"We need hundreds of Elon Musks" to combat climate change, Bill Gates says

Bill Gates calls for eliminating emissions
Bill Gates calls for eliminating emissions 32:02

Bill Gates praised the "wild ideas" of fellow billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk for helping confront the climate crisis by pushing other companies to adapt to greener technologies. The two have previously made public statements at odds about electric vehicles — Gates has said he bought an electric Porsche — as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

"He's contributed in many ways," Gates told "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell on Tuesday. "The Tesla's a strong product. It's forced all the car companies to look at, can they match what he's done there. He's also recently put out a challenge for what's called direct air capture that will be a part of the solution. He was willing to entertain wild ideas. We need hundreds of Elon Musks and that's how we'll get this done." 

Gates has encouraged the switch to electric cars, saying the world has about three decades to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and prevent a catastrophic rise in temperatures, which he details in his new book "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need." With more innovation and demand, Gates expects the prices for the greener products will eventually be on par with options that are less environmentally friendly but cheaper to make and buy.

"Tesla and many of the companies are now focusing on making these cars. GM, when they decided that in 2035 they'll stop making gasoline cars, that's not because they think it's an inferior product. They think the green premium will have gone away in that category," Gates said.

He compared Tesla with other green companies he has invested in, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, which create beef-like products from plants.

"Like electric cars, they're a pretty small part of the market — 1 or 2% — but when the burger chains offered that as an option, even with a slightly higher price, the demand was very strong."