"I'm part of the solution."
Billionaire Microsoft cofounder, philanthropist, and climate advocate Bill Gates will do whatever it takes to save the planet — as long as it doesn't mean flying economy.
"Well, I buy the gold standard of, funding Climeworks, to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family's carbon footprint," Gates told the BBC during a lengthy interview, when asked how he feels about the criticism that, as one of the world's premier voices in the climate movement, regularly flying private — widely regarded as one of the more blatantly terrible things one can do for the environment — is a bit hypocritical. (To clarify, Climeworks is a direct air carbon capture firm that has a partnership with the Gates-founded Microsoft.)
"And I spend billions of dollars on... climate innovation," he added. "So, you know, should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?"
In other words, Gates says that because of all that he already does for the world, his carbon footprint is offset enough that it's A-OK for him to fly private any time he pleases.
The billionaire also said that he's "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," referring to his alternative energy-focused investment fund, "that I'm part of the solution."
Of course, he could very well offset even more carbon if he chose to put the private jet away and, on occasion, humbly opt for first class. But we digress.
Gates isn't the only famous climate advocate to be hit with similar criticisms.
Elderly babysitter Leonardo DiCaprio, whose entire Instagram is devoted to his environmentalist efforts, has been criticized for his love of yachting, another activity known to be pretty awful for the environment, while Amazon founder and Bezos Earth Fund creator Jeff Bezos is often criticized for his own private jet use as well. (And also, uh, for how generally horrible Amazon is for the planet.)
To Gates' credit, he does do a lot for the environment, and there are legitimate practical reasons why ultra-wealthy folks might want to fly private. Still, it's always nice to see those at the top set positive examples for others in their tax bracket, considering how disproportionate the top one percent's climate impact really is.
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