Ten billion dollars is not what it used to be, but it still buys plenty. Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently announced a new Bezos Earth Fund to be endowed with $10 billion from his personal fortune.
The best thing that $10 billion can fund is the truth. Scientific truth. What it cannot do is change the weather.
Mr. Bezos believes that “climate change is the biggest threat to our planet.” His bank account may be large enough for him to also believe he and others similarly situated can change the climate – or escape to outer space as a contingency plan.
Bezos announced that beginning this summer, his gift will “fund scientists, activists, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world…Earth is the one thing we all have in common – let’s protect it together.”
To visualize $10 billion, it could pay $100,000 to each of one hundred thousand workers. Or, this amount could purchase the two most expensive sports franchises in the world, the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, with one-half billion dollars left over. More starkly, this Fund amount exceeds the gross domestic product of 70 countries and territories.
On the surface, Mr. Bezos’ intentions to protect the Earth are admirable. The Earth Fund should start by investing in scientific facts and truth about the climate, past and present, and its actual effect. The future impact of climate is hypotheses, at best; the science is not “settled.” If Bezos, through his Fund, wants to support research to make predictions of climate conditions in ten to eighty years, he should jettison his assumptions and fund those scientists committed to the facts wherever they may lead.
The Earth Fund unfortunately could instead perpetuate the gigantic climate cottage industry by funding many activist hucksters and snake-oil salesmen with Ph.Ds. wedded to an overheated planet from man-made causes. That would be $10 billion wasted. Let us hope that Mr. Bezos avoids funding only people who would tell him what he already believes or wants to hear.
In lieu of funding climate hysteria, while keeping with Mr. Bezos’ vision, the Earth Fund also should support research and technological advances in alternative energy development, electric batteries, and technology to clean oceans, to name some worthy investments.
Mr. Bezos’ enormous philanthropy could help raise living standards in the developing world, including establishing business models by which communities can prosper and be copied throughout the world. That likely would involve fossil fuel use in the near term since readily available, cheap energy is vital to reducing poverty, which alone would improve global environmental conditions.
The purpose of this mega-donation may be to satiate critics and avoid scrutiny. Mr. Bezos’ announcement of the Earth Fund came not long after his company threatened some employees with termination after they were complaining that Amazon was not doing enough on climate change. There is no shortage of those who object to Amazon’s business practices, both in the U.S. and overseas, including Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Earth Fund unveiling also comes on the heels of Mr. Bezos’ latest extravagance, i.e., the purchase of his newest home in the Beverly Hills section of Los Angeles at a cost $165 million. The property comprises more than nine acres and includes guesthouses and a nine-hole golf course. This latest acquisition adds to the inventory of Bezos crash pads, which include an $80 million purchase last year of three New York City apartments (presumably to combine them), a $23 million mansion in Washington, D.C., and several other abodes in the U.S. and abroad.
Life is good for Jeff Bezos, as measured by his substantial carbon footprint. Considering his fortune is valued at $110 billion net of his recent divorce, he is now giving back more than ever. Yet, he will remain a centibillionaire–and wealthier than the economies of 148 nations–after his Earth Fund takes off this summer, absent a tanking stock market.
Ten billion dollars can do a world of good in genuine climate research, environmental technologies and much more. The same money by contrast could fund activist groups and politicians to prematurely force societal changes away from fossil fuels that would lower U.S. livings standards – all in the cause of fighting climate change. Fellow multi-billionaires Michael Bloomberg and George Soros have mastered this approach of spreading their wealth to advance a political agenda.
While $10 billion can buy a lot of things, and influence conditions for good or ill, it cannot alter the climate trajectory. Not $10 billion, not $10 trillion for a Green New Deal. The Earth is still bigger than the checkbooks of Jeff Bezos and the billionaire class.