Me vs Bill Gates

Beck Mordini
4 min readFeb 26, 2021

Are We Doomed Without a Green Technology Breakthrough?

Silvopasture- pastures with trees.

Generally, when given a choice, you should bet on Bill Gates. He is super brain-smart and business-smart. But when he claims, "Without innovation, we will not solve climate change. We won't even come close,” as he told Anderson Cooper recently on 60 Minutes, I might have the edge on him. Not because I am smarter, but because I can see the issue of climate change through a different lens, a systems-based perspective instead of a technological perspective. We already have all the technology we need to reverse global warming by 2050. But don’t just take my word for it. Think it through. Examine the evidence. Decide for yourself.

Common sense

Everyone agrees we need to trust the experts when it comes to science. But in deciding which experts to trust, it helps to use a little common sense. Couldn’t we simply stop doing the things that are creating greenhouse gases? We might not like it, but it is possible. When I was a kid, we created fewer greenhouse gases than we do now — without better technology. Other wealthy countries create less greenhouse gas than we do per person, while using the same technology. The United states per capita greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were three times greater than those of our friends in Great Britain. When common sense doesn’t match up with the experts, it is time to look deeper. Something must be missing.

Why the confusion?

When experts claim that we don’t have the technology, they mean this in a specific context. If we don’t change anything about how we live, how we organize our economy, how resources are distributed globally, then we will need new technology to create a carbon-free version of Business As Usual.

It is easy to get caught up in this green-tech Business as Usual scenario for solving climate change. It lets us off the hook. We don’t need to take responsibility for the choices we have made because we just didn’t have the technology to do better. It is also familiar. Society, like the individuals in it, would rather deal with the problems it knows, than risk the unknown. A world just like this isn’t perfect, but it is familiar and therefore feels safe. Finally, it also feels more possible. We can easily picture that techno-green world, and a path to decarbonize it.

But there is a danger in settling for this magic green-tech, silver bullet approach. It does not address the fundamental problem of our war against nature. As we solve one problem, such as greenhouse gases, we create other problems, such as battery disposal. And it leaves all the intersectional problems related to climate change, such as equity, biodiversity, and pollution unsolved.

The web of solutions

Fortunately there is another path forward, and we already have the technology we need to follow it. This is the conclusion of Project Drawdown. Since 2014, over 200 researchers have been running the numbers on a combination of 75–100 technology and action-based solutions to measure how much greenhouse gas they could eliminate by 2050. Every time they run the numbers, humanity survives and we are able to reach a point called drawdown, when carbon levels begin to decline, before we roast our planet.

Drawdown describes an interconnected web of solutions based on reducing emissions, taking carbon out of the air, and improving society. Some of the solutions use cutting edge green technology that would need to be scaled up. Some of the solutions are just different ways of doing things, such as using regenerative agriculture to grow food. Other solutions empower the most vulnerable in the global society, such as women and girls and indigeneous peoples.

Unlike green-tech, this web of solutions creates co-benefits, like clean air, healthier people, increased biodiversity, and equitable development.

New tech versus systems change

Do we really need to grow meat in labs when we could just eat less meat and stop cutting down forests to graze cattle? Ranchers are already seeing benefits from silvopasture and managed grazing. Is grid-scale battery storage really better for communities than micro-grids and distributed solar and storage? Carbon-free fertilizers are not going to restore the soil the way that regenerative agriculture will. Would we need to build so many concrete cities if we shifted our economic priorities to allow people to thrive in their villages?

I hope it never really comes down to me vs. Bill Gates. We are really on the same team, committed to doing everything it takes to avoid a climate disaster. But if you can see past technology and work towards new ways of organizing how we do things, the result will be a better world for everyone.

We can reverse global warming by 2050 with the technology we have. Now that you know it is possible, let’s get busy.

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Beck Mordini

Creating bold conversations for a biocentric future that connects us to each other and our planet.