Bill Gates is attempting to do what governmental officials have been unable to accomplish thus far: get serious about climate change. Microsoft’s co-founder just announced plans to invest $2 billion of his own money into Earth-friendly technologies to accelerate what he sees as a rather lackadaisical approach to fighting climate change and halting what could be the end of mankind as we know it.
Interviewed by James Bennet of The Atlantic recently, Gates laid out his perspectives on the importance of private sector investors in changing the course of global warming. He sees the writing on the wall in regards to the mounting dangers of climate effects versus the seemingly snail-like pace at which we are making plans to address them. And his criticisms are perfectly valid.
“When people viewed cancer as a problem, the U.S. government—and it’s a huge favor to the world—declared a war on cancer, and now we fund all health research at about $30 billion a year, of which about $5 billion goes to cancer. We got serious and did a lot of R&D, and then we got the private sector involved in taking that R&D and building breakthrough drugs,” he said in the interview. He then wondered why we are not reacting in a similar fashion to the very real and present danger of global warming.
Instead of a gradual switch from oil and coal to natural gas, Gates calls for leaping ahead and ditching the use of all fossil fuels in favor of carbon-free, renewable resources. This leap requires summoning up whatever may have inspired countries to achieve swift progress in the past – fear, passion, a desire for notoriety – and pouring investments into these technologies.
On the role of private investors, Gates says, “I think dozens and dozens of approaches should be funded at the R&D level, and then people like myself, who can afford to take big risks with start-up companies, should—because of climate change—be willing to put some number of billions into the spin-offs that will come out of that government-funded activity.” It seems it’s time for the private sector to do for humanity what government-level budgets cannot.