I’m excited to be here for my 9th AMA.

Since my last AMA, I’ve written a book called How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. There’s been exciting progress in the more than 15 years that I’ve been learning about energy and climate change. What we need now is a plan that turns all this momentum into practical steps to achieve our big goals.

My book lays out exactly what that plan could look like. I’ve also created an organization called Breakthrough Energy to accelerate innovation at every step and push for policies that will speed up the clean energy transition. If you want to help, there are ways everyone can get involved.

When I wasn’t working on my book, I spent a lot time over the last year working with my colleagues at the Gates Foundation and around the world on ways to stop COVID-19. The scientific advances made in the last year are stunning, but so far we've fallen short on the vision of equitable access to vaccines for people in low-and middle-income countries. As we start the recovery from COVID-19, we need to take the hard-earned lessons from this tragedy and make sure we're better prepared for the next pandemic.

I’ve already answered a few questions about two really important numbers. You can ask me some more about climate change, COVID-19, or anything else.

Proof: https://twitter.com/BillGates/status/1372974769306443784

Update: You’ve asked some great questions. Keep them coming. In the meantime, I have a question for you.

Update: I’m afraid I need to wrap up. Thanks for all the meaty questions! I’ll try to offset them by having an Impossible burger for lunch today.

Comments: 14491 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

cardface27781 karma

Hi Bill,

What do you think is a reasonable percentage tax rate for the extremely-wealthy to pay? Either on their income, gains, or total wealth.

thisisbillgates8477 karma

I have pushed for the Estate tax to be higher. I think it is an effective tool for revenue and avoiding dynastic wealth.

I have a piece on Gates Notes that talks about more progressive taxation.

You can tax income up to 50% but once you get much above that you have to worry that people waste a lot of time getting around the taxes. Each country has to consider what works for them. I only know the US system and it can be somewhat more progressive.

ItsColdWorld6968 karma

Hey Bill! Why are you buying so much farmland?

thisisbillgates8462 karma

My investment group chose to do this. It is not connected to climate. The agriculture sector is important. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions.

Kalepsis3977 karma

When Oxford University was working on a COVID-19 vaccine it announced that it would be made "open source", meaning that any pharmaceutical manufacturer would be able to produce it legally without infringement on any drug patent, which would make the vaccine more widely available and less expensive, enabling widespread vaccination of the economically destitute populations in developing countries. But after their announcement that they would make the vaccine free to produce, they received immense pressure from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (wherein Oxford research staff were threatened with the reduction or elimination of all grants from the Foundation, not limited only to those for medical research) to patent the vaccine and partner with AstraZeneca to sell it. So, now, not only did AstraZeneca receive all the accolades for "developing" a vaccine (which the company did not do), it's also being produced in limited quantities and sold for $4 per dose to the federal government, which is about 20 times more expensive than the estimated cost if the formula had been open source and allowed to be mass produced by any manufacturer with the required equipment. In addition, because it is patented, it can only be produced by AstraZeneca, and poor countries have no or limited access to inexpensive vaccines.

Why did you do that, Bill?

thisisbillgates1541 karma

Our foundation has given over $2B to help with this pandemic. I value anyone looking at what we have done and giving us suggestions. The problem with vaccine manufacturing quickly is not an IP problem. We sent funds to Serum and others early in the pandemic because of the lead time for factories including regulatory review to make sure the factory is high quality.

This vaccine is inexpensive - around $3 to $2 once you get into high high volume but there are fixed costs to get going.

weeds963767 karma

Any comment on the opinions of /r/conspiracy about you and vaccines?

thisisbillgates11248 karma

I am innocent! The whole thing about 5G and microchips is pretty crazy. Why would I want to do that?

I do believe in vaccines which have performed miracles.

My 2015 Ted talk was more viewed after the pandemic than before which is too bad.

I hope my 2010 Ted Climate talk is viewed more before the problem gets bad...

HellsNoot3567 karma

What niche technology do you believe could play a significant role in the future in the battle against climate change?

thisisbillgates5507 karma

We need a lot of technologies - synthetic meat, energy storage, new ways of making building materials...

We want to be open to ideas that seem wild.

Fusion might come along but we can't count on it.

Western_Situation1382858 karma

Hello Mr. Gates! Do you still code on your computer? If so, how often? If not, have you gotten rusty? Thanks!

thisisbillgates3953 karma

My code no longer goes into shipping products so I am rusty. I do like to try the new tools to understand how they help. I just did a review of the low-code tools where there is a lot of great innovation.

