Here is the full text of Bill Gates’ TED Talk titled “Innovating to Zero”.
I’m going to talk today about energy and climate. And that might seem a bit surprising, because my full-time work at the foundation is mostly about vaccines and seeds, about the things that we need to invent and deliver to help the poorest 2 billion live better lives.
But energy and climate are extremely important to these people. In fact, more important than to anyone else on the planet. The climate getting worse means that many years, their crops won’t grow: there will be too much rain, not enough rain; things will change in ways their fragile environment simply can’t support.
And that leads to starvation, it leads to uncertainty, it leads to unrest.
So, the climate changes will be terrible for them. Also, the price of energy is very important to them. In fact, if you could pick just one thing to lower the price of to reduce poverty, by far you would pick energy.
Now, the price of energy has come down over time. Really advanced civilization is based on advances in energy. The coal revolution fueled the Industrial Revolution, and, even in the 1900s, we’ve seen a very rapid decline in the price of electricity. And that’s why we have refrigerators, air-conditioning; we can make modern materials and do so many things.
And so, we’re in a wonderful situation with electricity in the rich world. But as we make it cheaper — and let’s say, let’s go for making it twice as cheap — we need to meet a new constraint, and that constraint has to do with CO2.
CO2 is warming the planet, and the equation on CO2 is actually a very straightforward one. If you sum up the CO2 that gets emitted, that leads to a temperature increase, and that temperature increase leads to some very negative effects: the effects on the weather; perhaps worse, the indirect effects, in that the natural ecosystems can’t adjust to these rapid changes, and so you get ecosystem collapses.