Bill Gates actually gets it

It seems that at every UN Conference on Climate Change, the conversation is always about reaching a global deal for emissions cuts. And while that’s all well and good, these theoretical deals are often unenforceable and rely on truthful reporting of carbon emissions (Hey, China!).
So I was thrilled that this year’s conference opened not with arguments about emissions cuts but with Bill Gates’ plan to address climate change, which has nothing to do with with making cuts and everything to do with how to empower markets to make those cuts themselves.
Gates’ announcement does two things. First, it leads a 28 person investment team to provide capital to help promising energy companies get products to market, crossing the so called investing valley of death where many great clean energy innovations die. Second, he appears to have convinced 20 governments to double their energy budgets for basic research. No mention of emissions cuts in any of these announcements.
It’s not that I don’t believe that market interventions like cap and trade and subsidies can help the process. And in terms of fairness, I’ve long argued and shown that fossil fuels have been subsidized for the last 100 years. It’s just that what Gates truly gets is that taxing carbon is not enough. 
What the world needs to address climate change is a Manhattan Project like effort to figure out clean energy solutions that are cheaper than fossil fuels. When that happens the market will expedite deployment of renewables quickly and efficiently. And the only way to get those clean energy solutions to market is to heavily invest in the basic scientific breakthroughs that will be required to cleanly meet growing energy demand.
The reality is that doubling countries’ commitments to energy R&D isn’t nearly enough. What’s actually needed is closer to a 10X increase, which isn’t that crazy when you consider the U.S. only spends $5.3 billion on energy research. Taking that up to $50 billion would put the budget where it should be–more than what we spend on health care R&D but in the same ballpark. Think of it as health care for the earth.
Gates authored a paper that he released Monday, that more or less outlines his thinking on climate change and clean energy technology and investment. It’s a concise, intelligent read and I’d point out two tables Gates presents.

The data tells the story and it’s not that complicated. The federal government is a massive underinvestor in energy research and development. The only one that’s really worse is the energy industry itself, which spends a minuscule 0.23 percent on research.
In my time as a cleantech analyst, people sometimes have asked me what I think the world needs to address climate change. And while a carbon tax would be nice or a breakthrough in energy storage would be even nicer, what always sprang to mind as I stared at the 300 plus billion market cap for Exxon Mobil was a 300 billion dollar clean energy company. In fact, I’d take 3 or 4 of them for good measure.
Commitments to emissions cuts aren’t going to give me my dreamed of competitors for Exxon Mobil and Occidental. But Gates’ plan just might.

Snowden: Paris showed mass surveillance doesn’t stop terrorism

This month’s Paris shootings demonstrated that mass surveillance doesn’t stop terrorist attacks, Edward Snowden has claimed in an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “France passed one of the most intrusive, expansive surveillance laws in all of Europe last year and it didn’t stop the attack, and this is consistent with what we’ve seen in every country,” the NSA whistleblower said. French authorities knew about the Paris attackers but didn’t predict what they ultimately did. Snowden pointed out that U.S. authorities knew about the Boston bombers, but that didn’t actually stop the attack. “The problem with mass surveillance is that you’re burying people under too much data,” he said, echoing arguments that others have made about the “base rate fallacy”.

These places were Instagram’s most photographed locations in 2014

In its annual end-of-year tradition, Instagram has released the places in the world users capture the most with the filter-friendly app. Last year, the big question was “Why is a shopping mall in Thailand Instagram’s most photographed place in 2013?” The answer had more to do with a Thai cultural proclivity towards obsessive photo sharing then it did with the mall itself.

This year the number one location is no surprise to anyone: The Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland topped the list after coming in third the last two years. Other returning champions include Dodger Stadium (#8 in 2013 and #7 in 2012), Times Square (#2 in 2013), and Thailand’s Siam Paragon shopping mall (#1 in 2013 and #2 in 2012),

New entrants include Gorky Park and Red Square (Moscow, Russia), the Louvre (Paris, France), Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium (NYC), and Dubai Mall (Dubai, UAE).

Although international places have appeared in Instagram’s most popular list since its first version in 2011, their dominance in this year’s list suggest that Instagram is scaling beyond America, becoming popular enough in other parts of the world that foreign locations are photographed more than American landmarks like the Bellagio, Disney World, and Central Park (which were #4, #5, and #7 respectively on the 2013 most popular places list, but didn’t make the 2014 cut).

Without further ado, here’s the top ten list of 2014 with some pretty photos to boot.

Top Geotagged Locations of 2014 on Instagram

1. Disneyland, Anaheim, California

2. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

3. Times Square, New York, New York

4. Siam Paragon shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand

5. Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia

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Friday night at Gorky Park Feel the heart of Moscow

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6. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

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Nu dar viena

A post shared by *Irma Straukaite* (@orobalionas) on

7. Red Square, Moscow, Russia

8. Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

9. Yankee Stadium, New York, New York:

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Blue Sky's for Brown and Maroon

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10. The Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Uber car attacked in Paris taxi protest

Uber has annoyed many traditional taxi drivers, but none more so than in Paris, it seems. As spotted by Rude Baguette, on Monday morning a protest by taxi drivers on the freeway near the airport turned ugly when several people – not confirmed as cabbies — smashed a window and slashed the tires of an Uber car containing Eventbrite CTO Renaud Visage and Five by Five co-founder Kat Borlangan, who tweeted that she had “bleeding hands” after the incident. This happened less than two weeks after a new French law came into effect to protect traditional taxis, forcing cars from chauffeur app services such as Uber to wait 15 minutes before picking up clients.

Why I am heading to Le Web 2012

Technology business is chock-a-block with a lot of conferences. Some are new, some are old, but only very few are must attend events. Le Web, an annual technology fest in Paris is one of those don’t miss it events. This year they are talking about Internet-of-things.

Video star Dailymotion relaunches white label service

Global No2 video service Dailymotion is expanding its white label streaming service to try and capture a greater share of the market. Can its new features draw in more users and help the company meet its targets?

Microsoft in the dock over French tax fraud claims

French media is reporting that Microsoft’s Paris-based subsidiary is being investigated by the country’s tax authorities over its system for avoiding corporate taxes. It marks the latest low point for the business, which wrote down its $6.2bn purchase of aQuantive earlier this week.

First London, now Paris: Metro gets free WiFi

Paris is following London by starting to provide free wireless access to subway travelers, thanks to a new initiative from WiFi service company GOWEX. With similar moves in New York as well, is this boost in transport connectivity a trend?

LeWeb London almost happened in San Francisco

One of the world’s premier startup conferences, Paris-based LeWeb, is heading to London this month. But organizer Loic Le Meur says he was thinking about heading to San Francisco, not the UK — until the British Prime Minister made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.