Bill Gates criticizes idea of leading ‘impoverished lifestyle’ to address climate change
icrosoft founder Bill Gates reiterated his view last week in the contentious debate about whether individual sacrifice can make a tangible difference in the fight against climate change, casting doubt on the idea that living an “impoverished lifestyle” or becoming a vegetarian could put a dent in rising greenhouse gas emissions.
“In climate movements, you can get this, ‘Hey, we’ve been consuming too much,’ and ‘Hey, maybe we shouldn’t travel anymore,’” Gates said last week in remarks delivered in India, adding, “I don’t think we can count on people living an impoverished lifestyle as a solution to climate.”
Gates, who is estimated to be the fourth-richest person on Earth, went on to say that it was not realistic to expect that the climate crisis could be addressed by personal choices such as giving up eating meat.
The notion that climate change is too big of a problem to be solved by individual lifestyle decisions is commonly held by many, like Gates, who are working to address what they see as a crisis. Even John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, has signaled that new technology will need to be developed for the world to achieve emissions goals.
“Fifty percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero by 2050 or 2045 are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have,” Kerry told the BBC in 2021.
Kerry also singled out TerraPower, a company backed by Gates that is working on developing advanced nuclear fission reactors, as one hopeful example.
“There are a lot of possibilities out there,” he said. “Bill Gates is pursuing a small, modular next-generation nuclear capacity. We’re going to find our way to zero emissions as fast as possible.”
Absent technological breakthroughs, individual actions regarding energy and emissions will ultimately fall short, the thinking goes. After all, a 2017 report by CDP, an environmental nonprofit, found that 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions were produced by just 100 companies, the largest emitters being oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron. While it’s easy to blame oil companies for rising global temperatures — a consequence they were well aware of for decades — the fact remains that they continue to have plenty of customers for their primary product.