Bill Gates has been a proponent of the drive against climate change, and so it doesn't come as a surprise that he lobbied hard for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16.
What Happened: The billionaire touched upon several aspects of climate change in Bloomberg’s “Zero” podcast, which was recorded ahead of the legislation.
When asked by host Akshat Rathi why he hasn’t given away all his money for innovation that can tackle climate change, Gates said innovation isn’t a “check-writing process.”
“The cost is way greater than what anyone could fund,” added the Microsoft co-founder.
According to Gates, it’s not just purely a financial thing — it entails finding the right individuals to support, enlisting the help of other funders and utilizing markets and government R&D budgets.
Striving Toward Zero Green Premium: For collective action, which would involve both rich and middle-income countries, the green premium should be brought to zero, the tech entrepreneur turned philanthropist said. Green premium is the difference between the cost of manufacturing something with and without emissions that bring about climate change.
Gates also called for a higher economy-wide carbon tax, adding that, in the long run, it should match the direct air capture cost. Direct air capture is a technology that can remove carbon-di-oxide directly from the air. Gates noted that the retail price per ton of direct air capture is currently about $500.
Innovations in the agricultural sector have been stunning, Gates said. He noted that there’s funding to improve photosynthesis and engineering it to be twice as effective.
Degrowth And Climate Concerns: When probed on degrowth which some people are arguing for, Gates said he didn’t think it is realistic to say that people would change their lifestyle because of climate concerns. “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,” he said.
He said that this would merely result in a massive central authority that everyone would be forced to submit to, but it wouldn't fully resolve the issue of collective action.
Gates also didn’t agree with the concept of finite resources, which is the thesis behind degrowth. “We can grow enough food, the water is not disappearing, the minerals are not disappearing. It's not a Malthusian situation,” he said.
Long-Term Approach: Gates added that the majority of climate-related issues only have five- to 10-year solutions.
“So when people say to me, ‘Hey, we love your climate stuff because we can tell Putin we don't need him,’ say, “Yeah, 10 years from now. Call him up and tell him you don't need him,” he said.
Gates also called for a trade-off. Although emission curbs are good for the long term, in the short run, you have to find any solution, even if that means emissions are going to go up, he added.
Originally published on Sept. 30, 2022.
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