Junk food companies say they’re trying to do good. A new book raises doubts

2 02 2023

As soda consumption has dropped in the West, companies are making an effort to woo new customers in other places. This Coke bottle ad is in Mozambique. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

By Pien Huang from NPR • Posted: February 1, 2023

So how do you get people to drink more soda?

That’s a question Coca-Cola and other soda makers are wrestling with as soda drinking has waned in U.S. and European markets.

In the 2010s, Coke made a big push into rural parts of lower income countries to sell more soda. So they made smaller, more durable bottles – a 1-cup serving size that could be sold more cheaply and last longer on the shelves.

They built solar-powered coolers that allowed sellers to keep Coke bottles cold in places off the electrical grid – and offer mobile phone-charging to their customers.

And they launched “splash bars” – small businesses run by women that sold shots of Coke, Fanta and other Coca-Cola products for as low as 7 U.S. cents a serving to make the beverage affordable to everyone.

Eduardo J. Gómez is the author of the new book Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies.
Eduardo J. Gómez is the author of the new book Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies. Photo: Eduardo J. Gómez

The company presented this strategy as a win-win – they benefited because their product was becoming more available in remote areas and female entrepreneurs had a new way to earn a living.

That’s a story that Eduardo J. Gómez tells in his new book. As he points out, Coke’s characterization of a win-win isn’t universally embraced.

Gómez, director of the Institute of Health Policy and Politics at Lehigh University, says Coca-Cola is one of many junk food companies – fast-food giants like McDonald’s and KFC – who are targeting “emerging economies” – countries where income is on the rise along with trade with wealthier nations.

In these countries, many people see the ability to buy so-called junk food – not just soda but packaged chips and candies and fast food from chains – as a sign they’re made it. And the junk food manufacturers try to put a positive face on their campaigns to expand their audience. They forge partnerships with local governments to fight hunger and poverty – even as the rising consumption of junk food leads to soaring rates of obesity and diabetes.

In his new book, Junk Food Politics: How Beverage and Fast Food Industries Are Reshaping Emerging Economies, Gómez describes a two-way street, where industry and political leaders work together to launch well-meaning social programs – but also skirt regulations that would harm industry’s profits. The result, Gómez says, is that junk food industries thrive in low resource countries at the expense of children and the poor, who develop long-term health problems from consuming sugar-laden, ultra-processed foods.

NPR spoke with Gómez about junk food barges, soda taxes and why healthy eating campaigns aren’t cutting it against ads for candy and fried chicken. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

Let’s start with an easy question. What is junk food?

The new book Junk Food Politics.
Johns Hopkins University Press

I define junk food as highly ultra-processed fast foods, from KFC to burgers, candies, confectionery, ice cream. Junk food is also Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew – high-sugar, carbonated soda drinks.

What role does junk food play in lower- and middle-income countries? 

There’s a proliferation of these junk foods now, not only in cities but in rural communities in India, in Mexico, even into the Brazilian Amazon.

In the emerging economies, these foods that were not [previously] accessible suddenly became very accessible in the 1990s or early 2000s.

We’re seeing [a vast and rapid] infiltration of these foods because of what I call “fear and opportunity.” “Fear” that industries have of losing market [share] in Western nations, and “opportunity” because there’s a [growing] middle class in these emerging economies that are eager to purchase them.

What is junk food politics?

Junk food politics is a two-way street. It’s when [junk food] industries influence politics and society so they can avoid regulations that will impact their profitability, such as taxes on junk foods and regulations on marketing and sales.

We often think industry is to blame. But governments are also to blame [because political leaders partner with industry on their own political agendas – which gives industry clout to undermine policies that would cut their profits].

What’s a good example of junk food politics in action?

In Brazil, for example, you have the rise of industry groups, [like the Brazilian Food Industry Association] that were very, very influential in lobbying the congress and infiltrating national agencies that are working on regulations [like advertising restrictions for junk food]. They’re engaging in partnerships [with governments and communities where] they can be perceived as a solution to the problems [of obesity and diabetes] by, for instance, helping to improve the [sharing] of nutritional information. They’re building legitimacy and avoiding costly regulations.

At the same time, [Brazil’s] President Lula [in his prior term] had a famous anti-hunger campaign. And Lula worked with Nestlé to strengthen this program and went as far as creating an office within his presidential palace to partner with industries that wanted to contribute to this anti-hunger program. And so that was a strategic, two-way partnership that benefited industry and benefited the government.

Of course, President Lula’s intentions were admirable in alleviating hunger. But perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to partner with companies that produce a lot of these ultra-processed foods, because it indirectly legitimizes the company. It amplifies the popularity of their products and their harmful consequences to health.

As low-resource countries rise in wealth, rates of obesity and diabetes also tend to rise. What is the scope of the problem? Why does it happen?

The incidence of childhood obesity is growing much faster in developing countries [than in the West]. [Rates of] type 2 diabetes among adolescents are extremely high in India and China and Mexico.

The rural poor are also becoming obese and getting diabetes. This is something we don’t normally assume. In India, for example, in the 1990s and early 2000s, obesity was seen as a “disease of luxury.” It was perceived that only people with status and money that could go to fast food establishments were having this problem. For many years the government didn’t do anything because they perceived [growing rates of diabetes and obesity] as affecting a small minority of the population.

But now, it’s become a general issue because of the increased access to junk foods.

How has access increased? How did junk foods go from being concentrated in cities to being common food items in rural places?

[Junk food distribution] started in cities, and over time they [expand] out to other areas of the country. In Brazil, for a while, Nestlé had these large blue Nestlé boats that traveled throughout the Amazon and distributed candy and cookies throughout the Amazon. [The “junk food barges,” as critics called them, have stopped]. In rural India, there are shops where people pay for one small shot of Coca-Cola while getting their phones charged.

In every country, junk food is something that’s voluntarily bought. It’s voluntarily eaten. So why are programs that encourage healthy eating and daily exercise and nutrition labeling not enough to convince people to avoid it? 

Of course we want people to have nutritional information – we want people to know more, and we want them to know what they’re eating. And there’s growing commitment and success on better food labels. Chile, for example, has introduced more effective food labels – on products high in salt, sugar and fat, they have adopted these black octagon images that are on the food products – that have rippled out through the Americas.

But people are always flooded with marketing and access [to processed foods]. Even when you have this knowledge, there are incentives for you to eat these products that are readily available and less healthy.

What I hear you saying is that healthy eating and exercise campaigns focus on the individual, but poor health and nutrition are rooted in bigger, systemic problems.

Yes, absolutely. Nutritional information is very important, but it’s insufficient. We need to address socioeconomic factors, marketing factors, all these things that play into [making junk foods an easy, accessible choice].

You say governments in low-resource countries have made some progress on taxing junk foods and improving the labeling. What else do you think needs to happen? 

None of these governments have committed to restricting advertising. [Countries have, instead, relied on voluntary pledges from companies to refrain from marketing unhealthy foods to children.] In a lot of these countries, there are no firm laws on what can be sold in schools. And even when they have laws or rules that prohibit the sale of junk foods in schools, they are not effectively being enforced.

There’s a paradox: While countries [such as Mexico, Brazil, India and Indonesia] have done a great job of increasing nutritional awareness, obesity and diabetes is still skyrocketing. And that’s because governments are doing a little bit on the fringes but not really getting to the heart of the problem. They’re not taking on these industries through regulations to sales and advertising.

What does junk food politics cost society?

There’s an extremely high cost to society, mainly from the health consequences. If you develop type 2 diabetes as a consequence of high sugar intake, it has a tremendous impact on your quality of life. Argentina, for example, has seen a crisis in the affordability of insulin. In the context of global universal health care, we don’t pay enough attention to ensuring that the poor do not go broke in getting the medicines that they need to address their high blood pressure, their [blood] sugar.

What’s the solution? What can cut into the influence that junk food politics has on public health?

The solution is having a government that is committed to ensuring the health of all of society. One that provides activists and communities with a voice that is equal to, or exceeds, the voice of industries within government. One that has no fear of taking on the powerful industries and creating regulations that protect vulnerable populations – especially children and the poor – over the interests of major corporations.

And the solution, too, is our work in communities as researchers and as community members, to raise the awareness about the importance of good nutrition and exercise, and to increase awareness about the need for access to healthier foods.

And just wondering if climate change will play any role?

That’s the topic of my next book – climate change and malnutrition.

And your thesis is that with the changing climate …

… the availability of healthy foods becomes increasingly scarce.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/01/npr-junk-food-companies-say-theyre-trying-to-do-good-a-new-book-raises-doubts

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Minnesota is poised to require carbon-free electricity. What does that mean?

2 02 2023

Solar panels gleam in the late-afternoon light at the Sylvan solar project just west of Brainerd on Dec. 7. Minnesota Power recently built the 15.2-megawatt project and two others in Hoyt Lakes and Duluth as part of its effort to increase its solar capacity. Photo: Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

By Kirsti Marohn from Minnesota Public Radio News • February 2, 2023

A bill that would require Minnesota’s electricity to be carbon-free by 2040 is speeding through the Legislature.

The House has already passed the measure, and the Senate is set to vote on it Thursday. Here’s a closer look at the bill, and what it will mean for electric utilities and their customers.

In Minnesota, burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to produce electricity is one of the biggest sources of carbon and other greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

What’s prompting state lawmakers to push this through now?

It’s being driven mainly by concerns about climate change. 

It’s no longer the biggest culprit, as utilities have moved toward cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind. Transportation and agriculture are now the largest contributors of greenhouse gasses in Minnesota.

However, Gov. Tim Walz, DFL lawmakers and environmental groups want to see utilities make the transition to cleaner electricity more quickly. The carbon-free electricity measure is part of an action plan to combat climate change the Walz administration released last fall.

The proposal has been debated for a couple of years. Now that the DFL Party controls both the House and Senate, it has a real chance of passage.

What would the bill do?

It includes two separate standards for renewable and carbon-free energy.

A 2007 Minnesota law already requires utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. The state achieved that goal early, in 2017. This bill would bump that amount up to 55 percent renewable by 2035.

It also creates a new carbon-free standard. It requires utilities that do business in Minnesota to get a percentage of their electricity from carbon-free sources — starting with 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and finally, 100 percent by 2040.

What’s the difference between renewable and carbon-free energy?

The bill defines renewable energy as solar, wind, hydropower, hydrogen and biomass, such as a plant that burns garbage or wood to produce electricity.

There is one exception in the bill — the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, or HERC, which burns trash for energy in downtown Minneapolis. It’s been a source of environmental justice concerns over the years because of the air pollution it emits.

HERC stacks
The HERC stacks are 215 feet tall. MPCA models show pollution disperses mostly to the north and south of the plant, with heaviest deposition between Broadway Street and Loring Park. Photo: Stephanie Hemphill | MPR 

The bill’s authors say that facility should not be considered in the same category as other renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.

Another change: Previously, only energy from small hydropower projects under 100 megawatts qualified as renewable. The bill lifts that restriction, so large, existing hydropower projects would now qualify.

That’s significant, because it would now include electricity that Minnesota Power gets from a large hydro facility on the Manitoba River in Canada, which has been controversial among some environmental and tribal groups.

What qualifies as carbon-free energy?

Carbon–free energy sources are those that don’t release any carbon dioxide, such as solar, wind, hydropower or nuclear. Under the bill, nuclear power is not considered a renewable energy source, but it is carbon free.

Minnesota has two nuclear plants, at Prairie Island and Monticello, owned by Xcel Energy. Xcel has said it plans to continue to operate those plants at least for the next couple of decades to help its carbon-free goals.

Minnesota law currently bans building new nuclear plants in the state. Some Republican lawmakers have argued that the ban should be lifted to allow new nuclear energy production, especially smaller modular technology.

