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The grand challenges of climate change

This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.

"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaking during the Hongqiao International Economic and Trade Forum in the China International Import Expo at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre on November 5, 2018 in Shanghai, China. Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

For Bill Gates, toilets are serious business. The billionaire philanthropist kicked off the Reinvented Toilet Expo in China and unveiled a new toilet that does not require water or sewers, and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer, Reuters reported.

"We are all here for one reason: because more than half the world's population doesn't have the safe sanitation they need to lead healthy and productive lives," Gates said in a speech on Tuesday in Beijing.

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A screen projects a speech by Bill Gates at the launch of the Global Commission on Adaptation. OLAF KRAAK/AFP / Getty Images

As a summer of wildfires, heat waves and flooding made clear, climate change isn't just something to race to prevent in the future. It's also something that's happening right now.

But key players haven't exactly come to terms with that. In 2015 to 2016, $380 billion dollars were spent reducing carbon dioxide emissions and only $20 billion on increasing protections from extreme weather events, The Guardian reported.

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From Silicon Valley tech moguls to business executives and entrepreneurs, these people know that the future of food means not slaughtering animals.

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In an effort to cool the atmosphere, Harvard University will inject aerosols 12 miles into the atmosphere, leading the charge on the largest geoengineering study to ever take place.

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As President-elect Donald Trump's climate-skeptic/pro-fossil fuels cabinet takes shape, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and other very wealthy and very influential individuals have launched a $1 billion fund dedicated to clean energy innovation.

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