"Whether or not it's a 'fairytale' to achieve carbon neutrality within a decade, we should work towards it as quickly as we can"Dan Meyers

However ideal a radical transformation of society may be when it comes to tackling climate change, it simply isn’t feasible. That much is abundantly clear. Having said that, it’s not to say that we shouldn’t make substantial changes that will benefit the planet – but to expect something akin to a revolution is, ultimately, the real “pipe dream”.

So what exactly is the perfect solution? Herein, I think, lies the issue. There isn’t one – and so the more time we spend debating what the ideal solution looks like, the more time we lose to fight the devastating impacts of climate change. Instead, we should, and must, grasp every available opportunity with both hands – including that of technology.


Mountain View

How the cult of Bill Gates is leading us towards a climate disaster

As the world develops, the demand for energy is rising, and shows little sign of stopping anytime soon. It’s quite clear therefore that degrowth isn’t quite as popular as some may like, and that it just isn't viable in a society that enjoys progress – so the focus must instead be on decoupling growth from emissions. The challenge, then, lies in ensuring that the growing need for energy can be met without releasing exorbitant volumes of greenhouse gas emissions – and this is a challenge that undoubtedly requires technology.

As both the original article and Bill Gates agree, reducing emissions from power generation ought to come largely from renewables. They don’t emit greenhouse gases – at least not directly – and are becoming increasingly inexpensive, which is more or less a prerequisite for widespread take-up. However, renewables currently face major limitations, like intermittency, so they'll need to be supplemented by other forms of energy. But what kind?

The answer to that question, however contentious it may be, is probably nuclear. The technology already exists, and, like renewables, don’t directly emit greenhouse gases. Given that burning fossil fuels make up the majority of anthropogenic emissions, it is imperative that we break away from them – and this can only really happen if we increase investment into nuclear energy. Gates definitely misses the mark when it comes to reducing emissions: whether or not it’s a “fairytale” to bring about carbon neutrality within a decade, we should work towards it as quickly as we can – and rapidly changing the energy mix will be crucial to achieving that. And although Gates’ views on climate change aren’t quite perfect, the so-called ‘cult’ surrounding him will only amplify the attention climate change receives, which is a necessary first step in actually tackling it.

“The more time we spend debating what the ideal solution looks like, the more time we lose to fight the devastating impacts of climate change”

Where Bill Gates does get it right, is the importance of investing into new technologies – and therefore, new solutions – of which geoengineering may be one. Geoengineering seeks to artificially modify the climate, typically on a planetary scale, and is usually centred around either carbon removal or solar engineering. And though there are a number of valid concerns about engineering at such a scale, refusing to even research something that could potentially have a positive impact on many lives, species, and ecosystems, would be entirely irresponsible. Burning fossil fuels, albeit inadvertently, seems to be a widely accepted form of geoengineering that is having detrimental consequences – so why shouldn’t we try to reverse this? Of course, geoengineering alone is not the solution to climate change, but it is certainly a solution, and one we should seek to use alongside other efforts, such as renewed commitments to slash emissions.

And while it’s important to keep researching more ‘out-there’ technology, we mustn’t forget that there are also answers sitting right in front of us. Electrification, for instance, has already taken off – but if it were to become more widespread, it could play a huge role in the coming decades. Provided power generation is being decarbonised, electrifying our everyday infrastructure is bound to reduce emissions, and with its high efficiency, will also lessen demands and costs. Decarbonising power generation also means renewable energy enters the discussion once again, as the intermittency of renewables like solar and wind – an issue Gates has pointed out – could in fact be curbed by the onset of extensive electrification.

“While climate change is a political issue, it is not an issue that can be solved by politics alone”

All of this, as asserted by the original article, is inextricably tied to politics. Governments urgently need to make the initial investments into the research and development of climate technology – but funding is currently modest at best. Gates considers health research in the US, where after declaring a “war on cancer… we fund all health research at about $30 billion a year… then we got the private sector involved [in] building breakthrough drugs.” If one were to apply the same principles to climate technology, the results could be astonishing. So while climate change is a political issue, it is not an issue that can be solved by politics alone.

It seems then that technology, while not the ultimate solution, is extremely important. The rate of emissions cuts needs to increase tenfold, and it is simply unreasonable to think this to be achieved in the absence of current technology and technological advances. Let’s also not forget that now-established forms of climate technology, such as renewables, were also once unthinkable. Ingenuity and innovation have served humanity for thousands of years, and will no doubt continue to do so as we face our biggest crisis – possibly ever.