Energy innovation is one of the areas that Bill Gates always evangelizes about. So it was no surprise to see that in his 2016 Annual Letter with Melinda Gates, he touched upon the issue again.

Why is energy innovation important? For one thing, because there are still 1.3 billion people in areas such as Africa who are desperate to fulfill their basic needs and eventually enjoy the perks of modern life such as access to health services, modern communications technology and so on.

All of this requires energy but it also comes at a price: With the way we currently generate and consume energy, we also generate lot of CO2. In 2015, the world emitted 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide to produce energy. That’s a big problem!

CO2 emissions by Bill Gates

But the way Bill Gates puts it, there might be a way to solve it:

“Whenever I’m confronted with a big problem I turn to my favorite subject: math. It’s one subject that always came naturally to me, even in middle school when my grades weren’t that great. Math cuts out the noise and helps me distill a problem down to its basic elements.”

So he has come up with a simple equation to explain how we can cut CO2 emissions:

Bill Gates CO2 equation

Starting with his quick and dirty formula, none of the first three elements—population, services, and energy—are getting close to zero. That leaves the final factor (C), the amount of carbon emitted per each unit of energy. The conclusion? There is no realistic way of reducing CO2 emissions and increasing standard of life at the same time unless we make a shift in our existing energy sources.

Photo credit: OnInnovation via / CC BY-ND

Source: Gates Notes