In Bill Gates’ new book on climate change, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: the Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need,” the co-founder of Microsoft discusses what it will take to drive down greenhouse gas emissions, surveying the technologies needed to do so in sectors like steel, cement and agriculture. Bill Gates also proposed a dramatic behavioural change: people living in wealthier countries should ditch beef and move to plant-based meat alternatives. 

What is Happening?

He says, “Weirdly, the US livestock, because they’re so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa. And as part of the Foundation’s work, we’re taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite US beef lines.”

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Regarding livestock, he says, “it’s very difficult. There are all the things where they feed them different food, like there’s this one compound that gives you a 20% reduction [in methane emissions]. But sadly, those bacteria [in their digestive system that produce methane] are a necessary part of breaking down the grass. And so I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there. I’m afraid the synthetic [protein alternatives like plant-based burgers] will be required for at least the beef thing.”

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