Bill Gates disses energy efficiency, renewables, and near-term climate action while embracing the magical thinking of Bjorn Lomborg (and George Bush)

Coincidentally, Gates is funding geoengineering research


Billionaires say the darndest things!  The above screen shot of a nonsensical Bill Gates piece dissing energy efficiency came from his website, The Gates Notes, which turned into a HuffPost piece, and then Yahoo News.

Yes, even the very rich are very confused about energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate policy, and global warming — mainly because they keep bad company (see “Error-riddled ‘Superfreakonomics’, Part 2: Who else have Nathan Myhrvold and the Groupthinkers at Intellectual Ventures duped and confused? Would you believe Bill Gates and Warren Buffett?“):

  • The Gates’ Foundation mostly ignores global warming (see here)
  • Warren Buffett are so wrong “” and outspoken “” about cap and trade (see here)
  • Gates and Buffett visited the Athabasca tar sands “” the biggest global warming crime ever “” to satisfy “their own curiosity” but also “with investment in mind” (see here).

Now Gates has launched an amazing series of myth-filled missives and misfires this month, many of which channel Bjorn Lomborg (aka the Danish delayer) in their disdain of near-term climate action and embrace of, yes, geo-engineering.  If you have the stomach for a rambling discourse mostly dissing renewable energy, clearly inspired by the uber-confused Myhrvold, start with his “Podcast Series: Energy and Climate Change” here.

You’ll learn that wind power is competitive only because of subsidies — nary a mention of the massive subsidies for nuclear, a Gates favorite, or fossil fuels, let alone the devastating climate impacts of continued use of fossil fuels.  In his discussion of renewables, you’ll learn that “solar is the cutest of all these things” — yes, “cutest.”

You’ll learn “the biggest issue that is often missed is the storage issue.”  Apparently absent Gates’ genius, none of us have ever thought about the issue of storage.  Gates seems unaware of the major advances occurring in storage (see “The Holy Grail of clean energy economy is in sight: Affordable storage for wind and solar“), which is probably why he worries about it so much, saying that the biggest problem is the “seven-day periods with no sun” and “seven-day periods with no wind,” which lead him to ask, “In the 1% case are people willing to freeze to death“?  Yes, apparently 1% of the time the country is without any wind or sun for 7 straight days.  Seriously, listen to the podcast (this is at the end of the first one).

Oh, but nuclear is great — “it’s as good as renewable.”

Now apparently someone told Gates that attacking insulation (!!!) looked stupid, because a few days later someone rewrote the above headline, adding a “just” after “not” at his website and HuffPost — though he missed here.  But even the rewritten piece is laughable:

However all the talk about renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade tends to obscure the specific things that need to be done.

And this is the richest guy in the world???

Memo to Gates:  Renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade are many of the specific things that need to be done.

His very next sentence is:

To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key.

Did I mention this guy has, like tens of billions of dollars?

Memo to Gates:  Cap and trade provides a direct economic reward for innovators.  It is the strongest possible government encouragement.

The only conclusion is that Gates doesn’t actually want to have any market-based policies that stimulate deployment of technology — policies that have succeeded in multiple states and countries.  He just wants a straight government handout for research.  Now I’ve been one of the biggest supporters of more clean energy R&D for two decades now, but R&D by itself has no chance whatsoever of getting us anywhere near stabilization at 4°F warming, let alone 3.  It is magical  thinking — see “The breakthrough technology illusion,” which also explains how policies to drive deployment are probably more important for driving clean energy innovation than R&D.

Moreover, if it wasn’t clear two weeks ago, it should be pretty damn clear now that the federal government isn’t just going to print money to fund R&D.  You need cap and trade to fund anywhere near the kind of money we need for genuine innovation (see “The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill“).

Gates ends by pushing this nonsensical straw man argument:

No amount of insulation will get us there; only innovating our way to what is essentially zero carbon energy technology will do it. If we focus on just efficiency to the exclusion of innovation, or imagine that we can worry about efficiency first and worry about energy innovation later, we won’t get there.

The world is distracted from what counts on this issue in a big way.


I don’t think there is a single person on the planet who has ever suggested focusing on efficiency to the exclusion of innovation.  It’s just a nutty assertion.  You need to do both simultaneously.  Here’s what serious people believe — see Tony Blair, Climate Group, and CAP call for strong technology deployment policy driven by a carbon price, innovative financing, and serious technology standards.

Ironically, there are lots of people who push an “innovation only” strategy (see  Bush follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah”).  You should worry when your climate and energy strategy starts to sound Bj¸rn Lomborg and Newt Gingrich, and even OPEC.

In fact, Gates seems to be a Lomborg disciple.  He embraces Lomborg’s strategy of not agressively acting on emissions reductions strategies now.  And he promotes “innovation” as the answer.  But he also pushes the false-choice argument that has made Lomborg a darling of the do-nothing crowd, as in this Reuters story from Sunday:

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man and a leading philanthropist, said on Sunday spending by rich countries aimed at combating climate change in developing nations could mean a dangerous cut in aid for health issues.

