Thinking Citizen Blog — Bill Gates — the Bath Tub Metaphor and the Two Most Important Numbers Worth Remembering
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: Bill Gates — the Bath Tub Metaphor and the Two Most Important Numbers Worth Remembering
Climate change is extremely complicated. Or not? Maybe the scientific details are beyond the reach of the average citizen. But maybe the basics are not. If so, what are those basics? It’s so easy to get lost in the weeds. Metaphors are bridges to understanding. Is the best climate change metaphor the bath tub? Today, excerpts from three articles on how Bill Gates sees the climate crisis. As I understand his recipe for survival it is a combination of a.) government sponsored research and development to reduce the “green premium,” that is, the difference between making something with and without carbon emissions, b.) a carbon tax, and c.) nuclear power. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
FIFTY-ONE BILLION OR ZERO — THE CHOICE IS HUMANITY’S
1.”Fifty-one billion tons of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere each year.”
2. “Zero is the number the planet needs to reach by the year 2050 to avoid worldwide climate catastrophe.”
3. Why? The bathtub metaphor.
NB: Breakdown of the 51 bn tons: 31% making things (steel, cement…) 27% producing and distributing electricity, 19% food, animals, forestry, 16% transportation
THE BATHTUB METAPHOR
1. “The CO2 accumulates like water in a bathtub that’s already almost full.”
2. “When it hits a certain level, it overflows and, in the case of climate, it tips.”
3. “You have to act now, decades in advance, to avoid getting to these really extreme outcomes.”
NB: Is this the best metaphor? How big is the bath tub? Who knows? Who says? Who can you trust? How much agreement among knowledgeable scientists is there on the size of the tub?
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TAKE A TON OF CARBON OUT OF THE ATMOSPHERE?
1. Today, it costs about $200 per ton. Perhaps we can lower that cost to $100 or even less.
2. “To remove 51 billion tons of emissions per year at $100 per ton would require spending $5.1 trillion per year, or 6 percent of the world’s GDP.”
3. “Which is much cheaper, Gates points out, than shutting down whole sectors of economies, as has happened during the pandemic.”
NB: Gates considers DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration) a great precedent for innovative government action that could have comparably beneficial outcomes.
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Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.