When Yard's list of celebrities whose private jets are used the most went viral last year, most of the people on the list remained decidedly quiet in response to the allegations about their immense emissions output. Others allowed their publicists to issue comments.
But, months after the controversy, Bill Gates (who was actually not on the list, despite owning four private jets) is speaking out, defending his choice to fly private, despite all of his environmental work.
Is there really any justification for not only flying private, but for owning multiple private jets, especially for someone as tuned into the climate crisis as Bill Gates? Keep reading to hear Gates' excuse for traveling via private jet, to learn more about the planes he owns, and exactly why flying private is so environmentally-unfriendly.
Bill Gates defended his private jet use in a new interview.
In February 2023, Microsoft founder Bill Gates appeared in an in-depth interview segment for The BBC, along with journalist Amol Rajan.
"What do you say to the charge that if you are a climate change campaigner, but you also travel around the world on a private jet, you're a hypocrite?" Rajan bluntly asked Gates.
"Well, I buy the gold standard of funding Climeworks to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family's carbon footprint," Gates responded. "And I spend billions of dollars on on climate innovation. So you know, should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?"
As part of the interview, the two men visited a remote region outside of Nairobi, Kenya, "where Gates supports local farms and hospitals through his charitable foundation," according to The BBC.
"I'm comfortable with the idea that not only am I not part of the problem by paying for the offsets, but also through the billions that my Breakthrough Energy group is spending, that I'm part of the solution," Gates added in the interview.
Founded by Gates in in 2015, Breakthrough Energy is an organization that supports and funds new technologies fighting climate change.
Does Bill Gates own a private jet?
Simply answering "yes" would be an understatement.
According to the website Private Jet Charter, Bill Gates actually owns four private jets: Two Gulfstream G650ERs and two Bombardier Challenger 350s.
He also owns two other aircraft: A Eurocopter EC 135 helicopter and a Cessna 208 Seaplane.
Whether or not you think Gates' argument for flying private is strong enough to justify his habit, it's a bit puzzling that he feels the need to own six aircraft.
When you reach a certain level of fame and wealth, flying private is an amenity that many billionaires and multi-millionaires struggle to resist.
And as Gates said, yes, flying private allows him to visit places such as Kenya; yes, he has spent billions on climate innovation; and yes, he offsets his flights and family's carbon footprint.
But those excuses — especially for someone who is as aware of the climate crisis as Bill Gates is — aren't really enough of a justification for owning this many private planes.
If he really wanted to fight climate change, he'd do his personal part on top of spending billions — but, for someone like Bill Gates, doing his personal part would probably take more effort than dropping billions of dollars, since Bill Gates' net worth is over $100 billion.
So why not scale back from four jets to one, Bill?
Why do some think flying private makes Bill Gates a hypocrite?
Airplanes are one of the worst methods of travel when it comes to environmental impact, since they use immense amounts of fuel, and therefore produce high emissions.
So, flying on a private jet, with just a small amount of people on board rather than the large group of people on commercial jets, means each person is responsible for far more emissions.