Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bill Gates on the Human Cost of Climate Funding

In his Second Annual Letter, Bill Gates who know conducts innovative aid related programs through his private foundation full time has some very interesting things to say. Amongst them are some thoughts relating to the possible financial and human affects of diverting funds from aid to climate change. He calculates that if only 1% of the proposed $100 billion funding goal of Copenhagen comes from vaccine funding then 700,000 children could die.

Read what Bill Gates has to say.

“Deficits are not the only reason that aid budgets might change. Governments will also be increasing the money they spend to help reduce global warming. The final communiqué of the Copenhagen Summit, held last December, talks about mobilizing $10 billion per year in the next three years and $100 billion per year by 2020 for developing countries, which is over three quarters of all foreign aid now given by the richest countries.

I am concerned that some of this money will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health. If just 1 percent of the $100 billion goal came from vaccine funding, then 700,000 more children could die from preventable diseases.”
I have seen people scoff at the idea that ill considered funding for climate change could cause millions to die. Many seem to think that resources are endless and that incorrect allocation of those resources will have no consequences. I urge that Bill’s words be given proper consideration.

We have in fact already seen aid funds diverted to climate in the way bill suggests. In the Guardian on 25 Jan 2010,

“A £1.5bn pledge by Gordon Brown to help poor countries cope with the ravages of climate change will drain funds from existing overseas aid programmes to improve health, education and water supplies, the government admitted today.

The move, revealed in an email exchange between campaigners and an official at the Department for International Development (DfiD), appears to undermine repeated government pledges that such climate aid should be additional to existing overseas development aid (ODA).”
On his personal web site in an article referred to on this blog recently Bill proposes that if global warming is a problem (and he does not state that it is) the appropriate course of action is innovation. Governments roll would be to fund basic R & D. Bill is convinced that within 20 years we could find a replacement technology for electricity and power production that would be less costly than coal. He predicts that it would only take another 20 years to bring that to market and replace older technologies. The focus on ineffective strategies (see prior post on this blog) should be replaced by focusing and harnessing the massive parallelism of our industrial, technological and economic base to bring about the future technologies we need.
“One area that I have been spending a lot of personal time on is energy and its effect on climate. The most important innovation required to avoid climate change will be a way of producing electricity that is cheaper than coal and that emits no greenhouse gases. There will be a huge market for this, and governments should supply large amounts of funding for basic R&D. Because the foundation invests in areas where there is not a big market, I have not yet seen a way that we can play a unique role here, but I am investing in several ideas outside the foundation. I am surprised that the climate debate hasn’t focused more on encouraging R&D since it is critical to getting to zero emissions. Still, I think it is likely that out of the many possible approaches, at least one scalable innovation will emerge in the next 20 years and be installed widely in the 20 years after that.”
At this time there is no hard evidence to prove that CO2 is causing global warming so I think that should be the first priority. There is no point fixing a problem that does not exist. If that is established in the future then I think Bill Gates has broadly mapped out the best approach we have seen to date.

As Dr Roger Pielke Jr says on his blog,

“Obviously, 700,000 dead kids per $1 billion is a big, big number. What is climate policy worth to you in such terms?”

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