Bill Gates Book TalkArmchair Expert with Dax Shepard
- 986 views
- 13 Mar 2021
Dax and Monica host a conversation with Bill Gates about his new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, for the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Welcome, welcome, welcome to a bonus episode that we really had no intention of releasing, right? Correct. It was a pop out.
It was a big pop out. We were really flattered, of course, to be asked by the Bill Gates team to moderate a discussion about his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, which we love. It's an incredible book. So anyways, we we did this, moderated it. It was really fun.
It was so fun. It's so flattering, so fun, so informative. I get to ask Bill about my home, which felt very intimate and privileged and privileged, and it was put on by the Chicago Humanities Festival.
And what was kind of funny for us as, quote, performers, is we can't see the audience and we also don't know who attends this. So we don't know.
It was like eighty five year olds or 10 year olds or whatever. Yeah, we just plowed ahead as if it were an armchair experts show.
And we were inappropriate and it was fun, but I was nervous.
The book is so digestible and so interesting and really worth picking up and reading. So hopefully this will like, you know, get in gear.
Yeah, I love the book sincerely. It really is the most pragmatic approach I've ever heard about climate disaster. So please enjoy. Oh, but also real quick.
So we didn't know we were going to be releasing it. So if in case the sound quality is normal, that is why it's not going to be because we were not speaking into microphones.
And the whole point of this introduction was to say that and I didn't do it. That was great. So, yeah, please enjoy a less than perfect sound quality version of Monica Mouse and Dr. Shepherd moderating Bill Gates.
In a typical year, the world demands over fifty one billion tons of greenhouse gases, and as we keep doing that, the consequences for human life will be catastrophic. When I first fell in love with computers as a teenager, they were enormous, expensive, and only the government and big companies could afford them. But my friends and I became obsessed with a wild idea.
What could we do if there was a computer on every desk?
And now the wild idea is quite tame.
Billions of people not only have computers on their desks, but even in their pockets. Now the world needs another breakthrough. In fact, it needs many breakthroughs.
We need to get from fifty one billion tons to zero while still meeting the planet's basic needs.
That means we need to transform the way we do almost everything. Our commitment to developing these innovations will mean the difference between a future where everyone can live a healthy, productive life and one where we're constantly dealing with the human and financial crises. At a historic scale, entrepreneurs and investors have to build new businesses and change existing businesses to get these solutions deployed.
Government leaders have to enact new policies that drive the market for clean energy, and advocates have to keep their voices loud to hold all of us accountable for rapid progress.
Avoiding a climate disaster will be one of the greatest challenges humans have ever taken on greater than landing on the moon, greater than eradicating smallpox, even greater than putting a computer on every desk and mine. Basic optimism about climate change comes from my belief in innovation. It's our power to invent that makes me hopeful. Party time. What a video that would fit into an Olympic feel to it. We're so excited to talk to you again. We would this could be terrible.
And we still would have agreed to talk to you and help you promote it so that someone can claim that it's wonderful.
That is all I have to say. I think I'm a pretty good person to. Well, first, let me just thank the Chicago Humanities Festival for having all of us. It's incredible. Yes. I don't know that you picked the right two people, probably Monica, but we'll see. I wanted to say, Bill, that I think I'm a great person to ask you about this book because I'm very much a defeatist. I've not ever really engaged in this topic.
I felt like. The solutions that were being presented were. Naive that somehow if we all pick the right car, that would actually address this problem. I thought the responsibility was being put so much on the individual's shoulders and it feels like it's a much bigger problem than that. So I enjoyed your book so much and it really, really got me engaged because I think it's the first time I've heard a breakdown that really encompasses everything we're up against in the many solutions and most importantly, very pragmatic solutions that have to happen for us to address this.
So I guess my first question for you is, why do you even throw your hat in the street? Why would you recommend a book about this topic?
Well, we have two things that are amazing. We have this goal to get to zero by 20, 50, which is because this is going to be hard to do. The earliest we can get it done. And we have a young generation that's beginning to really speak out and say that this is a moral cause to them beyond their own individual success. And hopefully is that strengthens. We're seeing it throughout the country, both parties, even throughout the world.
So when you have those two things. You want to have a plan to go with it, and yet because most people aren't aware of all these sources of emissions or the scale of emissions. And you know, the demanding nature of getting to zero, which means you can't just pick the easy things, you have to pick everything that does emissions, and you can't just pick a few countries that use brute force and pay huge amounts to do it. You actually have to come up with green products that will be adopted by all the countries, including middle income countries like India, that have yet to provide basic shelter or lighting or, you know, now they need air conditioning.
