Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

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.