IFlippedTheTable2516 karma

Hi Bill,

It's well established that you bring a large tote bag of books on trips and usually finish them all prior to returning home. How are you able to focus and absorb so much information, especially when (I assume) the main purpose of these trips isn't usually reading?

Is there a specific note-taking strategy you use? What exactly do you write as you're taking notes?

I've been trying to read more during the pandemic and sort of succeeding, but at times I find myself looking at words and not absorbing their content. This is partially due to ADHD, but I think learning to take notes will help.

Thank you!

thisisbillgates3284 karma

On vacation I get to read about 3 hours a day so I get through a lot of books.

I only take notes on about 20% of the books I read. It takes me at least 2x as much time when I write notes but for a lot of books that is key to my learning.

oldmalayalamfilms646 karma

What book have you most recently read?

thisisbillgates2589 karma

Obama's autobiography is good. Overstory is a great fiction book a friend got me to read. I just read Hot Seat about Jeff Immelt running GE. I am starting Hawkins book called A Thousand Minds. Next will be Yergin's The New Map.

Icharliee2348 karma

What one piece of advice you would give to a 19 year old?

thisisbillgates4345 karma

You should learn about climate change. It doesn't need to be a full time thing - you should pick the job you care about and feel you can contribute to but also have goals that aren't just about your own success.

sahilraza7602121 karma

Hey Bill! How do you think Seawater Desalination will impact the issue of global water shortage in the coming years?

thisisbillgates2733 karma

Yes. We have lots of water. The problem is that it is expensive to desalinate it and move it to where it is needed. This is all about the cost of energy. The cost is prohibitive for agricultural use of water. New seeds can reduce water use but some areas won't be able to farm as much.

uncle-woodbear1852 karma

How do you think the PR-problem of nuclear energy can be solved?

thisisbillgates2711 karma

I hope so. Nuclear has had real cost problems as the systems have gotten more complex. A new generation that starts over and gets rid of the high pressure is needed. Explaining how the new safety systems work will be very important. The actual record of nuclear isn't bad compared to coal or natural gas but we can do better with the new design which can be inherently safe.

Pipeadcr1470 karma

How does it feel to know that a creation of yours - windows - completely changed the world?

thisisbillgates2566 karma

I am proud of Microsoft and the work we did on great software and helping the Digital revolution. It was fun to be part of it. I actually enjoy my current work on Global Health just as much but it is different.

Pleasedontfindme40401349 karma

I live in a mid sized city in Canada (Winnipeg). What are the most effective things I can get my local government to do that will have a positive impact on climate change while being cash positive or having a tiny green premium?

thisisbillgates1729 karma

Electric buses are becoming economic. There has been an issue with cold and hot temperatures but that is being solved as the demand scales up.

Cities are often involved in electricity generation so they can help drive demand for clean generation.

Icharliee928 karma

How misinformation, disinformation, and fake news can do damage to society?

thisisbillgates1863 karma

This is a huge issue. Some false information is more interesting than the truth so digital channels seem to magnify echo chambers with bad facts. I haven't seen as much creativity on how we solve this as we need.

heidismiles704 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! What do you think are the most important things that regular citizens can do to decrease their carbon footprint?

thisisbillgates1183 karma

Your political voice is the most important thing. Getting educated and convincing people of all political parties to care will make a huge difference.

Then you can consume less and when you do consume buy green products like electric cars or synthetic meat.

You will also be able to give to a fund to help with this.

Another area is to make sure your company is paying for offsets and doing its part.

If you want to help, there are ways everyone can get involved.

Drewski1138320 karma

What are you personally doing to consume less?

thisisbillgates1097 karma

I created Breakthrough Energy including the Venture fund, Fellows and Catalyst to help with climate. To me the innovation is what will make it possible to provide services to everyone without emissions.

On the personal front, I am doing a lot more. I am driving electric cars. I have solar panels at my house. I eat synthetic meat (some of the time!). I buy green aviation fuel. I pay for direct air capture by Climeworks. I help finance electric heat pumps in low cost housing to replace natural gas.

I plan to fly a lot less now that the pandemic has shown we can get by with less trips.

