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Bill Gates on the global problem ‘much harder’ than Covid-19

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
Bill Gates delivers a speech at the fundraising day at the Sixth World Fund Conference in Lyon, France, on October 10, 2019. (Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Bill Gates sounds the alarm on climate change. (Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

For Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and climate activist Bill Gates, the coronavirus crisis is only one of several global-scale problems that need to be solved.

In fact, the mistakes we’re making with dealing with the pandemic have been made before, he believes.

“The pandemic illustrates that government didn’t look out for us despite the warnings that were out there,” he told Bloomberg as part of the Bloomberg Green Festival about sustainability.

“Climate fits that same paradigm.”

And unlike Covid-19, which can be solved with a vaccine and “tens of billions of dollars” to “bring it to a close,” the problem of climate change will get worse and worse, Gates added.

“No, climate change is much harder,” he said.

“The damage that will be done every year will be greater than what we’ve seen during this pandemic.”

Gates has reportedly spent “billions” of dollars funding seven potential vaccines through his and wife Melinda’s philanthropic organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The billionaire has also long been an advocate for tackling climate change, committing parts of his own fortune to dealing with the worldwide issue of global warming.

Bill Gates, billionaire and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)
Bill Gates, billionaire and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Tackling climate change will require starting “many decades ahead of when you want that solution deployed”, indicating that it would require overhauling key infrastructure.

“Transport, industry, buildings, electricity, all of those things—and agriculture—contribute to emissions. For many of these sources of emissions, we have no solutions,” he said.

The speed of Covid-19 developments has proven how quickly innovation and technology can move, he indicated, and this will be key to tackling climate change, too.

“With climate, we need all of that increased speed and more. We need policies, we need more R&D money, we need more risk capital because of all those hard areas. But yes, innovation’s accelerating, and that’s the only reason you can be optimistic about climate change.”

In a blog post from early August, Gates said climate change “could be worse” than the “awful” pandemic, even though it might seem like a less pressing issue right now.

“But the fact that dramatically higher temperatures seem far off in the future does not make them any less of a problem—and the only way to avoid the worst possible climate outcomes is to accelerate our efforts now,” he wrote.

“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.”

The damage climate change will inflict will be comparable to Covid-19 – if you “spread the pain out over a much longer period of time,” Gates added.

“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.”

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