Mar 25, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Bill Gates says coronavirus will set back climate change innovation

Bill Gates speaking at the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in India in 2019.

Bill Gates speaking at the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in India in 2019. Photo: Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Bill Gates said in a "TED Connects" interview Tuesday the coronavirus will "delay the urgent innovation agenda that exists over in climate,” but not irrevocably.

Driving the news: "I have freed up a lot of time to work on climate," the billionaire philanthropist said. "I have to say for the last few months that’s now shifted and until we get out of this crisis, COVID-19 will dominate and some of the climate stuff, although it will still go on, it won’t get that same focus.”

But, but, but: He added that once the current crisis passes, "I don’t think this has to be a huge setback for climate."

  • Instead, Gates said there are also useful lessons for climate that can be drawn from the pandemic crisis, which has emphasized the need to listen to scientists who can often see when there's a "disaster looming."

Why it matters: It's the latest sign of how the coronavirus is sapping attention from other priorities in the near-term, while the long-term effect on global warming policy is harder to game out.

The big picture: Climate just had a brief role in the wider interview with Gates, whose philanthropy does a lot of health-related work. CNBC has more here.

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