Nuclear Generating Plant is seen
Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant is seen through a gate from Wakonade Drive in Prairie Island Indian Community in Welch, Minn. The plant began operating in 1973 and is located adjacent to Prairie Island Indian Community. On-site storage of nuclear waste has proven controversial, as Prairie Island is among the closest communities to a nuclear power plant in the U.S. Photo: Tom Baker for MPR News

Are utilities saying whether they will be able to meet these new standards?

The state’s largest utilities, including Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy and Duluth-based Minnesota Power, have been cautiously supportive. They already have goals of being carbon-free by 2050, so this would move up that date by a decade.

“We’re actually excited about being pushed to go faster,” said Chris Clark, Xcel’s president in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, in an interview. “We also recognize, though, that it’s a challenge.”

A big reason why major utilities aren’t opposing the bill is because it includes exemptions and ways they can meet the standard without ditching fossil fuels altogether. 

For example, a utility could buy renewable energy credits to offset electricity generated by a natural gas plant.

Also, the bill contains so-called “off ramps.” The state Public Utilities Commission could allow a utility to delay meeting the standard if doing so would have big impacts on electric rates or create reliability issues.

“It is an offset mechanism to add flexibility, and address that there is some uncertainty about how to reach a fully carbon-free electric system top to bottom,” said Allen Gleckner, clean electricity director for the nonprofit Fresh Energy. But he thinks utilities will be able to meet the standard by adding more solar and wind and adopting new technologies, such as battery storage.

Another exemption gives utilities leeway for what’s called “beneficial electrification” — for example, if a utility needs more capacity to switch people using natural gas to heat their homes to electricity.

What’s been the response of member-owned cooperatives to the bill?

Some co-ops have voiced concerns about whether they’ll be able to meet these standards while keeping their costs in check. They tend to be smaller, and often have contracts to buy power from fossil fuel plants.

As a compromise, the bill was amended to give co-ops and municipal power agencies a little more time to make the transition. 

They would need to be 60 percent carbon free by 2030, instead of 80 percent like the investor-owned utilities. But all utilities would need to reach the 100 percent standard by 2040.

Why is North Dakota involved in the debate?

North Dakota produces a lot of power from coal and gas. Top officials in that state have threatened a lawsuit over Minnesota’s bill, saying it would illegally restrict interstate commerce and hinder their ability to develop technology to capture carbon.

This isn’t the first legal spat the two states have had over the issue. 

North Dakota officials sued Minnesota over its 2007 law that essentially banned the state from importing power from new coal plants outside of the state. A federal court sided with North Dakota.

If the bill passes the Senate, what’s the next step?

The Senate will consider the same bill that passed the House. If it passes, it will go to Walz, who has said he will sign it.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/02/02/minnesota-is-poised-to-require-carbonfree-electricity-what-does-that-mean





Blue Streak

1 02 2023

Photo: © Jennifer Adler

A trailblazing approach to marine conservation piloted in Seychelles finds new success in Belize. 

By Julian Smith, Freelance Writer from the Nature Conservatory • Reposted: February 1, 2023

Scuba-diving the kaleidoscopic reefs of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, just a 15-minute plane hop from Belize City, is like swimming into an Oscar-worthy underwater nature documentary. Sea turtles and spotted eagle rays soar past silently, while rainbow parrotfish munch algae off branches of healthy coral. A 3-foot nurse shark circles close by, while at the bottom of a small canyon—Hol Chan means “little channel” in Mayan—two male coral crabs face off like gladiators.

Hol Chan is the shining star of Belize’s myriad marine wonders and one of its busiest tourism destinations, but it’s just a small part of the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Studded with hundreds of offshore atolls and cayes, Belize’s 240-mile coastline is home to more than 500 kinds of fish and three species of threatened sea turtle. Along the shore, mangrove forests, lagoons and estuaries shelter West Indian manatees and American crocodiles.

A scuba diver swims alongside Belize's barrier reef.
DEEP DIVE Belize’s 185-mile barrier reef is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and features world-class dive sites like Mermaid’s Lair (pictured here) off of Ambergris Caye. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

Although a portion of the barrier reef was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, the entire reef is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and most of it is also under increased pressure from overfishing and nearby development. By 2020, Belize’s public debt had reached $1.5 billion—larger than the country’s GDP—making it difficult to set aside money for environmental protection.

COVID-19 only made things worse. Visitation to Hol Chan has dropped drastically since 2019. Since entry fees cover most of the parks’ operations, the ranger staff is down from 15 to 11 (at one point last year there were only five). Before the pandemic, the park’s marine treasures were guarded around the clock; now, rangers are available only from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Belize needed a solution that would preserve its natural capital and jump-start the industries that depend on it. The government looked to a financial transaction piloted by The Nature Conservancy in the Indian Ocean just a few years before. If that revolutionary model of marine conservation could find purchase on Belize’s Caribbean shores, it would restructure the country’s debt, freeing up tens of millions of dollars to protect its coastal and offshore resources—a transformative prospect for a country where nearly 50% of the population relies on the ocean for food and jobs.

A map of Belize shows offshore conservation projects.
CARIBBEAN COUNTRY Located on the northeastern coast of Central America, Belize is buffered by hundreds of low-lying islands known as cayes and the massive Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. Graphic: © Mapping Specialists

The Nature Conservancy closed its first debt-for-ocean transaction in 2016 with the Republic of Seychelles, a far-flung island nation 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa. The Conservancy created a financial mechanism, which would later become the underpinning of its Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation program, to help Seychelles secure long-term funding for marine conservation. The Conservancy worked with the country and its creditors to help lower the financing rate for part of the nation’s debt, and helped find international grants to further support the transaction.

In exchange, the country committed to protect at least 30% of its marine territory and devotes part of its annual debt-payment savings toward conservation management.
It’s like a bank agreeing to refinance a home if the owner promises to put the savings toward improvements—just on a country-sized scale.

A purple gorgonian in Mermaid's Lair off of Ambergris Caye.
UNDERWATER GARDEN Marine biodiversity such as fused staghorn coral and purple gorgonians (pictured here at Laughing Bird Caye) draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to Belize each year. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

In the Seychelles, the program has been a resounding success. The $22 million debt restructuring has generated up to $430,000 per year for marine conservation and climate change adaptation. In less than five years, the country has been able to manage and protect more than 150,000 square miles of ocean, an area larger than Germany. The country has applied a wide scale of restrictions to these waters, including new marine preserves, dive-only sites, no-fishing zones and areas that are only open to community-level fishing.

Belize was a natural choice for the next Blue Bond, says Julie Robinson, program director for TNC in Belize, who spent much of her childhood in the town of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, the gateway to Hol Chan. “As far back as I can remember, I was in the water exploring the seagrass beds, reefs and mangroves,” she says. “I was 6 years old when I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting marine life.”

SEAWEED FARM

Mariko Wallen works with seaweed growing along a rope underwater.
GREEN THUMB Mariko Wallen, founder of the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmer’s Association, tends to seaweed on a farm 18 miles off the coast of Plancencia. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Haley Cattouse dives to work on the seaweed farm.
GARDEN OF LIFE Haley Cattouse tends to a sustainable seaweed farm which not only provides economic opportunities for local women but also creates habitats and nurseries for marine species. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Mariko Wallen dives with seaweed in a net.
BAG IT UP Mariko Wallen harvests a tangle of seaweed from a long cord. Belizeans use this type of seaweed in cooking and as an ingredient in punches and smoothies. Photo: © Jennifer Adler
Mariko Wallen works with seaweed growing along a rope underwater.
Haley Cattouse dives to work on the seaweed farm.
Mariko Wallen dives with seaweed in a net.

Such feelings are common among citizens of Belize. “We have a very strong connection to nature,” says Robinson. “We are proud of our country; everyone calls it ‘The Jewel.’”

Innovating strategies to conserve its dazzling terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity is nothing new for Belize. It was the first country in Central America to designate a Marine Protected Area, with the creation of Half Moon Caye Natural Monument in 1982. It was also the first to sign a subsidized “debt-for-nature” swap, an agreement finalized in 2001 that canceled $8.5 million in outstanding loans and protected 23,000 acres of its tropical rainforests.

A dense field of staghorn coral is just under the water.
CORAL COMEBACK Staghorn corals grow thick at a dive site near Laughing Bird Caye. The nonprofit organization Fragments of Hope has planted almost 90,000 corals here since 2006. Photo: © Jennifer Adler

Taking Belize’s ocean conservation to scale was the next step, says Robinson. Nearly half of the country’s population lives in coastal communities, which rely on marine ecosystems for income, food and flood protection. Tourism accounts for 40% of the country’s economy, and a quarter of that is estimated to depend on coral reefs alone. Yet the annual budget to enforce environmental laws and expand protected areas has been less than $1 million.

To bolster the national economy and address that funding gap at the same time, the Belize government began initial discussions with TNC around a debt restructure for marine conservation in 2010. The road wasn’t easy, negotiations stalled, and the model was taken to the Seychelles instead, but a decade later, with Robinson at the helm, talks resumed in earnest. Finally, in November 2021, the Conservancy, along with global investment bank Credit Suisse and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, helped restructure $553 million of the country’s debt—ultimately reducing the principal by $250 million in the process. Over the next 20 years, as Belize pays down its new, more favorably termed loan, the savings are expected to generate $180 million to support in-country marine conservation. An endowment established through the transaction is designed to finance marine protection after the loan is repaid.

Elkhorn coral under bright blue water.
MARINE MAJESTY Elkhorn coral grows at Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize. Photo: © Shireen Rahimi

Along with the large-scale policy changes, the Blue Bond will also make more money available on the ground to support community ventures that promote Belize’s marine economy. One model for what these projects might look like floats just under the surface of the water, 18 miles offshore from the beach town of Placencia. Seven square wooden frames, 50 feet on a side, are attached by cables to the shallow sandy bottom. Long cords strung across the frames are lined with tangles of Eucheuma isiforme, a type of seaweed Belizeans use in cooking and as an ingredient in punches and smoothies. This sustainable seaweed farm is run by the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWSFA), a nonprofit founded in 2019.

“We were looking for supplementary livelihoods because we can’t depend on fisheries or tourism anymore, because of climate change and depleted fish stocks,” BWSFA President Mariko Wallen says. “We decided to find a way to empower ourselves.”

The Conservancy helped the group set up a seaweed farming course and used satellite imagery to determine the best places for the farms, which also provide habitat for ecologically important and commercially valuable species like snapper, spiny lobsters and conch.

Wallen hopes the BWSFA can benefit directly from the Blue Bond by accessing funding to expand the farms, open a business arm for marketing and develop products like lotions, conditioners, soaps and cosmetics that could one day be sold abroad.

We are proud of our country; everyone calls it ‘The Jewel.’

Some citizens, like Wallen, will see the Blue Bond as a boon for their ocean-based livelihood, but 18 months of confidentiality around the deal—to avoid driving up the price of the Blue Bond before an agreement was struck—mean that there is some public relations work to be done to convince others. “We need to be able to show people how they directly benefit from it,” says Robinson. To address possible concerns that the deal will make more of the ocean off-limits to Belizeans, TNC is getting the word out by holding information sessions, producing educational videos and hiring new staff dedicated to engaging with stakeholders.

Community input is a large part of how the government will determine the types of protections that will be put into place. The goal is not to cut communities off from marine resources that they need for food or tourism, but to ensure enough areas are protected to make the entire system more sustainable. 

The Blue Bond shows that it’s possible to balance economic development and conservation in a way that benefits everyone, Briceño says. “We have a responsibility to the planet and future generations to try to conserve as much as we can. That’s why this is so exciting: we can show that conservation is good business and that it can have a direct impact on the people most affected by climate change.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.nature.org/en-us/magazine/magazine-articles/belize-blue-bonds/





The ocean twilight zone could store vast amounts of carbon captured from the atmosphere – but first we need to build a 4D system to track what’s going on down there

1 02 2023

Mesobot starts its descent toward the ocean twilight zone. Photo: Marine Imaging Technologies, LLC © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

By Peter de Menocal, Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution via The Conversation • February 1, 2023

Deep below the ocean surface, the light fades into a twilight zone where whales and fish migrate and dead algae and zooplankton rain down from above. This is the heart of the ocean’s carbon pump, part of the natural ocean processes that capture about a third of all human-produced carbon dioxide and sink it into the deep sea, where it remains for hundreds of years.

