Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said during an interview that was published on Wednesday that the “scariest” thing about the war in Ukraine was it being a distraction from climate change.
New York Times opinion writer David Wallace-Wells interviewed the billionaire, where he asked about a progress report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that tracks progress on several issues like poverty and food security. The report shows progress is lagging in most data points.
When asked about the progress report, Gates said he is concerned that the war in Ukraine and economic troubles are distracting the world from confronting what he perceives as the threat from climate change.
“We’re in a worse place than I expected,” Gates said.
While other commentators have expressed concern that the war in Ukraine can inadvertently lead to nuclear weapons conflict, Gates is concerned it will distract the world from climate change.
“But the scariest thing of all is not that we’re behind. We just have to accept that. It’s the ongoing distraction of the war in Ukraine from helping poor countries and making progress on both climate adaptation and mitigation,” he continued.
Wallace noted how the report shows that the world is on track to achieve almost none of the goals that were first outlined in 2015 by the United Nations.
Gates also pointed to economic troubles – the possibility of a global recession, rising interest rates sparked by rising inflation, and high debt levels as things that will reduce the importance of climate change in the eyes of the public.
“That’s a huge thing — whether it’s defense costs, electricity costs, refugee costs, fertilizer costs. With the war on top of the pandemic, and now with interest rates going up, with high levels of debt everywhere, but including in Africa, the next five years are going to be challenging just to maintain the world’s attention,” he said.
In addition, Gates predicted because of the rising costs of fertilizer, Africa will experience lower productivity when it comes to agriculture due to being priced out of the market.
“The cost of fertilizer, though, is a gigantic setback, because when the world makes less fertilizer, who uses less fertilizer? Africa’s not buying nearly as much fertilizer as they did a few years ago,” he said. “And so they’re the ones who are being priced out of the market. And what that does is, it means a season from now or two seasons from now, three seasons from now, your productivity is actually down from where we are right now. In the near term, it’s a pretty bleak picture for African agriculture.”