Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research

Two of the bright lights in the climate change arena are Ken Caldeira and David Keith, who jointly lead the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (FICER). The fund is setting a strong example for transparency on both inputs and outputs. Bill Gates is providing the funding (personally, not the Gates Foundation). Here are a couple of Q/A examples from the FICER information page:

Q. What is the source and size of the fund? Who administers the fund?

A. Since its inception in 2007, FICER has given out grants to 13 research projects and various scientific meetings totaling $4.6 million. Internationally known climate scientists Dr. David Keith of University of Calgary and Dr. Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution select projects that receive support from the fund. While Mr. Gates provides input from time to time on the fund, Drs. Keith and Caldera make final decisions on projects.

Q. Does the fund support research into geoengineering? Does the fund support research into “clean energy”?

A. Yes, the fund supports research into both geoengineering and clean energy, as well as basic climate science research. The directors of the fund believe that society should be spending many tens-of-billions of dollars per year developing and deploying affordable, scalable, near zero-carbon energy sources.

“Geoengineering” is a term that different people use in different ways. Some proposed technologies, for example capturing and sequestering excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, attempt to address the root causes of climate change. These approaches are relatively uncontroversial. Other proposed technologies, for example solar radiation management (SRM) attempt to reduce the effects of climate change but don’t address the root causes. SRM aims to cool the planet, for example by adding reflective aerosols (small particles suspended in air) to the stratosphere where they will reflect some incoming sunlight, cooling the planet. These approaches, which would be a human intervention in the climate system with potential environmental risks, are more controversial.

However, much important research into these approaches, such as computer modeling, laboratory experiments, or passive observations of nature, can be done without any interference in the climate system. This research is as important in determining which geoengineering technologies have limited efficacy, scalability or unacceptable environmental risks as it is in finding viable solutions, and the fund supports these kinds of projects. Further, research will help inform the development of much needed international conventions for any geoengineering field tests.

Q. Does the fund support field testing of geoengineering?

A. FICER has not supported and will not support any field tests of methods that introduce new kinds of interference into the climate system (e.g., solar radiation management, ocean fertilization). We are in favor of field testing industrial processes that can remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.