Is it realistic to ask people to stop eating meat or traveling in order to fight climate change?
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and billionaire philanthropist, thinks the answer might be no.
“In climate movements, you can get this, ‘Hey, we’ve been consuming too much,’ and ‘Hey, maybe we shouldn’t travel anymore,'” he said at a lecture commemorating the founder of the Indian Express Group on March 1.
“Will all Indians become vegetarians? Will all Americans become vegetarians? I wouldn’t want to count on it. Anybody wants to evangelize that they’re welcome to,” Gates added.
Gates, through things like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been focused on philanthropy and global issues since leaving his day job at Microsoft in 2008. The non-profit foundation works to fight diseases and help out with other global issues, including gender inequality. He published “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic” in May 2022.
The foundation also supports climate change initiatives, as does his venture fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
Gates was in conversation with Anant Goenka, executive director of the Indian Express Group, a media company founded by Ramnath Goenka in 1936. The lecture was the 5th Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture, and the first since the pandemic hit, per Indian Express.
Gates touched on a number of climate-related issues, from his support for nuclear energy to his disagreement that solving climate change can happen by asking people to live an “impoverished lifestyle.”
Researcher and climate activist Richard Heede has shown that almost two-thirds of carbon emissions come from or are supplied by 90 companies and government-run business sectors. However, meat is a pretty significant carbon producer, CNBC noted. A study published in the Nature Food journal found that plant-based foods had roughly half of the climate footprint as products that come from animals.
Gates reflected on the challenge of changing the way the globe produces energy at the event, as well as its disproportionate impact on countries near the equator that, generally speaking, are not large carbon emitters.
Climate change, is “one of the hardest things to fix, because modern economies throughout the globe are based on energy intensity, and over 80% of those energies come from burning hydrocarbons,” he said at the event.
The largest carbon emitters include China, the U.S., and India. In December, Gates also discussed his views on climate change.
“I can sum up the solution to climate change in two sentences: We need to eliminate global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050,” Gates wrote in a blog post in December 2022, per CNBC.
“Extreme weather is already causing more suffering, and if we don’t get to net-zero emissions, our grandchildren will grow up in a world that is dramatically worse off,” he added.