There may be ways to enhance these processes so the ocean pulls more carbon out of the atmosphere to help slow climate change. Yet little is known about the consequences.

Peter de Menocal, a marine paleoclimatologist and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, discussed ocean carbon dioxide removal at a recent TEDxBoston: Planetary Stewardship event. In this interview, he dives deeper into the risks and benefits of human intervention and describes an ambitious plan to build a vast monitoring network of autonomous sensors in the ocean to help humanity understand the impact.

First, what is ocean carbon dioxide removal, and how does it work in nature?

The ocean is like a big carbonated beverage. Although it doesn’t fizz, it has about 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. So, for taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it someplace where it won’t continue to warm the planet, the ocean is the single biggest place it can go.

Ocean carbon dioxide removal, or ocean CDR, uses the ocean’s natural ability to take up carbon on a large scale and amplifies it.

Illustration showing methods of carbon storage, including growing kelp
Methods of ocean carbon storage. Graphic: Natalie Renier/©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Carbon gets into the ocean from the atmosphere in two ways.

In the first, air dissolves into the ocean surface. Winds and crashing waves mix it into the upper half-mile or so, and because seawater is slightly alkaline, the carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean.

The second involves the biologic pump. The ocean is a living medium – it has algae and fish and whales, and when that organic material is eaten or dies, it gets recycled. It rains down through the ocean and makes its way to the ocean twilight zone, a level around 650 to 3300 feet (roughly 200 to 1,000 meters) deep.

The years indicate how long deposited carbon is expected to remain before the water cycles to the surface. Graphic: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The ocean twilight zone sustains biologic activity in the oceans. It is the “soil” of the ocean where organic carbon and nutrients accumulate and are recycled by microbes. It is also home to the largest animal migration on the planet. Each day trillions of fish and other organisms migrate from the depths to the surface to feed on plankton and one another, and go back down, acting like a large carbon pump that captures carbon from the surface and shunts it down into the deep oceans where it is stored away from the atmosphere.

Why is ocean CDR drawing so much attention right now?

The single most shocking sentence I have read in my career was in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, released in 2021. It said that we have delayed action on climate change for so long that removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is now necessary for all pathways to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F). Beyond that, climate change’s impacts become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

Because of its volume and carbon storage potential, the ocean is really the only arrow in our quiver that has the ability to take up and store carbon at the scale and urgency required.Peter de Menocal at TEDxBoston: Planetary Stewardship.

A 2022 report by the national academies outlined a research strategy for ocean carbon dioxide removal. The three most promising methods all explore ways to enhance the ocean’s natural ability to take up more carbon.

The first is ocean alkalinity enhancement. The oceans are salty – they’re naturally alkaline, with a pH of about 8.1. Increasing alkalinity by dissolving certain powdered rocks and minerals makes the ocean a chemical sponge for atmospheric CO2.

Vibrant corals of many types and colorful fish.
Studies show increasing alkalinity can also reduce ocean acidification stress on corals. Photo: Wise Hok Wai Lum/WikimediaCC BY-SA

A second method adds micronutrients to the surface ocean, particularly soluble iron. Very small amounts of soluble iron can stimulate greater productivity, or algae growth, which drives a more vigorous biologic pump. Over a dozen of these experiments have been done, so we know it works.

Third is perhaps the easiest to understand – grow kelp in the ocean, which captures carbon at the surface through photosynthesis, then bale it and sink it to the deep ocean. 

But all of these methods have drawbacks for large-scale use, including cost and unanticipated consequences.

The view looking toward the ocean surface through a kelp forest.
Kelp takes up carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Photo: David Fleetham/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

I’m not advocating for any one of these, or for ocean CDR more generally. But I do believe accelerating research to understand the impacts of these methods is essential. The ocean is essential for everything humans depend on – food, water, shelter, crops, climate stability. It’s the lungs of the planet. So we need to know if these ocean-based technologies to reduce carbon dioxide and climate risk are viable, safe and scalable.

You’ve talked about building an ‘internet of the ocean’ to monitor changes there. What would that involve?

The ocean is changing rapidly, and it is the single biggest cog in Earth’s climate engine, yet we have almost no observations of the subsurface ocean to understand how these changes are affecting the things we care about. We’re basically flying blind at a time when we most need observations. Moreover, if we were to try any of these carbon removal technologies at any scale right now, we wouldn’t be able to measure or verify their effectiveness or assess impacts on ocean health and ecosystems.

So, we are leading an initiative at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to build the world’s first internet for the ocean, called the Ocean Vital Signs Network. It’s a large network of moorings and sensors that provides 4D eyes on the oceans – the fourth dimension being time – that are always on, always connected to monitor these carbon cycling processes and ocean health. 

Illustration showing where different species live at different depths in the ocean.
Top predators such as whales, tuna, swordfish and sharks rely on the twilight zone for food, diving down hundreds or even thousands of feet to catch their prey. Graphic:  Eric S. Taylor /© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Right now, there is about one ocean sensor in the global Argo program for every patch of ocean the size of Texas. These go up and down like pogo sticks, mostly measuring temperature and salinity.

We envision a central hub in the middle of an ocean basin where a dense network of intelligent gliders and autonomous vehicles measure ocean properties including carbon and other vital signs of ocean and planetary health. These vehicles can dock, repower, upload data they’ve collected and go out to collect more. The vehicles would be sharing information and making intelligent sampling decisions as they measure the chemistry, biology and environmental DNA for a volume of the ocean that’s really representative of how the ocean works.

Having that kind of network of autonomous vehicles, able to come back in and power up in the middle of the ocean from wave or solar or wind energy at the mooring site and send data to a satellite, could launch a new era of ocean observing and discovery.

Does the technology needed for this level of monitoring exist?

We’re already doing much of this engineering and technology development. What we haven’t done yet is stitch it all together.

For example, we have a team that works with blue light lasers for communicating in the ocean. Underwater, you can’t use electromagnetic radiation as cellphones do, because seawater is conductive. Instead, you have to use sound or light to communicate underwater.

We also have an acoustics communications group that works on swarming technologies and communications between nearby vehicles. Another group works on how to dock vehicles into moorings in the middle of the ocean. Another specializes in mooring design. Another is building chemical sensors and physical sensors that measure ocean properties and environmental DNA. A tour of sea life in the ocean twilight zone.

This summer, 2023, an experiment in the North Atlantic called the Ocean Twilight Zone Project will image the larger functioning of the ocean over a big piece of real estate at the scale at which ocean processes actually work.

We’ll have acoustic transceivers that can create a 4D image over time of these dark, hidden regions, along with gliders, new sensors we call “minions” that will be looking at ocean carbon flow, nutrients and oxygen changes. “Minions” are basically sensors the size of a soda bottle that go down to a fixed depth, say 1,000 meters (0.6 miles), and use essentially an iPhone camera pointing up to take pictures of all the material floating down through the water column. That lets us quantify how much organic carbon is making its way into this old, cold deep water, where it can remain for centuries.

For the first time we’ll be able to see just how patchy productivity is in the ocean, how carbon gets into the ocean and if we can quantify those carbon flows. 

That’s a game-changer. The results can help establish the effectiveness and ground rules for using CDR. It’s a Wild West out there – nobody is watching the oceans or paying attention. This network makes observation possible for making decisions that will affect future generations.

Do you believe ocean CDR is the right answer?

Humanity doesn’t have a lot of time to reduce carbon emissions and to lower carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

The reason scientists are working so diligently on this is not because we’re big fans of CDR, but because we know the oceans may be able to help. With an ocean internet of sensors, we can really understand how the ocean works including the risks and benefits of ocean CDR.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/the-ocean-twilight-zone-could-store-vast-amounts-of-carbon-captured-from-the-atmosphere-but-first-we-need-to-build-a-4d-system-to-track-whats-going-on-down-there-197134





Top Universities Fail to Prepare World Leaders for the Climate Crisis, Report Finds

1 02 2023

A graduation ceremony at Harvard University. Image credit: Christian Lendl/Unsplash

By Patrick McCarthy from triple pundit.com • February 1, 2023

The late comic George Carlin once said, “You don’t need a formal conspiracy when interests converge.” 

A recent assessment of the educational background of world leaders underscores Carlin’s quip, and it provides at least one explanation for global leaders’ consistent inaction regarding climate change: They all went to the same schools.

The new project by youth campaign group Mock COP found that the 30 top universities in the world have not fostered the leadership skills and civic engagement necessary for our world leaders to navigate the impending ecological crisis.

Entitled “1.5 Degrees,” referencing the solemn recommendation from climate scientists that the planet must not warm beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent catastrophe, the project demonstrates that current world leaders are birds of a feather — an idle feather at that.

Just as Carlin said, the converging interests of world leaders — who share common backgrounds, educations, worldviews, priorities and goals — has resulted in an informal conspiracy of inertia.

Top universities failed leaders, and leaders fail us

“The people with the privilege to study at the so-called ‘top’ universities, and go on to become key decision-makers across society, are being educated at institutions that do not act in the public good and do not ensure their graduates are prepared to lead a more just and sustainable future,” the 1.5 Degrees website reads. 

The project includes a ranking that grades the world’s top universities on how their engineering, law, economics, politics and health courses, which are traditionally chosen by decision-makers, align with the actions needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The ranking of top universities includes Yale, Cambridge, Oxford and Stanford Universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Imperial College London. No institution received a favorable grade. MIT, as well as Beijing’s Tsinghua and Peking Universities, scored the worst at preparing their graduates for a low-carbon future.

The team of young activists at Mock COP ultimately concluded that the most educated among us are often the worst enablers of climate destruction. They further found that critical courses pertaining to environmental citizenship are “influenced by large corporates working against the advice of the world’s leading climate scientists.”

By and large, leaders around the world are consistent in their approach to climate change — they don’t approach it at all. This can’t come as a surprise, though, once the common education factor is acknowledged. For example, Mock COP found that 20 current heads of state attended Harvard University. These schools shape their students’ worldviews, so if world leaders all went to the same few top universities, it is no wonder that they are acting in lockstep.

“World leaders consistently let us down at conferences like Davos, where they have the opportunity to create real, lasting change,” said Josh Tregale, a mechanical engineering student and Mock COP campaign coordinator, in a statement — referring to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting earlier this month. “Had our leading decision makers undertaken university courses which effectively taught the facts of the climate crisis and instilled sustainable thinking, then they would understand the urgency and act accordingly. Instead they are uneducated on the facts and unprepared for climate leadership.”

This all adds up to world leaders are well-meaning and inept at best — and ill-intentioned and adept at worst. Neither is very reassuring, but now that the issue has been identified, Mock COP hopes to influence change.

Youth organizers at Mock COP push for curriculum reform to tackle climate change

Mock COP hopes this project will serve to influence curriculum reform and create more of an emphasis on civic duty and environmental engagement at these top universities. If the most exclusive and accomplished institutions begin to prioritize this sort of education, the rest of academia should follow suit. 

The team expects this information to help climate-minded young people decide where to study, as many students may think twice about attending these top institutions after Mock COP’s report.

The planet is not dying from ignorant people making mistakes. It is dying from self-interested, highly educated people making deliberate decisions that prioritize profits over planet. It is time to start teaching the people who have the power to save the planet that saving the planet is not only in their best interest — it’s in their job description.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/top-universities-failing-climate-change/765136





Installnet Launches Brand Refresh Reflecting Purpose and Mission

1 02 2023

New offerings spur rapid growth. From Installnet • February 1, 2023

With a growing roster of Fortune 1000 clients, commercial furniture solutions company Installnet today announces its brand refresh to better reflect its purpose and mission demonstrated through the company’s new offerings and development.

