You Can’t Solve Climate Change by Asking People to Consume Less, Says Bill Gates


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And climate change supporters frequently propose using and consuming less as a potential answer to climate change – degrowth, as it’s commonly referred to. According to Bill Gates, this is a ridiculous notion.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to predict that people will completely change their lifestyle because of climate worries, Gates told Akshat Rathi in an edition of the Bloomberg podcast Zero published on Thursday.

According to Gates, the only real solution is to develop better and less expensive alternatives.

The release of greenhouse gas emissions is fueling climate change, and these emissions are coming from every sector of the global economy: electricity, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and industrial operations. For decades, greenhouse gas emissions have been steadily increasing. Activists frequently promote utilising and consuming less as a potential solution to climate change – a concept known as degrowth.

According to Bill Gates, who launched Breakthrough Energy, an investment fund for climate technology and innovation, in 2015 and released “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” in 2021, this proposal is implausible.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that people will completely change their lifestyle because of climate worries,” Gates told Akshat Rathi in an episode of the Bloomberg podcast “Zero,” which was released on Thursday. The interview was conducted in August, prior to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

You may have a cultural revolution in which everything is thrown up, or you can create a North Korean-style situation in which the state is in control.” “Without enormous central authority to make individuals simply comply, I believe the collective action problem is simply unsolvable,” Gates remarked.

Most people will not adjust their individual behaviour in ways that make them less comfortable for the sake of a global problem, according to the wealthy technologist.

“Anyone who says we’ll tell people to stop eating meat or stop wanting to have a lovely house, and fundamentally modify human inclinations, I think that’s very difficult,” Gates added. “You can make an argument for it. But I don’t think it’s realistic for that to be the primary focus.

But having a few rich countries, a few rich firms, and a few rich individuals buy their way out so they can say they’re not part of the problem has nothing to do with solving the problem, according to Gates.

There are also a plethora of other crises competing for attention and funds, such as the global pandemic, rising health-care expenses, assisting poor countries with challenges other than climate change, and the war in Ukraine.

“People in the climate space may not comprehend how many things are competing for society’s little gain in resources,” Gates remarked. “And that not many individuals are willing to be worse off as a result of climate obligations.

According to Gates, the solution is to develop better technical options that are the same or less expensive to achieve the same goal in a climate-conscious manner. According to Gates, the “green premium” is the difference between the cost of doing something conventionally and the cost of doing it in a decarbonized way. In order to make meaningful change on climate change, that green premium must be gradually reduced and then eliminated in all sectors of the economy.

In order to reduce the green premium, Gates’ investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, invests in early-stage firms that are seeking to build new paths for manufacturing goods or new ways of doing things.

During the conversation, Gates intimated that Breakthrough Energy Ventures might raise a third fund by next year in order to continue investing in and accelerating the development of these climate firms. He also stated that Breakthrough Energy will most likely raise capital to invest in later stage firms. “Even though the enthusiasm for investing in IT and climate startups has waned a little, I still believe we’ll be able to raise the money,” he told Rathi.

Importantly, the path to decarbonization is not always a straight line away from fossil fuels. The Ukraine conflict and Europe’s efforts to minimise its reliance on Russian energy have demonstrated that there may be temporary delays in bigger decarbonization ambitions for the EU.

When people tell me, ‘Hey, we love your climate thing because we can convince Putin we don’t need him,’ I tell them, ‘Yeah, in 10 years.’ ‘Call him up and tell him you don’t need him,’ suggested Gates.

Between now and then, the European Union could have to rely on fossil fuels. “Should coal plants be reopened?” Probably. These considerations are critical. Should the gas field in the Netherlands be reopened? Perhaps so. It’s a difficult set of tradeoffs. “It was completely unexpected,” Gates remarked. In the near term, you just have to find any solution, even if it means increasing emissions.” The sooner the battle is over, the better. But there are a lot of factors to consider while deciding how to end it.

In the long run, though, Gates believes that discovering new ways to support people is the only viable approach. “I’m looking at what the world needs to do to get to zero,” he said, “rather than treating climate as a moral crusade.


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