Bill Gates is optimistic about the climate, capitalism and even politics
Are you Of course it will not be a decision made by you?
I’m sure it won’t be done by me. I’m not going to push this thing. I push the most rational, Hey, just change the way you make steel. Let’s get some cheap green hydrogen. I did a few million in geoengineering, and overall I made, like, $ 2 billion. I lose over a hundred times more money on battery companies than on geoengineering. I funded the open source green energy model. I financed nuclear fusion. At the Paris climate event, there was only one person there to push the R&D agenda of political leaders. It’s strange to me how early this whole climate area is in developing an understanding of what needs to be done.
It seems to me that understanding is quite early, but the planet tells us that action is late.
It’s about 20 years behind in a sense. I only saw it through the prism of what I saw in Africa, in terms of how hard it is for farmers to get there and kind of thinking, do we really have to deal with this complex constraint of climate change? I was very lucky that people brought me up to date.
At one point in the book, you notice that you yourself are consuming an “absurd” amount of energy. I guess you’ve traveled a lot less this year. Given your climate activism, will this continue even after the pandemic is over?
Sure. I hope my international travel in the future is about half of what it was in the past. For example, now African leaders all have a block in their timeline called “take video calls”. For a lot of these leaders that I used to meet, instead of going every two years and sitting down and waiting and having an hour-long meeting, I can do a 20 minute meeting with simultaneous translation and doing whatever we need. So my efficiency in working with African leaders in terms of time and time has been 10 times better this year than ever. I’m not going back to that, and I think there are a lot of things like that.
Our reduction in things like travel shows that we are afraid for our lives. We are changing our behavior. You should be optimistic about this.
But that’s not how you get to zero, asking rich countries to do a little less. The acid test is whether India will use green approaches in 2050. They are going to use more electricity, and they are going to install air conditioning, and they are going to provide basic shelter, and when we call them in 2050 and say , Use the green approach with current technology, they might say, Hey, send us these trillions of dollars because you’re rich – you caused this problem, and we have to meet the most basic needs of our people. So, no, we’re not going to get away with it that way. If all the rich countries fell to zero, it wouldn’t matter. The idea of nationally determined contributions does not take you to zero.
Here is a Covid question. The last time we spoke, you said you were funding manufacturing facilities for vaccines before they were even approved, so we would have had enough when they get the green light. But we didn’t seem to have enough. What happened?
Well, no one said they knew how to make 14 billion vaccines overnight. The reason the serum factory that makes AstraZeneca makes more of it than any other factory in the world is because of the funding we have provided. We have a great lack of equity in vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna, which are not that scalable and expensive enough, are great solutions for rich countries. But it is a new process that cannot be done any time soon in a developing country. We have done more in the mRNA space than any organization. But it was not ready. There was not a single approved vaccine using this technology. If the pandemic had occurred five years later, mRNA would have been a stable platform in terms of cost, duration, manufacturing capacity. But hey, I spent $ 2 billion, and I know if I hadn’t spent it, the iniquity would be even worse.