The company’s new wordmark reflects its modern and flexible approach to finding solutions that simplify the creation of inspired workspaces. Installnet’s self-serve platform of 350 commercial furniture installation companies, previously known as the Office Furniture Installation Alliance (OFIA), has been rebranded as Installhub.

The purpose of Installnet, founded more than 25 years ago, is to create opportunities for people and communities to thrive. The company provides a range of services, from premium project management to Ecoserv, an award-winning circular decommission program.

“Our mission is to deliver industry-leading solutions that help employees, business and communities prosper,” said Dale Ewing, founder of Installnet. “That includes zero waste to landfill through our Ecoserv program, which provides a much-needed, credible solution to companies serious about meeting their sustainability goals. Getting zero done is an audacious, but achievable goal.”

Over the last year, Installnet has served more than 50 Fortune 1000 companies. Its award-winning Ecoserv program has diverted more than 30 million pounds of waste from landfills since its founding in 2012 and served more than 1600 community groups, providing much-needed furniture, fixtures and equipment.

In 2022, Ecoserv diverted 92% more waste from landfill than the year before and donations to community groups rose 35%. Installnet and Ewing were both honored with 2022 SEAL Sustainability Awards for Ecoserv. The SEAL Sustainability Award honorees range from global brands to high-growth start-ups and scale-ups. This is the second consecutive year Installnet has received the award.

In 2022 the company completed more than 11,000 installation projects in the U.S. and Canada, helping customers create inspired workspaces. With a robust installation partner network and a proprietary web-based software, the company expects to grow 20% in 2023.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/764931-installnet-launches-brand-refresh-reflecting-purpose-and-mission





Cheap sewer pipe repairs can push toxic fumes into homes and schools – here’s how to lower the risk

1 02 2023

With this sewer pipe repair method, the chemical waste is blown into the air and can enter buildings through buried sewer pipes, plumbing, foundation cracks, windows, doors and HVAC units. Photo: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

By Andrew J. Whelton, Professor of Civil, Environmental & Ecological Engineering, Director of the Healthy Plumbing Consortium and Center for Plumbing Safety, Purdue University. Reposted: February 1, 2023

Across the U.S., children and adults are increasingly exposed to harmful chemicals from a source few people are even aware of. 

It begins on a street outside a home or school, where a worker in a manhole is repairing a sewer pipe. The contractor inserts a resin-soaked sleeve into the buried pipe, then heats it, transforming the resin into a hard plastic pipe. 

This is one of the cheapestmost common pipe repair methods, but it comes with a serious risk: Heating the resin generates harmful fumes that can travel through the sewer lines and into surrounding buildings, sometimes several blocks away.

These chemicals have made hundreds of people ill, forced building evacuations and even led to hospitalizations. Playgroundsday care centers and schools in several states have been affected, including in ColoradoConnecticutMassachusettsMichiganPennsylvaniaWashington and Wisconsin.

With the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law now sending hundreds of millions of dollars into communities across the U.S. to fix broken pipes, the number of children and adults at risk of exposure will likely increase. 

For more than a decade, my colleagues and I have worked to understand and reduce the risks of this innovative pipe repair technique. In two new studies, in the Journal of Environmental Health and Environmental Science and Technology Letters, we show that workers, and even bystanders, including children, lack adequate protection. 

Our research also shows the technology can be used safely if companies take appropriate action.

Fixing aging pipes with harmful chemicals

As U.S. water infrastructure ages, communities nationwide are grappling with thousands of broken sewer pipes in their 1.3 million-mile inventory.

The new law provides US$11 billion for sewer fixes, about one-fifth of the EPA’s estimate of the need.

A face-on view into a sewer pipe, with a blue lining visible within the outer gray wall.
The blue cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP, can be seen inside this damaged storm sewer pipe. The CIPP was created by steam cooking the resin into the hard plastic. Photo: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

The least expensive repair method is called cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP. It avoids the need to dig up and replace pipes. Instead, contractors insert a resin-saturated sleeve in the manhole and through the buried pipe. The resin is then “cooked,” typically with steam or hot water, and transformed into a hard plastic.

One challenge is that the resin safety data sheets do not disclose all of the chemicals, and some entirely new ones are created during heating.

Chemical plumes rising from nearby manholes and contractor exhaust pipes are also not just “steam.” These plumes contain highly concentrated chemical mixtures, uncooked resin, particulates and nanoplastics that can harm human health. When we examined the heating process in the lab, we found that as much as 9% of the resin was emitted into the air.

CIPP production is known to discharge about 40 chemicals. Some cause nausea, headaches and eye and nasal irritation. They can also lead to vomiting, breathing difficulties and other effects. Waste that contains chemicals, uncooked resin, particulates, and nanoplastics is discharged into the air during CIPP manufacture. This complex emission is not steam. Andrew Whelton/Purdue University.

Styrene, the most frequently documented chemical, is acutely toxic, and “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer, according to the National Research Council. Chemicals other than styrene can be responsible for plume toxicity

CIPP-associated illnesses in nearby buildings

So far, chemical exposures have been reported in at least 32 states and seven countries. In addition to schools, this process has contaminated homesrestaurantsmedical facilities and other businesses. Companies have been cited for exposing their workers to unsafe levels of styrene.

The earliest U.S. incident we know about was in 1993 at an animal shelter in Austin, Texas. Seven people were overcome by fumes and transported to a hospital. In 2001, fumes entered a hospital inn Tampa, Florida, causing employee breathing problems. Since then, hundreds more people are known to have been exposed, and the numbers are likely much higher.

In our experience, exposures are rarely made public. Municipalities have encouraged people affected by the fumes to only contact the CIPP contractor and pipe owner. In some cases, people were told the exposures were always harmless. 

Chemicals can enter buildings through sinks, toilets, foundation cracks, doors, windows and HVAC systems. The chemicals can even enter buildings that have water-filled plumbing traps. Anticipating this risk, bystanders have been told to cover their toilets and close all windows and doors.

Wind can help dilute outdoor chemical levels. However, concentrated plumes can rush through buried pipes into nearby buildings. Bathroom vent fans may sometimes increase the indoor chemical levels. Levels that should prompt firefighters to wear respirators have been found in the buried pipes.

An illustration shows how fumes can move from the source into homes and buildings.
Fumes generated during sewer line repair, on the right, can enter nearby homes, schools and other buildings. Graphic: Andrew Whelton/Purdue University

The highest levels have been found during and after the heating process

Hand-held air testing devices commonly used by some firefighters and contractors do not accurately identify specific chemical levels. An earlier studyshowed the styrene levels were sometimes wrong by a thousandfold.

How to protect public health

With the wave of infrastructure projects coming, it’s clear that controls are needed to lower the risk that people will be harmed.

Our research points to several actions that residents, companies and health officials can take to keep communities safe.

We advise residents to:

  • Close all windows and doors, fill plumbing traps with water and leave the building during pipe-curing operations, especially when children are in the building. 
  • Report unusual odors or illnesses to health officials or call 911. Seek medical advice from health officials, not the contractors or pipe owners. Evacuate buildings when fumes enter. 

Companies can minimize risks too. They can:

  • Stop the cooking process when fumes leave the worksite to lessen the spread of contamination and exposures.
  • Use resins that release less air pollution than standard resins. 
  • Ask federal agencies to evaluate hand-held air testing device use.
  • Capture and treat air pollution from the process. While this has not yet been done at scale, it is straightforward and would be a fraction of the overall project cost. This waste will be hazardous because of its toxicity.

Public health and environmental agencies should also get engaged. Federal agencies know that the practice poses health risks and can be fatal to workersCalifornia and Florida recognize in safety documentation that bystanders could be harmed. But, so far, few steps have been taken to protect workers’ and bystanders’ health.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/cheap-sewer-pipe-repairs-can-push-toxic-fumes-into-homes-and-schools-heres-how-to-lower-the-risk-192918





U.S. Climate Targets Are Within Reach, But Overconsumption Still Matters

31 01 2023

Image credit: Alexandru Boicu/Unsplash

By Riya Anne Polcastro from TriplePundit.com • Reposted: January 31, 2023

There’s good news on the viability of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, with a new report detailing how the U.S. could potentially come within reach of his 2030 objective to power 80 percent of the nation’s electrical grid with clean energy. Doing so would also meet U.S. targets to halve carbon emissions by 2030, using a 2005 baseline, and further reduce them to 77 percent below 2005 levels by 2035, according to the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Evergreen Action.

Time is of the essence, however. And not just because of any impending climate tipping points. The current administration isn’t guaranteed a second term. And, as the Washington Post’s Maxine Joselow pointed out last week, an incoming Republican president would likely reverse any last-minute changes. Ironically, rushing the conversion may also be the best way to end partisanship over the issue as long-term savings become apparent to businesses and consumers alike.

“President Biden committed to the most ambitious set of climate goals in American history,” Charles Harper, power sector policy lead at Evergreen Action, said in a statement. “Important progress has been made, but President Biden must take bold action this year in order to deliver on those commitments. By ramping up its work to transition the U.S. economy toward 100 percent clean energy, the Biden administration and state leaders can reduce toxic pollution, cut energy costs, create good jobs, and advance environmental justice. Let’s get to work.”

The report lists necessary measures which, based on modeling, could result in meeting the climate goals set out in the president’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) if they are implemented immediately. Researchers say setting new and stringent rules through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will be paramount. Other necessary courses of action include making the most of the IRA’s grant programs and tax credits, and promoting stronger state standards on emissions to match federal targets.

“We don’t need magic bullets or new technologies,” Manish Bapna, NRDC president and CEO, explained in a statement. “We already have the tools — and now we have a roadmap. If the Biden administration, Congress, and state leaders follow it, we will build the better future we all deserve. There is no time for half measures or delay.”

The report does not call for an end to new power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels, but it does recommend that rule changes and emission standards be applied to existing gas and coal facilities as well. The transition away from fossil fuels is thus presented as more of a carrot than a stick situation — with funds from the IRA needed to encourage the expansion of renewables, as opposed to attempting to eliminate the construction of new fossil fuel-based plants. 

The increasing availability and cheaper cost of renewable energy benefits not just consumers, but also the U.S. manufacturers and businesses that rely on all possible savings to remain competitive. The more that can be done to encourage the grid transition to renewables, the cheaper power will be for everyone. In time, then, partisan opposition to renewable energy should wane.

However, it’s important to remember that no type of consumption comes without consequences. Resources must still be extracted to build batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, etcetera in order to power the clean energy revolution. As such, we must be more careful not to create a whole new environmental disaster in the process of slowing the climate crisis.

People in the U.S. use four times as much energy as the worldwide average. Cheaper power runs the risk of increasing total consumption, as seen with the connection between gasoline prices and driving habits. With the impending robotization of multiple industries, increased power usage could be dramatically compounded and raise emissions above current modeling. Therefore, it is imperative that people in the U.S. look to reduce their consumption, in addition to cleaning up the grid. 

Many Americans are already willing to adjust their lifestyles to combat climate change, but they need the tools to successfully lower their carbon footprints. Clean power is a big part of this, but so is a public transportation infrastructure that moves us away from the personal passenger vehicle — electric or not — as the primary mode of transportation.

Likewise, the backlash against remote work doesn’t just dismiss employee needs, but it also ignores the environmental benefits of fewer commutes and climate-controlled office buildings. By looking at the bigger picture, perhaps we will begin to understand that our planet does not have unlimited resources. No matter how we power things, we cannot do so from a thought process of ever expanding abundance with zero consequences. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/us-climate-targets-overconsumption/765046





Red Cross: The world is not ready for the next pandemic

31 01 2023

Photo: IFRC

From the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Posted: January 31., 2023

No earthquake, drought or hurricane in recorded history has claimed more lives than the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the world’s largest disaster response network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The shocking death toll—estimated at more than 6.5 million people—has inspired the humanitarian organization to take a deep dive into how countries can prepare for the next global health emergency.