Icharliee7 karma

Go vegan!

thisisbillgates51 karma

Yes. Meat is responsible for a lot of emissions but I think people will still want meat so alternatives are key.

martdnfjar689 karma

Hey Bill,

I will be doing my first internship this Summer as a Software Engineer for a well known bank. I am a little nervous and really want to perform well. As a successful figure in the tech industry, do you have advice or insight for a young intern going into the tech industry?

Thanks in advance and thank you for all the good you have done in the world.

thisisbillgates1454 karma

You can surprise people by learning a lot about the company and its competition and its systems. If you are helpful and friendly you will likely get good mentorship from the experienced employees. I think you can be open about your nervousness and a reasonable company will embrace your honesty.

ShaneOfan636 karma

Favorite Mortal Kombat fighter?

thisisbillgates1035 karma

I have never played.

moucheeze576 karma

What is your opinion on "engineering" a solution for the climate change problem? Economist Stephen Levitt has written on this topic [1], [2], [3], and has even bet that geoengineering is pretty much the only solution that will get us towards the goal of cooling the Earth by about 2°C pre-industrial levels [4] in time, before catastrophic, irreversible changes.

On a similar note, what is your opinion on large scale carbon sequestration projects and carbon offsets that corporations purchase? Stripe has a Climate division now that lets customers divert a fraction of their dollars to purchase carbon offsets [5]. Do you think such efforts are important in preventing large scale climate change and what are your views on it?

Also, did Vaclav get a chance to read this book? What did he think of it?

Thank you again for doing this AMA!

thisisbillgates864 karma

Direct Air Capture will be important for things we can't solve directly. Today the cost is over $600 per ton. I think it can come down to $100 with companies like Carbon Engineering as they scale up over the next decade. We don't know if we can get it cheaper than that.

Companies that are buying offsets are fantastic. We need to work on rating different offset on how impactful they are. I even am putting together something called Catalyst which will direct offset money from companies to getting green products to be less expensive.

Geoengineering should be explored but only as a backup.

Western_Situation138542 karma

Hello Mr. Gates! How long did it take you to write your new book (including researching, interviewing, and the general writing process)? Thanks for taking the time to do this!

thisisbillgates723 karma

I had a lot of help from my staff including Josh Daniel and I was able to draw on all of my learning about climate from over a decade. I would say it was 2 months of full time work spread over a year including a big edit this last November.

cannotbefaded407 karma

What is your favorite comedy film?

thisisbillgates729 karma

Obscure film - Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World...

Zenbeno8369 karma

Do you think lab grown meat will become widespread and replace livestock? Do you have experience with lab grown meat?

thisisbillgates687 karma

If the cost of making synthetic meat comes down it might be competitive even without considering climate or animal welfare. There are 2 approaches - one is growing the meat in the lab (cells), the other is using plant material to make the meat. Right now the plant approach used by Beyond and Impossible is cheaper.

I hope we can reduce emissions from cattle also since a lot of people depend on the value of their livestock. There is some research on this.

elephantologist297 karma

What's the best scenario if we do nothing about climate change?

thisisbillgates648 karma

It gets worse over time and natural ecosystems go away. The migration away from the unlivable areas around the equator will be massive. We won't be able to support a large population if it gets a lot warmer.

mrgreeen1288 karma

Is it possible to stop global warming without decreasing of the population growth number?

thisisbillgates642 karma

Fortunately population growth stops when countries improve health and get to middle income levels. Population will peak around 10B if we are generous to the poorest countries particularly in Africa. Africa faces climate problems and population growth so having enough food and education and stability is a huge challenge. It was looking at African agriculture and how the climate is making it less productive that got me to study climate.

So we should help moderate population growth with aid for health, education and good governance. The best book on this is Hans Rosling's Factfulness.

10B is a lot especially as they consume more so the imperative for innovation in seeds and green approaches with low premiums is urgent.

ForkPowerOutlet251 karma

Will climate change make future pandemics more common or more severe and how?

thisisbillgates509 karma

I wouldn't tie them directly. Pandemic risk is hard to compute but with humans invading nature more and more it has gone up. Travel causes fast spread which makes respiratory diseases very scary. We can prepare for the next pandemic with tens of billions in investments. I will be talking about this more this year to make sure we do the right things while people still remember how bad this pandemic was.

screwdriverebimboca243 karma

Hi Bill,

How do you think misinformation plays a role in difficulting the battle against climate change? Do you think it has a meaningful impact or is it minimal?

thisisbillgates427 karma

The damage in the past was huge. Now the oil companies have stopped funding these things so I think climate denial will go down. There are issues about how we go about reducing emissions but I hope all young people agree that is a critical goal.

yorolex238 karma

Best burger in Seattle?

thisisbillgates556 karma

I am eclectic. Dicks, Burgermaster, etc.. Seattle has a lot of good choices. I encourage people to offer synthetic beef as a choice.

theshyboy97234 karma

Why can't we read your book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster for free?

thisisbillgates504 karma

We are working on a way for college students to get free access digitally.

