BY TOM HARRIS
Bill Gates and Elon Musk are having yet another billionaire food fight, this time over climate change.
Musk accused Gates of not being a serious climate reformer because he shorted Tesla’s stock. Gates was quick to swipe back, stating that he gives “a lot more money to climate change than Elon or anyone else.”
These billionaire showmen certainly know how to put on a 21st-century climate change show. Musk has said that climate change is the single biggest threat humanity faces aside from artificial intelligence. Gates, for his part, has gone so far as to advocate for all rich countries to move to 100% synthetic beef (cow farts are “really” bad for the environment, supposedly).
Everyday Americans aren’t buying what they’re selling, and understandably so. The so-called climate change emergency is one of the most manufactured crises in history. None of its advocates’ doomsday predictions have come true over the years, from Lower Manhattan going under water by 2018 to 50 million climate refugees by 2000 to entire nations getting wiped out from global warming by 2000. Yet they want you to stop eating meat, taking daily showers, and driving gas-powered cars anyway.
But here’s the thing — if one takes their actions at face value, Gates and Musk don’t appear to be buying what they’re selling either. They’re certainly not making many sacrifices to “save the planet,” but they still want to inconvenience you with mandate after mandate. In contrast to Gandhi’s advice that we should “live simply so that others may simply live,” these billionaire hypocrites clearly believe that we should do what they say, not what they do. Gates, for example, owns four private jets, and ironically, he got in a bidding war for the world’s largest private jet operator just one month before releasing a book on climate change. This isn’t the profile of a climate change reformer; it’s the profile of a billionaire who appears to put lavish living over everything else.
Gates’ BD-700 Global Express jet aircraft (below) consumes 486 gallons of fuel each hour. A study conducted by Stefan Gössling of the School of Business and Economics at Linnaeus University in Sweden showed that in 2017, Gates took 59 flights by private jet and, during the over one-third of a million kilometers traveled, his jets emitted more than 1,600 tons of CO2. That is almost 90 times the average annual “carbon footprint” per person in the U.S. for everything they do, not just air travel.
In a recent interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes Gates admitted to Anderson Cooper:
“I probably have one of the highest greenhouse gas footprints on the planet, my personal flying alone is gigantic.”
But, Gates explained, he is paying about $7 million a year, a pittance for a billionaire, to “offset” his “carbon footprint.” If only regular people could afford such luxuries.
Yet Gates doesn’t want you to discharge anything, even for transportation, because “when you’re going to zero, you don’t get to skip anything.”
Musk is no better. Though stating that “humanity is faltering” and that Tesla “exists to help reduce risk of catastrophic climate change,” he too has a penchant for flying on private jets.
In May, Business Insider reported that Musk bought two private jets in the past two years. The “environmental price” of his carbon-emitting lifestyle isn’t small potatoes. In 2019, the Washington Post reported that his corporate jet “flew more than 150,000 miles [in 2018], or more than six times around the Earth, as he raced between the outposts of his futuristic empire.” The cherry on top is that the Post made it clear that “some of the flights were recreational getaways for Musk or his family,” not just business trips.
If that’s how one can behave when “humanity is in crisis,” then how is the sky not already falling?
Of course, Musk being a hypocrite in this area is nothing new. Wired magazine reports that, “despite their green cred, Tesla cars create pollution and carbon emissions in ways that are easily overlooked by consumers and investors.” This theme is explored in detail in the 2021 book Clean Energy Exploitations – Helping citizens understand the environmental and humanity abuses that support ‘clean’ energy, by engineer and energy consultant Ronald Stein and Todd Royal, an independent public policy consultant focusing on the geopolitical implications of energy. They explain:
“Tesla Motors’ ‘dirty little secret’ is turning into a major problem for the EV industry—and perhaps mankind. If you think Tesla’s Model S is the green car of the future, think again. The promises of energy independence, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and lower fuel costs, are all factors behind the rise in the popularity of electric vehicles. Unfortunately, under scrutiny, all these promises prove to be more fiction than fact.”
Musk’s SpaceX has also come under fire from environmental groups for endangering wildlife in Texas, sometimes violating its FAA launch license. And of course, his Falcon 9 rockets don’t run on renewable energy. They use kerosene, a combustible hydrocarbon liquid derived from petroleum. However, rest assured that Musk will keep advising you on what to do to protect the planet.
Gates and Musk can continue arguing all they want, but their spat is merely a distraction from the real issue — the fact that the climate change movement they both claim to hold so dear has no legs to stand on, and their actions appear to prove it. So, enjoy your cheeseburger, take your shower, and drive your car to work. The climate bosses are doing it, so why shouldn’t you?
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.