Two groundbreaking reports released by the IFRC today, the World Disasters Report and the Everyone Counts Report, offer insights into successes and challenges over the past three years—and make recommendations for how leaders can mitigate tragedies of this magnitude in the future.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC’s Secretary General, remarks:

*”The COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for the global community to prepare now for the next health crisis. Our recommendations to world leaders center around building trust, tackling inequality, and leveraging local actors and communities to perform lifesaving work. The next pandemic could be just around the corner; if the experience of COVID-19 won’t quicken our steps toward preparedness, what will?” *

The IFRC network reached more than 1.1 billion people over the past three years to help keep them safe from the virus. During that time, a theme that emerged repeatedly was the importance of trust. When people trusted safety messages, they were willing to comply with public health measures that sometimes separated them from their loved ones in order to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. Similarly, it was only possible to vaccinate millions of people in record time when most of them trusted that the vaccines were safe and effective.

Those responding to crises cannot wait until the next time to build trust. It must be cultivated through genuinely two-way communication, proximity, and consistent support over time.

In the course of their work, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams documented how the COVID-19 pandemic both thrived on and exacerbated inequalities. Poor sanitation, overcrowding, lack of access to health and social services, and malnutrition create conditions for diseases to spread faster and further. The world must address inequitable health and socio-economic vulnerabilities far in advance of the next crisis.

In its Everyone Counts Report—which surveyed National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from nearly every country in the world—the IFRC found that teams were able to quickly respond to the pandemic because they were already present in communities and many of them had engaged in preparedness efforts, had prior experience responding to epidemics, and were strong auxiliaries to their local authorities.

“Community-based organizations are an integral part of pandemic preparedness and response. Local actors and communities, as frontline responders, have distinct but equally important roles to play in all phases of disease outbreak management. Their local knowledge needs to be leveraged for greater trust, access, and resilience,” states Mr. Chapagain.

*”It has been a brutal three years, but we are releasing this research and making recommendations in an act of hope: The global community can learn lessons and do justice to this tragedy by being better prepared for future health emergencies.” *

The World Disasters Report offers six essential actions to prepare more effectively for future public health emergencies. The Everyone Counts Report highlights the need for accurate and relevant data in pandemic preparedness and response. Both are available to practitioners, leaders, and the public.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/world-not-ready-next-pandemic-warns-ifrc-enar





‘Climate quitting’: One-in-three young people have rejected a job over employers’ weak ESG credentials

30 01 2023

Many younger workers in the U.K. are rejecting employers that lag in ESG. Image via Shutterstock/Prostock-studio.

By Stuart Stone from businessgreen.com • Reposted: January 30, 2023

A third of 18- to 24-year-olds have rejected a job offer based on the prospective employers’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance in favor of more environmentally friendly roles — fueling a growing trend dubbed “climate quitting” by KPMG.

The consultancy giant published the results of a survey of 6,000 U.K. adult office workers, students, apprentices and those who have left higher education in the past six months, which found that almost half — 46 percent — of those quizzed want the company they work for to demonstrate green credentials.

KMPG found that “climate quitting” is being driven by millennial and Gen Z job seekers who are attaching increased weight to the environmental performance of potential employers when considering new roles.

Overall, one-in five-respondents to the survey revealed they had turned down an offer from a firm whose ESG commitments were not consistent with their values, but the share of those rejecting jobs from companies with weak ESG credentials rose to one-in-three for 18- to 24-year-olds.

However, the survey revealed significant numbers of employees are assessing employers’ ESG performance when considering new roles, regardless of age.

It is the younger generations that will see the greater impacts if we fail to reach [global climate] targets, so it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many.

Over half of 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 34-year-olds said they valued ESG commitments from their employer, while 48 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds said the same.

Moreover, 30 percent of respondents said they had researched a company’s ESG credentials when job hunting, rising to 45 percent among 18- to 24-year-olds.

A company’s environmental impact and living wage policies were key areas researched by over 45 percent of job seekers. Younger workers tended to be most interested in fair pay commitments, while those ages 35 to 44 were more likely to be interested in the environmental impact of a potential employer.

John McCalla-Leacy, head of ESG at KPMG, said it was little surprise that younger workers were prioritizing firms’ climate credentials.

“It is the younger generations that will see the greater impacts if we fail to reach [global climate] targets, so it is unsurprising that this, and other interrelated ESG considerations, are front of mind for many when choosing who they will work for,” he said.

“For businesses the direction of travel is clear. By 2025, 75 percent of the working population will be millennials, meaning they will need to have credible plans to address ESG if they want to continue to attract and retain this growing pool of talent.”

The results are likely to be welcomed by green businesses, which are facing significant recruitment challenges as they look to hire more people with sustainability and clean tech skills to support the delivery of their net zero targets.

The recent Salary and Recruiting Trends guide from recruitment consultancy firm Hays found that almost two-thirds of young jobseekers are on the hunt for roles in a sustainability sector that is crying out for new talent.

This story first appeared on: BusinessGreen





How supermarket freezers are heating the planet, and how they could change

30 01 2023

Grocery chains under pressure to switch from HFCs to natural refrigerants to curb climate change

Supermarket fridges and freezers leak powerful greenhouse gases called HFCs. Switching to ‘natural refrigerants’ such as CO2 could make a difference in cutting emissions. Photo: Terry Chea/AP

By Emily Chung · CBC News · Posted: January 29, 2023

Climate-conscious shoppers may buy local food and try to cut packaging waste, but those efforts could be negated by potent greenhouse gases leaking from supermarket fridges.

Refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs are widely used to keep food cold or frozen at grocery stores and during transport. (They’re also used for other refrigeration applications, like ice rinks and air conditioners).

They were originally brought in to replace ozone-depleting refrigerants called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were banned in a landmark 1987 agreement called the Montreal Protocol, in order to save the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

But HFCs are themselves powerful greenhouse gases.

Typically, each tonne of HFCs can trap as much heat in the atmosphere as 1,400 to 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 100 years, depending on the type of HFC.

Here’s a look at why that’s happening, what the solutions are, and how ordinary shoppers could make a difference.

How do HFCs get from supermarkets into the atmosphere?

Supermarket fridges aren’t like your fridge at home, which typically contains less than 200 grams of refrigerant. And it’s in a sealed unit that’s unlikely to leak, says Morgan Smith, spokesperson for the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council.

Her non-profit group has partnered with industry to help enable the transition from HFCs to more climate-friendly refrigerants because the complexity of their systems make them prone to leaking significant amounts of HFCs. 

Beneath and behind the cases of vegetables, dairy and frozen foods at a typical supermarket are kilometres of piping with thousands of valves, containing literally a tonne of refrigerant. 

“It’s so large and so complex, with so many different points of connection that those systems are inherently leaky, and so they leak about 25 per cent of their refrigerant charge every year,” said Smith.

That’s something another non-profit group called the Environmental Investigation Agency has captured on video using infrared cameras and HFC detectors in U.S. grocery stores. It also measured levels of HFCs in the store using chemical detectors.

Numbers representing refrigerant concentrations appear on digital screens of three detection meters, along with the names of the refrigerants.
Three chemical detectors show readings of HFCs at a Gristedes grocery store in New York during a survey by the Environmental Investigation Agency and 350NYC in 2022. Photo: Environmental Investigation Agency

It detected leaks at 55 per cent of the dozens of U.S. stores where it took measurements. On average, it found a single supermarket emits 875 pounds (400 kilograms) of HFCs a year, equivalent to carbon emissions from 300 cars. In the U.S. alone, it calculated supermarket HFC leaks cause as much global warming as burning 22 million tonnes of coal. 

How big a deal are these emissions really?

HFCs are such a big problem for climate change that Canada and 196 other countries have signed an international agreement, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, to reduce HFC consumption 85 per cent by 2036, relative to 2011 to 2013.

Shelie Miller, a professor who studies the environmental impact of the food system at the University of Michigan, says emissions from refrigerants may be relatively small compared to the food system emissions overall and major categories such as food waste.

“But that’s also just because the food system has such a big impact,” she said. 

On the other hand, targeting HFCs in supermarkets can be very effective at curbing emissions.

“You can make fairly small changes and have a relatively large impact just because the chemicals themselves that we’re using right now have such large global warming potentials,” Miller said.

While potent, HFCs are short-lived greenhouse gases, said Miller, lasting no more than 30 years in the atmosphere, compared to hundreds of years for CO2. Since a typical refrigeration system lasts about 30 years, decisions made now about what refrigerant to use can affect global emissions for decades.

“We need to be thinking about the sources and the hubs of where emissions are happening. And so our grocery stores are a great way to target our overall food system and reduce emissions.”

What can be used for refrigeration in place of HFCs?

The main alternatives are called “natural” refrigerants because they are all chemicals found in nature. They include:

  • CO2.
  • Ammonia.
  • Propane.

While CO2 is a greenhouse gas, its global warming potential is so much lower than that of HFCs. And propane, while it’s a fossil fuel, is not burned when used in refrigeration. In fact, all three of these chemicals are considered refrigerants with ultra-low global warming potential.

How are Canadian supermarkets progressing at switching away from HFCs?

According to Shecco, a market research firm focused on sustainable technologies, there were 340 commercial CO2 refrigeration installations in Canada as of May 2020. That was far fewer than Japan, with 6,500 and Europe with 29,000, and growing more slowly than every other region in the world listed, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

However, Jeffrey Gingras, president of Evapco LMP, a Laval, Que.-based company that makes CO2 refrigeration systems, said he’s seen an exponential growth in installations in the past three years, and did a record 125 installations in supermarkets, about half of them in Canada, in 2022.

The Environmental Investigation Agency has been building a global map of refrigerants used in supermarkets since it launched its Climate-Friendly Supermarkets project in 2019.

Two Canadian community groups, Drawdown Toronto and Drawdown B.C., have helped coordinate submissions to the map in their regions, and have added about 250 stores to the map. (Note: I volunteered for Drawdown Toronto while on leave from CBC News and added one store. You can read more about that in our What On Earth newsletter.)

A label inside a refrigerator shows information such as the type of refrigerant.
This is a refrigerator label from the inside of a supermarket fridge, showing the type of refrigerant used. In this case, it’s an HFC called R404A, with a global warming potential close to 4,000 times that of CO2. Image: Emily Chung/CBC News

That was enough for the EIA to issue its first ever scorecard on Canadian supermarkets last fall. It reported on the five largest food retailers in Canada: Costco, Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys and Walmart.

The best-performing was Sobeys, which had the highest percentage of stores using ultra-low global warming potential refrigerants (nine per cent), was the only listed company that publicly reports its refrigerant leak rate (seven per cent) and has committed to transition to climate-friendly refrigerants for all new stores and renovation projects starting in 2024.

Some stores have also reported taking their own actions on HFCs, including Loblaws, which ranked third in the report and told CBC News that it has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent “in a large part” because of its strategy to reduce refrigerant leaks: using less refrigerant, detecting leaks early and reducing the emissions intensity of the refrigerants it uses.

Walmart Canada, which came fourth in the report, told CBC News in an email that it is installing natural refrigerants in all new stores and during major remodels with new grocery departments, and will switch all stores running on HFC refrigerants to more environmentally friendly options. It did not give a timeline, but said its global operations are aiming for zero emissions by 2040.

The other companies did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment.

EIA’s global map does show very few green dots in Canada compared to the U.S. and Europe. Avipsa Mahapatra, the group’s climate campaign lead, said that may be because no Canadian supermarket chains have not submitted their own data, unlike in other countries, and there isn’t much information.

