In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Bill Gates said deaths during Texas’ winter freeze were preventable, caused by the state’s decision not to weatherize its energy.
Gates pushed back on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s claim that frozen wind turbines were to blame for the massive power failure. Gates said America’s dependence on renewable energy sources isn’t high enough to worry about their stability — the problem was natural gas plants that were not weatherized.
“This is not because of renewable dependency,” Gates told Cooper. “This is natural gas plants, largely, that weren’t weatherized. They could’ve been. It costs money, and the trade off was made, and it didn’t work out, and it’s tragic that it’s leading to people dying.”
He argued that because climate change is the root cause of extreme weather events, green energy must be the future to prevent even worse disasters than the ones unfolding now across the globe.
“It is ironic to blame renewables and not realize that were going to have to be dealing with this unless we get the whole world to reduce emissions,” Gates said.
He also spoke to Cooper about Covid-19, climate change and the need for innovation in order to lower carbon emissions.
Gates painted a grim picture for what the world will look like without well-funded research and development for green innovations, a cause he has dedicated himself to. Natural ecosystems and the ability to farm in some parts of the world will be destroyed, leading to war and instability, he said.
That’s why Gates wants this research and development funding to triple to $35 billion. He said many people aren’t aware of the emissions generated by manufacturing and farming, and that we need to commit to finding unique approaches to meet market demand for these industries.
The deadline for all of this: 2050, Gates said.
“2050 is literally the soonest it could get done given the scale and the number of things you have to change,” Gates said.
How to solve the climate crisis
The world needs a massive breakthrough, and Gates is looking for one. He said he’s faced many dead ends in his investments, which have an 80% failure rate.
“20% success rate when you are limiting yourself to things that have dramatic climate benefits — that would be very impressive,” Gates said. “I think we will achieve it, but that’s very hard.”
Gates sees a future where 80% of the world’s energy is from wind and solar and the remaining 20% comes from nuclear energy. He uses Texas as an example. Deep freezes reduce the ability to use wind energy, so the state would have to ramp up nuclear energy or draw from storage.
On the political front, Gates said his breakthrough energy team is in talks with President Biden’s administration, and that policy needs as much innovation as technology.
Covid-19 can be used as a mechanism to understand how serious climate change is, Gates said. The country was not ready, and CDC expertise has sometimes been ignored.
But there is no vaccine for climate change.
“Climate is very similar except sadly with climate, once you get into the problem — the coral reefs dying off, the Arctic ice being gone, you can’t reverse those things just by inventing one thing,” Gates said.