The Microsoft co-founder spurned accusations of hypocrisy during an interview with the BBC in Kenya broadcast on Friday, claiming that his decision to “spend billions of dollars” on climate innovations such as carbon capture systems more than accounts for his personal carbon footprint.
“Should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?” he asked reporter Amol Rajan. “I’m 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, that I’m part of the solution.”
Gates flew more than 213,000 miles on 59 private jet flights in 2017, according to a study from Linnaeus University economics professor Stefan Gössling. The flight activity created some 1,760 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is nearly 109 times higher than the emissions per capita in the United States, according to data from the World Bank.
As of 2021, Gates had four private jets: two Gulfstream G650ERs that each cost about $70 million and two Bombardier Challenger 350s that each cost $27 million, according to an article from Skyluxe Aviation. The combined value of the vehicles is $194 million.
Business leaders and government officials who call attention to the purported dangers of climate change have frequently garnered backlash for traveling on private jets, which produce an estimated 40 times more carbon per passenger than commercial flights. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has similarly touted his work to solve climate change when questioned about his use of a luxury aircraft.
“If you offset your carbon, it’s the only choice for somebody like me who is traveling the world to win this battle,” he contended two years ago. “The time it takes me to get somewhere, I can’t sail across the ocean. I have to fly, meet with people and get things done.”
Attendees of the most recent World Economic Forum conference in Davos, Switzerland, likewise received criticism for using private jets to reach the resort village. An analysis commissioned by Greenpeace found that 1,040 private planes flew in and out of airports servicing Davos during last year’s conference; the vast majority of the jets were embarking on short-haul flights of less than 500 miles that “could have easily been train or car trips,” while one plane carried its passengers a mere 13 miles to attend the event.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg accused the bureaucrats and corporate leaders assembled at the conference of hypocrisy regarding their climate commitments.
“We are right now in Davos where basically the people who are mostly fueling the destruction of the planet, the people who are at the very core of the climate crisis, the people who are investing in fossil fuels, and yet somehow these are the people that we seem to rely on solving our problems,” she said. “They have proven time and time again that they are not prioritizing that. They are prioritizing self-greed, corporate greed and short-term economic profits above people and above planet.”