Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says he's looking forward to working with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to tackle some of the issues facing the US in the days ahead. Gates specifically mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and despite those weighty burdens, says he has hope for the future.
"I look forward to working with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to tackle some of our toughest challenges like COVID-19 and climate change," Gates tweeted Wednesday. "This has been a troubling time in America, but I see promise in the months and years ahead."
In three additional tweets, Gates encouraged Americans to practice social distancing, wear masks and get the COVID-19 vaccine, noting that this eventually will bring the country back to a more normal life. He also praised Biden for his "commitment to reengage with the world," as well as for his decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Biden did, in fact,recommitting the US to do just that on Wednesday afternoon.
Nearly 200 countries are part of the accord and have agreed to fight global warming by reducing carbon emissions. In 2017, then-president Donald Trump, claiming it was unfair to the country and would cost it jobs.
Focus on COVID-19, climate change
Gates, who funds medical research and vaccine programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stepped down from the Microsoft board earlier this year to "dedicate more time to his philanthropic priorities including global health, development, education and his increasing engagement in tackling climate change," according to a statement from March. Since then, he has made several media appearances discussing the pandemic and warning about climate change. His new book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster will be published in February.
Gates warned in a blog post in August that while COVID-19 is "awful," the climate change crisis could be even worse. He conceded that it's hard to focus on anything other than the coronavirus pandemic at the moment, but he warned the US must accelerate efforts to deal with climate change now to avoid a climate disaster.
"If you want to understand the kind of damage that climate change will inflict, look at COVID-19 and spread the pain out over a much longer period of time," Gates wrote on his blog in August. "The loss of life and economic misery caused by this pandemic are on par with what will happen regularly if we do not eliminate the world's carbon emissions."
In December in another blog post, he proposed the formation of a new government agency called the National Institutes of Energy Innovation to tackle climate change.
"There's no central office that's responsible for evaluating and nurturing great ideas," Gates wrote. "For example, research on clean fuels is managed by offices in the departments of Energy, Transportation, and Defense — and even NASA. Similarly, responsibility for research on energy storage is spread across at least four offices in the Department of Energy."
Gates said the National Institutes of Health could serve as a model for the agency, providing a clear and specific mission that would allow independent researchers to follow science rather than a political staff that could change priorities with the change of a presidential administration.
Biden had promised during the campaign that he'd bring the US back into the 2016 Paris Agreement. He had also called for limits to oil and gas drilling on public lands. And promised a greater emphasis on renewable energy, which he said would also create millions of new jobs.
But Gates said the US should be doing more.
In his December blog, he also advocated to dramatically increase government funding for research on renewable energy. He said that currently the US spends $7 billion on renewable energy research, while it spends $35 billion a year on medical research. He said increasing funding at least to the level of medical research would be a good first start.
Gates expressed optimism that the US could lead the world in turning the climate around.
"I do believe we can avoid a climate disaster -- if we deploy the clean-energy tools we have now wisely, and if we make big breakthroughs that touch every aspect of our physical economy. Creating the National Institutes of Energy Innovation would put us on the right path."