“I actually have a hunch that Canada is not very far behind,” she said.

A map of North America showing red, orange and green dots representing grocery stores with different refrigerants
Ordinary shoppers can add local grocery stores to the Environmental Investigation Agency’s map of supermarket refrigerants. (Environmental Investigation Agency)

Why aren’t HFCs getting ditched faster?

Morgan Smith of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council said making the switch to natural refrigerants isn’t easy. They may require different training and equipment: ammonia is toxic, propane is flammable, and CO2 operates under very high pressures.

Smith said CO2 tends to be the natural refrigerant of choice for most supermarkets because it’s non-toxic and its systems work a lot like HFC systems.The high pressures mean it does need different piping and different valves, so a system can take months to build, and can’t just be swapped out overnight like parts of the existing system when it needs repairs.

It’s easiest if you have the space to build a new system alongside while the old system is still running, Smith said. Otherwise, you might have to shut down the store during the retrofit, which is difficult for both customers and the store operator.

For smaller stores, one option is to switch to individual fridges similar to your home fridge, with propane refrigerant in a sealed unit, Smith said.

A woman pushes a shopping cart between dairy fridges and freezer cases in a supermarket.
Experts say it’s not easy to convert an existing HFC refrigeration system to natural refrigerants, as they often require different equipment such as valves and piping. Photo: CBC / Radio-Canada

Michael Zabaneh of the Retail Council of Canada said refrigerant projects are quite expensive for supermarkets.

“They can be challenging and that’s probably the biggest barrier, the need to pay for higher capital costs to either upgrade the equipment so that it can handle natural refrigerants, or buy new equipment.”

However, he said most large grocery chains are aware of the problems with HFCs and customer and investor pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are taking action.

The Environmental Investigation Agency’s Mahapatra acknowledged that retrofitting older stores is expensive and challenging. However, she says grocery chains should be making all new stores use natural refrigerants.

“There is no excuse for any supermarket today to build a new store that still contains HFCs. That is just simply foolish,” she said, noting that international agreements to phase out HFCs will eventually force companies to change the systems anyway.

What is the government doing about this?

The federal government will start to offer carbon offset credits for projects that cut refrigerant emissions, including those in supermarkets. Environment and Climate Change Canada told CBC News in an email that they’ll go into effect “in the next few months.” Once that happens, companies will be able to apply to get credits for projects that started as far back as January 1, 2017. 

Federal regulations have also been brought in to comply with the Kigali Amendment, the international agreement on HFCs that went into effect in 2018, with reduction targets starting in 2019.

The regulations will start to ban the manufacture and import of certain equipment containing HFCs with a global warming potential above a specific limit.

Gingras said the Quebec government did offer incentives for a period of time starting 2014 that made natural refrigerant systems competitive with HFCs, and those did lead to a widespread conversion of supermarkets in the province. However, he hasn’t heard of anything similar in other provinces.

Is there a role for ordinary shoppers?

Avipsa Mahapatra says grocery store customers can make a difference by adding their local stores to the climate-friendly supermarket map, being more aware and putting pressure on grocery store chains, especially when it comes to new supermarkets. 

“So if it’s a new store that is being built in your community, it is our job as … residents of that community, to make sure that it is not an HFC store.”

Morgan Smith at the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council also thinks the public can make a difference: “The more people that are aware of this top

To see the original story, follow this link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/hfc-climate-supermarkets-1.6726627





North Dakota landowners at odds in carbon pipeline plans

30 01 2023

A maze of pipes at the Highwater Ethanol plant in rural Lamberton, Minn. The plant is one of many which have signed on for a proposed $4.5 billion project collecting carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants in Minnesota and neighboring states, then storing the greenhouse gas deep underground in North Dakota. Photo: Jackson Forderer for MPR News 2022

From the Associated Press • January 28, 2023

North Dakota landowners testified for and against a carbon capture company’s use of eminent domain Friday, as Summit Carbon Solutions moves forward in constructing a massive underground system of carbon dioxide pipelines spanning 2,000 miles across several states and under hundreds of people’s homes and farms in the Midwest.

The proposed $4.5 billion carbon pipeline project would capture carbon dioxide emissions across neighboring states and deposit the emissions deep underground in North Dakota.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted early this month to accepted Summit Carbon Solution’s route permit application. It also ordered an environmental review of the project.

Landowners who opposed the company’s right to eminent domain argued that a private entity should not be able to forcibly buy their land and that the pipeline will potentially endanger people living above it.

Eminent domain refers to the government’s right to forcibly buy private property — like the land under a person’s house or farm — for public use.

Landowners who supported Summit’s right to exercise eminent domain said the company’s timely construction of the carbon pipeline serves an important public interest — it would reduce the state’s carbon footprint and thereby allow North Dakotans to continue working in energy and agriculture — and that people living above the pipeline will be safe.

“The safety of our operations, our employees, and the communities where we operate is the foundation of Summit Carbon Solutions’ business,” Summit said on its website. “As the project is constructed, we will utilize the latest and most reliable technologies and materials.”

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee did not immediately vote on the bills heard Thursday and Friday about carbon pipelines and eminent domain.

Republican Sen. Jeffery Magrum, of Hazelton, said he introduced the bills because he has heard from “many landowners” that carbon pipeline developers are threatening the use of eminent domain as a way to negotiate for property rights and access.

“We need to support property rights and our land owners as we develop our natural resources,” Magrum said.

The bill heard Friday would prohibit carbon pipeline companies from exercising eminent domain, but would allow oil, gas and coal companies to continue using eminent domain.

“The proposed carbon dioxide pipeline would move a dangerous product through our community to a location where it cannot be used for any purpose, but instead must be injected underground and sequestered forever,” said Gaylen Dewing, who has worked as a farmer and rancher near Bismarck for over 50 years.

Dewing added that the state’s energy industry “would not benefit in any way” from this practice of storing carbon dioxide underground, so carbon pipeline companies should not have the right to exercise eminent domain.

Susan Doppler, a landowner in Burleigh County, said her family does not want “our land ripped up — toxic and useless — to give way to a hazardous pipeline. What a worthless and disgusting inheritance to leave a future generation.”

But other North Dakota landowners pushed back.

Keith Kessler, a farmer and rancher in Oliver County who owns land within the boundaries of the pipeline project, said a different pipeline has been transporting carbon for over 20 years between North Dakota and Canada. That pipeline has never had a rupture or leak, and hazardous incidents from carbon pipelines are rare, he said.

And Lori Flemmer, a resident of Mercer County, said her husband and sons work in the energy industry and on their family farm. Working in agriculture and energy is “reality in coal country,” she said, and carbon capture technology is necessary for reducing carbon footprints and keeping coal plants alive.

Summit Carbon Solutions’ Executive Vice President Wade Boeshans said the company must keep its ability to use eminent domain in order to build carbon pipelines in a timely fashion, deliver on the $4.5 billion pipeline project and keep North Dakota’s economy afloat. According to the company’s website, the project would span Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum lauded North Dakota’s efforts to store carbon dioxide in January.

“We’re on our way toward achieving carbon neutrality as a state by 2030, thanks to our extraordinary capacity to safely store over 252 billion tons of CO2, or 50 years of the nation’s CO2 output,” Burgum said. “And in the process, we can help secure the future of our state’s two largest industries: energy and agriculture.”

The Trump administration in 2018 gave North Dakota the power to regulate underground wells used for long-term storage of waste carbon dioxide. North Dakota was the first state to be given such power, the Environmental Protection Agency said in announcing the move. The state has since invested heavily in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

___

Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/01/28/north-dakota-landowners-at-odds-in-carbon-pipeline-plans





Why don’t we talk about acid rain and the ozone hole anymore? Scientists debunk misinformation

29 01 2023

How a ‘blizzard of false information’ undermines the threat of climate change

Atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon, shown here at a research station in the Antarctic in the mid-1980s, remembers being laughed at by colleagues when she first presented her research on the cause of the thinning ozone layer. Photo: Submitted by Susan Solomon

By Jaela Bernstien · CBC News · Posted: January 28, 2023

If you’re over 30, you likely remember a time when there was a lot of hand-wringing and furrowed brows over the ozone hole and skin cancer, as well as the threat of acid rain destroying ecosystems.

In the 1980s and ’90s, those global environmental crises created buzz and grabbed headlines, but in the decades that followed, the world turned its attention to another threat: climate change.

Yet the success stories of how those threats were tackled — through the co-operation of scientists, policy-makers and the public — are often overlooked, if not outright denied.

A barrage of misinformation on social media, including various tweets and videos, claims those issues were never real in the first place. It’s a conspiracy theory that takes on various shapes, but the underlying common thread is the false claim that climate change is just the latest in a series of hoaxes invented by governments to control the public.

One TikTok video (reminder: this is misinformation) with more than three million views dismisses several global threats as “politics,” listing off a series of examples: “In the ’80s, it was acid rain will destroy all the crops in 10 yrs; in the ’90s it was the ozone layer will be destroyed in 10 years; in the 2000s it was the glaciers will all melt in 10 years …,” the TikTok poster says.

The video claims it was all “fear-mongering nonsense” that never came true.

Watching the video during an interview with CBC News, atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon nods knowingly. It’s not the first time she’s confronted that attitude.

“I’ve heard that kind of — I don’t want to even call it a line of argument — I’ve heard that kind of assertion in the past,” said Solomon, who is a professor in the department of Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s a little bit like saying, ‘I had a heart attack and my doctor put a stent in. They told me I had to exercise and now I feel great. So I think that was all just nonsense to make money for the medical establishment.”

An image circulating misinformation reads as follows: 1970s - the New Ice Age. 1980s - Acid Rain. 1990s - Ozone Depletion. 2000s - Global Warming. Then they had to switch to climate change since the globe was no longer warming. That's 40 years of shameless and baseless fear-mongering to siphon off billions of dollars from taxpayers, expand government power, and advance the left's agenda. #ClimateHoax
This image, circulated on social media, is an example of a popular conspiracy theory that falsely claims climate change is a hoax, along with acid rain and ozone depletion. (Climate Knight/Facebook)

Scientists set the record straight

It was Solomon’s research in the 1980s that helped establish the cause of the thinning ozone: refrigerants called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.

She recalls a particular meeting where colleagues were discussing ozone depletion. Solomon, 30 at the time, said she presented her paper identifying how refrigerants were breaking apart in the stratosphere.

“People just laughed,” she said.

But Solomon knew she was on to something, and her work contributed to the growing body of evidence that ultimately led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, phasing out the harmful refrigerants.

That treaty is working, according to a recent international report, which said the ozone is expected to recover by 2066.

“The fact that we have actually done the right things and fixed certain problems is a cause for celebration. It’s not a cause for pretending that those problems never existed,” Solomon said.


The reason acid rain doesn’t grab headlines anymore is similar — it wasn’t a hoax, it’s another case of governments responding to the scientific community’s alarm bells with regulations, which worked.

“The acid rain story [and] the ozone story show that we are capable of dealing with environmental problems and that we can make significant progress,” said Mike Paterson, a senior research scientist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.

Paterson wrote his master’s thesis on acid rain in the 1980s, and he recalls the very real impacts at the time, such as declining fish populations in North America and northern Europe.

Scientists established the cause —  sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by burning fossil fuels — and North America eventually took action with a series of policy reforms in the 1990s that successfully curbed emissions and reduced the acidity of rain.

A man wearing glasses and a T-shirt sits outside with his arms crossed.
Mike Paterson, a senior research scientist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario, wrote his master’s thesis on acid rain in the 1980s, and he recalls the very real impacts at the time. Photo: Bartley Kives/CBC

How misinformation threatens climate action

The fact that the global threat of climate change is happening in a digital age rampant with misinformation adds a novel layer of complexity to solving the crisis, with its severity constantly being undermined.

