Bill Gates: Innovation Is Key to Avoiding Climate Disaster

During a virtual conversation with four D.C. universities, Mr. Gates said that making an impact on climate change will be more difficult than many young advocates recognize.

Bill Gates and Renea Williams
Bill Gates (l) talked about emissions with GW graduate student Renea Williams during a virtual event with D.C. university communities. (Courtesy photo)
February 22, 2021

By Briahnna Brown

While there are fewer people denying the human role in climate change, there is still a need to educate people on the climate challenges ahead, philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said.

There have been major innovations to help with the efforts toward carbon neutrality, Mr. Gates said, including transportation with electric cars and making electricity. These innovations, along with a commitment from President Joe Biden’s administration toward combatting the effects of climate change, should serve as optimistic signs of a greener future, Mr. Gates said.

Yet, he said, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done urgently if the world will reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Some people think it's going to be easy to solve, so we also need to educate them about the scale of the activities,” Mr. Gates said. “Some people who think it's so hard, they're kind of giving up, and we have to draw those people back in as well.”

Mr. Gates discussed the world’s climate future and his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need,” during a virtual event on Wednesday with students, faculty and staff from George Washington University, Howard University, American University and Georgetown University.

Bill Gates and Claire Hoffman

CCAS senior Claire Hoffman (r) asked Mr. Gates about international climate accountability during a virtual Q & A. (Courtesy photo)

Michelle Miller, a co-host on CBS This Morning: Saturday, moderated the virtual event where she asked Mr. Gates about some of the solutions that he proposes to the daunting climate change issue. Ms. Miller also facilitated questions from students about Mr. Gates’ thoughts on pressing climate challenges.

Renea Williams, B.A. ’19, a graduate student in the Elliott School of International Affairs who is pursuing international development studies, asked Mr. Gates about the reality of a zero-emissions future and how innovation will help achieve that. Mr. Gates pointed to the innovations from plant-based meat companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and said he hopes that eventually green innovations such as electric cars will be something that consumers gravitate toward because they cannot tell the difference between what they are familiar with and what is better for the planet.

Claire Hoffman, a senior studying political science in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, asked Mr. Gates about the United States’ role in establishing an international framework for climate accountability. Mr. Gates said that people should be careful with short-term progress metrics such as rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. The country has to do more than just “the easy stuff,” he said, and work toward eliminating emissions globally.

“The U.S. has the majority of the innovation capacity in the world,” Mr. Gates said. “In every industry, you see the U.S. playing a strong role, and that's a great thing because it's not just the research jobs, it's also the factories, the exports.

“If we do get out in front on these green technologies,” he said, “our scientific strength almost guarantees that if we anticipate the shift in demand, we're the ones who can meet those opportunities.”

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