Most people associate climate change with power production and the burning of fossil fuels. Renewables are getting cheaper and many countries are committing to rely more on them and less on fossil fuels for their electricity needs. De-carbonising the way we generate electricity remains a fundamental part of the solution.
However, making electricity is responsible for only 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year. So even if we could generate all the electricity we need without emitting a single molecule of greenhouse gas we would cut total emissions by just a quarter.
To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years. That means dealing with electricity, and the other 75% too.Become a partner
The Five main
Renewables are getting cheaper and many countries are committing to rely more on them and less on fossil fuels for their electricity needs. De-carbonising the way we generate electricity remains a fundamental part of the solution.
Bill Gates has outlined his ‘Grand Challenges’ in stopping climate change and describes them as five main categories. He has set up a global investment fund ‘Breakthrough Energy’ who are looking for projects that solve and support the transition to a zero-carbon future.
Electricity / energy (25%)Although there’s been progress in the renewable energy market, we still need more breakthroughs.
Agriculture & Food production (24%)Cattle are a huge source of methane. Deforestation removes trees that pull CO2 out of the air, and when burned, they release all their carbon back into the atmosphere. The process of food-growing and production can also be carbon intensive.
Manufacturing & industry (21%)Plastic, steel, and cement create pollutant by-products. Making cement and steel requires lots of energy from fossil fuels, and it involves chemical reactions that release carbon as a by-product.
Transportation (14%)While low-emission cars are an improvement, cars account for a little less than half of transportation-related emissions today—and that share will shrink in the future. More emissions come from aircraft, cargo ships, and trucks.
Buildings & people (6%)The refrigerant used for air conditioning in buildings is a greenhouse gas. In addition, it takes a lot of energy to run air conditioners, heaters, lights, and other appliances. This area will be more important over the next few decades as the global population moves to cities.
The final 10% is a sixth, miscellaneous category that includes things like the energy it takes to extract oil and gas.
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