Gates, the Microsoft Corp co-founder whose $34 billion foundation is fighting malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases in developing countries, expressed concern about the amount of spending pledged at December’s Copenhagen global climate meeting.

Gates apparently has been Bjorn again (see “Lomborg’s main argument has collapsed” and “The Bjorn Irrelevancy: Duke dean disses Danish delayer“):

“I am concerned that some of this money will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health,” Gates wrote in a letter, released late on Sunday, describing the work of his foundation….

According to Forbes magazine, Gates was the richest man in the world in 2009 with an estimated fortune of $40 billion.

Memo to friggin’ Bill Gates:  That’s why we want the damn cap-and-trade system you just dissed — so polluters in rich countries help pay for the cost of clean energy development in the poor countries that you supposedly care about so much (see “Gates Foundation strategy raises key question: Can the problems of the developing world be solved by ignoring global warming?“)

Gates says he agrees that we must cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050, but then he disses or dismisses every single major strategy needed to get us on the path for stabilization now.  Why?

Well, Science magazine dropped this bombshell today, “Bill Gates Funding Geoengineering Research,” which perhaps illuminates everything Gates has said and done:

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has been supporting a wide array of research on geoengineering since 2007, ScienceInsider has learned. The world’s richest man has provided at least $4.5 million of his own money over 3 years for the study of methods that could alter the stratosphere to reflect solar energy, techniques to filter carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, and brighten ocean clouds. But Gates’s money has not funded any field experiments involving the techniques, according to Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, California….

Recipients of the funding include Armand Neukermans, an inventor based in Silicon Valley who is working with colleagues to design spray systems for the marine clouds, and students and scientists working for Keith and Caldeira. Funding has also helped support scientific meetings in geoengineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Edinburgh, Scotland, and aeronautics research related to altering the stratosphere….

Gates has shown interest in geoengineering research before. He is an investor in Intellectual Ventures, a Seattle, Washington-area firm that pursues inventions and has applied for patents on techniques to geoengineer the stratosphere. Along with officials from that organization, Gates applied for a patent in 2008 to sap hurricanes of their strength by mixing surface and deep ocean water.

What’s his ultimate goal? Gates “views geoengineering as a way to buy time but it’s not a solution to the problem” of climate change, says spokesperson John Pinette. “Bill views this as an important avenue for research””among many others, including new forms of clean energy.”

“Buy time”?  How can something that doesn’t even exist in any form whatsoever — proven geo-engineering solutions — buy time for anything?  Again, this is completely backwards.

It is aggressive deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that “buy time” for whatever future technologies we develop.  Caldeira himself has made crystal clear that he  “doesn’t believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions.” Even geoengineering advocate Tom Wigley is only defending “a complementary combined mitigation/geoengineering scenario, an overshoot concentration pathway where atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches 530 ppm before falling back to 450 ppm, coupled with low-intensity geoengineering,” with the goal of stabilizing global temperature rise at 2°C, in case we can’t stabilize at 450 ppm.

Well, stabilizing at 530 ppm requires doing a massive amount of mitigation, including energy efficiency, starting now “” only 2 or 3 fewer wedges than what is needed for 450 (see “How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution“).

How can such a rich and successful businessman get it so wrong?  Remember, “Nathan Myhrvold founded Intellectual Ventures after retiring from his position as chief strategist and chief technology officer of Microsoft Corporation.”  Remember, too, that Gates told the Superfreakonomics guys, “”I don’t know anyone I would say is smarter than Nathan.”  Well, Gates was certainly right that he knows less than Nathan.  Of course, you may recall that one researcher said of Myhrvold:

What is happening is I have to conclude that anything Myhrvold says has to be assumed to be false until proven otherwise, and by unquestioningly accepting his assumptions, anything Drubner and Levitt say may need to be taken the same way.

I think the same can be said of Gates on the subject of energy and climate, now that he has done the full Lomborg (see Caldeira calls the geo-engineering vision of Lomborg’s Climate Consensus “a dystopic world out of a science fiction story”).

58 Responses to Bill Gates disses energy efficiency, renewables, and near-term climate action while embracing the magical thinking of Bjorn Lomborg (and George Bush)

  1. MarkB says:

    “Memo to Gates: Cap and trade provides a direct economic reward for innovators. It is the strongest possible government encouragement.”

    I really don’t understand why many folks still don’t get this, even smart guys like Bill Gates, especially since cap and trade and government mandate approaches have been used successfully in the past to stimulate innovation.

  2. Lore says:

    To draw a dichotomy, Bill Gates is an opportunist while Steve Jobs is a visionary. He and the likes of Buffett are no different then the robber barons of a century ago.

    An interesting background on the two can be found in a made for TV, 1999 film, “Pirates of Silicon Valley” starring, Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates and Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs. According to Steve Wozniak, the personalities were very accurately portrayed. You get a taste of just how Gates ticks.

  3. anniversary says:

    Bill would be in great company on this list of people, which are directly responsible when it comes to inaction, ignorance and catastrophic climate changes.

