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. 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.

Go deeper ... Bill Gates: Coronavirus is "a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen" we've feared

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Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft board

Bill Gates at the 2019 New Economy Forum on November 21, 2019 in Beijing, China. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Microsoft's Bill Gates stepped down from the company's board of directors on Friday to focus on philanthropy in arenas like global health and education.

The big picture: It's been a slow, long exit for Gates who has devoted more of his time to humanitarian efforts for more than a decade. He handed over the CEO reins 20 years ago and left full-time employment with the company more than a decade ago.

Hardly anyone talks about climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Politicians, corporations, the media and activists are talking about climate change more than ever — but most Americans are not.

Be smart: If you’re reading this on social media, you’re probably the exception, not the rule. Just 9% of Americans talk about climate change often, surveys by Yale and George Mason University indicate.

South Carolina exit polls: Climate change slips as top priority vs. Iowa, New Hampshire

A voter in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

South Carolina's Democratic primary voters were less likely to list climate change as a top issue compared to previous nominating contests, according to the AP's VoteCast exit polls.

The big picture: Health care, climate change and the economy have been the top 3 issues in each primary to this point.