The Microsoft chairman, it turns out, has a small history of dabbling in climate-altering schemes
By Jeremy Hsu Posted 01.27.2010 at 3:38 pmBill Gates has already proven his interest in geoengineering schemes with his earlier co-patent filing for reducing the intensity of killer hurricanes. So perhaps we're not too surprised that Science Insider has dug up the Microsoft chairman's past projects on altering the Earth's climate, ranging from filtering carbon dioxide to reflecting sunlight via brighter clouds.
The billionaire founder of the PC has apparently quietly funneled $4.5 million of his own money to geoengineering research since 2007. Two researchers who have served as energy and climate advisers for Gates -- Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, California and physicist David Keith of the University of Calgary in Canada -- have had the duty of dispensing the money as they saw fit. Naturally, scientists and students working for Keith and Caldeira have benefited from some of the philanthropic money. But geoengineering conferences held in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Edinburgh, Scotland have also received backing from Gates.More funding has gone to Armand Neukermans, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who envisions ships that spray a fine salty mist of seawater into the air to create ocean clouds. The idea of using clouds to reflect sunlight and help reduce global temperatures has drawn support from others in the past, but many scientists still consider such geoengineering schemes as a desperate last resort for tackling climate change.
Keep in mind that Gates has not funded any field trials of geoengineering, and that $4.5 million represents a drop in the bucket these days for almost any research. But the billionaire's sentiment regarding climate change was made clear in a recent Huffington Post column where he argues that innovative technological solutions have become necessary, and that the world can no longer rely on just changing consumer behavior or pushing for energy efficiency.Bill Gates Funding Geoengineering Research
January 26, 2010
Bill Gates Funding Geoengineering Research
by Eli Kintisch
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has been supporting a wide array of research on geoengineering since 2007, ScienceInsider has learned. The world’s richest man has provided at least $4.5 million of his own money over 3 years for the study of methods that could alter the stratosphere to reflect solar energy, techniques to filter carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, and brighten ocean clouds. But Gates’s money has not funded any field experiments involving the techniques,
according to Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Palo Alto, California.
Caldeira and physicist David Keith of the University of Calgary in Canada have been in charge of deciding how to dispense the money. The pair have been informal energy and climate advisers to Gates for several years, and they say they remain independent. "This is philanthropic money and when it arrives [to Calgary] Gates does not control it," says Keith.
Recipients of the funding include Armand Neukermans, an inventor based in Silicon Valley who is working with colleagues to design spray systems for the marine clouds, and students and scientists working for Keith and Caldeira. Funding has also helped support scientific meetings in geoengineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Edinburgh, Scotland, and aeronautics research related to altering the stratosphere.
There are other grantees, Keith says, but he declined to identify them or say why. "This is like a little private funding agency," he says, though he says they plan to release more information.
Gates has shown interest in geoengineering research before. He is an investor in Intellectual Ventures, a Seattle, Washington–area firm that pursues inventions and has applied for patents on techniques to geoengineer the stratosphere. Along with officials from that organization, Gates applied for a patent in 2008 to sap hurricanes of their strength by mixing surface and deep ocean water.
What's his ultimate goal? Gates "views geoengineering as a way to buy time but it's not a solution to the problem" of climate change, says spokesperson John Pinette. “Bill views this as an important avenue for research—among many others, including new forms of clean energy.” (Pinette works for BCG3, a think-tank type firm Gates started last year which has no apparent role thus far in supporting geoengineering.) “Scientific and technological advances are making it possible to solve big, complicated problems like never before,” writes Gates on the Web site of the Gates Foundation, which is also not involved in the geoengineering work.Well, maybe Bill Gates isn't doing it HIMSELF, but we know SOMEONE is