  4. fj1 says:

    guess bill gates has to be educated. he seems to be doing good with his foundation and could be a great advocate.

  5. Shelly T. says:

    Lore, that’s exactly right. I always knew there was something super-opportunistic about Bill Gates. Geoengineering is something I fear, mainly because it’s an excuse to do nothing and there is so much potential money in it. They are going to wait until it’s too late and then someone is going to make a lot of money dooming nature itself on this planet.

  6. Marion Delgado says:

    As a mid-level technologist I’ve always hated Microsoft.

    That granted, this is not Gates’ fault, per se, or even his vested interests. It’s patent troll, hand-waver and capitalist crank Nathan Myhrvold. Remember that name, it’s right up there with Pielke, Lomborg, etc. as unscientific backup for science denial.

  7. anniversary says:

    And i like to stretch this, it is not to late to become paulus.
    But the time in doing so has come now. Climate change has made many conservative approaches, strategys, plans and intrest redundant.

    5, geo-engineering does not have to be bad.

  8. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Mr. Gates needs to become educated about ocean acidification from CO2 emissions, which will continue unabated under his proposed “go slow” plan for CO2 reductions. Geoengineering to cool the atmosphere will not slow ocean acidification. The loss of protein from the ocean due to acidification impacts will be a disaster in future decades for many of the poor countries the Gates Foundation seeks to help through health and education initiatives.

  9. Dan B says:

    FYI Microsoft gave millions to The Discovery Institute, a Seattle based (well, mostly Bellevue, WA – across the lake from “liberal Seattle”) think tank that has promoted “intelligent” design nationwide.

    And Bill is an engineer. It took forever to convince him that Microsoft had a bad reputation that would doom the company to monopoly charges that would stick, and result in the breakup of the company (sigh, we were so close) unless…. he, the company, and the employees began to do something to give back to society.

    I’ve never understood why the Gates Foundation focused on disease. They tend to view it in isolation from poverty, the economic divide, corruption, and ecological degradation. This one-sided approach can’t produce a coherent vision of “healthy thriving land”, “clean government”, “genuine and clearcut paths to advancement”. Bill is capable of systems thinking but it tends to be from the problem solving paradigm – and we know what that means psychologically.

    It is possible to sway Gates – just takes persistence and enough voices.

  10. Leif says:

    Bill W, #6: A very important observation. Just how do we get an authoritative ocean acidification article into Bill’s hands so that he reads it. The science is not difficult. He is not a dumb man. If a person like him can be swayed many would follow. He does appear to have a vestige of a heart even though he started Microsoft.

  11. It's over says:

    Gates is against us, now Minnesota..

  12. Bill W says:

    Somebody needs to tell Gates that when geoengineering doesn’t work, we can’t just hit the reset button and try again.

  13. George says:

    “the Athabasca tar sands — the biggest global warming crime ever” ???
    How exactly are the tar sands such a crime?
    Canada contributes 2% to global carbon emisions, and only 4% of Canada’s emisions come from the tar sands. It’s not remotely material to anyone who can do the math.

  14. accelerate the transition says:

    Gates is an engineer; his views are no surprise. Like Stewart Brand (author of Whole Earth Discipline), he has the common “engineer’s bias” for tinkering and techno-fixes, and can miss the obvious even when it’s right in front of his face. But Brand, who relishes controversy and prefers to provoke, nevertheless says he is for efficiency “first, last, and always,” and Gates should be, too. If he really cares about ROI, maybe he will see the light.

  15. But an engineer should understand calculus! Here’s my attempt to explain in simple terms why he’s wrong:

  16. dhogaza says:

    I really don’t understand why many folks still don’t get this, even smart guys like Bill Gates, especially since cap and trade and government mandate approaches have been used successfully in the past to stimulate innovation.

    Remember that Gates essentially stole DOS from a garage startup, when they signed their contract with IBM to provide the operating system for the first PC. They licensed DOS, but with no third-party distribution sales option in the contract, and after a very long time had to cough up a couple or more million to the actual authors of the base for DOS. By then, of course, millions vs. billions made it meaningless.

    Gates isn’t particularly smart in the software sense (if anything, that would be Paul Allen). He’s rapacious, ruthless, and ethically-challenged, though.

  17. mark h says:

    What Gates is saying is that to cut emissions 80% by 2050 you need to cut CO2 emissions from electrical generation and transportation to zero. Anything you do that doesn’t solve how you completely replace fossil fuels for those segments of energy doesn’t solve that problem. That’s not to say it’s not of value, just that it doesn’t solve the problem. Whatever Bill Gates may be, he strikes me as someone to listen to when it comes to solving complex technical problems.

  18. Ken Johnson says:

    Re “I don’t think there is a single person on the planet who has ever suggested focusing on efficiency to the exclusion of innovation.” Well, maybe not exactly, but I think Gates has a point. See, e.g., the following:

    “McKinsey must-read: U.S. can meet entire 2020 emissions target with efficiency and cogeneration while lowering the nation’s energy bill $700 billion!”

    [JR: They were making a quantitative point (to the Gates’ of the world) — NOT a policy point.]

