Microsoft founder Bill Gates discussed the challenging problem of combating climate change in a Zoom webinar event promoting his new book that outlines his plan to avoid a climate catastrophe.
In the Feb. 17 event entitled “A Conversation with Bill Gates: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” Gates promoted his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” The event was hosted by the Georgetown Environment Initiative and the Georgetown Climate Center and was available to community members at Georgetown University, The George Washington University, American University and Howard University.
Joined in conversation by moderator Michelle Miller, a national correspondent and “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host, Gates elaborated on his book, which outlines a plan to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. In an hour-long discussion followed by a Q & A session with students, Gates said the climate problem could only be solved by a collective global commitment.
The younger generation can likely foster this commitment, according to Gates, who feels encouraged how quickly younger generations have become cognizant of the immediate dangers climate change imposes.
“The young generation’s belief that they want to stand for more than their own individual success and climate policies are part of what they want to get behind,” Gates said during the event. “Ideally, no matter which party they associate themselves with, ideally the goal is not destroying these ecosystems and destroying human livelihood; hopefully that is something we can all share”
After becoming cognizant of the dangers of climate change, Gates said he has been actively involved in climate activism and hopes to use his profile to further raise attention to the global cause.
Gates began speaking publicly about the need to achieve a zero carbon emission future when he gave a TED Talk in 2010. Since then, Gates has actively funded projects toward achieving this goal. He named the climate crisis as one of the two prominent issues he will prioritize moving forward, according his 2020 annual letter.
Although combating climate change is at the forefront of more social and political agendas than ever before, more can be done to increase the efficiency of these efforts, Gates said at the event.
“It’s only recently that I’ve seen the commitment of the younger generation to this cause and to this goal of getting to zero, but the lack of a plan — a plan that really admits that it’s going to be very difficult, that looks at all the source of emissions and taps into human ingenuity, taps into the private sector and government policy in order to take every one of these 30 years and drive that progress,” Gates said.
Although climate change is a global issue, the responsibilities and effects of climate change are not distributed equally across countries. Not only are the poor and those from developing countries experiencing the worst impacts of climate change because of their geographic location and restricted ability to respond to extreme weather, the countries most responsible for climate change are generally developed countries that benefited from unrestricted carbon emissions from the Industrial Revolution and beyond.
Future climate change efforts need to include the perspectives of developing countries, according to Gates, because a global effort is necessary to combat climate change.
“It’s so ironic because the developing countries did the least to create this problem. It wasn’t their emissions; it was our emissions, and yet when we go to them, we say you ought to take the constraint and we’re not willing to subsidize that,” Gates said. “Being intentional about the equity element of these efforts — we’ve got to design that in from the very start.”
To ensure international cooperation, policy needs to focus on the biggest issue hindering current climate change efforts: reducing financial burdens, according to Gates.
“The gold standard offsets are quite expensive. Not everyone can afford to pay the $7 million a year I’m paying to get rid of that carbon footprint,” Gates said. “At the end of the day, affordability is the metric that we’ve got to win on. And sadly in some of these areas, we haven’t really put the energy into innovating as much as the others. We’ve almost put most of our effort into the easy stuff and kind of ignored the hard stuff.”
Despite the many challenges required in coming together to combat climate change, Gates said he hopes his book will encourage individuals to recognize the zero carbon goal is feasible.
“The book raises people’s awareness about the breadth. I think that will help them not think that this is going to be easy to do,” Gates said. “My goal is also that people know that it’s doable. It’s not impossible but it requires a lot of innovation to bring these costs, these green premiums, down over 95%.”
This article has been updated to clarify details of Gates’ funding of environmental projects.