A supremely authoritative and accessible plan for how we can avoid a climate catastrophe.

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HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER

THE SOLUTIONS WE HAVE AND THE BREAKTHROUGHS WE NEED

A persuasive, optimistic strategy for reducing greenhouse emissions to zero by midcentury.

In his latest book, Gates makes a significant contribution to the rapidly growing shelf of books that not only acknowledge climate change, but also propose viable solutions; other examples include Eric Holthaus’ The Future Earth and David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. Gates moves several steps further in a comprehensible, at times amusingly wonky, text that provides detailed plans. The author relates a compelling vision of what the potential devastation will look like, assessing the scale and range of expected damage, but he is more interested in clearly communicating the multitiered facets of his plan. While drawing on his expertise and instincts as a successful tech innovator, investor, and philanthropist, Gates relies on teams of experts in science, engineering, and public policy to flesh out the details. The author focuses on five major emissions-generating activities—making things, plugging in, growing things, getting around, and keeping cool and warm—and he breaks down his global plan to address the level of a given country’s financial capabilities. Gates applies his 2050 goal to developed, relatively wealthy countries, with others following as soon as possible after that date. Though we already have some of the tools necessary to implement his plan, many of them are not used widely enough, and Gates presses for increased investment in well-guided research and development and innovation in the efficiency of our electricity use. “We need to accomplish something gigantic we have never done before,” writes the author, “much faster than we have ever done anything similar,” which will require building “a consensus that doesn’t exist” and policy that will “push a transition that would not happen otherwise.” 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.

A supremely authoritative and accessible plan for how we can avoid a climate catastrophe.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54613-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

HOW TO PREVENT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The tech mogul recounts the health care–related dimensions of his foundation in what amounts to a long policy paper.

“Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” Thus states the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, a Gates adviser, who hits on a critically important point: Disease is a fact of nature, but a pandemic is a political creation of a kind. Therefore, there are political as well as medical solutions that can enlist governments as well as scientists to contain outbreaks and make sure they don’t explode into global disasters. One critical element, Gates writes, is to alleviate the gap between high- and low-income countries, the latter of which suffer disproportionately from outbreaks. Another is to convince governments to ramp up production of vaccines that are “universal”—i.e., applicable to an existing range of disease agents, especially respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and flus—to prepare the world’s populations for the inevitable. “Doing the right thing early pays huge dividends later,” writes Gates. Even though doing the right thing is often expensive, the author urges that it’s a wise investment and one that has never been attempted—e.g., developing a “global corps” of scientists and aid workers “whose job is to wake up every day thinking about diseases that could kill huge numbers of people.” To those who object that such things are easier said than done, Gates counters that the development of the current range of Covid vaccines was improbably fast, taking a third of the time that would normally have been required. At the same time, the author examines some of the social changes that came about through the pandemic, including the “new normal” of distance working and learning—both of which, he urges, stand to be improved but need not be abandoned.

Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53448-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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