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Publisher's Summary

In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical - and accessible - plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal. 

He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. Drawing on his understanding of innovation and what it takes to get new ideas into the market, he describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions, where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively, where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete, practical plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions - suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers, and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise. 

As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but if we follow the plan he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach. 

This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF of charts, graphs, and pictures from the book.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Bill Gates (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“A persuasive, optimistic strategy for reducing greenhouse emissions to zero by midcentury ... Though Gates doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the daunting challenges ahead, his narrative contains enough confidence - and hard science and economics - to convince many readers that his blueprint is one of the most viable yet ... supremely authoritative and accessible.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“Those looking for an accessible review of how global warming can be countered will find this a handy - and maybe even hope-inspiring - guide.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Gates has put his considerable wealth behind global health, educational, and economic initiatives and now turns his laser-like attention to this most existential of issues ... He provides illuminating contexts for [his] perspectives and offers a treatise that is imperative, approachable, and useful.” (Booklist)

What listeners say about How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

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Who's this for?

I strongly doubt you're the target audience.
you won't have much of a say in what is required or suggested in this book. Great info on what is required if you just want to consume some knowledge....but even that gets boring quick considering the level of content the context in which it is presented.

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Adds much needed detail to the practical discussion on how we can get to zero

Already knowing a lot about the science of climate change and the technical, economic and societal challenges to addressing it I’m keenly interested in what we can most practically do to move the needle in the short term and set ourselves up for success by 2050.

This is exactly what I found in Bill Gates book. I found the simple “green premium” concept useful and broadly applicable in framing what types of actions are needed for each class of emissions and especially enjoyed the discussion around how to get technology, governments and markets working together.

I zipped through the audiobook in less than a week on daily walks and am looking forward to using the PDF as a resource moving forward!

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worth the time and money

Excellently done! Will Wheaton's delivery is flawless and Bill Gates words so clearly explain the ins and outs of a very complex problem and what could and should be done and by whom. This book should be sent to your government representatives with a note asking them to read it and then give a copy to someone else in business or government.

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Thank you for this deep insight on Global Warming.

Thank you so much for sharing this useful data! Greatly appreciated, LOVE the 2 questions mentioned in the end of Chapter 8.

3 people found this helpful

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Down to Earth

An excellently narrated explanation of the issues and actions that are needed to help is all.

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is this based on facts?

what about regenerative agriculture? healing our soil so they can better retain and capture CO2?. not sure all facets of each problematic was impartially explored.

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Informed, empowering, realistic optimism

An invaluable contribution to the conversation about climate change, and where we go from here. I hope people talk about this book and it’s impact 50 years from now.
Great data-based presentation, not just of the facts on climate change, but also what people can do about it, personally. Does a great job of summarizing “the greatest hits” (fossil fuels > electric cars) but also presents the other issues that don’t get the same headlines but as just as important (manufacturing steel and concrete).
This book presents some much needed optimism, and a REALISTIC call to action.

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A great read

This is well written and very well read.
The information is all laid out in an easy to understand format.
Now we just need to take appropriate action.

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Read and pick something to do!

It is great read. Bill Gates does amazing job of explaining the problem of climate change but more importantly sharing vision of how anyone can help us move to carbon free future.

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A very informative dialogue on the climate crisis

This book was very informative with a tremendous amount of metrics to really understand the severity of the current climate crisis. Will Wheaton did a really good job with the narration but I wish Bill Gates spoke a little more as well. Nonetheless, I recommend it to anyone interested on possible ideas of how to fix the road ahead and how anyone at the individual level can do their part.

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  • Axel Merk
  • 2021-02-20

Be curious, not furious

Gates deserves credit for aiming to reach a broad audience to further the goal of mitigating a climate disaster. He's the first to point out he's an imperfect messenger; with one petty exception that I'll discuss below, I kept an open mind. I appreciated Gates' insights and learned a few things. That said, such a vast undertaking in an easy to read book is bound to have shortcomings; Gates urges us to focus more on the positives, realizing he can't make everyone happy. So let me try to phrase my criticism below constructively. Before I head into the criticism, Wheaton does a great job reading the book. Also, the book is inspiring - which I gather is the whole point of it. Personally, as I was listening, I had an idea that could be useful in advancing the cause, if only by a tiny bit, and be reasonably easy to implement; I'll mention it at the end. If others are inspired and take on tasks, small and large, the book was worth writing.

