Speaking to a sold-out audience at WIRED’s third annual conference, Disruptive by Design
, held Tuesday in New York City, Gates warned that “cute” technologies related to energy efficiency, such as solar panels, LED lights and energy efficient buildings are economic, but do not deal with the bigger issue of climate change.
“Can we, by increasing efficiency [technologies], deal with our climate problem?” he asked, according to PC Magazine
. “The answer there is basically no, because the climate problem requires more than 90 percent reduction of CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is enough,” he added.
As the climate change issue continues gaining traction, Gates said that while developed countries continue improving their energy efficiency, it is almost completely offset by developing nations’ ravenous energy consumption demands.
“With the CO2 problem, even if the rich world did very erratic things it doesn’t come anywhere near to solving the problem. You have to help the rest of the world get energy at a very reasonable price to get anywhere,” Gates stated, PCMag noted.
Although developed nations have the ability to overpay for basic services, according to Gates, they should focus their resources on long-term problems and fund appropriate research and development to find solutions for the energy crisis.
“The problem is that rich countries can afford to overpay for things. We can afford to overpay for medicine, energy, we can rig our food prices,” Gates said, PCMag notes. “Our politicians aren’t told that we’re suffering because we’re overpaying for things.”
Gates claimed old technologies, rather than R&D, were the recipients of more than 90 percent of energy subsidies. “You can buy as much old technology as you want, but you won’t get breakthroughs which only come out of basic research,” he stated.
Co-Chair & Trustee of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Gates has, in recent years, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in innovative nuclear energy start-ups, such as TerraPower
, based in Bellevue, Washington.
TerraPower has created a prototype nuclear reactor that supposedly runs for 50 years without refueling. Gates defended nuclear energy, claiming nuclear waste is “tiny” compared with coal plants. “The good news about nuclear is that there’s hardly been any innovation, so the room to do things differently has been quite dramatic,” he said, PCMag reports.
Gates noted that, while the Fukushima tragedy was terrible, it could have been preventable with newer technologies. “The emergency plants were weak,” he said, noting those nuclear power plants were built in the 1960’s.
The WIRED conference, with registration by invitation, featured discussions with top executives and emerging entrepreneurs from many specialties, including technology, media and manufacturing. In a press release
(pdf), WIRED Editor in Chief Chris Anderson said: “Disruptive by Design is a forum for leaders who are reinventing their companies by throwing out existing models and assumptions, revolutionizing whole industries in the the process. In the past two years, disruption toppled many outmoded firms and ideas. Now we see every day how it is powering the recovery and driving Innovation.”
The conference, in partnership with MDC Partners, was presented by Microsoft with additional support from Juniper Networks, NASDAQ OMX, and Jaquet Droz.