News Release

Bill Gates, Super Emitter

TIM SCHWAB, timschwab2020@gmail.com@TimothyWSchwab
Available for a limited number of interviews, Schwab is an independent journalist who just wrote the piece “Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter” for The Nation. His prior pieces on Gates include “Are Bill Gates’s Billions Distorting Public Health Data?” and “While the Poor Get Sick, Bill Gates Just Gets Richer” and “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” for Columbia Journalism Review.

Schwab writes: “During the pandemic, Bill Gates’s personal fortune has increased by an impressive $20 billion, but even these gains pale in comparison to his soaring political influence — as the news media has widely trumpeted his leadership on Covid-19, praising his charitable donations or extolling him as a ‘visionary’ who predicted the outbreak.

“It’s a highly questionable narrative, one that ignores widespread controversy over the way Gates made his fortune and how he chooses to spend it. …

“’I expect to spend much of my time in 2021 talking with leaders around the world about both climate change and Covid-19,’ Gates notes in his new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, which seems destined to be a best seller.

“Even before the release of his book this week, Gates’s move into climate change has made waves — an interview on ’60 Minutes,’ op-eds in Time magazine and The Guardian, and a podcast with actor Rashida Jones. Given Gates’s track record of success inserting himself into other policy debates — everything from U.S. education to global health — it seems likely he will continue to take up oxygen in the climate discourse going forward.

“If so, he proceeds from a precarious position, not just because of his thin credentials, untested solutions, and stunning financial conflicts of interest, but because his undemocratic assertion of power — no one appointed or elected him as the world’s new climate czar — comes at precisely the time when democratic institutions have become essential to solving climate change.

“Gates’s main credential related to climate change is as an investor. In 2015, he started a multibillion-dollar venture capital fund called Breakthrough Energy — recruiting a who’s who of the global super rich to join the fund: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and others.

“This billionaire club boasts that its investments in new technologies can ‘lead the world to zero emissions,’ but the fund’s portfolio includes companies whose impact on fighting climate change is largely hypothetical and in some cases highly dubious — like lab-cultured breast milk substitute and a hydrogen-powered airplane.

“In some ways, Gates’s book could be read as a long-winded advertisement for his investments, because he devotes many pages to promoting the need for new technologies to fight climate change. At one point, Gates even calls on the U.S. government to become a co-investor in advanced nuclear energy companies, like the one he founded, TerraPower (which has yet to put any energy into the power grid). …

“In many respects, that’s the entire modus operandi — or sleight of hand — of the Gates Foundation. Incorporated as a charity, the foundation is probably better understood as a political organization, one that uses its outsize resources to push public policy in line with Bill and Melinda Gates’s view of how the world should work (which is also sometimes in line with the Gates Foundation’s financial investments). …

“According to a 2019 academic study looking at extreme carbon emissions from the jet-setting elite, Bill Gates’s extensive travel by private jet likely makes him one of the world’s top carbon contributors — a veritable super emitter. In the list of 10 celebrities investigated — including Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Oprah Winfrey — Gates was the source of the most emissions.

“The study only looked at Gates’s jet travel, but might have also considered Gates’s emissions from his farmland, which includes large tracts of corn and soybeans, which typically goes to feed animals (often on factory farms) — a particularly carbon-intensive model of agriculture.”