Bill Gates warns stopping climate change will be 'hardest thing humanity has ever done'

Bill Gates.
Bill Gates. Photo credit: Getty

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has warned the death rate from climate change will be five times worse than COVID-19 if emissions aren't curbed.

During an interview with Australian network ABC on Tuesday, Gates said getting the world to carbon-zero by 2050 would be "the hardest thing humanity has ever done", but if we don't, we risk "a death rate five times as high as the peak of this pandemic every year".

"The physical economy - cement, steel, transportation, agriculture - all of these sectors will have to make changes," he told current affairs show 7.30.

"Only by being focused on innovation and scaling with the right policies on a global basis can we achieve [that]."

Gates in recent years has used his considerable fortune - amassed as founder and chief executive of Microsoft -  to fund the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which largely focuses on combating disease. He has now penned a book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, looking at ways the world can tackle climate change.

Part of that is getting countries to commit to becoming carbon-neutral sooner rather than later - something New Zealand has done, with near-unanimous support in the House, but Australia hasn't. 

"I wish that all political parties would agree with the goal," Gates told 7.30. "They might disagree about how to put the resources in... But if you have parties that don't accept the goal, then you know, it's unlikely we'll get there."

A recent sea level study found real-world rises have largely tracked along worst-case scenario predictions made in years past, with fears feedback loops could soon accelerate the change. 

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic - at least so far - around 16,000 people were dying every day from the virus. 

Elsewhere in the interview, Gates talked about the bizarre conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 pandemic. Gates, who has poured billions into vaccine research and production, said it was "tragic" that some people would refuse to get a vaccine for believing nonsense claims - a common one being that he's put microchips in the vaccines. 

He said social networking sites need to do more to stop the spread of lies and misinformation, but it was hard to know who's job that should be and where to draw the line.

"There are some things that are so extreme in terms of anti vaccine or holocaust denial that you can draw a line, but how you draw that line and who is put in charge of that… I still haven't seen a good solution."

Gates in 2015 warned the world wasn't ready for a pandemic, telling 7:30 that since then, "less than 5 percent of what should have been done was done".