And so I thought, OK, I can contribute to the framework for a plan. And the key metrics which will probably touch on this idea of the green premium where you're paying extra for the clean stuff and that that that's way too high. And we need innovators to bring that down. And so, you know, I saw the effects of climate change as I traveled in Africa after the year 2000. After 2005, I got educated. 2010, I gave a TED talk about it.
Not as famous as my 2015 pandemic TED talk, but it's only in the last few years that I've seen this energy around the topic that made me think, OK, I'll help contribute to the discussion about a plan. And it looks like it's fairly timely because we have a US administration, Europe, UK, we've got a big climate meeting in November, so I hope it pushes the thinking forward. Yes, I think that the like you say that the younger generation is incredibly passionate about this topic, as they should be, but the most in their children.
But there has yet to be, from my perspective, a really tactical approach. There's a lot of passion, but I've not seen it broken down. And so just one thing I want to point out is I just love how you think I feel like everything is reverse engineering and maybe I'm wrong about that assumption. But it's just I love how you take us through it globally. OK, there's fifty one billion tonnes of emissions happening. By the way, you are excited to say how far a lot in the book, and I'm excited to say your mission is a lot tonight, so gyroball neither here nor only nine minutes.
But I think it's such a great way to just go. OK, here's the issue. Fifty one billion tons. What's making the fifty one billion tons? And I think you have a really sexy pie chart that really breaks it down for us that I would love to take a look at, because I think it'll be shocking for a lot of people where it's coming from. I think most people off the top would imagine it's all transportation or it's all electricity, but it's a lot of things that are surprising.
Yeah, great. Let's put that picture up, because I really hope the takeaways from the book or the fifty one billion to zero and then all these different sources, as you say, the two that people are quite aware of are that one at the bottom there.
Electricity. Twenty seven percent.
And that's as we burn coal and we burn natural gas to make the electricity.
The second sector that they're mostly aware of is transportation or they're on the left. And you see passenger cars is the biggest piece of that. But you've also got planes, buses, trucks and ships which are much harder to solve because the total energy they use is much higher than a passenger car. But then we have these three other segments that are pretty low awareness agriculture that includes the cow farts and burps. There are actually methane gas. That's a powerful greenhouse gas.
It's making fertilizer. It's countries where they're cutting down the forest and that releases carbon and even garbage dumps that also emit methane.
Then we have heating and cooling buildings today in the US. A lot of that's natural gas that creates emissions. But the biggest piece of this pie, that thirty one percent there, that's this physical economy. Every building you look at has got steel and cement in it. Your cars steel, your road is cement.
There's a lot of that that the world manufactures. In fact, those are the two by tonnage, two biggest human activities there are. And then everything else, like plastic, paper, various chemically derived products add to that. And so we've got to change and get green steel. We've got to get green cement to go along with all those those other pieces. And that's why it's daunting is that not only do we have to figure out how to make those green things without a huge price premium, and then we have to roll that out to the steel factories all over the world, including India, China, everywhere, not just in the US.
So we're going to have to use every one of these 30 years that we have remaining in a very intense way. Yeah, and I think what's interesting and important is that we don't get stuck in like, oh, ten years ago we said no plastics and now actually we may be able to just earlier I was like, oh, we got to bring these water bottles. We can't bring plastic water bottles because we're talking about planet. And Dax's like, well, actually, maybe plastic is going to end up being a solution because it traps the carbon in the process of making it.
And perhaps it could trap even more into a storage device for carbon, which was again, this is why I love the book, is all these things that are kind of knee jerk and popular. They get a real try. What is what does it do? What does it cost? This approach I love and I just want to point one thing out, because another thing that's always kind of rubbed me the wrong way about the environmental movement is just it seems to be intrinsically anti development, which troubles me and what I love in the book, as you point out.
Shanghai, when you see the difference between Shanghai 15 years ago and today, it's startling and that and that represents so much steel and cement, which you talk about, which is troubling, but it also represents education, higher standard of living, increase life expectancy. So these are goals that we should have. And I'm so refreshed by the fact that your approach is, no, we want this stuff. We want we want to be have air conditioning that's not destroying us.
We want these things and we've got to figure out how to have them. Yes.
So conditions to going in because we actually need more of it to deal with the even the warming will get. You know, and actually the US today is the only country that has extensive air conditioning in other countries need to do that. But, you know, using green electricity so that it doesn't make the problem even even worse. But you're right. It's the basic needs that we take for granted that a lot of the world has gotten yet the the US, the rich countries can cut back.
And that helps a bit. But it's not a path to zero. You cut back, you can help us get there sooner. You can reduce some of the emissions. But asking India to cut back, that's completely unfair. You know, we should feel good that we'll figure out how they get what some of what we have, but without a greenhouse gas footprint. OK, so now here's what I want to bring up. I think you are so uniquely positioned to have a fresh take on this, which is just given your history with business bill, which is you created something that had not previously existed.
