Bill Gates and climate change

Bill GatesAs if he was not rich enough already (the richest man in the world until Jeff Bezos supplanted him in 2018), he wants me to buy his book as well. So this is based on what I have read about the book in interviews and bits published in newspapers. I think he owes us a free copy, especially if what he says is important for life on the planet.

There are so many contradictions in the man and what he says. Notwithstanding the fact that he became super-rich (not just rich, a concept that I can cope with) off the backs of others and not paying tax, he admits to flying private jets – and indeed has investments in a private jet company – and eating beef burgers. Lots of them. Seemingly the farting and burping of bovines amounts to 4% greenhouse gas emissions – so stopping eating them is not going to make much difference. He offsets his conscience by investing in Beyond Meat, a plant-based tech company that makes burgers that taste and act like meat. But tell me, Mr Gates, what about the contribution of beef to deforestation? Those trees as so important for carbon capture, but the more meat you eat, the more forest is destroyed to graze cattle and grow soya for them to eat. So it is not just about emissions, it is about the loss of natural carbon capture and, by consequence, biodiversity. Not to mention, human health. But maybe that is somewhere in the book that I have not read?

Being rich, his offsetting – a dodgy concept at the best of times – is in paying an Icelandic technology carbon capture firm to neutralise his emissions. That is beyond most of us. Moreover, he is also investing in nuclear fusion, the holy grail of energy generation. Good for him.

Of course, like most of these rich people who have become converts to addressing climate change, they are trying to do so as believers in capitalist management. The problem, arguably, has its roots in capitalist management. The solution is in a different paradigm. That does not suit super-richness.

He’s not a fan of Extinction Rebellion, which is fair enough. But his reason is quite bizarre. When Extinction Rebellion is blocking  roads in pursuit of its agenda, there are people in the traffic jam who are innovators (like himself). They are having innovation time stolen from them by ER people, making climate change worse. Yeah, right.

He does not think kindly also about Greta Thunberg. In his interview in the Guardian newspaper he said “you can’t have a movement without high-visibility figures. I hope she’s not messing up her education. She seems very clever.” It was pointed out that he himself dropped out of Harvard to set up Microsoft – so messing up an education is okay for some. It is the point of many politicians criticising young people who support Fridays for Future. They are messing up their education. When the young people are actually saying, “you are denying me a future”. And yes, she’s clever. Despite her sojourn to the USA last year, she still managed to win a school prize for performance.

By contrast, he is an admirer of the father of one of the most destructive corporations on the planet, Charles Koch. Moreover, not only are Koch Industries companies huge greenhouse gas emitters (big on fossil fuels), the Koch brothers have donated possibly billions of dollars in climate denial propaganda in the US and also in the UK. The contrarians in the UK are supported by Koch money.

So, an 18-year old fighting for her/a future with no corporate money behind her is misguided; but a rich owner of a planet damaging corporation is a friend.

What is worth considering in what he is saying? Here is a short list:

  • visiting manufacturing factories, sewage works and farms is a good thing (he took his son to various plants to show him how things are done)
  • cement is a problem
  • steel manufacture is a problem
  • electric cars are not a solution – hydrogen is the fuel of the future for mobility
  • it’s not the temperature that is the problem, rather the rate of change (outstripping evolutionary adaptation)
  • education is important
  • Gates is not conspiring to insert microchips into us all through Covid vaccines. Vaccines are and have been, transformative in human civilisation, saved many lives and much suffering. On that we can agree.

Picture: United States Department of Health and Human Services – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hhsgov/39912162735/

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