Bill Gates: The next chapter in the history of the planet is still being written

World-famous entrepreneur Bill Gates talks about Kim Stanley Robinson’s book “Ministry of the Future”, which both scares and gives hope.

“If we want to solve the climate problem, we have to speak for future generations,” says Gates.

Last year, after my book on climate change, came out, a few friends suggested I read Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. According to them, they thought of the novel because it goes into great detail about what I have devoted a chapter of my book too – the consequences of failing to take climate change seriously. The book explains the science well, tells a wonderful story and has a wonderfully hopeful ending.

At the beginning of this year, I finally took the time to listen to my friend’s advice, and I’m glad I did. Ministry of the Future, unlike any book I’ve read, shows in a dramatic yet realistic way how rising environmental temperatures can kill people. Like many other works in the science fiction genre – I mean writers like Neal Stevenson, whose books I love very much – here many of the scientific aspects are explained well. And while I don’t agree with all the measures the people in the novel take to solve the problem, there are a lot of intriguing ideas in it.

The action in the book takes place shortly during an unprecedented heat wave in Uttar Pradesh, India, where Frank May, an American aid worker, is doing everything he can to save people, but he is not very successful. Day after day goes by without a drop in temperature and humidity, and the power grid fails, making life a living hell for everyone living in the northern Indian state.

Desperate, many rushes to the nearby lake in the hope that it will bring at least some relief, but the water in it is also boiling. By the end of the abnormal heat wave, more than 20 million people had died, and Frank barely survived.

This is the scariest scene I’ve ever seen in science fiction because the events described in Ministry of the Future could happen in the real world. I don’t think we’re going to have such prolonged and intense heat waves as in the book in the next few years. But if we don’t decisively reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions, we could see a series of days with a deadly combination of extreme heat and high humidity in the coming decades. (Just last month, some parts of northern India saw temperatures reach around 60 degrees.)

However, this book is not about hopelessness. Throughout the novel’s 106 chapters, Robinson presents a compelling and engaging story that spans decades and continents and is filled with interesting ideas and people.

Along with Frank, the other main character is Mary Murphy, a diplomat who heads the fictional Ministry of the Future, an organization created by the United Nations when the signed Paris Agreements failed to meet their goals. Their task is “to protect future generations of world citizens whose rights, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are as valid as our own.” This means that they should do everything they can to combat climate change and save humanity. And by the end of the book, without giving too much away, they have some success.

In Robinson’s story, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of climate change, just as there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the real world. Instead, it brings together stories of many new strategies and innovations that work together to prevent catastrophes. Some of these ideas are intriguing, such as the idea of ​​a Ministry of the Future. If we are to solve the problem of climate change, our political institutions must begin to do what the Ministry does in the book: act on behalf of future generations.

Another important idea presented in the book is the so-called carboni – a new reserve currency that is backed by the world’s biggest central banks and is designed to drive decarbonization. Companies are paid in carbon every time they remove carbon from the atmosphere or prevent it from being released.

That’s an interesting idea. Creating carbon would mean putting a price on carbon that reflects the damage it does, and I support that idea. However, there are downsides to it, as this decision is a win-win in one respect, but a lose-lose in another. This will require people to make trade-offs with limited resources. It might encourage you to dedicate your life to reducing carbon emissions instead of becoming, say, a teacher or a farmer. There is a price to be paid for this trade-off – society will end up with fewer teachers or a less productive agricultural sector.

I wish Robinson had spent more time on common solutions that allow us to achieve zero emissions while helping people get out of poverty – better seeds that don’t require a lot of fertilizer and can withstand climate change and the weather, or ways to produce carbon-free cement and steel.

But these are trifles. Ministry Not the Future is a great book. Robinson has written a novel that presents the danger of this crisis in an original way and leaves readers with the hope that we can do something about it. The next chapter in the history of our planet is still being written, and its finality depends on us.

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