And I think you have an optimism about innovation that I can't even really relate to.
And then, of course, because you brought so many actual products to market your comprehension of the economical forces and what it will take are so relevant to this conversation because you never, ever looked at one of these things and just say, yeah, that makes sense, to spend a dollar to save five cents of electricity. You know, that that model would never work in the real world. So just could you tell me how it is a proprietary look at this to really be factoring in all these economic forces?
Well, the private sector. It works to drive innovation, you have to have, of course, government setting the rules. But what's happened over the last 200 years with electricity and now digital things and improved medicines, in a way we'd like to repeat that. So the US is led in innovation with computers and digital, which is why we can do events like this season. So we have a pandemic going on its lead in health products and that creates companies that create jobs.
They do exports. We need to reprice that for a lot of these areas where the US innovation power, universities, national labs, risk taking capital to venture capital to this climate problem, step up and not only make these products cheap enough for the US to say, OK, we'll go green, but make it possible for the entire world. So what we owe the world is not just to reduce our emissions to zero. We owe the world our share, which is a large share of that innovation, so that they can do it, too.
If we just write big checks, I'm not sure we'd be willing. But if you go about it that way, it doesn't. It only affects our 15 percent. And right now we're trying to get China and India to make strong commitments. They're waiting to see what the price will be as they're dealing with citizens who aren't nearly as well off on average as we are. And so the the fact that the last four years we didn't have that R&D increase and we weren't pushing to buy these green products, you know, we'll look back on that as somewhat wasted time that we can hardly afford.
You know, what you want to see is your pandemic question. It's a really good question. Yeah, no, I say first. I just I feel like there's so many big words around climate change and climate disaster that people pretend they know but don't know when they're in these conversations. They're like, yeah, methane, carbon. Yeah. So I was wondering if you could kind of break that green premium, because I don't think people really actually know about that.
And if you could break that down for us.
Yeah. So I've got two examples on a slide here, but it applies to all these services. How much more do you pay for the product or service that has no emissions in the electric car? You pay a bit more upfront. You give up some range. The charge times are higher, there's less charging points. And so if you look at that right now, I'm comparing to Chevrolet products, you're paying about 15 percent more to go electric. Now, there's a tax incentive that helps with that.
And there's now scale and competition. Tesla's led the way and the other manufacturers are going, wow, we need to learn from what they did and catch up and compete with that. And so over the next 10 or 15 years, those batteries will get cheaper. So the range will go up, the costs will go down, and the charging speed will go down to 15 minutes. They'll be more charge points. And so we can say this will be the first category of all the emissions where in 10 to 15 years that green premium will actually be zero.
Without any government help, the electric car will be as attractive to the consumer as the gasoline car was. And that's why you'll see very important. Detroit company, whose CEO I was talking to earlier today, Mary Barra, who declared that by twenty thirty five they see themselves making only electric cars, which that really stunned people because GM, you know, the gasoline car and GM, GM and Ford are sort of the two, you know, hey, we we built this world type companies and now they're saying, OK, they're going to change.
Is it true, though, that when you do the Tokyo Humanities Humanities Festival, you'll show a Toyota slide, if you like? Because Detroit is part of this festival. We got Chevrolet, which was very clever, as well as the Chevrolet.
The Chevrolet in the book, I have to plead guilty that my first car was a Porsche. And so when I went to get an electric car, I was glad that they had one available. But there's lots of good choices. And, you know, Tesla's led the way in showing you you can make a great electric car. I think there is a lot of guilt around this because people want you to be exhibit A, they were caught. Well, no, you just grew up in Detroit.
This is what happens when you grow up with these dreams of having stolen cars. And then it feels like, oh, I can't have that. Then there's a lot of guilt that I think the emotional component I think to this or people like I don't want to deal with climate change because I don't want to deal with the guilt associated. Well, that's exactly why I love your book, is it's not in either of these bipartisan silos. I've seen this topic approach them.
Just as I said, the fact that you are pro development, pro education, all these things we know we want to.
Let's talk about some of the real hurdles, because they were news to me first off, right out of the gate in the book, I guess, when I thought of the time period when crocodiles existed north of the the Arctic Circle, that that must have represented a difference in temperature of like 40 degrees. So right at the gates, I realized, oh, this is much of a small change, has a huge impact. So just tell us the gravity of this small incremental change.
Yeah. So if if the Earth was even three degrees cooler. In a human life would not have come to be thrived like we have, so these temperatures really affect ice, sea level and particularly whether the equator is habitable. And at times it hasn't been. You know, when people say this is bad for the planet, they don't really mean the planet.