    On the other hand, Gates misunderstands climate science in his focus on “the 80% goal by 2050”. Here is a rehash of what I said on Huffington:

    The implicit premise of this [Gates’] analysis is that climate stabilization depends on achieving some particular emission goal in 2050, but emission rates don’t really matter much — what does matter is atmospheric GHG concentration levels (i.e. integrated emissions).

    A particular GHG concentration target could require very different emission goals in 2050 (e.g. 1 MT or zero MT per capita), depending on the near-term reduction trajectory. A 10% near-term reduction from efficiency gains may seem minor compared to a reduction target in the range of 85 to 95%, but without that near-term reduction the 2050 reduction target might need to be in the range of 95 to 105% (i.e. negative emissions) to achieve the same atmospheric concentration target.

    In other words, a 10% reduction in global GHG’s now could be equivalent to something like a 100% or greater reduction in 2050.

    Monbiot discussed this issue in one of his blogs some time ago ( ). See the second to the last paragraph: “Two recent papers in Nature show that the measure which counts is not the proportion of current emissions produced on a certain date, but the total amount of greenhouse gases we release …”

    So we need innovation AND insulation.

  19. Wonhyo says:

    There is a common perception that there will be some technological deus ex machina that saves us from all the challenges of climate change. Scientist/engineer types are especially prone to this thinking. Add profit motive and the technology solutions become ideology. For climate progress to really occur, technological solutions must be used as a supplement to behavioral solutions, not as a substitute.

    For example, to rely on doubling the fuel efficiency of cars, it will take 15 years (fleet turnover time) to cut emissions in half. We could cut vehicle emissions by 75% tomorrow if everyone would carpool four to a car. It would take a sacrifice, but there would also be benefits (reduced traffic, reduced transit time, reduced stress, etc.).

    People like Bill Gates who exclusively promote technology solutions to climate change are blind to reality.

  20. Scott says:

    “Yes, apparently 1% of the time the country is without any wind or sun for 7 straight days.” Our company routinely deploys solar and wind powered data collection systems in northern Alberta (for the great evil that is oil sands producers no less). I can tell you with absolute certainty there are several periods each winter where solar panels do not charge the battery for longer than 7 days (overcast weather will prevent solar panels from charging the 12V battery). Now these panels are small (about 1m^2) but they are also only supporting a tiny draw. We design our systems to be 28 days autonomous and even that proves insufficient at some points. The wind backup system was too sporadic to effectively supplement and we have discontinued that option.

  21. scatter says:

    Could another reason for him downplaying renewables and energy efficiency be that Google got stuck into them first and with great enthusiasm?

  22. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust has huge investments in coal.
    PEABODY ENERGY CORP – the world’s largest coal mining company.

    The latest filing in the SEC also reveals other energy holdings like BP, Devon Energy, XTO Energy.

    Curiously, they refuse to invest in any tobacco industry stock.

  23. Mark S. says:


    I think the point is that solar and, in particular, wind power generation will (or at least can) be distributed at many geographically diverse sites while feeding into the same grid. Winds and/or insolation at any two sites will not be highly correlated. Therefore, the “volatility” in output of the total portfolio of sites (each one, perhaps, highly variable) will be fairly low and the output will change in a relatively predictable fashion. The wind doesn’t stop blowing EVERYWHERE at the same time and stay calm for 7 days – that would not be a “1% event”. In any case, most solar generation will probably be done by thermal plants, for which energy storage capacity can be built quite cheaply.

  24. pete best says:

    People worship money – his and buffets words will stick unfortunately and the media will cover it. Its like prophets are money men these days.

  25. Stephen Watson says:

    “Whatever Bill Gates may be, he strikes me as someone to listen to when it comes to solving complex technical problems.” That may be the case but Climate Change is not a “complex technical problem” thought it’s often presented as that so that we have to spend ages trying to work out a wondrous technical solution instead of making any serious behaviour change. All we need to do is use less fossil fuels so leaving them in the ground would be a good start. The ‘problem’ we face is a spiritual one, namely “How are we to relate to each other and the planet which is our only home?” Until we wrestle with and do our very best to answer that one, a technological solution will, in a short time place us back exactly where we are now.

    Conservation and efficiency are two quite different things and are not interchangeable.

  26. Bill Green says:


    Is all geoengineering activity and geoengineering research necessarily bad? — what about the Rosenfeld “white roofs” initiative to raise albedo that you identify in your writing as “almost certainly the single cheapest of the 12 to 14 wedges needed to stabilize near 2°C total warming” (see “Geoengineering, adaptation and mitigation, Part 2: White roofs are the trillion-dollar solution“ and your May 27 2009 blog praising Secretary Chu for promoting this idea to the world). What is wrong with researching, let alone applying, other such “benign” forms of geoengineering?


    [JR: I’m a big fan of white or reflective roofs.]

  27. Chris Dudley says:

    Here is my response to the Huffington Post bit that Andy Revkin tweeted about:

    Andy, you asked in a tweet if Bill Gates idea about innovation was the proper answer to difficulties getting a climate bill passed.

