Bill Gates believes that innovation's the only hope we have to combat climate change. If we stick with current technologies, we will simply continue running the course of this "scary climate change experiment," he says. In Mr. Gates' mind, research and development is key, and rich countries like the U.S. must create energy that is cheap enough to incentivize poorer nations to reduce emissions. "That’s why we really need to solve that dilemma, we need innovation that gives us energy that’s cheaper than today’s hydrocarbon energy, that has zero CO2 emissions, and that’s as reliable as today’s overall energy system. And when you put all those requirements together, we need an energy miracle. That may make it seem too daunting to people, but in science, miracles are happening all the time." Bill Gates views climate solutions from a global perspective. This is understandable, since the problem is occurring on a global scale. But what if we took his thought on motivating the richest nations and twisted it around a bit? What if we placed much of the burden on the biggest emitters in the U.S.? Like it or not, the U.S. healthcare industry is a significant CO2 emitter. According to this report by Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, healthcare is responsible for 1/7th of the U.S. economy. Clearly, this means that our sector uses a great deal of resources, and innovative solutions to reducing healthcare's climate emissions can have a big impact. Can you join our leadership team and help us create innovative solutions to reduce healthcare's climate impact?
James Bennet I November 2015 Issue
n his offices overlooking Lake Washington, just east of Seattle, Bill Gates grabbed a legal pad recently and began covering it in his left-handed scrawl. He scribbled arrows by each margin of the pad, both pointing inward. The arrow near the left margin, he said, represented how governments worldwide could stimulate ingenuity to combat climate change by dramatically increasing spending on research and development. “The push is the R&D,” he said, before indicating the arrow on the right. “The pull is the carbon tax.” Between the arrows he sketched boxes to represent areas, such as deployment of new technology, where, he argued, private investors should foot the bill. He has pledged to commit $2 billion himself.
“Yes, the government will be somewhat inept,” he said brusquely, swatting aside one objection as a trivial statement of the obvious. “But the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them.”
Gates is on a solo global lobbying campaign to press his species to accomplish something on a scale it has never attempted before. He wants human beings to invent their way out of the coming collision with planetary climate change, accelerating a transition to new forms of energy that might normally take a century or more. To head off a rise in average global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—the goal set by international agreement—Gates believes that by 2050, wealthy nations like China and the United States, the most prodigious belchers of greenhouse gases, must be adding no more carbon to the skies.
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