A government-funded report published this week by the Council of Canadian Academies — a non-profit organization that gathers experts to examine evidence on scientific topics — states that “targeted misinformation campaigns have played a documented role in creating opposition to policies addressing climate change.”

The report, called Fault Lines, used modelling to estimate that COVID-19 misinformation and its impacts on vaccine hesitancy likely contributed to 2,800 deaths and 13,000 hospitalizations in Canada over a nine-month span in 2021.

The study highlights how misinformation can cause real harm — and warns of the threat that it poses to dealing with future crises by eroding trust in science and making people more susceptible to falling down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

Cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, who contributed to the report, studies misinformation and public opinion around climate change.

“Exposure to misinformation about climate change leads people to take it less seriously and to be less willing to support policy actions,” Lewandowsky, who is the chair of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol in England, said in an interview with CBC News.

Women carry belongings salvaged from their homes after flooding caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains displaced millions of people in Pakistan in 2022. Attribution analysis has found that human-caused climate change likely contributed to the disaster. Photo: Fareed Khan/The Associated Press

Society is “drenched” in misinformation, he said, and the solution must go beyond teaching individuals how to debunk conspiracy theories and include shifts on a broader scale.

“We also have to look at the structures that are in place right now and that are assisting people with nefarious intentions to spread misinformation,” Lewandowsky said.

“We’re living in an environment where outrage or anger or fear — anything that evokes attention or captures attention — is being favoured by the algorithms of social media.”

Even if there is a strong scientific consensus on global warming, a steady stream of misinformation makes it difficult for people to sift through it all and sort fact from fiction, he said.

“If people are exposed to this blizzard of false information about climate change, then their right to be informed about risks is being undermined.”

If misinformation isn’t addressed, Lewandowsky said, it will make it all the more difficult for the public to realize and react to how serious climate change truly is, as it increasingly contributes to deadly disasters around the world.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/misinformation-climate-crisis-ozone-scientists-1.6729005





Carbon Markets Are Far From Perfect, But Businesses Say They’re Essential

28 01 2023

Image credit: aiokr chen/Unsplash

By Mary Riddle from Triple Pundit • Reposted: January 28, 2023

Over 90 percent of business leaders are prioritizing long-term decarbonization — and 89 percent believe carbon markets will play a key role, according to a recent survey of 500 sustainability managers conducted by Conservation International and the We Mean Business Coalition. 

A third of the business leaders surveyed are already investing in a voluntary carbon market, while over half are considering carbon credits as an option for the future.

Carbon markets come under criticism…

Carbon markets allow carbon-emitting companies and individuals to offset their greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. These credits are meant to be tied to certified emissions reductions from projects designed to reduce, or in some cases remove, greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Credits are often from renewable energy projects, such as wind and solar installations, and nature-based solutions like reforestation and land restoration.

Carbon markets and credits have come under intense scrutiny in recent years due to lack of oversight and regulation. Companies and governments have been accused of greenwashing, as certain entities created fraudulent carbon credit programs that accepted payment, but never implemented carbon reduction projects. Other critics maintain that the carbon market allows companies to continue emitting greenhouse gases instead of finding methods to avoid emissions in the first place. 

recent investigation from the Guardian, Die Zeit and SourceMaterial found that more than 90 percent of rainforest carbon offset credits from a leading provider are likely to be “phantom credits” that do not represent actual greenhouse gas reductions, adding more fuel to the skepticism.

… But business leaders seem to still believe 

Net-zero targets represent more than 90 percent of global GDP, and the vast majority of business leaders believe that carbon credits are a critical piece in the global decarbonization puzzle.

Over 80 percent of the business leaders surveyed by Conservation International and We Mean Business say they would like to accelerate their decarbonization plans beyond credits or offsets. They claimed to face barriers such as budgetary constraints, technological limitations, lack of collaboration, concerns about greenwashing, lack of transparency and regulation in the carbon market, and the quality of carbon credits available, which held them back.

To overcome some of the roadblocks and confusion around carbon credits, businesses are increasingly relying on carbon credit ratings agencies such as the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market and the Voluntary Carbon Market Initiative. Carbon ratings agencies help ensure the integrity of the carbon market through robust oversight, as well as stewarding a consistent taxonomy for businesses making carbon reduction claims.

“Without a transparent, high-integrity voluntary carbon market that functions at scale, we won’t stay within 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” Annette Nazareth, chair of the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market, said in a statement. “Companies’ priority must be to decarbonize their own value chains. High-integrity carbon credits allow them to go further, accelerating climate mitigation beyond their value chain by providing finance to critical climate mitigation activities that do not otherwise meet the risk and return expectations of investors. We need to find a way to make it easy for investors to recognize and price a high-integrity carbon credit no matter which program issued it, what kind of credit it is, whether it is based on a removal or reduction, a nature-based solution, or an emerging technology.”

Tackling challenges in the carbon market is urgent to the activation of climate finance. Another recent report from the We Mean Business Coalition found that if the world’s top 1,700 emitting companies purchased carbon credits for just 10 percent of their emissions, more than $1 trillion would be activated for climate finance by 2030.

“Climate change is the greatest test of collective action in human history, and a crisis of that scale demands an all-hands-on-deck, all-of-the- above strategy,” Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, added in a statement. “Carbon credits are [a] proven tool for immediately reducing emissions, while also pursuing longer-term decarbonization ambitions. And though it isn’t always reflected in the headlines, this study affirms that private-sector buyers are indeed gravitating toward high-quality credits, placing a premium on transparency and accountability.”

The challenges to decarbonization are myriad, and the carbon marketplace is not yet ideal. However, many business leaders still feel a functional, scalable carbon credit system could accelerate the reduction of carbon emissions, perhaps just in time. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/carbon-markets-authenticity-trust/764921





Wintertime farming practices can help or worsen water pollution and algae blooms

28 01 2023

By Michelle Woodhouse, Water Program Manager, Environmental Defense • Reposted: January 28, 2023

If you’re a reader of our blogs or a lover of Lake Erie, you may already know that excess amounts of fertilizer are making their way into our waterways and are a key culprit in contributing to toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and other freshwater bodies. Some of these fertilizers are chemicals, but some are just old-fashioned manure

Using a natural fertilizer such as manure is a good practice – but there are still some rules that need to be followed to minimize negative impacts on the environment. 

Fertilizer management best practices are called the “4 Rs.” Applying the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place – are considered the rules of thumb for fertilizer application. These rules apply to manure as well as chemical fertilizers. And when it comes to applying manure, winter is the worst time.  

What are the risks of winter spreading?

Winter spreading of manure is a practice that is under intense scrutiny because of the elevated risks for nutrient losses and its effect on water quality. The risk of runoff to surface water increases when applied on frozen or snow-covered ground. Frozen soils have limited, or no infiltration, so immediate runoff occurs if rainfall or snow melts before the soil thaws. With winter applications, no growing crops are available to absorb the nutrients. 

Winter spreading of fertilizer is actively discouraged within the agricultural community and by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. However, it still occurs, and the practice of winter spreading is not only inefficient but also harmful to the watershed. 

One of the main reasons manure is applied in winter is due to insufficient manure storage capacity. Therefore, increasing manure storage capacity is a simple way to alleviate much of the need for winter spreading. A more heavy-handed approach taken by some governments is to ban winter spreading altogether to try and enforce full compliance within the farming community. 

What protections exist in Ontario to protect the Great Lakes from agricultural runoff and nutrient pollution? 

Several pieces of legislation exist in Ontario that make it an offence to allow manure to enter waterways. The main pieces of legislation are the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act, and federally, the Fisheries Act. The Nutrient Management Act regulations are also most restrictive for winter applications. Farmers are also required to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal waste, which includes ensuring enough storage capacity for manure

Despite these laws, however, excess nutrients are making their way into the watershed year-round, including in the wintertime. Only a limited number of farms that produce and use manure are included under the requirements of the Nutrient Management Actand its regulations. Governments are also relying too heavily on education and outreach to ensure that farms self-report whether they meet the conditions set out in the regulations. In the past, it has also been found that in Ontario, the Ministry of Agriculture has not followed up on issues of non-compliance and rarely used punitive measures – such as issuing offence notices – that may result in fines set by provincial courts. 

Satellite photo by NOAA, 2019

What more needs to be done? 

These weaknesses in the Nutrient Management Act contribute to year-round issues with nutrient losses and runoff, including in the winter months. All of this contributes to a deteriorating situation for the health of the Great Lakes and the toxic algae bloom issue that plagues Lake Erie annually. Governments need to strengthen the regulations requiring farms to have nutrient management plans. For the farms that do require plans, greater monitoring and enforcement of compliance are required. 

Every year, scientists from NOAA and the Great Lakes region warn us that Lake Erie is approaching a tipping point, and if we don’t get our act together in the near term, we could lose one of our greatest global treasures. Bringing an end to the winter spreading of manure is one of the critical actions we need to take if we want to avoid this devastating loss.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://environmentaldefence.ca/2023/01/26/wintertime-farming-practices-can-help-or-worsen-water-pollution-and-algae-blooms/





We need native seeds in order to respond to climate change, but there aren’t enough

28 01 2023
Seeds are seen as students at Eucalyptus Elementary School learn to plant a vegetable garden in preparation for Plant a Seed Day in Hawthorne, California on March 13, 2019. Photo: DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images)

By Kaitlyn Radde from National Public Radio News • January 27, 2023

In the wake of wildfires, floods and droughts, restoring damaged landscapes and habitats requires native seeds. The U.S. doesn’t have enough, according to a report released Thursday.

”Time is of the essence to bank the seeds and the genetic diversity our lands hold,” the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) report said.

As climate change worsens extreme weather events, the damage left behind by those events will become more severe. That, in turn, will create greater need for native seeds — which have adapted to their local environments over the course of thousands of years — for restoration efforts.

But the report found that the country’s supply of native seeds is already insufficient to meet the needs of agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is the largest purchaser of native seeds and which commissioned the study in 2020. That lack of supply presents high barriers to restoration efforts now and into the future.

”The federal land-management agencies are not prepared to provide the native seed necessary to respond to the increasing frequency and severity of wildfire and impacts of climate change,” the report concluded. Changing that will require ”expanded, proactive effort” including regional and national coordination, it said.

In a statement, BLM said federal agencies and partners have been working to increase the native seed supply for many years. The bureau said it is reviewing the report’s findings.

The report’s recommendations ”represent an important opportunity for us to make our collective efforts more effective,” BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning said.

While native plants are the best for habitat restoration, the lack of supply means restoration efforts often use non-native substitutes. They’re less expensive and easier to come by, but they aren’t locally adapted.

”Without native plants, especially their seeds, we do not have the ability to restore functional ecosystems after natural disasters and mitigate the effects of climate change,” BLM said.

Some private companies produce native seeds, but that requires specialized knowledge and equipment. On top of that, they often lack starter seed, and demand is inconsistent — agencies make purchases in response to emergencies with timelines companies say are unrealistic. Proactively restoring public lands could help reduce this uncertainty and strain, the report recommends.

In order to sufficiently increase the supply of seeds, the report concluded that BLM also needs to upscale its Seed Warehouse System, which ”would soon be inadequate in terms of physical climate-controlled capacity, staff, and expertise.” There are currently two major warehouses with a combined capacity of 2.6 million pounds, with limited cold storage space.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/01/27/npr-native-seed-supply-climate-change-land-restoration





How California’s ambitious new climate plan could help speed energy transformation around the world

27 01 2023

San Gorgonio Pass wind farm. Photo: Wikipedia

By Daniel Sperling, Distinguished Blue Planet Prize Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Founding Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis via The Conversation • Published: January 26, 2023

California is embarking on an audacious new climate plan that aims to eliminate the state’s greenhouse gas footprint by 2045, and in the process, slash emissions far beyond its borders. The blueprint calls for massive transformations in industry, energy and transportation, as well as changes in institutions and human behaviors.