I mean the big ball of rock. It's going to be fine. What they mean is that they the natural ecosystems and the humans who live on the surface of this planet, we're going to be in trouble. Now, the planet 10 or 20 million years from now can evolve back some coral reefs and hopefully beings more intelligent than us.
But in terms of any reasonable time frame, the destruction going on here, because we're driving the temperature up very, very quickly. You know, this we haven't seen in natural history this type of temperature foreseen. And it's that speed that means that evolution can't keep up. The birds don't know where to migrate to. The corals don't know how to form their outer shell. And so they they just get up, they they bleach and they die. And the dramatic nature of that that CO2 rise is putting us in very unchartered territory.
But it means the ice will melt, the seas will get higher, the wildfires will come in at the equator. You won't be able to do farming. And so all the the farmers, which are most of the people in those developing countries, there will be incredible unrest, you know, 20 times worse than the civil a Syrian civil war where people will be migrating to the parts of the earth where you can still grow food. And that is one of the greatest security stability risks that we run.
And yet, you know, if you wait till it happens in this case, you can't do something like, you know, just invent a vaccine and then wait a couple of years. Then it goes away. This one, because of the scale and the variety of activities, you have to be smart enough to anticipate that the bad stuff you're seeing now will be so acute in the rest of the century that you're willing to invest to drive that innovation cycle and get that green premium down in a in a very broad way.
Yeah, I think comprehending the timeline is essential for this, and I do think it's as you point out, it's itself accelerating and that as it gets warmer, right. Marshlands now emit more methane, which warms the atmosphere 20 times as much as carbon. So it just kind of it really ramps up, as you say. But let's talk about really quick some of the the crazy challenges and just my gratitude that you have breakthrough energy working on both the electricity.
As you point out, you know, we have this huge problem intermittency.
We can't have the whole world run on solar and wind because the seasons change, the light changes and we can't store. Well, there's not really even looking like a future where we'll ever be able to store it incredibly efficiently. So then we again, I think it's the reverse engineering where it's like, OK, well, then what's left? Well, nucular is left and people hate nuclear. Why do they hate you? There. Great race. OK, what else do they hate about it?
Well, it melts down. That's an issue for me. And so you your approach to that, I would love for you to walk people through, because I think it's it's. It's gangster, so electricity is super, super important because it's really the main source of energy that we do see a path to make it completely green. So the incredible price reduction in solar and wind is key to solving this problem, because in the future, like 80 percent of all the electricity production will be those renewable sources.
The reason we can't go to 100 percent is exactly what you said, which is that when when you do get a cold front over the Midwest, those you don't tend not to get sun or wind. Now, that's not what happened in Texas a few weeks ago. That was more about a failure to weather wise.
So there's three things that'll improve that reliability. We will have some storage, but not enough to bear. The whole thing will have some nuclear fusion, which is not weather dependent and is green. And then third will have more transmission. We're very lucky that the US is a big country, and so if you have electric transmission lines all over the country, which we it's very limited what we have today, in fact, Texas is kind of isolated. There's the west grid and the east grid in the Texas grid.
So they couldn't call on other states when they had production stop and they had people getting cold. They had to deal with that just themselves. In the future, we'll have, you know, 10 times as much transmission.
So if the wind is blowing off the East Coast, then power can move into the Midwest. If the Midwest is windy but the coastal wind is not running, then the power will move. We have that today between Washington and California, where you'll have wind in California, in Washington, sometimes we'll go to California for parts of the rain and the sun in California will go north for that transmission line actually sometimes goes one way and sometimes goes the other. Now, getting transmission permitted and people feeling good about it being nearby, that's tricky.
That's not nearly as tricky as helping people get comfortable with nuclear power, which unless the storage thing, the costs come down on the scale goes up way beyond what I personally expect, we will have to have that scalable weather, independent source. And so I'm investing in a company and I'm not the only one. But we got support from the government where the private side pays half and the government pays half. And in five years, we hope to have a reactor with any luck, that the cost, the safety, the ways to all the key issues have been dramatically improved.
But we have to pursue every angle so we can have this grid that will be providing three times as much energy because your car will use electricity, the heating of your house instead of natural gas. We use electricity, even some of these industrial processes like making plastic or our paper, a lot of those will switch from hydrocarbons to electricity is their energy input. So that's a mammoth task. And we have to model it out to make sure that everybody gets to stay warm, even in tough weather conditions.
Yeah, so, you know, Texas is unfortunate for them, this is the perfect time to talk about the grid because what an example of not being linked to some national grid. And so that, I guess, brings us seamlessly to the government's going to have to really do some stuff. Right. There's not going to be a private sphere that's going to make a nationalized power. Right. We're going to have to have some major Manhattan Project level dedication for this.
