Bill Gates is no friend to the climate

If you are worth $100 billion, and you don't use some of that to defeat Trump, you can't credibly call yourself a climate activist.

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Bill Gates versus Elizabeth Warren

On Wednesday, Bill Gates—the second-richest person in the world—got himself into a bit of hot water.

In an interview at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference, Gates was asked whether he would vote for Senator Elizabeth Warren over President Donald Trump in a 2020 match-up. Gates refused to choose, saying he would pick “whoever I decide would have the more professional approach.”

Gates also sharply criticized Warren’s proposed wealth tax plan—which would assess a 3 percent tax on every dollar over $1 billion in net worth—saying he already pays quite a bit in taxes. He also said he didn’t believe Warren would be open to meeting with him, or any rich person, implying she was closed-minded.

Gates then said he was opposed to spending his massive fortune on influencing U.S. elections. “I just don’t want to grab that gigantic mega-phone,” he said, minutes after loudly proclaiming his opinions about Elizabeth Warren.

Needless to say, this did not go well.

By refusing to partake in political giving, Gates severely undermines his own climate philanthropy

In his interview yesterday, Gates was trying to make the case for billionaires as a force for social good in an age of massive and increasing income inequality.

But what he wound up doing was providing more evidence that billionaires cannot be depended on to drive the rapid societal change necessary to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe.

Gates has given a lot of money and devoted a lot of time toward helping solve the climate crisis, which he rightly calls “one of the toughest challenges facing the world.” He is leading a $1 billion clean energy venture fund. His $40 billion foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has focused in on climate adaptation. Gates is also funding lots of research into new battery technologies and other technological solutions, including solar geoengineering. (Climate activists largely see geoengineering as a potentially dangerous band-aid solution that avoids having to tackle the real problem: the fossil fuel-powered economy.)

Gates thus likely considers himself a climate activist. And yet, he refuses to say whether he would vote for a presidential candidate with an extensive plan to fight the climate crisis over a candidate who denies the crisis even exists. And he is refusing to do this partly because he doesn’t like the climate candidate’s wealth tax plan. Huh.

Gates clearly understands that the climate crisis is a huge problem. What he does not appear to understand is the rapid timeline on which the climate crisis needs to be tackled, and how Donald Trump’s re-election would fundamentally, unequivocally threaten the possibility of that timeline being achieved. As Dave Levitan wrote for The New Republic earlier this year:

2020 isn’t literally the last chance to save humanity, but four more years of Trump undoubtedly shrinks our chances to ensure a future safe from catastrophe. U.S. emissions likely wouldn’t reduce at the necessary pace, and the lack of leadership on the international stage could cause countries to decelerate their own energy transitions. The planet wouldn’t be doomed quite yet, but it would be closer to doom than ever before.

In other words, every year a climate denier runs the government, Gates’ millions in collective investments toward climate solutions become less effective and less meaningful.

On Wednesday, Gates said he avoids political donations because he believes they are undemocratic. He does not like the system we have now, where billionaires and corporations can have outsized influence on the U.S. electoral system.

Well guess what buddy: join the club. But unless you’re spending all your money to help change that system—which you’re not—you’re just allowing climate-denying billionaires to continue to have unmatched power over politics. If you are worth $100 billion, and you aren’t using a large chunk of that to clamp down on the immense power of climate-denying money in politics because you’re worried about your own wealth, you aren’t a climate activist. I’ll leave it to others to decide what to call you instead.

ICYMI: Chevron’s climate manifesto

Meme by HEATED’s editorial memeist, @climemechange.

Yesterday’s issue was about how Chevron is giving its employees pamphlets to promote the idea that fossil fuels are force for humanitarianism and social good. The ideas appear lifted from Alex Epstein’s controversial book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

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