Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bill Gates, Pope Francis and the Challenge of Climate Change

  • This week, at a climate change summit in Paris,  Bill Gates will announce a multibillion-dollar fund to support clean energy research and development (+130  global leaders will attend including Barack Obama - U.S, Xi Jinping - China, Angela Merkel - Germany and David Cameron - U.K.)
  • Gates said in a July blog post, “I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the mostHigher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century’s progress against poverty and disease—and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem.“
  • Separately, Pope Francis said the Paris summit “represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content … It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good … we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or destroy the environment."
  • Note: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently reported that, “the first 10 months of 2015 comprised the warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces.” 
  • Climate change summits often result in watered-down resolutions or unmet objectives, but Gates' funding effort (which puts his money where his mouth is) could drive improved momentum for sustainable solutions.
  • While many climate change efforts focus on energy alternatives such as windsolar and geothermal, addressing the challenges of fossil fuels will likely require 1) advances in new technologies (lithium batteryhydrogen fuel cell, etc.), 2) reconsidering the nuclear power option and 3) various forms of carbon taxes.
  • Given the broad use (and economic appeal) of fossil fuels, climate change efforts will continue to confront many challenges - including differentiating between "feel good projects" and projects that make sense.  

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