Why Bill Gates is optimistic about climate change

Bill Gates
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Even in the face of heart-wrenching videos of starving polar bears in Canada and dramatic wildfires in Southern California, Bill Gates is staying optimistic about our ability to combat climate change.

"This is a pivotal moment. We need to adapt to the climate change that is already affecting the planet, and develop new tools that will keep the problem from getting worse," he writes on his blog. "The good news is that there's a lot of progress to report on both fronts."

Here are four reasons the Microsoft co-founder is feeling positive.

Clean energy

"The world needs to invest much more in energy research than it has been," writes Gates. Fortunately, both the public and the private sector have begun investing heavily in developing clean energy technology.

For instance, Mission Innovation, a coalition of 22 countries and the European Union, have committed to double their spending on clean energy research and development by 2020. By 2021, this should total over $30 billion per year.

The private sector has also begun investing billions of dollars in clean energy technology development. Gates points to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), a group of investors who support clean energy entrepreneurs, as an example of substantial commitment from the private sector.

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Public-sector and private-sector synergy

"Public and private funding for energy research often isn't coordinated, which is one reason some promising technologies never make it to market," writes Gates.

The billionaire is heartened to see that that Mission Innovation and BEC are working together to fight climate change. By coordinating, Gates believes that they can get to the breakthroughs ahead.

"They'll work together to match cutting-edge scientists in government labs with investors who can help turn their ideas into products," explains Gates. "They'll also partner with governments to make it easier to create and deploy new tools."

Promising technologies

Gates says that investment groups like Breakthrough Energy Ventures have identified technological areas that are underfunded but show tremendous potential to help scientists fight climate change.

These particularly promising areas include grid-scale storage, liquid fuels, mini-grids, alternative building materials and geothermal power. Gates believe that investing in these fields could have real results.

"Breakthroughs in storage — for example, storing energy as heat or in flywheels — would make today's renewable technology more practical and affordable," he explains.

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Help for farmers

"Roughly 800 million poor people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia rely on agriculture for their food and income. As the climate warms and the weather becomes more unpredictable, their crops will become dramatically less productive — and could be wiped out altogether," writes Gates. "As many as 200 million people may be forced to migrate to regions where they can grow enough to survive."

As bleak as this may seem, Gates believes that scientific breakthrough is close. "Innovation can help prevent that kind of catastrophe," he says.

By improving crop yield, protecting crops from disease and giving farmers tools to respond to the effects of climate change, he hopes scientists will improve the lives of millions of farmers who are affected by climate change.

"As you can see, there's a lot going on," he says. "I'm optimistic that if we keep up this momentum, we can stop climate change and help those who are being hurt the most by it."

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