Bill Gates, who gave the world Microsoft and got $43 billion in return, is now planning to devote himself full time to philanthropy and hopes to study global warming to see what good his money can do there. Some advice: He should not forget what brought him to this party.
His fortune, he should remember, did not derive from paying heed to establishment wisdom, which could not see past today to tomorrow. And it did not come from a love of bureaucracy — which, in the form of the U.S. Justice Department, did its ill-advised best to cripple Gates’ company through antitrust action. His fortune was rather the consequence of independent thought, entrepreneurial brass and technological innovation.
Just as Gates skipped around IBM on his way to software success, he should skirt the elite-crowd view summed up in Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” According to reviewers, it would have you believe human-caused warming will usher ocean waters over parts of Florida and Manhattan, instigate widespread disease and, generally speaking, make the Earth a lousy place to take up residence.
The truth that
for the Gore movie
is that science doesn’t come close to justifying his certitude on these predictions, any more than it tells us that most plans to cap greenhouse gas emissions — such as the Kyoto accords — would do much, if anything, to stop the warming. Instead, the actual execution of a Kyoto-style plan might very well cause a worldwide recession afflicting, among others, the world’s poorest people.
The Earth has in fact been warming, though, and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide may have been a factor, meaning that some action in addition to adaptation may at some point prove useful. The need would be to find cures less threatening than rising temperatures — answers as innovative, fresh and powerful as the endless uses of personal computers.
We may be closing in on something of that order. A physicist at Columbia University, Klaus Lackner, has thought through a device that he says would look like a goal post with Venetian blinds. It would, in effect, grab hold of carbon dioxide in the air and hang onto the carbon instead of allowing it to trap heat. Put a half million of them up, and you just might solve any problem of carbon dioxide making our planet too hot for comfort, he says.
The cost could be affordable, but first there are hurdles to leap, such as separating the carbon from the substance clinging to it and then storing or sequestering it. Lackner has voiced confidence, however, that the hurdles will be cleared because thousands of competing labs are investigating what might be done.
Does this sound like a Bill Gates kind of venture or what? Find economic uses for carbon, and such inventions might even have marketplace viability.
The imperative for Gates would be for him to stick to the instincts that made him the world’s richest man and not succumb to the pleadings of environmentalists who want to confront climate change with humaninhibition instead of human ingenuity.