Yeah. So the it's a mix of the government and the private sector. If you can clear the right of ways, actually, then a lot of the construction of financial risk with the appropriate government framework the private sector is willing to do. But getting that permitting, you know, it's been tough enough that even some very obvious transmission projects like Canada Hydro coming down into New England or there was a line that was going to go from Oklahoma to Tennessee that would have brought lots of wind power out of Oklahoma and benefited both the source and the destination there.
And so I have to look at what's held that back because we're going to want to make it attractive, including how the the permitting gets streamlined, hopefully, as part of this build back better that the Biden administration is talking about.
You want high paying jobs, you want people to have a sense that, OK, if hydrocarbons are tending down not overnight, but over the 30 years, is there something that fills that in? And having an electric grid with incredible transmission three times as big, all that wind and solar, that will be a gigantic jobs creators as we get going on it. Yeah, yeah, it feels like it has to be the first step, because the last thing I want you to talk about technology wise and where the innovation and I'm not aware of it is is capturing it.
So we point out in steel production, which every every human in America is responsible for, about six hundred pounds of steel and cement individually.
So that's how much we're using now that thus far has been a huge carbon dioxide emitter. And currently how we're doing it, it's going to continue to be. So what is the technology that is going to exist or is potentially going to happen that is going to capture the carbon during this process? And and obviously, electricity will have to be a huge component of being able to run that. Yeah, so we want to ideally change the way we do things so there are no emissions so that the electric car, that battery makes no emissions.
The there will be some things that we can't change, and for those, what we'll do is called direct air capture. We will have these big boxes that the wind blows through and they'll have a fan and they'll still pull out of the air. The CO2 molecules that are only four hundred and ten out of a million molecules in the air are the CO2, but it blows that air through. There's a way to grab it. And then you press reset, it becomes a liquid and then you put it in a underground store where it's got to stay for ideally millions of years.
That kind of director capture will be the kind of clean up thing for the things that just we have no other approach for. That's very expensive today. Six hundred dollars a ton. I think it will come down to one hundred dollars a tonne. I hope that somebody surprises us and gets it to be even cheaper. I'm funding a lot of these companies. Elon Musk just did an X Prize for a company to. Get these costs down in a significant way, so that's one of these places we need lots of crazy, you know, wild new approaches.
I've seen five or six and usually have pretty high failure rates, but just one or two of those could bring the cost of that down a lot. And that would. That would take care of the entire set of things that you don't have even cheaper ways of doing like we'll have with the electric car where we just never make the emissions in the first place. So a hundred dollars a tonne, would that be five point one trillion dollars to clean up our current emission?
That's right, yeah. So fifty one billion times one hundred. And that's way too much. I mean, somebody could say, OK, hey, the world economy, that's only like seven percent, but it's not going to happen. And so only through innovation that would bring that number down by about ninety five percent to like two hundred and fifty billion. Then I can see how between the rich countries in the middle income countries and helping out the the poorest countries that overall the planet could reach this agreement.
Hey, you know, if you don't go green will not trade with you. So we really need everyone involved in making sure that this this disastrous heat increase isn't continuing past 20, 50. Yeah, I guess my question on that topic is, how do we get everyone on the same page?
Because if we look at the pandemic as a kind of precursor of of I mean, I was just telling that, like in in my life and I think for a lot of people, like, this is the first thing that's happened that feels truly global, like every single person is affected and you feel that you feel it on a day to day. And climate disaster is the exact same thing. I'm not sure we handled this great. I don't think the dress rehearsal went great.
So how do we get people on the same page about this?
Yeah, that's a great question. The pandemic, it's awful. You know, trillions of dollars of economic costs, mental health, things that are hard to measure, loss of education years, particularly in the inner city. So a lot of the dimensions of inequity, the pandemic is just made worse. And, you know, I feel guilty almost that I have a nice house so I can work from home with lots of room. I have a great Internet connection.
The nature of my job is such that I can sit and wave my hands in front of a computer screen all day and.
Now we we should say, OK, how did we do? Well, we didn't do nearly as well as we should. We didn't listen to the warnings in advance and make some investments. But the vaccine manufacturers who got all but Pfizer got a lot of US government money. That's the one thing the US government and it's a program called Baabda that had been put in place over a decade ago, but it did fund that. And amazingly, the success rate of the vaccines is very high in the first five are working quite well.
Now, the variants mean we may have to tune this a little bit, but we can see the end here because of the vaccine work. So that's innovation at work. But that was innovation after the problem hit us. And so you're right, the number of people speaking about the pandemic was too small.
And, you know, even though I was very loud and it's not much fun on that one to say, hey, I told you, Jesus, you know, now now the crazy people say that, you know, I, I, I'd like it, but that that is dead wrong.
Anyway, the a lot of conflicting motives when I hear that.