Western_Situation138184 karma

Hello Mr. Gates! What is something alarming about Climate Change that most people don’t know about? (something that was not included in your new book). Thanks for doing this; it made my day!

thisisbillgates416 karma

I didn't spend time going through all the bad things climate will do if we don't solve it. However the list is very long and some things could accelerate as we heat up. The damage to nature is going to be massive. David Attenborough has a movie that isn't really about climate but more about the beauty of nature and what we are losing that is very good.

simplecoreorg161 karma

Hi Mr. Gates,

I am a 16 year old at Wilson HS in Long Beach, California. My passion is education and I know that many students can share this desire, but it is hidden beneath distractions and social norms for so many people around the world. My school has a majority low-income and 81% minority enrollment and we have been doing remote learning since a year from this date. During this time, I decided to start a non-profit online platform that focuses on increasing the motivation and confidence that students have for education, keeping in mind the fact that students learn differently even among similar areas, cultures, and backgrounds. My goal with the platform is to be a place where students create their own instructional videos, which solidifies their learning and gives them motivation associated with the satisfaction that comes with creating the end-product of a video. The result is that students learn from teaching, also known as the protege effect, and gain opportunities to practice their presentation and technical skills in a world that embraces video presentation skills. On the platform, students can also learn from each other by interacting with the videos of their peers from around the world. I know that it is an ambitious and not mainstream concept to have students teach and make videos, but after personal experience and research that backs it up, I have conviction that this can improve motivation and outcomes for all students. To help foster the growth of this concept, and to make it mainstream, I plan to raise funds to hold quarterly scholarship competitions to encourage more participation in this opportunity throughout the world. What advice can you give me about my mission to introduce this idea to the mainstream of education?

thisisbillgates221 karma

I think people connecting across country boundaries is important. We should understand the perspective of the young generation in China, Nigeria, India, etc.. If we can use digital tools to connect like this that would be great. I also think on-line learning can improve a lot so it is great you are working on that.

Dacrazyshot89 karma

Hey Bill,

How does it make you feel when you see these conspiracy theorists talking about how you are plotting to take over with the Covid-19 vaccine?

Also, GME?

thisisbillgates148 karma

Vaccines are important and it is too bad they are so controversial.

I don't know why people think I want to track other people - it is unfortunate if this makes people not wear masks or consider getting the vaccine.

quick20minadventure56 karma

Hello Mr Gates, do you think crypto mining should be banned globally due to the energy costs involved?

Edit : expanding on this, they contribute significantly on pure energy, let alone the carbon footprint of computer chips that are used to mine currencies.

They seem to be easiest to remove carbon emissions because they hardly serve value apart from investment. Single transaction costs 700-800 kWh and that's just not acceptable.

thisisbillgates139 karma

I have a lot of issues with anonymous money transfer compared to attributed systems where you can dispute and reverse transactions and make sure taxes are paid. The electricity use is just one issue. We do need digital money but without that overhead.

harigatoshirabira14 karma

Hello Mr. Gates! I am curious about this: How do you cope with hate, theories and conspiracies about you? Thanks for doing this!

thisisbillgates18 karma

I get both positive and negative feedback for my work. Intelligent criticism is helpful. If people have ideas about how to solve climate that are different from mine or better solutions for global health I want to hear about. Just personal attacks don't move things forward as much but I don't let it stop me.

HFAhasan11 karma

Are you familiar with Bjorn Lomborg's works, of so what do you think about his book False Alarm, and the idea that Climate Change, even though its a very serious problem we should solve, isn't the one we should prioritize?

thisisbillgates21 karma

Bjorn focuses on the need to innovate but he is far too narrow. He doesn't appreciate the need for demand for green products to scale up these markets. I enjoy talking to Bjorn - he has done a lot of good work but climate needs a lot more investment and policy work than he suggests.

_whodatt4 karma

Hi Bill! How are you doing today?

thisisbillgates15 karma

Great! I like typing...