Jet-Powered Hypocrisy: Bill Gates Cites His Own Importance to Climate Debate for Massive Carbon Footprint

Bill Gates
LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A self-regarding Bill Gates cited his own perceived centrality to the global climate debate for his constant use of private jets.

Broadcaster Amol Rajan from the BBC asked Gates in an interview that aired last Friday how he responds to criticism he uses private planes generating outsized carbon emissions while urging political and business leaders to act aggressively against “climate change.”

Gates replied he more than offsets his own emissions by paying for the removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide. He was speaking after having flown to Kenya before the interview.

“Well, I buy the gold standard, of funding Climeworks, to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family’s carbon footprint,” the Microsoft co-founder said, repeating an argument often used by other members of the global elites.

Climeworks, which has offices in Switzerland and Germany, has clients such as Stripe and Microsoft and the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund has invested in the company.

It says it “uses a technology called ‘direct air capture’ to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air.”

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.

“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 pleaded rhetorically, an assertion for special treatment he has previously made when challenged on his travelling habits.

In a 2020 blog post, the billionaire philanthropist identified climate change as a “crisis.”

“We also need to act now to avoid a climate disaster by building and deploying innovations that will let us eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions,” he wrote.

Gates disputes his personal travel makes him part of the problem he and other celebrities seek to get others to solve.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates arrives in Kusadasi district with the yacht “Lana” before visiting Ancient Ephesus City, located in Selcuk district of Izmir, in Aydin, Turkey on October 22, 2021. (Ibrahim Uzun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“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 … I’m part of the solution,” he told the BBC.

Air travel is still currently considered “the most carbon intensive activity an individual can make.”

“Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change,” the World Wildlife Fund’s website outlines. “In fact, if the entire aviation sector were a country, it would be one of the top 10 carbon-polluting nations on the planet.”

Private jets are five to 14 times more polluting per passenger than commercial planes, according to a report from the European Federation for Transport and Environment.

One private jet can emit two tonnes of CO₂ within an hour, according to the report.

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