So I'm like, oh, wait, does this guy want the control room where everyone I make up your mind, they say, they say I want to track people but I haven't figured out why I do somebody's I guess got to tell me what I'm going to do with all that information. Anyway, the serious piece here is that the commitment and advocacy on this one will have to be a million times greater than the voices in the wilderness who didn't get heard relative to pandemic preparedness.
This is a generational thing. No single philanthropist can tackle some high percentage of this one. I mean, and it's great. We've got Jeff Bezos myself, Elon. We've got lots of the companies now coming in on this. But it's really the voters will have to say, is this a priority? And so the advocates exposing people to these scary negative things, we're going to have to get even better at that.
And I you know, that advocacy, creativity, I probably won't be able to add much to it. So the creative community that you're part of, I you know, I challenge them. There are things like this David Attenborough movie that showed how nature looked even better back when he was a young man. And now all this population growth means that a lot of those beautiful scenes from his youth, you go back and you say, wow, those forests are gone, those coral reefs are dying.
I think there's a lot of ways to motivate people. But this is the cause kind of, in a sense, the ultimate cause that we have to orchestrate humanity around. OK, we're going to go to some audience questions, but before we do, you're going to have to listen to one more compliment. So in regards to the pandemic, I think what really hamstrung our response to it, was it becoming politicized? I mean, it was the most disheartening thing to watch.
Your political party would dictate how you responded or thought about this was so troubling. And I think likewise, this issue suffers from a similar politicized and I think this book you've written, How to avoid a kind of disaster is. As straight up the middle as you can be, I think it's it's the most bipartisan look at this. I think it's so pragmatic. I think it's practical. I think it's irresponsible economically and fiscally and morally. And I think you've somehow spammed that whole thing.
And it's incredibly impressive. And genuinely, we are so grateful that you exist and that you're bringing jobs. But we really do that. You're breaking everything you've created over your life to bear on these hardhearted problems. And thank God for you sincerely. Now we'll have some audience is ask you what your favorite socks and shoes of this perfect green card.
But we kind of talked about oh, we talked about Monica's making on the flight.
It's OK. Sorry, Katie. Questions I can my scissors.
OK, there's a question from Sheere. She says one of your podcast episodes with Rashida Jones also, by the way, were very jealous to hear you out of the trade.
And we don't like this question because I've got a good job. We would have thought you would ask us, but anyways, kind of what we just touched on. But you talk about whether people can really change. And do you think climate deniers will ever, ever change their mind? Is it a waste of time to think about converting them?
Well, we do need a lot of the younger generation, not a hundred percent, to be familiar with climate change and to see those negatives, I mean, we have three types of people that are a problem, the denial. And now that the oil companies are not promoting that, you'll see that died down because the science is just super strong. There's a range of how quick the temperature goes up and how much you map that temperature into bad things, you know, and the high end of the range is super bad.
Even the low end of the range is bad. So that you've got deniers, you've got people who think that it's going to be easy to solve. And those are mostly the other political party. And there, again, education, talking through all the the scale and sources will help us there. And then you have people who think it's impossible. Then they just thought, oh, we give up, let's go party before this thing boils over. And that that's OK.
And so all three of those camps hold us back in the sense that we are asking for this huge level of engagement for this this monumental task.
And so along with the green premium, I agree it would be good to track attitudes towards climate change. Maybe that's the leading indicator of whether we're going to get this done even more than my favorite number, which is that green premium thing. But attitudes will lead on this. And we're short know the science courses, teaching this in a fair way so that everyone who graduates kind of comes out saying, OK, I have that basic knowledge and I can argue over the tactics to get to the goal.
But the goal seems like fighting a war or solving health problems to be something that shouldn't be partisan.
We have to agree on who the enemy is. One billion tonnes of. Exactly. OK, question number three is from an anonymous person, so this might be a little dicey, they wanted to remain.
We obviously haven't read the news.
How are the roles of individuals, corporations and governments different regarding climate change solutions? Well, the individual that's where you get the buy an electric car, if you can try out the artificial ground beef from people like impossible and beyond, and there'll be lots of food products that are low emission type products, that the quality is getting better, the price is coming down. That's one sector where if you ask me five years ago, I would have put it up as high as cement and steel in terms of difficulty.
But because a lot of these companies have come out and even as they were offered in restaurants and grocery stores, the demand actually was beyond what they expected. And so as a consumer, you're buying the green products helps drive that R&D budget and the improvement and the price going down, educating other people where you get extra credit if you convince somebody who's not in your political party. And of course, you vote and you're an employee and these big companies they can reach.
