Climate change is fueled by the release of greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions come from every sector of the global economy: electricity, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and industrial processes. In general, greenhouse gas emissions were climbing for decades. Activists often advocate using less and consuming less as one potential solution to climate change – low growthit is often called.
Gates told Akshat Rathi in an episode of Bloomberg Podcast, “Zero” which was published on Thursday. The interview was recorded in August before the Inflation Reduction Act was passed.
“You can have a cultural revolution where you try to throw everything out, you can create a North Korean type situation where the state takes over. Other than the massive centralized power that just makes people obey, I think the problem of teamwork is just absolutely unsolvable,” Gates said. .
The billionaire tech said that most people wouldn’t change their individual behavior in ways that would make them less comfortable in favor of a global problem.
“Anyone who says we’re going to tell people to stop eating meat, or to stop wanting a nice home, and we’re just going to change human desires, I think that’s very difficult,” Gates said. “You can make an argument for that. But I don’t think it’s realistic that it plays a completely central role.”
Even if those countries and individuals who have enough abundance in their lives are able to cut back on expenditures, it will not be enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to sufficiently curb climate change, Gates said. He said Gates himself pays $9 million annually to offset greenhouse gas emissions.
“But just having a few rich countries, a few rich companies and a few rich individuals buying their way out so they can say they’re not part of the problem, that has nothing to do with solving the problem,” Gates said.
Also, there are a slew of other issues vying for attention and dollars, including the global pandemic, rising healthcare costs, aiding poor countries with issues besides climate change, and the war in Ukraine as well.
“People in the climatic space may not realize how many things are competing for the modest amount of increasing resources that society has,” Gates said. “And that’s not a lot of people willing to be worse because of climate requirements.”
The solution, according to Gates, is to create better technology alternatives where it is the same or cheaper to achieve the same goal in a climate-sensitive manner. Gates has always talked about the distance between the cost of how to do something the traditional way and how it should be done in the “green premium” way. To make a meaningful impact on climate change, this green premium must slowly decrease and then eliminate across all sectors of the economy, Gates said.
In an effort to close that green premium, Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, is putting money into early-stage startups that are creating new pathways to produce things or new ways of doing things.
In the course of the interview, Gates hinted that Breakthrough Energy Ventures will raise a third fund by next year to continue investing and accelerate the development of these climate startups. He also noted that Breakthrough Energy will likely raise funds to invest in later stage companies as well. “Even with the enthusiasm in investing in tech and climate companies dropping a little bit, I still think we’ll be able to raise money,” he told Rathy.
It is also important that the path to decarbonization is not always a straight path to progress away from fossil fuels. The war in Ukraine and Europe’s efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia showed that there could be temporary setbacks to larger decarbonization goals in order to take care of people.
“When people say to me, ‘Hey, we like your weather stuff, because we can tell Putin we don’t need him,'” Gates said, ‘Yeah, 10 years from now.’ Call him and tell him you don’t need him.”
Every now and then, the EU may need to rely on fossil fuels. “Should the coal plants reopen? Perhaps. This pragmatism is very important. Should the Dutch gas field reopen?” In the short term, you just have to find any solution, even if it means that emissions will rise. And the sooner that war ended, the better. But there are many considerations regarding how to end the war. “
But in the long run, finding new ways to support people is the only possible solution, according to Gates. “I’m looking at what the world has to do to get to zero, not using climate as a moral campaign,” he said.
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