Technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates, talking about the perils of climate change in a conversation with Alok Sharma, President of the COP26 Climate Conference, said that it was important that climate be a bi-partisan issue as “we must cap thirty years of progress, not just four years”.
Speaking at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the session began with an introduction to Gates’ mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 51 million tons to zero by 2050, and about his book, ‘The Solutions We Have and The Breakthroughs We Need’.
Speaking about US President Biden and his Administration prioritising climate change and enlisting climate activists to help create policies, Gates said climate change is too big of a problem and it cannot be tackled without governments driving this.
Applauding and encouraging the youth on their continued efforts, Gates added, “I think we can give the younger generation credit that in this political round, it [climate] was more discussed, by far, than at any time in our history.”
Speaking about the need for political parties to prioritise this issue, he said “We want climate to be a bi-partisan issue because we’ve got to cap thirty years of progress, not just four years.”
When asked for advice as to how young people can help, he responded, “I am not an expert on advocacy. I have incredible admiration for people like Greta [Thunberg]… We need that attention to intensify and stay very, very high for all thirty years. You know different parties may be in power in different countries and yet, we can’t have them checking out of this cause.”
As individuals, Bill urged people to use their political voice, their purchasing power with a conscience, and to push the companies they work for to do the same. He admitted, “it’s really the aviation fuel, the steel and the cement industries that if you just take those three, you end up at almost 20 per cent of emissions. Those are the ones that still don’t get enough focus.” More than once he cautioned that “If your goal is zero you don’t get to skip anything.”
Highlighting the vital and urgent need for innovation in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, he said, “It’s very novel for the world to need innovation by a deadline. Normally we just let innovation go and some areas go better than we expect and some are much harder. And yet, now by 2050, if we don’t get to zero, the temperature rise will be so damaging that life will actually get worse for humans and most of the natural ecosystems. So, you have to think, how can you accelerate innovation?”
Gates said that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly supported reduced emissions. “PM Modi actually named this initiative Mission Innovation.” Gates explained that in terms of future emissions and future suffering, India is paradigmatic. “If we don’t help them and get them involved, then this whole thing doesn’t go well.”
He emphasised that everybody must co-operation, because no matter where the emissions take place, it affects the entire world.
As the discussion moved to the pandemic, Gates responded, “Some epidemiologists have said that Covid has been the most collaborative period of their lives. How do we cataylse this collaboration around that to climate change, before the problem gets a lot worse?” Bill saw it as a promising sign that, “even these [US] Pharma companies are offering to let the Indian manufacturers have the vaccine.”
If progress, innovation, and action don’t harness results, Gates warned that in ten years from now, we could have a very cynical view of this thing. Having said that, he also added, “I do think that people want to associate themselves with something more than just their own individual success. So, there is almost a religious commitment to the Earth, and what we’re doing for future generations.”