Bill Gates tweets on need for ‘energy miracles’

17 Nov 2011

'I've asked top scientists: Do we really have to get down to near zero? Can't we just cut it in half or a quarter? And the answer is that until we get near to zero, the temperature will continue to rise. And so that's a big challenge' says Bill Gates

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates yesterday tweeted “Wanted: energy miracles counter threat of catastrophic climate change. Innovation can make this possible”. He’s aiming to drive home how innovation can help achieve zero emissions, especially in the world’s poorest regions, where crops are deeply affected by climate volatility.

Yesterday, Gates posted Innovating to Zero Emissions on his site, about how innovation can help the planet tackle the CO2 battle.

Part of the post read: “Energy and climate are extremely important to the world’s poorest 2bn, in fact, more important than to anyone else on the planet. The climate getting worse means that many years their crops won’t grow, there may be too much rain, or not enough rain. Things will change in ways that their fragile environment simply can’t support. And that leads to starvation. It leads to uncertainty, and it leads to unrest.”

Gates spoke publically for the first time at TED2010 about his belief that addressing climate change will require massive investments in innovation aimed at creating the “energy miracles” needed to develop zero-carbon energy sources.

At the time, Gates issued this post about his experience at TED: “I spoke at TED about moving to zero-carbon energy, and our need to reduce CO2 emissions 80pc by 2050. The talk was called Innovating to Zero and it just posted on the TED website today.

“It’s the first time I’ve spoken in public on the topic, but I’ve been studying energy and climate change over the last couple of years, and have been lucky to meet fairly regularly with some of the leading scientists in the field.

“In the presentation, I talked about the massive innovation effort needed to deliver ‘energy miracles’, breakthroughs that will make zero-carbon energy generation possible.

“There are many promising approaches which we need to continue pursuing aggressively: CCS, nuclear, wind, solar PV and solar thermal – but they all have challenges that must be addressed. And the only way to get there is through innovation.”

Research R&D to meet 2050 D-day

Gates went on to say: “Only a significant increase in research R&D will get us to a place where we can meet that 2050 deadline, since it will probably take a generation of inventing, and then a generation to change over our existing infrastructure.

“I come to these issues as someone who spends most of his time thinking about problems that touch the poorest 2bn people on the planet. Giving people access to cheap (and clean) energy is a huge step in reducing poverty.

“To drive home that point, at the end of the talk, I said that if I had only one wish – it would be for zero-carbon energy that is half the price of today’s. That would be quite an achievement, and would do massive good for the poor.

Some people reading about the talk have drawn an odd conclusion that I don’t care as much for vaccines or other efforts from our foundation as before. I hope when they see the talk, they’ll understand that isn’t the case at all. Luckily, we all have more than one wish to make the world a better place.”

Here’s a link to the TED2010 talk given by Bill Gates.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic