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The Gates Math Formula

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Aug 2, 2016 at 6:28 AM
Climate Change

Bill Gates has propounded what he asserts is the math formula which will solve climate change.

P * S * E * C = CO2

Where: P is the population of the globe;

                                    S is the services demanded by the population;

                                    E is the energy required to provide those services; and,

                                    C is the carbon released in producing that energy.

Gates point is that global population and the population’s demand for services is growing faster than can be offset by increases in energy efficiency and transitions to lower carbon fuels. He is certainly correct in that assessment.

His message is that, if global annual CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 80% by 2050 and to zero by the end of the century, reliance on increased energy efficiency and a transition to lower carbon fuels will not be sufficient to achieve the desired result. Rather, there is the need for a massive increase in R&D funding in search of breakthrough technologies which could achieve the desired result. One such breakthrough would be a source which is always available. Advanced, modular nuclear generators could be one example. Another breakthrough might be low cost, high capacity, high charge rate and discharge rate energy storage systems. Such storage systems, combined with lower cost, higher efficiency solar and wind systems could broaden the potential of intermittent energy generators to provide reliable grid power.

Unstated in the Gates message is the realization that it is far more beneficial to invest limited capital in R&D on technologies which could be effective, rather than spending that capital attempting to commercialize technologies which are incapable of being effective. This is clearly not the approach currently being pursued by the globe’s governments.

Obviously, Gates position is based on the premises that: climate change is caused by human activities; climate change is undesirable; climate change can be eliminated; and, it is urgent that climate change be eliminated. Given these premises, Gates position makes eminent good sense; far more sense than the programs being pursued and proposed by the globe’s governments.

However, the first premise ignores the historical fact that the climate of the globe has been changing over the entire period of the earth’s history we have been able to study. The second premise ignores the benefits currently resulting from the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, as documented by the greening of the planet observed by satellites and the expansion of global growing seasons and of tillable land to higher latitudes. The third premise relies on the belief that halting the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations would halt the recently observed warming, though that belief relies on models which have not been validated. Finally, the fourth premise relies on the sensitivities and feedbacks input to the climate models, which are unmeasured and currently unmeasurable.

Gates asserts that what he perceives as vast problems will require solutions based on vast ideas. Governments today are attempting to solve what they assert to be vast problems with half-vast ideas.