By Nicholas Ballasy
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, said the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates that “simply shutting down” the U.S. economy won’t bring about net zero carbon emissions to fight climate change.
Gates said the emissions reductions from the pandemic were “quite modest,” despite the drastic drop in air travel and car travel.
“Simply shutting down is not going to get to our goal, so just as we need breakthrough innovation for COVID-19, we also need that to get rid of emissions from all the different sectors and bring down climate change,” Gates said during the annual meeting for the National Academy of Medicine. “This crosses many areas — how we make electricity, how we make industrial products, grow food, cool our buildings and all of transportation.”
Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the pandemic has taught humans a lot about climate change, emphasizing that decreased air and auto travel hasn’t made a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
“The change in behavior, like driving less or flying less is helpful but nowhere near sufficient — 2020 is a great example of this,” he said. “We’ve cut down carbon emissions … but the reduction in emissions is actually quite modest. When COVID-19 hit, air travel effectively stopped. Car travel last April was half what it was the year before, and even so the international energy agency estimates that the global emissions only dropped about 8% this year.”
Characterizing climate change as “even scarier” than the COVID-19 pandemic, Gates predicted that climate change could result in 3 times more deaths than coronavirus.
“As bad as COVID-19 has been, the damage of climate change will be even worse, and there won’t be just an intervention like a vaccine to bring it to an end,” he said. “Just changing our behavior will only take us a limited distance. We have to have advances in science and innovation to solve the problem.”
Gates said the kind of innovation and cooperation that brought the world together after World War II would help fight climate change.
“COVID has been incredibly devastating,” he said. “We can’t even measure all the negative effects. Climate is the same. It’s even scarier.”