Bill Gates on economic turbulence, crypto and whether we can still avoid climate disaster

At this year’s TechCrunch Sessions: Climate 2022, Bill Gates joined me on stage in a far-ranging conversation that included an updated assessment of our progress on mitigating climate change since the publication of his 2021 book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” I drew an analogy between our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of climate change, but Gates indicated that in fact, the changes required to avert climate disaster are actually much larger in scale and scope than the steps needed to address an imminent pandemic with urgency.

In terms of why he remains optimistic about the ability for global social action to address climate issues, he pointed to countries outside the U.S. who stood as exemplars of how to minimize the health impacts of COVID, despite in every case having fewer resources to do so. He also cited the ample progress we’ve made since 2015, the end of the last green tech boom, in particular in terms of an “IQ shift” that has seen talent and skill move toward developing real solutions in the lab, rather than going into things like maximizing returns in the banking sector, for instance.

Gates also said that economic conditions are currently “changing probably as rapidly as I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” and that introduces a lot of uncertainty around how and where capital can be deployed to make the kind of drastic, unprecedented changes necessary in key industries including manufacturing that need not only early investment but also fuel for rapid scale.

We also managed to touch on Gates’ views on the value of crypto (or lack thereof?), and he weighed in Bored Apes and everything they’ve contributed to the world. Spoiler: He’s neither a crypto maximalist nor a minimalist.

I also asked Gates about where he thinks the biggest innovations still need to be made in terms of making progress to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. His answer included a focus specifically on mitigation made affordable, at scale, where it’ll have the biggest impact, including regions like Africa.

These are just a few highlights, and our full conversation even touched on Elon Musk’s recent cheap shots against him on Twitter. You can check out the full 30-minute chat by getting a virtual ticket to TC Sessions: Climate, which will give you access to all of the programming from the event in full on-demand, as well as our online-only day on Thursday.