Suggestions for Gates Foundation pt 3 of 3

Climates destabilize, temperatures change, sea levels rise, and the Gates Foundation can change too. 

The Annual Review of Public Health offers a conclusion:

Perhaps the most telling simple definition of public health is that it is the science and art of making people healthy before they are wealthy (and then keeping them that way). Although altering both the rules and the stakes in as yet uncertain ways, the emergence of climate change on the world stage reinforces this vision of public health’s mission. The profession will need new infusions of methods, strategies, and resources to prevent climate change from slowing or reversing progress toward acceptable standards of global population health.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Trust should make some specific changes:

Recognize and Accept

Speaking Out is the greatest action that Bill Gates and the B&M Foundation could take… and its free.  Their reputation is their greatest asset, misusing it squanders good will.

All accomplished by the strength of status - the smartest, richest builder of operating systems… Recognize the greatest stressor to human health and productivity for a human future is Global warming  

Accept the science from the UN, NOAA, Union of Concerned Scientists, even from the University of Washington Atmospherics Dept.  Even watch local Seattle TV news for an education on Global Warming.  Examine the IPCC models and scenarios, including time lines for change.  Let sciencedrive policy.  Openly promote accepted mitigation strategies.   For the BMGF to decare this danger would do more to validate the direction of struggle.

Get some climatologists on staff to layout models and scenarios.

Many events were long predicted, melting Arctic ice, and many more will be easily predicted.  But everything is happening sooner than predicted.  And new tipping points will trigger feedback loops that need careful scrutiny.

It is likely your science advisers will say the crucial step is to halt CO2 emissions.  Plenty of projects for converting from fossil fuel to wind, solar, wave.  Learning carbon sequestratn.  For the Gates Foundation this means the oil investments will have to stop… and the various 300 million dollar investments each in Exxon and BP should stop.  Fossil fuels endanger our very future.

Establish and Appoint a Climate Relations Czar

Appoint Al Gore - or someone like him - to head up your Global warming action wing.  Change your goal to define the specific actions to adapt with disbursements, and mitigate with selected investments.

Political pressure to demand Mitigation

Lobby to lessen the impact of global warming by halting CO2 production.   “We are in it for the long Haul”  It will take 50 years before the effects of reduced CO2 are felt in the atmosphere.,0,6827615.story

Climate change is something that is on the minds of many major non-governmental organizations and international think tanks.  It has certainly not escaped the attention of the Organisation For Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which has had a climate change group as part of their environment directorate for a number of years.  Their work is meant “to assist countries to implement effective and efficient policies to address climate change by conducting policy-relevant research and analysis.”  Near the top of their homepage, visitors will find two particularly helpful sections: “Publications & Documents” and “Information By Country”.  The “Publications & Documents” are divided into sections that include news releases, policy briefs, case studies, and best practices.  The “Don’t Miss” area found on the right hand side of the homepage brings together some of their key works, including “Climate Change Mitigation: What Do We Do?” and “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.”

Make transformative investments 

Not just grants, but investments can make change.   Isn’t investment a form of devotion and faith?  Now they invest in hundreds of companies, funding.  It seems obvious that some industrial sectors need investment and will return greatly on that… electrical grid, trains, solar power, wind power, electric car, pharma research.  They invest in many of these sectors now.  Drop the oil company stocks.

How long you want humans to be around;  30, 50 or 100 years?   The best future investments would be for non-carbon energy companies, low carbon industrials, and then low carbon housing and transportation.

Battleground of Ideas 

The world’s largest philanthropic organization needs to take the lead. There are no good choices, only the least bad.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation must get away from old thinking.  Humanity is in acar, in a blinding the fog, racing toward a cliff, and we don’t need people selling us more gas. We need global economies to become zero carbon as soon as possible.  The Gates foundation is in the unique position of fostering trust.  It cannot afford to be fostering CO2 capitalism.

Take up the banner of truth

Oil and coal companies are spending over $200 million per year to influence public opinion.
Gates has a free podium of status and adulation that he squanders by ignoring the seriousness of the problem. 

Making change happen

The world will be facing increasingly serious global warming problems.  Everywhere.  The Gates Foundation is trapped by endowments that are heavily connected to carbon fuel industries.  CO2 makes warming worse.  CO2 cannot even be capped.  All humans must radically reduce CO2.   And that sure will harm our business-as-usual.  And harm carbon investments.  This is plain old monetary denialism.  They don’t want global warming to affect their investment returns.   So  “We don’t think about it.”  So their soft denial, the shunting aside facing up to the problem will surely tarnish their reputation.   And beyond their philanthropy, their reputation as the vanguard  …..  They are the Mother Teresa of Foundations.   And they are about to squander this good will to become the Benedict Arnold

The problem of global warming is astoundingly momentous.  Hard to apprehend.  The Gates Foundation should be acting smarter.   Why save a million people when you can save 8 Billion?  Maybe that is the unintentional answer - the goal is to save only the oligarchy  - if that is so they risk misjudging this maneuver.

Bill Gates needs to realize that he is regarded as a great innovator leader, not just to top of the worlds wealthiest list, but as someone who can guide and influence both business and philanthropic thinking.   Global warming issue is moving to the top of the list, top priority.  And those who do not watch carefully will be surprised.   It is not too late to speak up now.

When does an error become a blunder?   When does the wrong choice become folly?   Both Bill and Melinda Gates - at the very top of the philanthropic world - are running the risk of plunging to the bottom. 

How much influence do contributors have in fund disbursements?
How would an open source foundation work?
How would a Google “Do no evil” run a foundation that works differently?
How would a foundation work that strictly followed the science of climate change?
   Or how would it work to follow an actuarial list of risks to human health.

The Foundation has to decide what they are doing: protecting wealth short term, or long term protection to humans.  It is time to grow up, get responsible and ask global industry to wake up and change. 

It appears they are an investment organization that gives away 7% of its funds as grants.  I would want the greatest philanthropic organization in the world to change the world in smart ways and use the strength of its endowment to invest in change as well as derive the resources to do its good work.

It is a real-world lip service to fund a malaria cure, while encouraging, enabling and enhancing flooding and warming.  It is the height of cynical action to improve the plight of the poor, but invest in Shell, Exxon and BP - companies that heavily pollute the communities they work in and contribute tons of CO2 emission into the air.  This is a time when we need to develop and deploy carbon-free energy systems. 

They are one of the big institutions that can do much save civilization.  In a perfect world, I would not publicly criticize as it is impolite.  I would work from within, and wait and perhaps whisper with my donation, and praise any positive work in that direction.  But I fear world climate is changing faster than foundation bureaucracy can move to face it.   Perhaps words from blogs and growing public opinion might move them in that direction.

We can buy time through conservation, carbon free energy usage or geo-engineering.   The first step in mitigation and adaptation is to secure the politics and then push for global unification to meet this overaching multi-nation effort.  

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing the right thing, helping to alleviate suffering, but possibly doing it for the wrong reason, hiding truth, protecting profit over people, unintentionally promoting heavy carbon emission.   As climate change marches forward, they risk losing all respect and credibility as they stand increasingly alone in denial or ignorance.  Soon to be up to their ankles in rising waters of change. 

The world will be looking for guidance and heros and help.   What an opportunity.

Richard Pauli
February 2009

Full disclosure - I now live in Seattle, for 7 years I worked at Microsoft, and later was part of the permatemp lawsuit against Microsoft.  Other than helping Microsoft generate massive profit, I have no dealings with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I would be happy to post a response from the Gates Foundation either as a comment or a fully formatted guest blog entry.

Gates Foundation policy on Global warming

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