By Bill Gates
This has been a devastating year. However, When I think back on the pace of scientific advances in 2020, I am stunned. Humans have never made more progress on any disease in a year than the world did on COVID-19 this year. Under normal circumstances, creating a vaccine can take 10 years. This time, multiple vaccines were created in less than one year.
Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods quite yet. Computer models suggest that the pandemic could get even worse over the next month or so. We also need to learn more about a new variant of the virus that has appeared, which seems to spread faster but not to be more deadly.
COVID, climate, and the year ahead
Last spring, when the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming clear, I wrote that “this is like a world war, except in this case, we’re all on the same side.”
I am glad to report that the optimistic view that the world would come together to fight COVID-19 has largely turned out to be right (with some notable exceptions). There’s no way we would be as far along as we are if governments, companies, and scientists around the world weren’t, more often than not, working closely together.
This global cooperation is one reason why I see promise in the year ahead—and not only the promise of getting the pandemic under control. I believe the world also has a chance to take concrete steps on one of the other great challenges of our time: climate change.
Next year, leaders from around the globe will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for the first major United Nations summit on climate change since the Paris meetings in 2015. The U.S. is poised to resume a leading role developing and deploying the clean-energy innovations needed to eliminate greenhouse gases.
I hope to spend much of my time in 2021 talking with leaders around the world about both climate change and COVID-19. In Melinda’s and my Annual Letter next month, I’ll write about what the world’s experience with COVID-19 means for preparing for the next pandemic. And in February I’ll release my new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, in which I share what I’ve learned from 15 years of studying the problem and investing in solutions for it. I hope the book will help drive the conversation in a productive direction.
A year from now, I do think we’ll be able to look back and say that 2021 was an improvement on 2020. The improvement may not be enormous, but it will be a noticeable, measurable step forward for people around the world.
I hope you have a safe and healthy 2021.