    Gates is unaware of the current technological situation and does not understand what emissions are. We need to cut emissions from fossil fuels but he thinks that natural decay is the problem. This indicates that he has not understood the issues. Also, his idea that we must get to zero emissions by 2050 in key sectors (electrical generation and transportation) is in error. There are trade-offs between these and other sectors. It may be, by then, only aviation will use fossil fuels, a portion of the transportation sector. Or, home heating may have the bulk of the remaining fossil fuel use. His prescription is his fantasy, not reality.

    He also is opposed to putting efforts into conservation. This is clearly in error. Whatever we do now to reduce future energy needs (such as using insulation) means that we need to deploy less generation capacity in the future to replace our current fossil fuel based capacity. It is the least costly thing to do now and it is also the least costly for the future.

    And, he is completely mistaken that we need innovation to replace our current fossil fuel use in generation and transportation. We have what we need now
    Innovation will come and it won’t hurt, but it is not required. His lack of understanding of the current state of technology is especially sad I think.

    So, no. Gates’ approach is of no use. We should fund research, but not as part of a plan to accomplish emissions reductions. We should proceed as though there will be no technological advances and then take what advances do come along in stride, combining them into our already rapid progress in cutting emissions.

    One thing that might help in getting a climate bill passed would be good investigative reporting on how the fossil fuel lobby is operating. Name and shame is the game.

  28. anniversary says:

    Lord Christopher Monckton on AIDS and Martial Law Tactics

    Lord Monckton climate change lecture costs Australian sceptics $100,000

  29. mark says:

    If he’s checking out tar sands investments it might be cause of this, (from the Canadian press):

    “But European investors have begun to scrutinize big oil majors such as BP, Shell and StatoilHydro for their Canadian growth plans, especially when it comes to oilsands, which they view as “dirty oil.”

    Last week, a group of pension funds said it plans to introduce a motion at Shell’s annual meeting in May questioning the sustainability of the company’s oilsands investments.”

    “an oilsands activist with Greenpeace based in Edmonton, said he thinks the group’s protests at production facilities have raised awareness of the issue in the United States and Europe, resulting in increased pressure on companies such as Shell to discontinue oilsands activities altogether.”

  30. mike roddy says:

    John Galbraith once said that the ability to make money is housed in a separate part of the brain, and is unrelated to actual intelligence. Gates has not only been proving that notion, he’s taking it to another level- from late period Far Right John D. Rockefeller to Louis XIV.

    I don’t know that Gates can be reached and persuaded. He lives in a bubble, surrounded by narrow sycophants like Myrhvold and obtuse billionaires like Warren Buffet. Everybody is always telling him what a visionary genius he is (a guy I know who went to college with him has a very different version), so his mind has ossified. And from this recent piece that he wrote, he’s committed another common sin of the extremely rich: he has become too lazy to do his homework.

    When solar thermal reaches parity in a few years, he’ll jump on the bandwagon and invest. That’s been his m.o. all along, and I doubt he’s going to add any value to anything significant in the meantime. And even if he awakened somehow, his idea of an aggressive investment is $4.5 million for geoengineering, so what good is he anyway?

  31. Chris Dudley says:

    Mike (#30),

    Sharp as a knife.

  32. Mark in South Africa says:

    I’m likely to get flamed for the comments below, so please remember as you read: I live in South Africa which is at once a third world country in terms of social challenges etc (as you will see; and a first world country in terms of some service industries like finance. Strange mix.

    We make up 2% of global emissions but 40% of Africa’s. Some stats: 42% live in abject poverty (less than $1 a day); 35% unemployment; biggest industry is gold production which is also among fastest shrinking in the world; 20% of our kids are subject to violence either going to, at, or coming from school at least once a year; only 40% of population have access to running water and electricity; economic growth is estimated at 2.5% this year (we need 6% to just absorb school leavers each year); 1 in 3 kids in rural areas ives in parentless home (generally because of HIV/Aids); HIV/Aids infection rate is somewhere around 1 in 2 rural people with more than 100 000 new infections each month. And so on…….

    In short, the argument put forward by the Govt is: we are a developing nation with overwhelming socio-economic issues; if we don’t develop, we implode; we will take on climate change, but only if you foot the bill because we can’t. If there isn’t sufficient help, expect nothing. So far, no help, at least meaningful help, isn’t forthcoming.

    So this is where Lomborg becomes seductive to this part of the world. The argument goes: while you dither between Rio, Kyoto, Johanneburg and Copenhagen; between GRI, Compact and ISO; between green versus blue sustainability; and every other issue on the table, our people are dying, so let us know when you’re ready – right now we have 3rd world issues to fix in the wake of 100’s of years of brutality and discrimination.

    That’s the argument. The response, as I understand it is best summarised by Mike Barry and Lucy Calver at Marks and Spencer: “as the world’s population grows by billions and the Western way of consumption is adopted by hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, we are running out of the basics – trees, clean water, farmland and so on. Meanwhile we are driving changes to our climate at a rate not seen for many thousands of years.” Another related response I have seen is correct, but a vague generalisation: “we must arrest climate change to arrest poverty.”

