Peter Foster: Bill Gates, defying the Climate Barons, tells the ugly truth about renewables

By Peter Foster

Market advocates have always claimed that policy advice from business should be treated with suspicion. The road to economic and political hell is paved with corporate welfare and national champions (SNC-Lavalin anyone?). Communists and the “progressive” left were much more harsh, claiming that since big business sought only monopoly and plutocracy, the state at least required “countervailing” power, if not absolute power. Since command of economic resources was deemed synonymous with political power, some of the greatest businessmen and philanthropists all time — such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt — were reflexively dubbed “Robber Barons.”

A remarkable change has come over the view of the left in recent decades. With the collapse of socialism (in fact, if not in theory), big business was no longer an automatic enemy. Indeed it was to be co-opted as a partner in “social responsibility” and “sustainable development.” Some of the world’s wealthiest business people eagerly sought to start knitting the rope of Global Salvationism.

The bizarro modern counterparts of the Robber Barons might be called the Climate Barons, those billionaires and capitalist foundations that seek to kill the fossil-fuelled industrial age in order to save mankind from manmade environmental catastrophe.

While America’s Koch brothers are ritually condemned as funding “denialism,” a far more substantial group is supporting NGO thuggery and misinformation, promoting lawsuits and other pressure tactics to euthanize fossil fuels. They also seek to hide the huge economic and social costs of the allegedly essential “transition to a low-carbon economy.”

This group includes U.S. billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg and the British hedge-fund billionaires Jeremy Grantham and Chris Hohn. It includes a raft of multi-billion-dollar foundations bearing names such as Rockefeller, Hewlett and Packard.

The Climate Barons present themselves as promoters of “Climate Philanthropy,” but insofar as their promised low-carbon transition involves forcing the adoption of expensive and unreliable energy, they are both responsible for destroying jobs (Alberta being perhaps the most prominent victim), and exacerbating poverty in poor countries. Their activities might more accurately be described as Climate Malanthropy.

Here’s the good news: Bill Gates, the world’s most prominent philanthropist, has broken ranks. Although the Microsoft co-founder still outsources his thinking on catastrophist science, he has acknowledged that intermittent renewables are the last thing to be forced on poor countries. He has also castigated the Climate Barons’ strategy of killing fossil fuels via financial pressure.

During a recent onstage Q&A at Stanford University, when interviewer Arun Majumdar, a “Google Scholar,” suggested breezily that people were “optimistic” that the costs of renewables and battery storage were coming down, Gates got visibly agitated. “That is so disappointing,” he said, tearing into the misplaced priorities of such feeble optimism. While he supported nuclear, he said battery technology was woefully deficient and renewables needed “a miracle.” They certainly weren’t the solution for India or Africa right now.

Gates revealed that he had recently been at a New York conference of financiers backing the fashionable demand of “climate disclosure,” whereby corporations are required to offer up highly unlikely climate-risk scenarios so as to unnecessarily worry investors and increase their cost of capital. Gates claimed that the idea that finance or investor pressure could provide a solution was “madness.” So was, he said, the demonization of electrical utilities. And in this low-carbon transition, he asked, where would steel and plastic come from? What would power the airplanes? Most dramatically, he claimed that those who suggested that the climate problem was easy to solve were a bigger problem than the climate deniers are.

It is intriguing to compare the Gates interview with another video, made around the same time, in which Majumdar also appears. It was touted as a “Giving Pledge Learning Session” designed to boost “Climate Philanthropy.” One especially intriguing aspect was that Gates and his wife founded the Giving Pledge, in the vain hope of convincing people billionaires aren’t evil. This video suggests that some just might be.

The video features hedge-fund billionaire Jeremy Grantham, who has established several climate foundations that spread alarmism and seek to silence deniers. The chair of Grantham’s main climate foundation is Lord Nicholas Stern, author of 2006’s outrageously perverted Stern Review (officially titled: The Economics of Climate Change). Grantham also employs Bob Ward, perhaps the U.K.’s main attack dog when it comes to trying to silence media skepticism. “Everybody needs to be in on this (transition)” said Grantham. Meaning everyone needs to agree with him.

Another Climate Baron making an appearance was Julie Packard, vice-chairman of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which has committed US$1 billion to climate over the past 10 years. And there was Larry Kramer, head of the Hewlett Foundation, which has also devoted massive amounts to the climate-alarm crusade.

Chris Hohn, another British hedge-fund billionaire, asserts in the video that “solar and wind are cheaper than coal.” He might try running that past Gates. Hohn also claimed that there was need for a “massive step up” in climate philanthropy — but we might note that spending is pretty stepped up already. Hohn funds a charity called the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, CIFF. CIFF oversees a portfolio of multi-year grant commitments worth more than US$800 million. Of that total, almost US$300 million is dedicated to climate change, more than 10 times the amount committed to “child protection.” CIFF is also a big supporter of “carbon disclosure.” It’s hard to see what that has to do with children who are suffering poverty, malnutrition or abuse right now.

CIFF’s website maintains that “A low carbon world will help secure a healthy and prosperous future for children.” Again, Bill Gates — or indeed any objective observer — would mostly disagree.

Now that Bill has seen the light on the “transition,” maybe there’s hope he’ll turn his analytical mind to just how “settled” climate science really is.