Bill and Melinda Gates just released their 2019 annual letter, reflecting on the nine biggest surprises they witnessed in 2018. Coming in at No. 3 is climate change, something that Bill Gates wants people to understand is dire, but also something that has the potential of slowing down — if humans do something about it. But don't worry, Gates didn't simply write up a fear-mongering blurb about this 2018 surprise — he also demonstrated it in a YouTuber-style video, featuring squishy toys and a pie chart. Sounds like someone is having fun with his retirement.
In the video, Gates explained that most people focus on electricity when it comes to reducing emissions. And even though electricity is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases on earth (and yes, you should continue unplugging your charger when you're not using it), it's important to focus on the other factors, too. "People think, 'Hey, aren't we getting the solar panels and windmills to be a lot less expensive, and isn't that helping reduce greenhouse gases?' And the answer is absolutely," Gates said to the camera. "But there is a lot more to do than just taking electricity to zero emissions. There's a variety of things that generate greenhouse gases."
Gates then broke down the five largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions on earth. According to his pie chart, which is based on data from the IPCC, they are: electricity generation (25 percent), agriculture (of animals and crops) (24 percent), manufacturing (21 percent), transportation (14 percent), and building operations (10 percent).
As you can see, the agriculture industry produces almost as many emissions as electricity does. "Agriculture accounts for 24 percent of greenhouse gases. That includes cattle, which give off methane when they belch and pass gas," Gates wrote. "A personal surprise for me: I never thought I’d be writing seriously about bovine flatulence," he added.
Manufacturing tails shortly behind agriculture and electricity — and it's only going to keep growing. "As the urban population continues to grow in the coming decades, the world’s building stock is expected to double by 2060—the equivalent of adding another New York City monthly between now and then," he wrote in the annual letter. In the video, he explained that sourcing the large amount of materials — steel, cement, wood, and more — needed for this urbanization will all emit a huge amount of greenhouse gases.
So, now that you're probably feeling sufficiently overwhelmed, how on earth are we going to combat this?! "We're gonna need a lot of change, a lot of innovation to bring the emissions from all those areas down to zero," Gate explained in the video. OK, innovators, get to work!
But what about the average person who wants to do their part? Gates believes getting citizens on board starts with keeping them up-to-date on the world's emissions, and on what they can do to help curtail them. "But we need to do a much better job of informing people about the challenges," Gates wrote in his letter. "It would help if media coverage matched the breadth of the problem. Solar panels are great, but we should be hearing about trucks, cement, and cow farts too."
I guess Bill Gates hasn't been reading Green Matters, because our readers know that there is so much more to combatting climate change than solar panels (though we do love solar panels). For example, to combat cow farts (and emissions from other animals used for meat, dairy, and eggs), we can reduce our consumption of animal products. To keep our carbon footprint down when it comes to transportation, opting for an electric vehicle, biking, or public transportation can make a huge difference.
It's awesome that Bill Gates is using his platform to keep his fans in the loop on climate change, and hopefully his career as a YouTuber is only just beginning.