FRANKFURT A global response to climate change
will spur a business revolution bigger than the internet, said
co-founder of Sun Microsystems Bill Joy.
"This is a much larger opportunity," he told Reuters,
pointing to the scale of the problem and the profits to be made
from simple steps like a more careful use of energy.
"It's profitable to be more efficient, it has a negative
cost and a competitive disadvantage if you don't do it."
"You can sensibly adopt old technology, not drive a truck,
or insulate your house," he said, speaking on the fringes of
the Cleantech investor conference in Frankfurt.
Joy made his name creating and developing computer
operating systems and microprocessors, for example helping to
design the Java programming language.
Most scientists agree that climate change is being caused
by mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases, especially the
carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal
Using the example of the car industry, Joy saw the response
in three parts: first using old technologies like smaller, more
efficient cars; second adopting emerging technologies like
"hybrid", part-electric cars; and third researching
breakthroughs such as transport fuels derived from farm waste.
Climate change would spur innovation and California's
Silicon Valley, which originally served the semiconductor
industry, was well placed to benefit, he said.
"Solar cells are semiconductors, heat to electricity is
semiconductors, software to manage systems comes out of Silicon
Valley," said Joy, who is now a partner at venture capital
investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).
A global race is on to be first to commercialise
breakthrough technologies which could make deep cuts in
greenhouse gas emissions.
Research into safer, rechargeable lithium batteries is
taking place mainly in the United States and Canada, but
innovation in small electric cars is centred in Asia and
Europe, he said.
"Smart people are everywhere."
Future breakthroughs will include more efficient solar
cells that convert waste heat to electricity, and manipulation
of catalysts at the ultra-tiny, or nano, scale to cut costs.
Climate change will create business losers, too: for
example among U.S. car manufacturers which have resisted fuel
efficiency standards, Joy reckoned.
"They lobbied Washington against innovation. The industry
is now really in trouble, the car companies didn't innovate.
Everyone's basically driving a truck."