Built Green and Sustainable LivingEnergy conservationLocal news and information February 17, 2010

Bill Gates Calls for Zero Energy Emissions

It’s funny, last night I was just talking with a neighbor about Bill Gates and how he and Melinda had the power to change the world, making it a better place for all.  Previously, The Gates Foundation has focused mostly on health and education.  Now Mr. Gates is taking on climate change.

Gates spoke about his commitment to using his massive philanthropic resources (the Gates Foundation is the world’s largest) to make life better for people through public health and poverty alleviation (“vaccines and seeds” as he put it). Then he said something he’s never said before: that is it because he’s committed to improving life for the world’s vulnerable people that he now believes that climate change is the most important challenge on the planet.

His formula for zero emissions was explained:


According to Gates, P is for people, S is for the services needed by the people, energy (E) is what it takes to provide these services, and C is for the CO2, the amount of carbon emitted from the production of the energy to provide these services to the population.

Alex Steffen in his Worldchanging post had an addition to the Gates equation:

What’s more, protecting and healing the biosphere is essential to meeting the climate crisis itself. Logging our forests, over-burdening our oceans, converting land for agriculture and grazing, all these are huge contributors to our climate problem, and restoring the capacities of natural systems to absorb carbon dioxide is a critical part of the solution.

In order to truly succeed, we need to improve the quality of our natural systems at about the same rate at which we’re converting the economy to clean energy. Properly, Gates’ Equation would include a value for nature:

CO2 = P x S x E x C ÷ N

This post is an important one.  I like the  “global” perspective of the issue.  Mr. Steffen believes we need to rethink “our relationship to stuff”  and plan more effectively with interactive systems or networks, such as designing zero-impact cities.

Cities are the tools we need for reinventing prosperity. We can build zero-impact cities, and we need to. Any answer to the problem of climate change needs to be as focused on reinventing the future as powering it.

After reading through the post, I skimmed the comment section.   Some don’t think zero emissions is possible.   Many people will find this all to daunting of a proposition, but it’s a goal worth working towards.  Even if it’s not fully achieved, working in the direct of zero emissions is the direction we should be heading towards.

What do you think about zero emissions?  I realize this is a very complex issue and I’m only skimming the surface here, but is talk about it realistic?  Is it a goal we should strive for in our daily lives?


This morning I read a post on Gates’ talk which comments some of the flaws with Gates’ plan.

The plan may have flaws in its implementation, which others are better equipped to address,  but from my vantage point, Gates can play a huge role in raising the awareness for climate change.  Perhaps the climate experts should sit down and hash out a plan with Mr. Gates.  Having the voice of Bill Gates on your side is huge.