    So, just to remind you that I am positing a view from within the belly of the beast, that is more challenging than many of us would care to admit, we at once admitting that the problem is not really of 3rd wrld making, but it must bear responsibility, that somehow the 3rd world must develop to solve social and economic issues, but not in any way that further damages the environment, even if people have to die while we wait however long to try to get the right technologies at prices that mean an affordable difference can be made.

    Is it any wonder Lomborg carries some weight in the developing world?

    In response we have generalisations, name-calling, and generaly a paucity of responses to the arguments I have summarised. And remember, South Africa is a helluva lot better off than other places.

    Last suggestion: those of us who believe need to stop this shallow posturing; be honest, how many on this blog have looked, really looked at the options and the difficultires that exist in the third world? Tere is a reason Gates and Lomborg et al are viewed favourably in these parts.

    We need to up our game because we’re starting to look and sound like religious fundamentalists – all sturm und drung and no gravitas!

  33. Stuart says:

    # 11 – As a Minnesotan I apologize for my idiot neighbors. I hear this crap here ALL the time, particularly when it gets cold (like now). I will be attending a forum on climate change in the Lake Superior basin in Duluth on Friday, I doubt “Elmer” from the website you linked will be there.

    Too bad, he could have learned some actual science.

  34. SecularAnimist says:

    Having worked in the IT field for 25 years, starting in the era of the original IBM PC and MS-DOS v2.0, I am very familiar with the unethical and dishonest practices of Bill Gates.

    Gates built his fortune on selling inferior software, stealing genuine “innovation” from others, and using sleazy and unscrupulous — and indeed criminal, as the courts determined – monopolistic business practices to undermine and attack competitors who had far superior technologies and products. The world of computers and software suffers major problems to this day because of Microsoft’s bad acts.

    Gates’ article is not a serious commentary on efficiency, renewables, or anything else. It is utter self-serving rubbish as anyone familiar with those fields will instantly realize. And to anyone familiar with Bill Gates, that is not at all surprising — after all, this is a man who blatantly and sneeringly perjured himself when he testified in the Microsoft antitrust trial. Everything that Bill Gates says and does is for the purpose of amassing more wealth and power for Bill Gates, period — and that includes his “charitable” projects.

  35. SecularAnimist says:

    Mark in South Africa wrote: “… right now we have 3rd world issues to fix in the wake of 100’s of years of brutality and discrimination.”


    And how does ignoring the rapidly escalating, increasingly horrific effects of anthropogenic global warming, which will most heavily impact the third world, help to address the legacy of colonialism?

  36. Leif says:

    Mark from SA: The problem cannot be solved with the same thinking that got us into the mess in the first place. That is the short coming of Lomborg and all. You state that SA accounts for ~2% of global GHG. There may well be Corporations with that much output themselves in the world. Certainly two or three of the worst together. There in lies the solution in my book. The capitalistic system was developed by people to maximize GDP but without the foresight of looking at the big picture. That is- The limitation of earth’s resources. With no provision in the business model for the value of natural systems, (water, soil, air, food, waste disposal, etc) the end game becomes amassing wealth without regard for sustainability. Buy off a few politicians to keep the air a free dumping ground, no problem, it is just the cost of doing business. Therefor the solution in my eyes is to restructure capitalism to respond to the well-being of humanity as a whole and not just make a few more billionaires out of already millionaires. (Any one of whom might have the carbon stomp of a thousand or more folks in your neighborhood. There are many ways to accomplish this out come but all require the very rich to come to the realization that climatic disruption will not be nice to them either. They, like us, will suffer. Their riches will be to no avail in the end. So the very first thing is to put a price on free dumping of pollution. If I throw a candy wrapper out the car window, bingo, $100 fine. Corporations dump billions of tons of numerous pollutants into the air water and earth for FREE every day. Where is the justice?

  37. Ken Johnson says:

    Joe – Re your response to #18: You are right; the McKinsey report was making a quantitative point, not a policy point. But the US-CAP, which established the legal framework for ACES, was making a policy point is establishing a regulatory structure that deters emission reductions beyond the cap even if the cap is insufficient to achieve climate stabilization, and even if the cost of further emission reductions would be far less than anticipated (e.g. negative $700 billion, as suggested my McKinsey).

    [JR: You need a cap for achieving domestic targets and an international agreement. It’s hard to design a system that promotes emissions reductions beyond a cap (that itself doesn’t have flaws).]

  38. evnow says:

    #9 Dan

    MS/Gates foundation money to Discovery is mostly for Cascadia project (transportation in the Pueget Sound area). The below from Wikipedia. I’ve read/heard the Gates is an atheist/agnostic.

    BTW, Microsoft like many other companies will match donations to non-profits. So to the extent employees are giving to Discovery institute, Microsoft will be giving money as well.

