During the lengthy interview, Amol Rajan of the BBC asked, ‘What do you say to the charge that if you are a climate change campaigner, but you also travel around the world in a private jet, you’re a hypocrite?’
Awkward, but someone had to say it. Props to Amol.
Bill Gates became visibly agitated and responded that by ‘funding direct air capture that exceeds [his] family’s carbon footprint’ through the organisation Climateworks and by regularly spending ‘billions of dollars on climate innovation’ he is ‘not part of the problem.’
He continued, ‘Should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?’
While I can understand wanting to enjoy the comforts of wealth (wouldn’t we take all fly private at least once if offered the chance?), it does seem backwards to claim that chucking money into climate organisations makes up for owning and primarily using four private jets on a regular basis.
This is especially true with the knowledge that a private jet flight emits 4.5 to 14 times more CO2 than a flight by a commercial airliner. It’s also worth noting that a single private flight emits 50 times more than the same trip on a European train line.
Still backing himself completely, Gates continued, ‘Anyway, I’m comfortable with the idea that not only am I not part of the problem by paying for the offsets, but also through the billions that my breakthrough energy group is spending.’
He closed the topic with the bold statement, ‘I’m part of the solution.’
Of course, we’ll have to give Mr Gates his flowers for doing far more for the human race and the planet than most earners in his category.
In 2015, he founded Breakthrough Energy as an umbrella company for his investments in sustainable energy and carbon-cutting technologies. In December of last year, Reuters reported that Gates invested more than $2 billion in other climate-related technological development organisations.
Nice work on paper, but it hasn’t totally allowed him to evade occasional criticism.
At a climate-focused conference held by the billionaire, Greenpeace had accused attendees of ‘ecological hypocrisy’ for boasting about their efforts in mitigating the climate crisis while getting to the event on fossil-fuel-hungry private jets.
Whether doing environmental work can cancel out emissions is just another complicated moral dilemma weaved into the climate crisis.
It’s one that Bill Gates – and many others – will likely have to defend for years to come.