And when they build a new building by at least some green steel and cement, maybe all over time, the tech companies use electricity in their data centers. They can make sure there isn't any hydrocarbon ever used, not just net, but never use, because they are pioneering customers of these storage solutions that we need to scale up. And so we all play a lot of different roles. The government is huge. It's got to fund the R&D, it's got to create the tax credits.
It's got to demand visibility that nobody can hide their activities. And these these measures are there so investors and customers can see all of that. And so it's good to see that the Biden administration is really pushing this and picked very strong people across many parts of the government. Yeah, and we need to be able to build coalitions internationally to help everyone go in the same direction, which hopefully is starting to happen.
David Indorse announcement from Second Anonymous. I'm hopping around, OK. Wow. What is the coolest climate change, innovation or technology?
Well, one that I don't know if will achieve, but would solve a lot of problems if we could is being able to make hydrogen in a clean way to call it green hydrogen and make that super cheap. That would help with many of the manufacturing problems because, you know, you could make steel where it's actually the hydrogen that does the work of taking the iron ore and converting it to the metal. And when you make fertilizer right now, you use natural gas.
So there's a kind of a cool level of activity now where people are looking at, OK, how could you do that? Can we get that price down enough? And it'll start out with the high green premium. But if you get the volume up, then these components that they use called electrolyzer, so those could get extremely cheap. And so I'm enthused. There's a lot of talk about doing that. And that wasn't there three or four years ago, you know, and the number of cool companies, this large breakthrough energy in our first one, we have 40.
We just started our second fund where the candidates for our second 40 look very, very strong. In the first one, we got a lot of storage and food. So the second fund we're looking at that direct our capture this the green hydrogen I mentioned and the work on aviation fuels. Is what's the time line for fusion? Well, fusion is a wildcard because the science isn't well understood. Basically, if you get hydrogen up at a ridiculous temperature, 10 million degrees, then it bounces around so fast that even though it kind of repels electrically, it still runs into each other.
And that's what the sun is doing. And when they do hit each other, that releases energy, they combine to make helium, but there's energy left over. And that that's why the sun does a good job heating this up. And so it's doing that right now. We do that with hydrogen bombs. We don't want that. That's sort of an uncontrolled fusion reaction. There are about 13 companies, but that's one where I say I'd be very surprised if by 20, 50, that's a significant piece.
Now, there's people working on that breakthrough energies invested in one of those. We track them, but it's not mature. Like fusion is where you take a big thing like uranium. And when it breaks in two, it releases a lot of energy. So fusion is what all the electric power reactors have been, although we're talking now about designing that from scratch and a cheaper, safer way. Fusion. We've done experiments, but we're not even at the energy breakeven level yet because it takes energy to make those insane temperatures.
Yeah, OK. Anonymous wants to know what's one thing that helps you stay optimistic about the state of the world right now.
And if you're optimistic, they want to know why are you so delusional? Well, right, OK. The pandemic is a huge setback.
So let me just plead that. Yes.
You know that for some issues is a two year setback for some in some five years, some it's a 10 year setback. But before the pandemic, you know, we were making progress on reducing childhood deaths. You know, we'd cut it in half. Since the year 2000, we were more aware of gender inequality in the joint. George Foyt incidence has made us redouble our efforts that look at all these people of color and how the outcomes for them, whether it's jobs or income or health, just aren't aren't as good as we'd expect they would be.
And so when society gets upset about something, you know, we we focus on it and we make progress sometimes that social awareness that we have better values.
Sometimes it's innovation. Without electricity, it'd be hard to have the civilization that we have today. And so I get to work in the digital world, which it's mostly good news that that is moving so fast. I get to work in the health world where progress on things like cancer and malaria finally getting rid of polio, all those things are in our our future. And so there's a lot to feel good about while we still our are disappointed about the inequality and difficulties that remain.
Yeah, just you've seen first hand progress and you've been a part of it and you had big ideas that ended up happening. So I think that leads to optimism. He's in a close feedback loop. Positive. Yeah. I have a provocative question you don't like.
I've been blowing a lot of smoke this whole time, but has it crossed your mind?
What is your Paul early. What is this? Warming opens up all this fertile land of the northern hemisphere and everything's hunky dory. Is that crossed your mind? That's from Anonymous.
Not that. Yeah, he's crazy.
The the most of humanity lives in either tropic zones, tropical storms or temperate zones and. So the idea that, OK, the way we'll deal with this is will move everybody to Siberia or, you know, near the Arctic Circle, that's just not going to work. That is countries that type of mass movement won't work. It is true that the suffering the further north you are will be less and and yet our overall ability to make food and to have stable countries, there is no hey, let's just abandon the equatorial regions that works out for this.
