Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates spent years warning world leaders about the devastating impact of a virus like Covid-19.
However, he’s now warning that there is a threat that will cause even more deaths and suffering.
“A global crisis has shocked the world. It is causing a tragic number of deaths, making people afraid to leave home, and leading to economic hardship not seen in many generations. Its effects are rippling across the world,” Gates said in a recent blog post.
“Obviously, I am talking about Covid-19. But in just a few decades, the same description will fit another global crisis: climate change. As awful as this pandemic is, climate change could be worse.”
He said that while it’s “hard to think about” other threats while the Covid-19 remains a pressing issue, it’s important to think ahead.
“The only way to avoid the worst possible climate outcomes is to accelerate our efforts now. Even as the world works to stop the novel coronavirus and begin recovering from it, we also need to act now to avoid a climate disaster by building and deploying innovations that will let us eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions.”
While the world’s economic shutdown has reduced some emissions, that won’t be enough to reduce the threat of climate change.
While emissions have fallen around 8 per cent this year, that rate of reduction is difficult to maintain, Gates said.
“Consider what it’s taking to achieve this 8 per cent reduction. More than 600,000 people have died, and tens of millions are out of work. This April, car traffic was half what it was in April 2019. For months, air traffic virtually came to a halt,” he said.
And, he continued, the problem is that despite this major change, emissions fell only 8 per cent while exacting a great cost.
While the Covid-19 mortality rate is around 14 deaths per 100,000, Gates predicted that by the end of the century, rising global temperatures will see the world face a death toll of 73 people per 100,000.
“If you want to understand the kind of damage that climate change will inflict, look at Covid-19 and spread the pain out over a much longer period of time. The loss of life and economic misery caused by this pandemic are on par with what will happen regularly if we do not eliminate the world’s carbon emissions.”
Continuing, he said that within 20 years the economic damage will be as severe as having had a coronavirus pandemic every decade.
What’s the solution?
It’s easy to get disheartened, but Gates said the world has the capacity to learn and use Covid-19 lessons to prevent this future.
The main steps are to let science and innovation lead the way for the world, especially in terms of finding clean energy sources for all.
“Governments, inventors, and entrepreneurs around the world need to focus on making green technologies cheap enough that developing countries will not only want them, but be able to afford them,” he said.
“Health advocates said for years that a pandemic was virtually inevitable. The world did not do enough to prepare, and now we are trying to make up for lost time. This is a cautionary tale for climate change, and it points us toward a better approach. If we start now, tap into the power of science and innovation, and ensure that solutions work for the poorest, we can avoid making the same mistake with climate change.”