The super-rich want to fund quick fixes because the real solutions could cost them. But their schemes stand to do real harmby Adam McGibbon / February 7, 2018 / Leave a comment
Everyone calm down—Bill Gates is here to save us from climate change, apparently—as reported this week in the Guardian.
The Microsoft billionaire is bankrolling a plan to suck the greenhouse gas CO2 out of the atmosphere. Giant fans will extract the gas and use it to make “clean fuel.” Outside a small town in western Canada, a Gates-funded prototype sits, extracting a tonne of C02 a day from the atmosphere, and, er, releasing it back into the air. We are promised that “potentially game-changing technologies” are on the verge of development to turn this into a viable, scalable system.
But we’ve heard this before. Bill Gates is only the latest super-rich man to appear as the quick-fix, snake-oil climate solutions salesman. A number of climate quick-fixes come under the umbrella of ‘geoengineering’—and sucking carbon from the atmosphere is one of the least audacious.
Richard Branson, the Virgin Airline-owning ‘environmentalist’ is another high-profile backer. Branson supports a range of harmful climate quick-fixes, including miracle ‘green’ fuels for airlines, ethanol for cars from crops. Like Gates, he also supports the idea of removing carbon from the atmosphere in some as-yet-unspecified way.
These techno-fixes are very attractive to the rich and powerful for several reasons. They appear to demonstrate a simple, quick-fix to an immensely complicated problem. They present the spectre that we can continue on with our current economic system without fixing the problems that got us into this mess. And, perhaps most importantly, they are an opportunity for the super-rich to make even more money while presenting themselves as our saviours, rather than as part of the problem.
Geoengineering sits far apart from the obvious technological benefits of increasingly cheap clean energy. Geoengineering takes away the urgency to solve the climate crisis and removes resources, attention and money from real solutions. It fools us that we can still continue on with our fossil-fuelled economy. It says to the huge polluting companies responsible for two-thirds of all manmade emissions that they can keep on polluting.
The idea that we can sit back and wait for technology to save us is a pipe dream. These schemes—from deploying space-based solar shades, to dumping iron filings in the ocean to stimulate algae, to…