While Gates had a small business startup that serves small business, he quickly grew it into a big business. His foundation interacts with governments. While that is helpful in understanding complexities on a global level, we must make sure we don't lose sight of the needs of small business if we want his policy ideas to work. He proposes an array of policies and incentives. We must remember that red tape - which is the ugly cousin of policy - increases not only cost, but also barrier to entry, it stifles innovation. The US has a more dynamic economy than Europe because it is less regulated. The shale revolution that lead the US to energy independence came about because of it; you may think shale is part of the problem, and to an extent it is, but Gates rightfully points out that some of the technologies developed for it may well be part of the solution. I'm not arguing we don't need government policy. But what we need is to have as many stakeholders as possible on the table. When Gates proposes labeling of goods according to the carbon footprint, we all get that in theory this may be a very helpful stepping stone. But how do we implement that without driving smaller suppliers out of business?

Gates mentions a carbon tax and/or cap and trade as a crucial part of providing "incentives". The theory of this clear: tax carbons, provide incentives to get fewer of them. Gates almost entirely sidesteps the political dimension of this, presumably in part because, well, he doesn't want to be too political. But we must tackle the political dimension if this isn't supposed to be yet another book that will make those agreeing with Gates feel good, but have rather limited impact. It is crucial to build broad/bipartisan support on any policy for many reasons Gates references, but he leaves it up to the reader to connect the dots: If policy is passed, who stops the next government to reverse it? In an age of hyper-partisanship it's not easy. A carbon tax is one of the few ways government can raise large amounts of money; understandably, those opposing it suggest it gives government a license to spend, to build ever larger governments. Even if you don't agree to this, that's how many people think. We must square this circle; if we can, many of the other challenges presented in the book become solvable. That's because an economy adjusts to "incentives" and the moment you start taxing carbon, people will find ways to use less of it; the less you micro-manage it, the more innovation will strive. Alas, the taxing part is a huge deal.

Gates mentions international trade agreements may need to be renegotiated if we want to make sure stuff we import is also to some sort of "incentive" (carbon penalty) to be less carbon intensive. Anyone who has followed trade negotiations knows these are complex topics. I wish Gates had spent a little more time on this subject. I don't recall him mentioning once that the very foundation of trade, WTO, needs to be rethought. If the US were to impose import tariffs based on carbon, it would likely violate WTO rules; retaliatory tariffs would be imposed, everyone loses (unless one has the attitude that less trade is better; for purposes of this review, let's agree with Gates' premise that global growth is a good thing, we need to figure out how to do this without wrecking the planet). Gates sounds almost Trumpian by suggesting if you want to trade with us, you've got to play by our rules on carbon; it may need someone like a green Trump to break and rebuild the WTO. Try to square that circle with the aforementioned call for bipartisanship. Trade is immensely important.

Let me wrap this up by mentioning a personal idea - not in the belief that this will solve the climate crisis, but if everyone is motivated to share an idea, it increases the odds really good ones make it to the market: let's encourage weather apps to not only show sun, clouds, rain, wind, but also metrics on the carbon footprint of energy consumption for the local community based on time of day. I'm writing this from California where energy used during peak hours turns from green to brown. Most in California have heard calls to take this into account when they run an appliance, but if this was available on your favorite weather app, I would think there would not only be greater awareness, but usage patterns would also change. Companies like Google should be able to estimate such data already based on a variety of sources, then re-publish them in a standard format, so that apps can tap into them. If the idea takes off, there can be push to provide more standardized data by utility companies, making the data a firm like Google republishes more accurate/meaningful. And once an API is built, this isn't just useful for consumers on their weather app, but can help industrial use. In addition to consumers, many businesses pay electricity rates based on time of day. There's really little reason why this can't be more refined - I'm not suggesting different pricing based on each minute of the day, but if businesses had access to an API that suggested when exactly the energy is greenest, they can adjust their usage. Not all businesses, of course. My personal experience is with a well pump that feeds water into storage tanks; the water is used to irrigate agricultural land. The pump used to run whenever the water tank level fell below a threshold. A while ago, I added a $5 chip with simple programming; the pump now gives priority to the off hours, unless water tank levels fall below a certain threshold (okay, that sensor was more than $5); it would be simple enough to tap into an API that prioritizes based on how green the energy is off the grid. Such approaches have further benefits; in my example, because we added sensors, we learned about water leaks at times weeks earlier than we would have otherwise, further saving not just water, but the need to run the water pump. I mention this example not because I think my 15hp water pump will save the planet, but to illustrate that simple ideas could have a wide range of applications, and those add up.

