Ken Burns, 2016
In our Book Report series, we'd like to introduce ourselves via our bookshelf and share the books that most shape our diplomacy. Our fifth book is How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.
Polar Embassy's mission is to have a net positive impact on the ecological environments around our products' development, transport, and entire life cycle. There are many pieces to running a business in the most sustainable way possible, but most important for the planet is the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions and the mitigation of its effects. We chose to read and review a book that sums up this challenge (it's terrifying) and gives an overview of some technological and political solutions towards safety.
So how do we get 51 billion down to zero? Gates is a technologist and an optimist. His book focuses on expanding innovation and political action, walking us through the biggest levers and most promising solutions he's seen in the five "How we"s above. His advice for those who "make things"? Electrify as much as possible, choose decarbonized electricity sources, use carbon capture to absorb the remaining emissions, and use materials more efficiently. Our producer adds renewable energy back to the grid and offsets more than they emit. To Gates' list, I would add that makers should also be transparent about their products' CO2 output to empower consumers to make low-carbon choices. Producing each deck of our Tarot Cards emits about 0.84kg CO2 into the atmosphere (for which our producer offsets about 0.92kg CO2, making the net impact about -0.08kg CO2).
In his "how we plug in" section, there are the usual suspects: offshore wind, geothermal, batteries, hydrogen, carbon capture. The most controversial part of the book might be his advocacy for nuclear power: "it's the only carbon-free energy source that can reliably deliver power day and night, through every season, almost anywhere on earth, that has been proven to work on a large scale." He adds that among power sources, nuclear plants are the most efficient in terms of cement, steel, and glass (all with their own emissions), and by far the safest - safer than automobiles, certainly, and less deadly than generating energy from fossil fuels and living with the pollution from it.