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

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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.


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 solid foundational education in a handful of lively scientific topics.


Two science podcasters answer their mail.

In this illustrated follow-up to We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe (2017), Cham, a cartoonist and former research associate and instructor at Caltech, and Whiteson, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, explain the basic science behind subjects that seem to preoccupy the listeners of their podcast, Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe. Most of the questions involve physics or astrophysics and take the form of, is such-and-such possible?—e.g., teleportation, alien visitors, building a warp drive, entering a black hole). The authors emphasize that they are answering as scientists, not engineers. “A physicist will say something is possible if they don’t know of a law of physics that prevents it.” Thus, a spaceship traveling fast enough to reach the nearest star in a reasonable amount of time is not forbidden by the laws of physics, but building one is inconceivable. Similarly, wormholes and time travel are “not known to be impossible”—as are many other scenarios. Some distressing events are guaranteed. An asteroid will strike the Earth, the sun will explode, and the human race will become extinct, but studies reveal that none are immediate threats. Sadly, making Mars as habitable as Earth is possible but only with improbably futuristic technology. For those who suspect that we are living in a computer simulation, the authors describe what clues to look for. Readers may worry that the authors step beyond their expertise when they include chapters on the existence of an afterlife or the question of free will. Sticking closely to hard science, they deliver a lucid overview of brain function and the debate over the existence of alternate universes that is unlikely to provoke controversy. The authors’ work fits neatly into the recently burgeoning market of breezy pop-science books full of jokes, asides, and cartoons that serve as introductions to concepts that require much further study to fully understand.

A solid foundational education in a handful of lively scientific topics.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18931-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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