Bill Gates said it would be unfortunate to see the U.S. miss out on the economic opportunity related to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is among the world's most prominent climate advocates, in addition to his work around the world preventing infectious diseases. He shared some of his thoughts on global warming in an interview that aired Sunday on Axios on HBO.
"It's very American to invent things to help the entire world. We're always on the front of new science and new product development. So it would be tragic if this was the first time the U.S. didn't play that role," Gates told Axios journalists Ina Fried and Amy Harder.
The interview aired two days after the Trump administration released a government report that said damage from global warming could slash as much as 10 percent off the nation's economy by the end of the century. The administration, which has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, was criticized for releasing the report on the Friday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend, when many people are not paying attention to the news.
Certainly there is some industry activity that could make a difference. Harder said renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and electric car companies like Tesla, generate headlines. Gates pointed out that electricity is just one of a few things that create emissions.
"A lot of people think, OK, renewable energy, wind and solar, has gotten a lot cheaper, isn't that it?" Gates said. "Well, electricity is only a quarter of the problem. In fact, we've got to solve the entire 100 percent. You know, unless somebody has the pie in their mind that, OK, electricity's 25 percent, agriculture's 24 percent, transport's 14 percent, unless they start with that, we're not really talking about the same problem."
Manufacturing and buildings also generate greenhouse gases, Gates has noted.
"We're very far away from getting all these sources down to zero, which is what we have to do to solve this problem," said Gates, who sits on Microsoft's board and owns 1.35 percent of Microsoft's outstanding shares, according to FactSet.
Gates said it's not well understood how hard it will be to bring down emissions. He is a leader of the recently announced Global Commission on Adaptation, which is meant to "catalyze a new global movement to bring scale and speed to climate adaptation solutions."