We've got to preserve those tropical forests. We've got to make those areas livable. India alone is one point four billion people and that if we don't act by the end of the century, their farming output will be so reduced that they will be facing starvation, which is what Parler predicted before the Green Revolution. And the reduction in family birthrate made his prediction foolish, which was super good news that that negative view turned out to be wrong. We need again to help families in Africa, where most of the population growth is, have access to birth control and improve their lives, where families voluntarily decide.
Have smaller family size, and we need to make sure they have enough to to on their farm, that they're not feeling like they have to move.
So, you know, wholesale transportation isn't going to get us out of this one.
OK, I should not be investing in Canadian real estate, is that where it's hard to say, maybe Siberia, that we have one last question from the audience and it is from Alang, and she wants to know if we're eliminating fossil fuels entirely become prohibitively expensive for the average person or household.
That's that's a very, very good question, if we just said today that everyone has to use green products, the impact at the household level would be gigantic. We don't even have the capacity to make them. So they'd be in short supply and the prices would go up. It would be super inflationary. And so even in the US, doing this kind of brute force is not the solution. I can afford to pay for gold standard carbon offsets like direct our capture so that I'm at zero.
But that's many millions of dollars for that green aviation fuel and all the things that get that get me there. And so it's not a scalable way to to solve this problem. So if you told me we couldn't innovate, I would join the hey, it's impossible. I'm pessimistic crowd. But then again, if you look at human life today versus two hundred years ago, that's a story of innovation. If you look at the work, I was lucky enough to be part of it.
Microsoft, you know, we exceeded any expectation, likewise that the Gates Foundation, we knew we wanted to reduce child to deaths with our partners. But the fact we were able to get it from 10 million to five million, I wouldn't have expected that. We got new vaccines, Don. We got them out. So when things go well, they don't somehow get as much attention. You know, like once we get rid of polio, people are are not going to go around saying, hey, where the that people have got polio.
They just won't even think about it, which is OK, that's fine. But, you know, things the absolute progress we've made and that with the right focus we will make on climate always is wondrous to me. Well, I think your way of looking at things must include how a holistic situation is. So, yes, if your kid does not have clean diapers, guess what? You don't care about the temperature, 20, 50. So as you look at all those working together, right.
Like you're solving these really pressing and immediate problems for people, that then clears the path to worry about some more long term issues. Yeah, and in government, some people are lucky enough to have wealth like I do. It's up to us. We have kind of a responsibility to think about those long term scenarios and invest in them and really, you know, figure out the science, what why that's happening and and how to avoid it. And I see the early stages of that coming together with both governments and individuals.
I have a quick last personal question, I just bought a house and some and I want to make it eco friendly, as eco friendly as possible. So what's the one thing that if someone's moving into a house or building a house that they should prioritize?
Yeah, I I'll mention to your heating and cooling, you should use what's called an electric heat pump. It it it connects to the electricity which will be green. And then in some jurisdictions, the incentives and weather such as putting solar panels on your roof, is a very good investment in California. It tends to be a very good investment in a few other states. But this electric keep pumping unless you're in the very coldest parts of the the US, it works phenomenally well.
OK, great. So first, I knew that we both love Diet Coke and now I know that we both say ruffs, this could be the foundation of the best friendship.
I want you to be my Warren Buffett. The invitation has been put on your table. You accept it or not. But I think just those two things before I took something and that's all I need.
That's a lot what I may pronounce other words to.
But yeah, I look forward to having the Diet Coke together with the pandemic's over. As to such a pleasure to get to talk to you about this book, a genuinely love and a genuinely converted me, I felt felt overwhelming and felt not realistic that no one was really evaluating the taste. But the reality is all this are and it's all there and how to avoid climate disaster. I hope so many people read it and get motivated. And it's digestible.
Yes, very digestible. It is not a done deal. It's going to go on like Bill Gates wrote it. I worked there. But it's kind of like how to avoid for dummies.
You know, you get a good job at making it the way, you know, the for Dummies books are actually very good. I hope I I rose to that standard. Yeah. We try to keep it short, but.
It's it's fun and cow farts and birds are in it excessively or didn't even eat it, and you just do a great job at breaking down some really basic understanding of how all these things are created and consumed. And it's just perfect. And I hope everyone gets it, reads it and gives it to a family member of another political persuasion at Thanksgiving. And all hell breaks loose, but it'll be worth it.
Yeah. Thank you, Bill. Yeah. Thank you. To the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Yeah. Great to see you guys. Good job. I don't know, you can maybe bring this to your next one. I think we did a pretty good job. OK, so let me give you the only set of missions like six times.
Yeah, that's true. I got it. Dozen. Well, I hope everyone enjoyed it.
And thanks again for all your time and your dedication. And Monica is going to give you some of her money as well to help solve this. Perfect. Yes. She told me she would like to.
Well, all right, you guys. Thank you so much.