Summary of Is It Too Late to Stop Climate Change?

Is It Too Late to Stop Climate Change? summary

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Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, thinks Earth faces an extinction event potentially larger than previously seen in human history – and it’s directly attributable to climate change. But as she discusses this with Bill Gates and Rashida Jones, she makes clear that it’s not too late to avoid species annihilation and global warming’s other alarming effects. Humans must commit to aggressive innovation, governmental cooperation, and individual actions like driving electric cars and eating less meat.

About the Podcast

Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions is a production of Gates Notes, and is produced by Bill Gates and Rashida Jones. Their guest Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.


Climate change can be solved through innovation.

In the same way humans invented cars, computers and electricity, humans can learn to use power that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. Getting all countries on board will be worth the effort. Humans must achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

At present, the atmosphere contains about 0.4% carbon dioxide; 51 billion tons of CO2 is released into the atmosphere each year. As that amount increases, the atmosphere retains more of the sun’s heat. As a result, sea levels rise, wildfires rage, polar ice melts, and species go extinct because they can’t adapt. Agriculture is already becoming impossible near the equator.

Bill Gates’s book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, explains how to mitigate global warming’s effects through government policy and research. He discusses the difficulties attached to meeting lower greenhouse gas emission goals. Greener electricity sources such as solar and wind require massive energy storage to supplement off-peak times such as calm or cloudy days. Nuclear fission or fusion could act as backup systems. Individuals...

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