Let’s imagine you have inherited a fortune and want to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Here’s the best way to spend your money to make a difference to climate change, disease and poverty

Life



24 February 2021

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Andrea Ucini

MOST of us have had that conversation: what would you do if you won the lottery? Pay off the mortgage, quit your job, maybe start a small business doing something you have always dreamed of. But what if you acquired a truly vast fortune – not just a few million but a trillion dollars? And what if you had to spend it on making the world a better place?

I know, a trillion dollars – a thousand billion dollars – sounds like a vast amount of money, especially during the twin crises of recession and pandemic. But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. A trillion dollars is about 1 per cent of world GDP. It is what Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is on course to be worth by 2026. The world’s richest 1 per cent together own $162 trillion in assets. And it’s just one-twelfth of what governments around the world found in 2020 alone for economic stimulus packages in response to the new coronavirus.

What could you do with such a relatively modest sum, if charged to spend it on the world’s biggest challenges? This is the central question of my book, How to Spend a Trillion Dollars, in which I choose 10 megaprojects (all things scientists are working on now) and explore what could be achieved if we showered them with money. Here we examine three of the most urgent of those challenges: solving world poverty, halting runaway climate change and curing all disease.

Perhaps the most important thing we could do for human welfare would be to alleviate poverty. According …