrough that’s going to save the world. In his 2016 Annual letter, he mentioned that “I’m so optimistic about the world’s ability to make a miracle happen that I’m willing to make a prediction. Within the next 15 years—and especially if young people get involved—I expect the world will discover a clean energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world”. In a recent interview he gave to Ezra Clein, editor- in- chief of Vox, Gates explains that:
“You can’t wait till 2150 to have an invention. You really need an invention sometime in the next 10 to 20 years, and then scale that up and make it a significant part of the energy system over the next 20 years after that. The rich countries have to get to near zero. And that’s why I go through the equation, because some people think, “Well, you know a little bit of efficiency here, a little bit less consumption there,” somehow makes that equation work, which it doesn’t.” Well, fortunately, even Bill Gates recognises that the business as usual approaches of “small things that will create a big change”, simply are not suitable for the Climate Change problem.
When the journalist asked him to provide an example of a big problem that was resolved in a rapid way, gates provided the following example “An example is that in the early 1900s, New York City was buried in horse manure, and people said, “Okay, should we let the horses only go out on odd and even days?” And they had barns and whips and saddles and people were trained, and there was a huge infrastructure. But that problem was solved by the automobile”.
His interview has many other interesting parts for science, robotics and the pace of technological innovation. You can read it it in full detail here. For the ones that like simple and effective explanations, Gate’s equation on carbon emissions is the definition of simplicity.