Wondrium’s “Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations” Out Now

climate solutions series optimistic, realistic, grand in scope

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Wondrium and Bill Gates partnered for a docu-course on climate solutions. Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations looks at the past, present, and future of climate change. Prepare to find hope within the big picture.

Volunteers cleaning trash from beach
Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations focuses on solutions for addressing climate change. Photo by Inside Creative House / Shutterstock

Wondrium and Bill Gates’ new climate change docu-course Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations is a 10-episode look at climate change and its solutions. The good news is that most of the focus is on the solutions, despite an honest look, early on in the docu-course, at the challenges ahead of us to reduce carbon emissions. Throughout its runtime, the majority of the docu-course addresses everything from more efficient air-conditioning units to portable nuclear reactors.

How does a film crew tackle such a big project while partnering with Bill Gates’ people? Wondrium Senior Content Developer Bill Wojtach, who helped write the docu-course, explained in an exclusive interview how Wondrium made it work.

Going Off-Book

The docu-course is based in part on Bill Gates’ climate change book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. Most Wondrium series are conceived and brought through production from scratch, so having a template put the docu-course in a minority. However, there was plenty of creative opportunity for the Wondrium team in not adapting the book too strictly.

“We liked having the basic template from the book,” Wojtach said. “We pretty much remained with the order that [Gates] has, that the book is laid out in, but then we had the freedom to do things that he couldn’t do in the book. When we want to talk about nuclear technology, we found a real expert at MIT who could talk about nuclear fission technology—nothing like that appears in the book and we have that kind of information throughout.”

Overall, Wojtach said, the docu-course adheres to the spirit of the book but has the opportunity to go further into detail on a lot of subjects due to the subject matter experts featured throughout. In fact, every subject matter expert featured in the docu-course is an original source, approved by Wondrium and the Bill Gates’ people.

“We really built each episode around the subject matter experts,” Wojtach said. “We identified people for each of the lessons and then my task was, after we interviewed them, to take the transcripts from the interviews and structure a lesson that would be compelling. That’s something that we don’t do with the normal series that we typically produce—as the content developer, we’re pretty much using written scripts all the time.”

Optimism in the Face of Adversity

The 10-part, docu-course Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations has a companion film of the same name, minus the subtitle. That documentary, Solving for Zero, strikes an optimistic tone in facing the admittedly daunting climate problem. Did Wojtach believe the docu-course does the same?

“Absolutely,” he said. “We did that right out of the gate: We decided that’s what we wanted this to be. This is going to be a real big problem—this is a huge challenge. The first lesson is saying, ‘This is how we got here, and we have an enormous mountain to climb.’ But there are so many people working on all the different aspects of it and the money is really starting to flow now.”

When the financial crisis of 2008 occurred, Wojtach said, funding for climate solutions dried up. Even though the scientific community warned the public about the dangers of climate change, it took until the Paris Accords in 2015 to get the ball rolling. When it did, inspiring things came out of it.

“Bill Gates started Breakthrough Energy and it was a deliberate attempt to try to get venture capital engaged and trying to fund climate technologies,” Wojtach said. “They’ve really done an amazing job. One program that they have—we highlight it in the second episode—it’s called Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, and they designed this component so that they would basically pay down the green premiums.”

Climate innovators encounter what’s called the “valley of death” where they have ideas that are proven to work but lack the funds to realize their projects. Investors are now more easily able to help them bring those projects to the marketplace. Wojtach and crew pointed that out: It won’t be easy, but there are options.

“This will be hard, but we can do this.”

Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovations is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily