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Bill Gates: Here’s a Formula That Explains Where We Need to Invest in Climate Innovation

Bill Gates: Here's a Formula That Explains Where We Need to Invest in Climate Innovation

I came to focus on climate change indirectly—through the problem of energy poverty. In the early 2000s, I learned that about a billion people didn’t have reliable access to electricity and that half of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa. (The picture has improved since then, though today roughly 860 million people don’t have electricity.) In remote villages, Melinda and I met women and girls who spent hours every day collecting firewood so they could cook over an open flame in their homes. We met kids who did their homework by candlelight.

I thought about our foundation’s motto—“Everyone deserves the chance to live a healthy and productive life”—and how it’s hard to stay healthy if your local medical clinic can’t keep vaccines cold because the refrigerators don’t work. And it’s impossible to build an economy where everyone has job opportunities if you don’t have massive amounts of reliable, affordable electricity for offices, factories and call centers. I began to think about how the world could make energy affordable and reliable for the poor. But the more I learned, the more I came to understand the dilemma of energy and climate change: although the world needs to provide more energy so the poorest can thrive, we need to provide that energy without releasing any more greenhouse gases. In fact, we need to eliminate our emissions, all the way to zero.
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