Bill Gates’ recent entry into the discussion about climate action and technology is welcome. Not only is Gates a very smart guy and one of the world’s leading philanthropists, but he also has at least the reputation of knowing what he is talking about when it comes to technology and innovation.
That being said, his opening moves in this discussion — his speech at the TED conference and a post on his blog — are not beyond criticism. Though by no means his intention, Gates is encouraging a peculiar type of 21st century passivity by government officials, investors, and activists that has a high probability of leading to climate inaction. The “more innovation” meme repeated by Gates has limits that need to be acknowledged.
Gates’ TED speech beautifully outlines the challenge facing us, but I believe it falls down when it comes to solutions and their timing. He seems to feel that energy technology will follow a different, “miraculous” path to commercial acceptance than almost every other new technology.
For Gates, the big deal is reducing the carbon intensity of energy to zero, and he seems to underestimate th... Read more