Monday, July 22, 2024

Bill Gates: Telling People They Can’t Eat Meat Or Have A “Nice House” Won’t Solve Climate Crisis


  • Bill Gates said only innovation can help solve the climate crisis. 
  • He told Bloomberg Zero it’s “unrealistic” to expect people to radically change how they live.

Bill Gates said the climate crisis will not be solved by expecting people to radically change their lifestyle over concerns about the environment.

The billionaire philanthropist discussed the US climate bill in the podcast and said that climate change could not be solved without innovation. 

“We’re not even trying to make breakthroughs, such as inventing an economic way of making aviation fuel, cement or steel,” he said. “The existing tools only apply to areas like electricity generation and don’t apply to most of the emissions.” 

Gates has long been a supporter of climate change innovation. In 2015 he founded TerraPower, which designs nuclear reactors, and launched Breakthrough Energy, an investment vehicle that has invested in almost 100 clean-energy companies. 

He has also funded a number of start-ups including Turntide, which creates energy-efficient electric motors, and lithium start-up Mangrove Lithium. Last year he published a book titled “How To Avoid A Climate Disaster” that calls for climate innovation. 

The world’s fifth-richest person also said in the interview that he played a key role in the Inflation Reduction Act, which has allocated almost $370 billion to help cut US carbon emissions by 40% over the next eight years. 

“I am getting governments involved and this latest bill I was personally involved in a lot of what got written into it and working with the key senators in the last month to get it passed,” he said.

“Anyone who says telling people to stop eating meat or wanting to have a nice house will basically change human desires, I think, that is too difficult,” he told Bloomberg’s Zero podcast. “You can make a case for it, but I don’t think it’s realistic for that to play a central role.” 

Bill Gates said telling people to stop eating meat or any attempt to “change human desires” and hoping it works is not a “realistic” way to fight climate change in an interview with Bloomberg’s ‘Zero’ podcast last week. (Relevant part begins at 16:20)

“Anyone who says telling people to stop eating meat or wanting to have a nice house will basically change human desires, I think, that is too difficult,” Gates told Bloomberg. “You can make a case for it, but I don’t think it’s realistic for that to play a central role.”

AKSHAY RATHI, BLOOMBERG: You’re a techno-optimist, but the scale of the climate challenge is so much bigger than anything humans have done. It requires the rebuilding of the physical economy so that it produces no emissions. You once told me, when we spoke last time, that if we manage to do this, it would be a bigger achievement than winning the Second World War. But is technology the only innovation we need? Or do we also need a social and political revolution alongside it?

BILL GATES: Well, I don’t know what those words mean. We need more than technology because we have to have political will. We’re asking society to stop using stuff that, other than for climate things, would last longer. That coal plant, and those jobs, and that natural gas plant, and that way of making cement. We’re asking society to walk away from those. Of course, the more you walk away from, say, natural gas, the cheaper it’ll be. It’ll just be sitting there just as cheap as can be because you’re trying to drive demand to zero. Anyone who says that we will tell people to stop eating meat or stop wanting to have a nice house, and we’ll just basically change human desires, I think that that’s too difficult. I mean, you can make a case for it. But I don’t think it’s realistic for that to play an absolutely central role. I mean, after all, if the rich countries completely disappeared, that’s only less than a third of emissions, if we all completely just weren’t in the picture at all. And those [remaining] two-thirds of emissions are pretty basic in terms of the calories and shelter and transport and goods being used. So the excesses of the rich countries … even curbing those completely out of existence is not a solution to this problem. It may feel Calvinistically appropriate, but I’m looking at what the world has to do to get to zero, not using climate as a moral crusade.

RATHI: But there are people who are getting louder about the idea of degrowth. They say it’s a moral imperative for developing countries to grow so that they can meet their basic needs. And they argue that the planet is finite, which means developed countries have to rein in their excesses. Does capitalism as it exists today allow for such an outcome?

GATES: I don’t think it’s realistic to say that people are utterly going to change their lifestyle because of concerns about climate. You can have a cultural revolution where you’re trying to throw everything up, you can create a North Korean-type situation where the state’s in control. Other than the immense central authority to have people just obey, I think the collective action problem is just completely not solvable. And when people say the earth is finite, I don’t actually know what they mean. We can grow enough food, the water is not disappearing, and the minerals are not disappearing. It’s not a Malthusian situation. In fact, other than the continent of Africa, we’re actually in population decline. We reached a so-called peak baby in the last decade. The only reason we have population growth is not that we have more babies, it’s just that lifespans are longer. So there’s not like some equation, like some plan B, it can’t possibly work type thing. That’s not a problem.

Source: RealClearPolitics, ZeroBloomberg, BusinessInsider


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