Billionaire tech mogul Bill Gates has been flirting with embracing the perfect comic book superhero nemesis origin story by announcing his intent to literally dim the sun — in a misguided effort to combat climate change, of course — by injecting a chemical dust cloud into the atmosphere. No, seriously. Bonchie wrote about it this morning. Here’s more from CNBC:
Fires burning across the Amazon rainforest have renewed the debate about solutions to climate change. Bill Gates is backing the first high-altitude experiment of one radical approach called solar geoengineering. It’s meant to mimic the effects of a giant volcanic eruption. Thousands of planes would fly at high altitudes, spraying millions of tons of particles around the planet to create a massive chemical cloud that would cool the surface.
Yikes. Perhaps Gates is unaware that volcanic particulate matter filling the air is considered by a growing number of scientists to be the reason for the mini ice age that led to the Dark Ages and its attendant bad things, such as plague and social upheaval. But don’t take my word for it:
Winter was coming. In AD 536, the first of three massive volcanic eruptions ushered in a mini ice age. It coincided with an epidemic of the plague, the decline of the eastern Roman Empire, and sweeping upheavals across Eurasia.
Now we have the first evidence that the disruption to climate continued a lot longer than a decade, as was previously thought. The extended cold period lasted until around 660, affecting Europe and Central Asia, and perhaps the rest of the world too.
The work builds on research that used ice cores to identify three significant volcanic eruptions in the years 536, 540 and 547. Now Ulf Büntgen at the Swiss Federal Research Institute in Birmensdorf and his colleagues have used tree ring data from Europe and Central Asia to show that decades of cooler summers – in some cases 4 °C cooler – ensued, probably caused by volcanic particulates in the atmosphere.
Over this time, average summer temperatures would have been roughly 2 °C below those from 1961 to 1990, the standard reference period for studies of this kind.
This long cold spell coincided with a period of widespread social turmoil across Eurasia, including the plague sweeping across Eastern Europe, Chinese dynasties changing, the Slavs expanding across Europe, and the transformation of the eastern Roman empire into the Byzantine empire.
“There was dramatic social, cultural, and political change in this period,” says Shaun Tougher, a historian at Cardiff University, UK, who was not involved in the research. “Perhaps aspects of the changes were exacerbated by a colder period.”
Why would a man as bright and successful as Gates grasp at a straw so clearly burdened by the weight of unintended consequences; consequences the scientific community is aware of and is documenting? It’s almost as if Gates is reaching out anywhere he can for new relevancy because, let’s face it, the thing he thought would bear his lasting imprimatur was cruelly stripped from him at the last moment. That thing was the COVID-19 vaccine. And the stripping came via the Trump administration’s successful Operation Warp Speed.
For months leading up to the development of the COVID vaccine — which is being administered to front line workers, politicians, and the elderly as we speak — Gates was talking about his partnership with the World Health Organization, pharma companies, and nonprofits in an effort to “vaccinate the world.”
Working behind the scenes is one of the world’s richest men, neither a scientist nor a doctor, who sees himself and his $50 billion foundation as uniquely prepared to take a central part. Mr. Gates and his team are drawing on connections and infrastructure the foundation has built over two decades to help guide the effort.
“We know how to work with governments, we know how to work with pharma, we’ve thought about this scenario,” Mr. Gates said in a recent interview. “We need — at least in terms of expertise and relationships — to play a very, very key role here.”
In recent months, Mr. Gates, who emphasizes that he is one of many involved in the vaccine effort, has hosted online round tables with drug company officials. He has pursued financial commitments from world leaders: In one week alone, he and his wife and co-chair, Melinda Gates, spoke with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi.
In Washington, he has consulted frequently with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert and a longtime collaborator on vaccine initiatives, and talked to Senator Mitch McConnell, a polio survivor who has been supportive of programs to eradicate that and other scourges. And to help staff the vaccine effort, his foundation has provided millions of dollars for McKinsey & Company consultants.
All the while, the United States and other countries were striking their own deals with vaccine makers, even before they got regulatory approval. There was some overlap between the global initiative and the American effort, called Operation Warp Speed. AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi made commitments to both.
And then…the “American effort” as the New York Times calls it, got it done in record time. In fact, Moderna, funded to the tune of billions by the Operation Warp Speed effort, had announced their vaccine’s 95 percent effectiveness rate before the New York Times profile even came out. Gates may have lost his purpose when that happened. He certainly seemed to hint at that in subsequent — and maybe slightly bitter — interviews.
Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder Bill Gates volunteered to take a COVID-19 vaccine publicly and said that President Donald Trump‘s “America first” approach is “selfish,” given that U.S. vaccines benefited from foreign scientists.
Gates downplayed Operation Warp Speed’s role in pushing companies to develop a U.S. vaccine safely in record time, telling CNN Sunday the first two mRNA vaccines have had “backing for quite some time.” The billionaire said Pfizer and Gates Foundation partner BioNTech “did not take government money” and that Moderna received financial support before the creation of Operation Warp Speed, back when it was “just called BARDA,” or Biomedical Advanced Research and Development.
So now Gates has decided to throw his weight behind geoengineering the environment into doing what its done in the past on its own, and that led to worldwide death and disease, to stop the environment from killing us. The spotlight has shifted away from Bill Gates, humanitarian and worldwide king of vaccinations, and so the world needs to be reminded of the kind of power and concern Bill Gates still has. Feels a bit like a punishment, doesn’t it?