Microsoft founder Bill Gates rejected accusations of hypocrisy for engaging in philanthropy and advocacy to address climate change, while generating outsized carbon emissions when he travels by private jet.
A British broadcaster, Amol Rajan, asked Gates in an interview that aired last Friday how he responds to criticism that he uses a private plane even though he has urged political and business leaders to act aggressively against climate change.
Gates replied that he more than offsets his own greenhouse gas emissions by paying for the removal from the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas causing global warming.
“Well, I buy the gold standard, of funding Climeworks, to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family’s carbon footprint,” Gates said.
Gates went on to argue that his own investment in clean energy and other environmental and public health programs warrants his travel for those purposes. (Last year, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, a fund backed by Gates, announced it will help to invest $15 billion in clean technology projects.)
“I spend billions of dollars on … climate innovation. So, you know, should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?” Gates asked rhetorically.
At the World Economic Forum, which started Monday in Davos, Switzerland, the global business and political elite will discuss how to combat climate change, but their private jet travel to attend the conference will cause a spike in planet-warming carbon emissions, according to a new study from Greenpeace International.
The research, released last Thursday, which was compiled by the Dutch environmental consultancy CE Delft, found twice as many private jets flew to and from airports serving Davos during the 2022 WEF meeting compared with an average week. The carbon dioxide emissions from these extra flights were equal to putting roughly 350,000 gasoline-powered cars on the road for the same weeklong period.
In recent weeks, Europe has been contending with a number of extreme weather events related to climate change. A heat wave over New Year’s weekend broke records in locations such as Warsaw, Poland, where a temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit was 9°F warmer than the previous all-time high. Parts of Switzerland saw temperatures upwards of 68°F, and some ski resorts in the Alps closed due to a lack of snow. In 2022 — the fifth-hottest year on record — heat waves in Europe smashed records for temperatures and wildfire prevalence.