Fast Company

Soros Invests $1 Billion in Clean Energy as New Study Fuels Global Warming Skepticism

George Soros is going to put a billion dollars of his business fortune into clean energy. But will the cash go to change the political attitude toward global warming or is it offset by recent figures that seem to suggest evidence of Global Cooling?

George SorosSpeaking at a recent meeting on climate issues, Soros suggested the reasons for his cash infusion were twofold: His investments in clean tech firms are intended to turn a profit--so they'll obey strict criteria. But they "should also actually make a contribution to solving the problem," Soros said. In addition to investing a billion in clean energy, Soros is funding the Climate Policy Initiative to the tune of $10 million every year for the next ten years. This body is intended to stir up political and public debate, assist in developing policy, and help keep an eye out for organizations that look like they're straying from the eco-friendly path. The Climate Policy Initiative is supposed to function in the U.S., Europe, China, and Brazil, which all contribute in their own way to the Greenhouse Effect.

Explaining his investments, Soros himself noted that "The problem of global warming is primarily a political problem at this point ... The science is beyond dispute, but how do we achieve the objectives we all know are necessary? That is a political problem."

But the science is not "beyond dispute." Unlike, say, the science behind electron transport in a semiconductor, the science of global warming is highly contested, and different opinions exist among prominent scientists in the field. Over at the BBC News Web site, for example, there's a controversial piece by the BBC's climate correspondent describing a strange and contradictory finding: Despite the fervent claims about global warming, the World's actually been cooling down significantly for the last 11 years. And it seems all the climate models didn't expect this to happen.

Several reasons are suggested for this: Correlation with the Sun's output and cosmic ray fluctuations could explain some of the rapid global warming observed earlier in the 20th Century--and tally with the recent cooling, particularly if (as some claim) our model of how incoming solar energy interacts with the climate isn't quite accurate. Other research by Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University has suggested that the impact of the oceans on our climate is grossly underestimated, and their natural thermal cycles have a major effect. In particular, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation--a rolling thermal cycle that has been known to last up to 30 years--is now in a cooling phase, and that correlates with the observed 11-year cooling.

The other thing to remember is that many predictions about global warming are made by advanced computer simulations--but the real climate is a gigantic mathematically chaotic system, highly sensitive to initial conditions: Think of the popularly-known Butterfly Effect. It's undeniable that the pollution modern man has created is having an effect on the World's weather--but as this scientific debate illustrates, the details and implications of this fact are far from clearly understood. Perhaps Soros, chasing a profit with his seemingly-green greenbacks should actually be investing in more research into the problem before he leaps into clean tech solutions that are far from proven?

[via BBC, Bloomberg] Photo by Jeff Ooi, Lensmalaysia.

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11 Comments

  • frank polito

    soros the rat
    soros is jewish and worked for the nazi,
    he was a rat sold out every body,
    said they where the best years of his life!

    Soros Invests $1 Billion in Clean Energy
    just another scam

  • Steve Russell

    The ignorance displayed above is dismaying.

    But suppose for the sake of argument that the national academies of science in every country that has one have been fooled or are in on the climate change conspiracy.

    Getting off the oil teat is bad why? An end to the oil wars is bad why? Renewable energy is bad why? An end to acid rain is bad why?

    On and on. The policies that will ameliorate the catastrophe facing all but the blind stand on their own considerable merits.

    There are also very rational investment decisions to be made and jobs galore in new technology. If the economy goes down the toilet, it will be the impact of drought, millions of climate refugees, famine, etc. Those are the threats to the economy.

    New tech from old tech has never caused economic harm except to those clinging to old tech with white knuckles.

  • Michael Korczowski

    I agree with Lind.

    I'm a new reader of Fast Company. That they would publish something this ignorant is disheartening.

    Kit, with all due respect, you should educate yourself.

    This is a good place to start:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

    If you're feeling particularly interested, you might want to spend some money (the pictures are compelling):
    http://www.amazon.com/Climate-...

    As for the sad little blog entry-turned "news" article you cited—the one that forms the basis for your entire piece—here's a nice thorough debunking of that re-hash of fraud-science talking points:
    http://climateprogress.org/200...

    Before making a statement like this: "But the science is not 'beyond dispute.' Unlike, say, the science behind electron transport in a semiconductor, the science of global warming is highly contested, and different opinions exist among prominent scientists in the field."; you should be prepared to actually provide supporting evidence—beyond an easily debunked piece like Paul Hudson's. Our scientific understanding of the climate crisis has been developed over three decades. There is simply no alternative hypothesis for deniers to point to.

    And by the way, citing your friendly local weatherman Anthony Watts (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... — haha!) on the subtleties of arctic sea ice isn't very convincing. Try letting NASA speak for themselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

    Seriously. Watch it. The visualizations produced by the NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio are incredible.

    Oh, and you seemed to be conflating the arctic and antarctic ice caps judging by the links you provided. But that's OK, since the antarctic is heating up too: http://www.realclimate.org/ind...

    Moral of the story: do your research!

    All this makes one question Fast Company's editorial policy. For now I'll keep checkin' the old RSS feed and hope this was a fluke.

    Sorry if this comment was overkill. I don't normally do this kind of thing...

    I guess I just want to say that George Soros should be commended for making a morally defensible investment.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Lind "sensitivity to initial conditions" is a key feature of a chaotic system--it's one of those common-sense-defeating predictably unpredictable effects....just ask Lorenz. The implication in climate modeling is that computer model outputs should always be accompanied with a probabilistic confidence assessment--which is nearly always disregarded when they're quoted in the media.

  • lind wright

    This is almost enough to turn me off of your publication. Your arguments are outdated and your confusion about what it means for a system to 'depend on initial conditions' is not a justification for diverting useful effort at this point.

    There is an urgent need for us to build new technologies to control carbon levels. The science is clear, if carbon levels get to high, the earth will no longer support complex life.

    The current dialogue centers on decreasing the rate of increase in carbon. It is like turning the tap part way when your bathtub is about to overflow.

    We have a moral duty to leave creation better than we found it. The earth is not an object we are free to "use up" in a couple of generations. Dealing with carbon change will spur innovation. Doing more research as a means of avoiding action, will leave us at risk and stuck with old technologies.

  • lind wright

    This is almost enough to turn me off of your publication. Your arguments are outdated and your confusion about what it means for a system to 'depend on initial conditions' is not a justification for diverting useful effort at this point.

    There is an urgent need for us to build new technologies to control carbon levels. The science is clear, if carbon levels get to high, the earth will no longer support complex life.

    The current dialogue centers on decreasing the rate of increase in carbon. It is like turning the tap part way when your bathtub is about to overflow.

    We have a moral duty to leave creation better than we found it. The earth is not an object we are free to "use up" in a couple of generations. Dealing with carbon change will spur innovation. Doing more research as a means of avoiding action, will leave us at risk and stuck with old technologies.

  • Josh Jeffryes

    The arctic ice is disappearing, something that has never happened before. What other evidence do you need?

  • lind wright

    This is almost enough to turn me off of your publication. Your arguments are outdated and your confusion about what it means for a system to 'depend on initial conditions' is not a justification for diverting useful effort at this point.

    There is an urgent need for us to build new technologies to control carbon levels. The science is clear, if carbon levels get to high, the earth will no longer support complex life.

    The current dialogue centers on decreasing the rate of increase in carbon. It is like turning the tap part way when your bathtub is about to overflow.

    We have a moral duty to leave creation better than we found it. The earth is not an object we are free to "use up" in a couple of generations. Dealing with carbon change will spur innovation. Doing more research as a means of avoiding action, will leave us at risk and stuck with old technologies.