Bill Gates decided that representative democracy is a problem – in the name of climate change – and announced his plan to spend $2 billion of his own wealth on green energy, calling on fellow billionaires to help make the US fossil-free by 2050 with similar philanthropy, According to Gates, “the private sector is too selfish and inefficient to produce effective energy alternatives to fossil fuels…If you’re not bringing math skills to the problem,” he said with a sort of amused asperity, “then representative democracy is a problem.”’
We take no sides in the climate debate, but since Gates brought it up, let’s do the math. Bill Gates is a Harvard dropout and one of the world’s most successful – and wealthiest businessmen, and he may be right that capitalism cannot save us from climate change – certainly not with people like Bill Gates calling the shots. Here’s a look at the Gates Foundation’s record: Report: Gates Foundation Causing Harm with the Same Money It Uses to Do Good. “the Gates Foundation’s humanitarian concerns are not reflected in how it invests its money. In the Niger Delta, where the foundation funds programs to fight polio and measles, the foundation has also invested more than $400 million in companies like Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron… which have been responsible for much of the pollution many blame for respiratory problems and other afflictions among the local population.
The Gates Foundation also has investments in 69 of the worst polluting companies in the U.S. and Canada, including Dow Chemical. Other companies in the foundation’s portfolio have been accused of transgressions including forcing thousands of people to lose their homes, supporting child labor, defrauding and neglecting patients in need of medical care.”
Always follow the money, and there’s money to be made in carbon credits. (Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype.) We just have a difficult time accepting that Gates is all that concerned about carbon emissions posing a problem considering that he raises the alarm while traveling in a massive private jet that seats 19. Sort of diminishes from his argument.
Then there’s Al Gore’s own personal energy use.
We defer here to Freeman Dyson (father of Esther), a physicist who has been teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since Albert Einstein was there – and took on the mantle of “most brilliant physicist on the planet” when Einstein died in 1955.
‘“It’s certainly true that carbon dioxide is good for vegetation,” Dyson said in the article. “About 15 percent of agricultural yields are due to CO2 we put in the atmosphere. From that point of view, it’s a real plus to burn coal and oil.”
In fact, there’s more solid evidence for the beneficial effects of CO2 than the negative effects, he said. So why does the public hear only one side of this debate? Because the media do an awful job of reporting it. “They’re absolutely lousy,” he said of American journalists. “That’s true also in Europe. I don’t know why they’ve been brainwashed.”’
Ok, so he’s a physicist, not a capitalist, and certainly not in the Gates sense. But again, being rich doesn’t necessarily make you smarter – or more prescient, lest we forget that in 1995, Gates penned the book The Road Ahead, predicting that the internet would go nowhere. Realizing that maybe there was gold in them hills after all, he quickly revised the book and republished it a year later – and redirected Microsoft to become an Internet-focused company. .And let’s not forget that back in the days of Web 1.0 Microsoft was considered the evil empire, and Gates the devil incarnate. People really don’t change. Situations do.
If we don’t want to heed scientist such as Dyson and consider the benefits of carbon emission on crops, well, there’s always genetically modified seeds to help solve the food shortage that may ensue – speaking of which (GMOs), Gates owns 500,000 shares of Monsanto. In case you’re wondering where to invest next.
And if you’ve forgotten your basic science: plants live on C02, or as we like to call them, carbon emissions.
While Gates criticizes the private sector, let’s not forget that governments don’t exactly do a stellar job at so-called environmental protection, either, considering the EPA’s recent debacle in Colorado that fouled rivers (and water supplies) in three states (Probe finds EPA error caused mine spill it hoped to avoid).
The Gates playbook comes straight from the robber barons of yore. For perspective, said Fred Wilson in a recent blog post, Software is the New Oil, “companies that control the software infrastructure of the information revolution will sit back and collect the economic surplus of the information revolution and that will be a path to vast wealth and economic power… at some point the profits are going to overtake the capex at a rate that the cash will be flowing out of software companies the way that oil flows out of wells.”
Which includes Bill Gates’ Microsoft.
As for Gates being the arbiter of what the world needs, and speaking of CO2, there is no disputing that he’s a very successful C level executive and before we laud him for his ‘vision,’ best to look at how his philanthropic efforts have served to increase his wealth. This C level exec is certainly entitled to his .02, which, for the most part, given his history, all amounts to just so more hot air. Onward and forward.