What has Bill Gates said about greenhouse gases?
The billionaire Microsoft co-founder estimates we have a 30-year transition period to reduce 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
Bill Gates has long advocated phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with carbon neutral, renewable energy sources to combat the effects of climate change. The 65-year-old Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist believes that the planet is on a collision course heading towards a “climate disaster” unless measures are taken, starting from now, to avert it. “If humanity can successfully mitigate climate change, it will be the most amazing thing that mankind has ever done,” he told CBS News’ Anderson Cooper on his 60 Minutes show last week. While Gates is optimistic it can be done, he said that it will involve unprecedented scientific innovation and global cooperation. “The amount of change, new ideas is way greater than the pandemic and it needs a level of cooperation that would be unprecedented,” Gates explained. “It’s not easy. But hey, we have 30 years, we have more dedicated people than ever, we have a generation which is speaking out on this topic and I got to participate in the miracle of the personal computer and the internet, so I have a bias to believe innovation can do these things”.
30 years to save the planet
Gates estimates we have a 30-year transition period to reduce the annual 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas (CO2eq) emissions to zero. Global CO2 emissions have increased every decade since the 1960s and have only recently started to plateau. Two thirds of that comes from the energy sector with the US, China, EU and India the main culprits. In his recently-published book, How to avoid a climate disaster, Gates points out that everyone can play a part in reducing their own carbon footprint. He says we can all start buying sustainable products to cut personal energy consumption such as switching to LED lightbulbs which are 80% more efficient than traditional ones. “When you pay more for an electric car, a heat pump, or a plant-based burger, you’re saying, ‘There’s a market for this stuff. We’ll buy it,’” he suggests, adding that it is essential that the cost of green living has to be driven down so it is affordable for all.
If we fail to change our lifestyles to tackle the impending climate catastrophe, much of the world will become inhabitable. “You won’t be able to farm or go outside during the summer. The wildfires, even the farming productivity in the south of the US, the droughts will reduce productivity very dramatically,” he explained “And it’s all a matter of degree. If we wait 10 more years, it’s not as bad as if we wait 20 or you wait 30, because the temperature just keeps going up, and it’s going up more rapidly than it has in natural history. But the instability overall will be five times as many deaths at the peak of the pandemic and going up every year.”
Effects of climate change will happen without warning
On Sunday, Gates warned during his appearance on Fox News, that the acute effects of climate change will be brought on suddenly and without warning. “CO2 stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years, and that’s what forces the temperatures to go up. And so, it’s really the sum of all those emissions starting in the industrial age that’s causing this temperature forcing with all of its ill effect. There is no magic date that, it’s all great until then, and it’s — it’s terrible once you cross that threshold. It’s pretty linear as far as we know. 2050 happens to be the soonest realistic date for the world to change all of these source emissions - which are actually quite broader than most people are aware of, because it’s got things like steel and cement, not just cars and electricity.”
By his own admission, Gates acknowledges that he a substantial carbon footprint but has been making changes to his own lifestyle to reduce it. “I am offsetting my carbon emissions by buying clean aviation fuel and funding carbon capture and funding low-cost housing projects to use electricity instead of a natural gas,” he offered. “I have been able to eliminate it, and it was amazing to me how expensive that was. The cost of being green, the green premium, we have got to drive that down. If we have this idealistic generation and this wonderful goal, we need a plan and that my experience could help contribute to that plan”.
Gates concludes that if everyone makes a concerted effort, he is confident that a disaster of cataclysmic proportions can be avoided. “It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a problem as big as climate change,” he admits “But you’re not powerless. And you don’t have to be a politician or a philanthropist to make a difference. You have influence as a citizen, a consumer and an employee or employer”.