Climate change and energy
Gates considers climate change and global access to energy to be critical, interrelated issues. He has urged governments and the private sector to invest in research and development to make clean, reliable energy cheaper. Gates envisions that a breakthrough innovation in sustainable energy technology could drive down both greenhouse gas emissions and poverty, and bring economic benefits by stabilizing energy prices. In 2011, he said:
If you gave me the choice between picking the next 10 presidents or ensuring that energy is environmentally friendly and a quarter as costly, I'd pick the energy thing.
In 2015, he wrote about the challenge of transitioning the world's energy system from one based primarily on fossil fuels to one based on sustainable energy sources. Global energy transitions have historically taken decades. He wrote, "I believe we can make this transition faster, both because the pace of innovation is accelerating, and because we have never had such an urgent reason to move from one source of energy to another." This rapid transition, according to Gates, would depend on increased government funding for basic research and financially risky private-sector investment, to enable innovation in diverse areas such as nuclear energy, grid energy storage to facilitate greater use of solar and wind energy, and solar fuels.
Gates spearheaded two initiatives that he announced at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. One was Mission Innovation, in which 20 national governments pledged to double their spending on research and development for carbon-free energy over five years. Another initiative was Breakthrough Energy, a group of investors who agreed to fund high-risk startups in clean energy technologies. Gates, who had already invested $1 billion of his own money in innovative energy startups, committed a further $1 billion to Breakthrough Energy. In December 2020, he called for the U.S. federal government to create institutes for clean energy research, analogous to the National Institutes of Health.
Gates's views have been criticized as undermining strategies to aggressively deploy existing solar and wind energy technologies, which have also led to innovation and to plummeting costs. He has also been criticised for holding a large stake in Signature Aviation, a company that services emissions-intensive private jets. In 2019, he began to divest from fossil fuels. He does not expect divestment itself to have much practical impact, but says that if his efforts to provide alternatives were to fail, he would not want to personally benefit from an increase in fossil fuel stock prices. After publishing his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, parts of the climate activist community criticized Gate's approach as technological solutionism.
1998: Regulation of the software industry
See also: Bill Gates § Antitrust litigation, and United States v. Microsoft Corp.
In 1998, Gates rejected the need for regulation of the software industry in testimony before the Senate.
2021: Donald Trump Facebook ban
On February 18, 2021, after Facebook and Twitter had banned Donald Trump from their platforms as a result of the 2020 United States presidential election which led to the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, Gates said a permanent ban of Trump "would be a shame" and would amount to an "extreme measure." He warned that such a move would cause "polarization" if users with different political views divide up among various social networks. "I don't think banning somebody who actually did get a fair number of votes (in the presidential election) – well less than a majority – but I don't think having him off forever would be that good."
2021: Endorsement of synthetic beef
In a 2021 interview with MIT Technology Review, Gates "urged all rich nations to shift to 100% synthetic beef industries.