Monday, January 1, 2024

Bill Gates On 2024

From Bill's personal blog, GatesNotes, December 19:

#3 A long-awaited malnutrition breakthrough is almost here.

At the Gates Foundation, we are willing to take big bets. We know every risk might not pay off—but that’s okay. Our goal isn’t just incremental progress. It’s to channel our efforts and resources into major initiatives that, if successful, could save and improve lives.

When you’re making a big bet, you often wait a long time to see if it pays off. The feeling is incredible when you finally realize it’s going to succeed. We are close to that moment with one of the big bets I’ve been most excited about: Using our understanding of the gut microbiome to prevent and treat malnutrition.

I often get asked what I would choose if I could only solve one problem. My answer is always malnutrition. It’s the greatest health inequity in the world, affecting about one in every four children. If you don’t get enough nutrition during the first two years of life, you don't develop properly—physically or mentally. By tackling malnutrition, we can reduce one of the biggest contributors to childhood mortality....

#4 The climate conversation has entered a new era.

What happens when you bring heads of state, student activists, business leaders, and philanthropists together and ask them to work on the climate crisis? A whole lot of progress, it turns out.

Earlier this month, I spent several productive and awe-inspiring days at the COP28 conference in Dubai. This was my third COP—I also went to the conferences in Paris and Glasgow.

These meetings are a great way to track how the climate fight is evolving over time. I’m always blown away by the passion from young climate activists. It’s especially interesting to see how the overall intensity of the climate discussion has gone up over the years as more people see and experience extreme weather events all over the world.

I’m hopeful that this intensity will drive us to invest more in innovations that will help those who are most affected by climate change—especially poor farmers who live near the equator. They deserve our attention because they’ve done nothing to cause this problem, yet it literally threatens their lives. On that front, it was exciting to see a greater focus on adaptation at this year’s COP, including the inclusion of an entire day devoted to health.

I was also struck by how sophisticated and nuanced the conversation around climate has become. The biggest change I saw in Dubai was how broad the discussion is about mitigation—and especially clean energy.

At previous COPs, a lot of the focus was on scaling up wind and solar. At this COP, there was a lot more discussion about other sectors that contribute significant emissions, like agriculture and manufacturing. (I’ve written before about what I’m doing to reduce and offset my own emissions.) It’s also clear that leaders are thinking seriously about how countries can build a green energy future that pulls from many different sources. Wind and solar remain a key part of that future, but leaders now recognize that you need to supplement them with something more reliable when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

That something increasingly includes nuclear energy.

“Nuclear is the only carbon-free energy source that can reliably deliver power day and night, through every season, almost anywhere on earth, that has been proven to work on a large scale.”

Over the last year, I have noticed a major shift toward overall acceptance of nuclear. In the past, when I would bring it up, I would often have to explain why nuclear isn’t the boogeyman many people assumed it was. But lately, I’ve spent a lot more time explaining how we scale the technology up rather than why we need it at all. I was excited to see nearly two dozen countries pledge at COP to triple their nuclear capacity by 2050.

I think one reason for this shift is practical. Nuclear is the only carbon-free energy source that can reliably deliver power day and night, through every season, almost anywhere on earth, that has been proven to work on a large scale. As countries make progress on their climate plans, more people are realizing that we will likely need nuclear power to meet the world’s growing need for energy while eliminating carbon emissions.

I also attribute some of the shift to the progress being made on next-generation nuclear technology.

For decades, nuclear technology remained stagnant. High-profile disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island put a spotlight on the real risks that come with nuclear power. And instead of getting to work on solving those problems, we just stopped trying to advance the field. Luckily, that is changing.

I’m optimistic about the approach created by TerraPower, a company I founded in 2008. Earlier this year, I visited the future home of the first TerraPower plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming. When this plant opens—potentially in 2030—it will be the most advanced nuclear facility in the world, and it will be much safer and produce far less waste than conventional reactors.

A lot of people are still (understandably!) skeptical about the economics of nuclear power, since building new plants is so expensive. My hope is that the Kemmerer plant will remove some of those doubts. Building the facility will bring 1,600 construction jobs to town at its peak. And once it’s up and running, it will employ between 200 and 250 people—including workers from the local coal plant that’s scheduled to shut down soon.

In 2024, construction will begin on the sodium test facility in Kemmerer. (You can read more about the super-cool role sodium plays.) This is an important step as TerraPower continues to make progress toward breaking ground on the nuclear facility.

TerraPower uses a fission reactor, which is what most people think of when they picture a nuclear power plant. It creates power by splitting atoms apart. But scientists are also working on a completely new type of reactor that pushes atoms together to generate energy. This process is called fusion, and it’s the same process that powers the sun.

Almost exactly one year ago, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved the first fusion reaction that generated more energy than it took in. This was a tremendous achievement and a huge step forward. The technology is still in the R&D phase, but there are plenty of reasons for continued optimism.....


If interested see also:

Meet The Guy Who Taught Bill Gates About Energy
"Vaclav Smil Takes on Jeremy Grantham Over Peak Fertilizer"
Vaclav Smil: Planet of the Cows
Our readers may know Mr. Smil as a big deal in the Thinking-about-Energy biz. Here he is thinking about bovines....

Vaclav Smil On Energy: "Revolution? More like a crawl"
Bill Gates on The Most Astounding Statistic In Vaclav Smil's New Book
Bill Gates Summer Reading List (Vaclav Smil has two entries)
Energy--'Vaclav Smil is Correct: Never Forecast'
Energy: "The man who’s tutoring Bill Gates … "
Vaclav Smil: "In energy matters, what goes around, comes around—but perhaps should go away"
Vaclav Smil: "The Manufacturing of Decline"
Serious Thinking on Energy: An Interview With Dr. Vaclav Smil
A Major Piece: "Why the tech revolution isn’t a template for an energy revolution"
Bill Gates Reviews Vaclav Smil's "Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines"

And in non-Bill Gates/Vaclav Smil posts, the book I recommend people read if they want to learn about energy:

"Energy and Artificial Intelligence Expert Professor Sir David J.C. MacKay Has Died, Age 48".