    The Cascadia project is funded in part by a large grant from the Gates Foundation.[46] It recently created its own Web site to ensure an individual identity and distance itself from the institute’s controversial role in promoting intelligent design

  39. TrueSceptic says:

    1 MarkB,

    When it comes to business and the law, there are none smarter than Gates: he got IBM to write the biggest blank cheque in history in 1981. When it comes to science and tech, he is barely average. He’s been wrong about almost everything, even (especially?) in IT, other than the business side.

  40. TrueSceptic says:

    17 mark h,

    Why? Gates has never shown any great technical insight.

  41. TrueSceptic says:

    30 Mike, 34 SecularAnimist,

    Exactly. When has Gates ever shown anything other than the ability to buy or steal ideas and then take over the market they created?

  42. TrueSceptic says:

    Gates testifying in 1998.. Not someone to *trust* on anything.

  43. Boudica says:

    Bill –

    If we focus on just tuberculosis to the exclusion of malaria, or imagine that we can worry about tuberculosis first and worry about malaria later, we won’t get there. Instead, you should focus on innovation!

  44. ken levenson says:

    I nominate Bill Gates to be the next James Bond villain!!!!

  45. David Lewis says:

    From the Royal Society, London, promo of their upcoming conference “Geoengineering – taking control of our planet’s climate” conference, to be held Nov 8 2010:

    “Society seems unable or unwilling to make the drastic reductions in CO2 emissions necessary to avoid dangerous’ (unacceptable) climate change. A new science “Geoengineering” that until recently would have seemed pure science fiction, promises an alternative way of temporarily regaining control of climate. This meeting considers the state of this new science, and its implications to society”.

  46. Mark H says:

    #40 TrueSceptic

    “Why? Gates has never shown any great technical insight.”

    That may be the case, however, it takes more than technical insight to accomplish the development, manufacture and distribution of the technology that will replace fossil fuels for the transportation and electrical generation sectors.

    Maybe he’s not a master of the technology but he’s proved himself capable of assembling and managing the experts that can handle a project like that.

  47. Ken Johnson says:

    (Re #37) Joe – The W-M bill would actually promote emissions beyond the cap if the allowance price falls to the floor ($10 + 5% annual growth). Judging from past experience (U.S. SO2, EU-ETS, RGGI), with corroboration by McKinsey, prices under W-M would most likely be lower — not higher — than expected, so environmental performance would most likely be improved by trading off a lower price ceiling for a higher floor to the point where the floor is equal to the ceiling. The most probable result would be greater emission reductions even though the cap would have become irrelevant.

    We must be willing to look past cap-and-trade if we’re going to fashion a viable climate policy strategy. The “only game in town” argument just doesn’t cut it anymore.

  48. Mark in South Africa says:

    No one is saying that we need to ignore climate change. I am asking whether the complexity that pressures the 3rd world response has been factored into the thinking of our colleagues in the 1st world. The problem is not the same everywhere. That’s why, where imediate pressures are survival, Governments and the sustainability lobby need to develop better arguments to counter the Lomborg’s of the world, Currently our arguments are simply too weak, becasue we haven’t explored the issue properly from a 3rd world perspective. In that sense, we scream and shout and have very little substance.

  49. Rick Covert says:

    This makes reason number 343 why I don’t like Microsoft. Microsoft created the world’s leakiest, least secure operating system and now it’s founder Bill Gates wants to do to the earth what he’s done for PCs ie: make them crash. Unlike the PC we don’t get to reboot the earth and get Genesis II.

  50. SecularAnimist says:

    Mark in South Africa wrote: “I am asking whether the complexity that pressures the 3rd world response has been factored into the thinking of our colleagues in the 1st world.”

    I would like to ask you whether you paid any attention to the Copenhagen conference, and to the positions that the “3rd world” nations and the “1st world” nations advocated there. It was not the third world nations who were dragging their feet on taking aggressive steps to mitigate global warming.

    In my experience, Lomborg’s disingenuous crocodile tears for the problems of the third world seem to “resonate” most strongly with certain folks in the first world who stand to profit enormously from continued business-as-usual consumption of fossil fuels. Whereas people and organizations who are on the front lines of struggling with those problems all understand that unmitigated global warming will make their difficult job an impossible one.

  51. SecularAnimist says:

    Mark H wrote: “Maybe he’s not a master of the technology but he’s proved himself capable of assembling and managing the experts that can handle a project like that.”

    And the evidence for that is what, exactly? Microsoft Windows? Are you aware that Microsoft is still putting out urgent, critical security updates for Windows 2000 ?!?

    If Gates is a “master” of anything, he is a master of using unethical, deceptive, criminally-monopolistic bully-boy tactics to get people to adopt his company’s inferior software, instead of superior, more cost-effective software.

    That’s exactly what we don’t need in the realm of post-fossil fuel energy technologies.

    On the other hand, that’s exactly what the nuclear power industry does need to do — bamboozle people into adopting an inferior and expensive and dangerous technology instead of superior, more cost effective and safer solutions — so it’s appropriate that Gates is promoting it.