I gave this review the title 'be curious, not furious' because a undertaking such as Gates' gives plenty of reasons to disagree with specifics - I have several as I read the book. However, I agree with Gates that we should focus on where we agree, and find ways to execute those ideas.

p.s.: as mentioned in the beginning, I can't help but raise one criticism; in the introduction, Gates references that we might have to limit access to power to only essential services during an emergency. The reference to 'essential' in my humble opinion is unfortunate. He likely wrote it before covid. I couldn't help but cringe, as it suggests Gates may not be able to relate to the tremendous hardship imposed on so many during the pandemic as they weren't considered essential workers. I trust Gates meant well, but as the pandemic showed, who and what is essential is in the eye of politicians that appear to rule on an ad hoc basis rather than a well thought out master plan in which many stakeholders were on the table.

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  • Blake Jones
  • 2021-02-18

Climate Effects

Intrigued at the beginning, bored at some parts. Best explanation of climate problem, and most concise and effective explanation of possible solutions. I love how mostly realistic Bill Gates is in explaining climate change - I appreciate how open and transparent he is. He gets at the center of it and doesn't try to scare. I don't think the climate disaster is a one time event like it sounds, rather a boxing match that lasts the entire time but ending in a KO unless the right innovative solutions are found.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Saiomshan
  • 2021-02-17

51 billion, Zero and 30 years

These three numbers defined the problem space concisely and this really resonated with me. I am going to recommend this book to all my friends.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Mina
  • 2021-02-17

Great Book

In his new book How To Avoid A Climate Disaster Bill Gates made this climate thing really easy to understand, no jargons and most importantly you will know exactly what you need to do to make an impact and avoid the disaster.

12 people found this helpful

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  • J Kuo
  • 2021-02-20

Essential, Optimistic, and Ambitious

Deeply appreciated this work. I love how Bill Gates engaged the issue of climate change from first principles, driving an understanding that we need to get to zero to avoid worst case scenarios. He then identified what we need to and can do to get there. I hope, pray, and will do my small part to help us get to zero, and recommend this book to anyone who has the courage, conscience, and character to invest in a future for humanity.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Sasha
  • 2021-02-19

Excellent book - Easy to understand

This is a fantastic audiobook.

When I initially got it I was worried that it would be complicated or very dry. It is the complete opposite! It's easy to understand and explained in very human terms. This is NOT some rich guy telling us all to be vegan and wear bamboo fabric clothes.

Bill Gates lays out the current issues very clearly and offers current solutions and areas we need to focus on.

Wil Wheaton does an excellent job with the narration too. My 11 year old son has been listening to it too, and he is understanding it.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Aaron R. Isaacson
  • 2021-02-17

good and timely advice for our planet

I recomend all policy makers (private sector and public sector) read or listen to this book.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Adam Gonyea
  • 2021-02-18

A must read.... Immediately

This books is very clear cut, educational, and inspirational. I was losing hope that climate change would ever be addressed but this book has gave me a new hope .this book very good job at covering climate change head to toe in a way everyone can understand and provides glimpses into what is already being done. Well worth the money.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy Samartino
  • 2021-02-18

GREAT BOOK

Bill Gates is one heck of a thinker. We should all make the climate zero because of the steel and for concrete. We have to do this…

6 people found this helpful

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  • P. Hutcheson
  • 2021-02-18

Knowledgable but still learned something

I have been closely following climate Change for over ten years but I still learned things. Now I know better know what to look for in this important but complex issue.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2021-04-03

aux armes citoyens : objectif zéro carbon

un objectif unique de transformation pour tout les peuples : le zero carbone emission. Une montagne à gravir avec des solutions existantes et beaucoups restants à créer. ce livre est a offrir à tous les dirigeants de ce monde ecrit par un autre grand dirigeant.