  52. RE Mark in South Africa (#32 and 48)
    Lomborg et al are guilty of a number of fallacious arguments, i.e., the false dichotomy fallacy (faulty Dilemma fallacy), which are then widely propagated by a lazy media. Certainly since the early 1980s, with the publication of Least-Cost Energy: Solving the CO2 Problem by Florentin Krause, Wilfrid Bach, L. Hunter Lovins, and Amory B. Lovins (BrickHouse, 1982), and especially, Energy for a Sustainable World by Amulya K. N. Reddy, Jose Goldemberg, Thomas B. Johansson, Robert H Williams (Wiley: New Delhi, 1985), it has been known that there need be no tradeoff between poor and sick people and a safe, clean, healthy environment.

    These path-breaking energy assessments developed end-use-oriented global energy strategies. In the world of scenario modeling they are superb illustrations of bottom-up, economic-engineering analysis and backcasting. The 1980s assessments clearly showed how economically attractive energy technology was already available or forthcoming to essentially provide all human beings worldwide with the level of well-being experienced by modern Europeans in the 1970s, on just 1 kilowatt (KW) of energy supply.

    For comparison, the U.S. average is 10 kW, OECD countries range between 4 and 7 kW, and the world average is about 2.5 kW. At the time they published their assessment the average energy consumption in developing countries was 1 kW. But it was super-inefficient, as well as highly polluting and sickness causing. Open-fire combustion for cooking, heating and lighting, for example, are (still) responsible for 36% of all lower respiratory infections and 22% of all chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leading to 5,000 deaths per day.

    An end-use-oriented strategy has the great benefit of not only capturing higher efficiencies at the point of use, as well as eliminating the inefficiencies of remote generation and long-distance transmission and distribution, but also shifting to modern energy carriers that are far less polluting and health-threatening.

    Dr. Amulya Reddy calls this multiple-value energy paradigm a poverty-oriented energy strategy for sustainable development, and coined the acronym, DEFENDUS (DEvelopment-Focused, END-Use-oriented, Service-directed paradigm). In the 1990s he and his graduate students developed a software program called DEFENDUS, widely used to show government officials how to deliver more clean, safe, affordable energy services per dollar of investment through the end-use-oriented approach than from the conventional large-scale power supply expansion model. See: Amulya Reddy, Poverty-Oriented Energy Strategies for Sustainable Development, presented to the International Workshop on Environment and Poverty, July 22-24, 1993, Dhaka (Bangladesh) organized by the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies for the Global Forum on Environment and Poverty, Sadly, Amulya died 2 years ago.

    After Reddy et al’s detailed assessment was released in 1985, Gus Speth, then head of the World Resources Institute, published a condensed version, and it was a core part of WRI’s mission in the 1980s and 1990s. When Speth became head of the UNDP he continued spearheading this approach, notably within the UNDP energy program (, with very clear links to reducing and eliminating poverty, empowering women, reducing and preventing environmental and ecological problems, and averting energy security perils.

  53. mike roddy says:

    Mark, Secular Animist, on Lomborg: 14 most heinous, #13

  54. Mark in South Africa says:

    OK, I give up. The central point to the argument was there is a reason Lomborg is given more credibility than he should have and that is because he talks about the issues that worry the 3rd world, from the environment to the myriad of social issues that we face. None of those on this board bothered to take that into account or to take note of my central plea: let’s get a counter argument together that goes beyond name-calling etc and that takes into account the problems facing very poor nations – and that goes beyond who is going to pay for climate mitigation.

    This conversation regrettably has only confirmed the view I started with – we really do sound like empty vessels in the 3rd world.

  55. It's over says:

    Stuart #33…
    Keep me posted on the outcome of your love-in tomorrow..

  56. James Newberry says:

    MSNBC = Microsoft and General Electric. GE is an atomic fission vendor that has their CEO as an economic advisor to the president of the USA. Got it? These are global corporations that benefit by monied influence of judicial (Supreme Court), legislative and executive branches of government. Working people are not sitting there in conversation with government, but they are. See Obama, Kerry, Lieberman et al. say “Let’s go nuclear.” They had eight years to set the stage under the most corrupt president in US history, which is saying something.

  57. Joe Bftsplk says:

    Ken Caldeira has replied to this story Science published on their website.

    Basically, he says the funding, “used to support post-doc salaries, access to computational resources, and other related expenses” should not be characterized as solely devoted to “geoengineering”. To do so, “grossly distorts the breadth of work that Bill Gates has been wise and kind enough to support”, says Caldeira. Caldeira lists the work Gates funds has supported, as a list of publications. It is a long list.

    But we wouldn’t want to let the truth get in the way of a good rant about Bill the Lomborg channeler, would we? Take a look at the publications Bill is recommending on his website and you will see he is taking a look at what is known about climate science and thinking about what is means for him, his foundation, and the world.

    When Bill first showed an interest in humanitarian causes, the high level people he contacted were initially dubious, but soon realized Bill was serious, and ready to bring substantial resources to the table which he then applied in novel ways to make a substantial contribution.

    [JR: Ken has my email address. I don’t see the Science story as saying this is the only thing Gates funds. This is special pleading. Science reported on the big news.]