These transformations won’t be easy. Two years of developing the plan have exposed myriad challenges and tensions, including environmental justice, affordability and local rule.

For example, the San Francisco Fire Commission had prohibited batteries with more than 20 kilowatt-hours of power storage in homes, severely limiting the ability to store solar electricity from rooftop solar panels for all those times when the sun isn’t shining. More broadly, local opposition to new transmission lines, large-scale solar and wind facilities, substations for truck charging, and oil refinery conversions to produce renewable diesel will slow the transition.

I had a front row seat while the plan was prepared and vetted as a longtime board member of the California Air Resources Board, the state agency that oversees air pollution and climate control. And my chief contributor to this article, Rajinder Sahota, is deputy executive officer of the board, responsible for preparing the plan and navigating political land mines.

We believe California has a chance of succeeding, and in the process, showing the way for the rest of the world. In fact, most of the needed policies are already in place.

What happens in California has global reach

What California does matters far beyond state lines.

California is close to being the world’s fourth-largest economy and has a history of adopting environmental requirements that are imitated across the United States and the world. California has the most ambitious zero-emission requirements in the world for carstrucks and buses; the most ambitious low-carbon fuel requirements; one of the largest carbon cap-and-trade programs; and the most aggressive requirements for renewable electricity.

In the U.S., through peculiarities in national air pollution lawother states have replicated many of California’s regulations and programs so they can race ahead of national policies. States can either follow federal vehicle emissions standards or California’s stricter rules. There is no third option. An increasing number of states now follow California.

So, even though California contributes less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, if it sets a high bar, its many technical, institutional and behavioral innovations will likely spread and be transformative.

What’s in the California blueprint

The new Scoping Plan lays out in considerable detail how California intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 48% below 1990 levels by 2030 and then achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

It calls for a 94% reduction in petroleum use between 2022 and 2045 and an 86% reduction in total fossil fuel use. Overall, it would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2045 relative to 1990 levels. The remaining 15% reduction would come from capturing carbon from the air and fossil fuel plants, and sequestering it below ground or in forests, vegetation and soils.

To achieve these goals, the plan calls for a 37-fold increase in on-road zero-emission vehicles, a sixfold increase in electrical appliances in residences, a fourfold increase in installed wind and solar generation capacity, and doubling total electricity generation to run it all. It also calls for ramping up hydrogen power and altering agriculture and forest management to reduce wildfires, sequester carbon dioxide and reduce fertilizer demand.

This is a massive undertaking, and it implies a massive transformation of many industries and activities. 

Transportation: California’s No. 1 emitter

Transportation accounts for about half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, including upstream oil refinery emissions. This is where the path forward is perhaps most settled.

The state has already adopted regulations requiring almost all new cars, trucks and buses to have zero emissions – new transit buses by 2029 and most truck sales and light-duty vehicle sales by 2035

In addition, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires oil companies to steadily reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. This regulation aims to ensure that the liquid fuels needed for legacy cars and trucks still on the road after 2045 will be low-carbon biofuels.

Two electric truck cabs are parked on either side of a charger with a sign reading '2 hour charging limit'.
The Port of Long Beach opened the nation’s first publicly accessible charging station for heavy-duty electric trucks in November 2022. Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

But regulations can be modified and even rescinded if opposition swells. If battery costs do not resume their downward slide, if electric utilities and others lag in providing charging infrastructure, and if local opposition blocks new charging sites and grid upgrades, the state could be forced to slow its zero-emission vehicle requirements.

The plan also relies on changes in human behavior. For example, it calls for a 25% reduction in vehicle miles traveled in 2030 compared with 2019, which has far dimmer prospects. The only strategies likely to significantly reduce vehicle use are steep charges for road use and parking, a move few politicians or voters in the U.S. would support, and a massive increase in shared-ride automated vehicles, which are not likely to scale up for at least another 10 years. Additional charges for driving and parking raise concerns about affordability for low-income commuters.

Electricity and electrifying buildings

The key to cutting emissions in almost every sector is electricity powered by renewable energy.

Electrifying most everything means not just replacing most of the state’s natural gas power plants, but also expanding total electricity production – in this case doubling total generation and quadrupling renewable generation, in just 22 years.

That amount of expansion and investment is mind-boggling – and it is the single most important change for reaching net zero, since electric vehicles and appliances depend on the availability of renewable electricity to count as zero emissions.

Electrification of buildings is in the early stages in California, with requirements in place for new homes to have rooftop solar, and incentives and regulations adopted to replace natural gas use with heat pumps and electric appliances.

A man and woman stand beside a power box on a home.
Two microgrid communities being developed in Menifee, Calif., feature all-electric homes equipped with solar panels, heat pumps and batteries. Photo: Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

The biggest and most important challenge is accelerating renewable electricity generation – mostly wind and utility-scale solar. The state has laws in place requiring electricity to be 100% zero emissions by 2045 – up from 52% in 2021.

The plan to get there includes offshore wind power, which will require new technology – floating wind turbines. The federal government in December 2022 leased the first Pacific sites for offshore wind farms, with plans to power over 1.5 million homes. However, years of technical and regulatory work are still ahead.

For solar power, the plan focuses on large solar farms, which can scale up faster and at less cost than rooftop solar. The same week the new scoping plan was announced, California’s Public Utility Commission voted to significantly scale back how much homeowners are reimbursed for solar power they send to the grid, a policy known as net metering. The Public Utility Commission argues that because of how electricity rates are set, generous rooftop solar reimbursementshave primarily benefited wealthier households while imposing higher electricity bills on others. It believes this new policy will be more equitable and create a more sustainable model.

Industry and the carbon capture challenge

Industry plays a smaller role, and the policies and strategies here are less refined.

The state’s carbon cap-and-trade program, designed to ratchet down total emissions while allowing individual companies some flexibility, will tighten its emissions limits. 

But while cap-and-trade has been effective to date, in part by generating billions of dollars for programs and incentives to reduce emissions, its role may change as energy efficiency improves and additional rules and regulations are put in place to replace fossil fuels.

One of the greatest controversies throughout the Scoping Plan process is its reliance on carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS. The controversy is rooted in concern that CCS allows fossil fuel facilities to continue releasing pollution while only capturing the carbon dioxide emissions. These facilities are often in or near disadvantaged communities.

California’s chances of success

Will California make it? The state has a track record of exceeding its goals, but getting to net zero by 2045 requires a sharper downward trajectory than even California has seen before, and there are still many hurdles.

Environmental justice concerns about carbon capture and new industrial facilities, coupled with NIMBYism, could block many needed investments. And the possibility of sluggish economic growth could led to spending cuts and might exacerbate concerns about economic disruption and affordability. 

There are also questions about prices and geopolitics. Will the upturn in battery costs in 2022 – due to geopolitical flare-ups, a lag in expanding the supply of critical materials, and the war in Ukraine – turn out to be a hiccup or a trend? Will electric utilities move fast enough in building the infrastructure and grid capacity needed to accommodate the projected growth in zero-emission cars and trucks?

It is encouraging that the state has already created just about all the needed policy infrastructure. Additional tightening of emissions limits and targets will be needed, but the framework and policy mechanisms are largely in place.

Rajinder Sahota, deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, contributed to this article.

To see the orignal post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/how-californias-ambitious-new-climate-plan-could-help-speed-energy-transformation-around-the-world-197094





New Taxonomy Released to Combat Greenwashing in Investments

27 01 2023

Image credit: Alexander Tsang/Unsplash

By Mary Riddle from Triple Pundit. Posted: January 27, 2023

Investors, insurers, and financial institutions in the EU have a new method for assessing the sustainability of their investments. Last week, the Observatory Against Greenwashing launched its independent Science-Based Taxonomy, in direct response to the EU Taxonomy system that some say is ineffective. 

The EU Taxonomy is a classification system that claims to give investors, businesses, and financial institutions a common language for identifying the degree to which a specific investment, financial product, or economic activity can be considered sustainable.

However, critics have said the draft guidance is not sufficiently science-based and certain aspects, such as classifying gas-fired power, tree-burning, logging and nuclear energy as sustainable, could do more harm than good.

To create a more sustainable system for classifying investments, a coalition of experts and NGOs including WWF, BirdLife International, and Transport and Environment, formed the Observatory Against Greenwashing (OAG). The group aims to improve on the EU Taxonomy and provide investors with better, science-based guidance on the sustainability of their investments. 

What is the independent Science-Based Taxonomy?

The independent Science-Based Taxonomy is based on the EU Taxonomy, but it only keeps the portions of the text that researchers found to be environmentally sound. It also makes more robust criteria for the parts of the EU Taxonomy that the OAG deemed unscientific or harmful to the environment.

“The EU Taxonomy was originally designed to eliminate greenwashing but instead has become another tool to deceive consumers,” Vedran Kordić, EU Taxonomy coordinator from WWF Adria, said in a statement. “The science-based Taxonomy wants to succeed where the original Taxonomy failed: It will create rigorous criteria which financial institutions can use to properly assess what is green and what is not.” According to the OAG, 1 in 3 activities deemed sustainable in the EU Taxonomy actually cause planetary harm. 

The EU Taxonomy was established in 2018 with a mission to inject capital into projects that would help the EU meet objectives laid out in its Green New Deal, including carbon neutrality by 2050. But critics argue the EU Taxonomy is disingenuous and fundamentally flawed due to the inclusion of natural gas and nuclear energy sources on its list of sustainable investment options.

“This isn’t good enough. We need a better taxonomy, one based on science,” said Luca Bonaccorsi, sustainable finance director at Transport and Environment, a coalition of European NGOs working on transportation issues, in a statement. “Now the investor community has it.”

ESG regulations are expanding in the EU and beyond

While controversy continues to surround ESG regulation for financial products in the EU Taxonomy, the EU Commission is calling for an increase in regulation of other consumer goods and services in an attempt to respond to claims of bogus greenwashing. The EU has drafted a legal proposal that would require companies to provide scientific evidence to justify sustainability claims such as “carbon neutral” or “contains recycled materials.” The draft rule also calls on EU countries to develop systems for evaluating the environmental claims of companies, including issuing penalties for businesses that do not comply. 

The expansion of ESG (environmental, social and governance) regulation is not limited to Europe. In the United States, the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to channel over $400 billion into clean tech companies over the next 10 years. Additionally, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to finally issue its climate disclosure regulations in April, several months later than planned. The new SEC rules, if issued, would require companies to make disclosures surrounding their climate-related risks, as well as their greenhouse gas emissions and those of their supply chains. 





American Airlines Cargo Partnership Delivers Humanitarian Supplies to Haiti

27 01 2023

Photos: American Airlines

From American Airlines • Posted: January 27, 2023

American Airlines Cargo is taking part in a global effort to transport life-saving medical and sanitation supplies to Haiti as the nation struggles to control a deadly cholera outbreak. In partnership with Airlink, a nonprofit humanitarian organization dedicated to bringing critical aid to communities in crisis, American is carrying more than 55 tons of medical supplies from Europe to Miami, where they will be staged for distribution to Haiti.

“We’re proud to partner with Airlink to make a positive impact on the world,” said Greg Schwendinger, President of American Airlines Cargo. “At American, our mission is to care for people on life’s journey, and we are honored to play a role in transporting critical goods to the people and places they are needed most.”

Cholera, which spreads mainly through contaminated food and water, has sickened thousands of people in Haiti since the outbreak began in October 2022. The illness has worsened a humanitarian crisis caused by civil unrest that makes accessing supplies difficult for health care workers in the Caribbean country. American will serve as a vital link in moving personal protective equipment (PPE), clean water filters, nebulizers, blood tubes and other sterile items to help fight the crisis.

American Airlines plane with Supplies for Haiti

American first partnered with Airlink in March 2022 to ship humanitarian aid to those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. Since then, it has carried nearly 90 tons of life-saving cargo to the region. Through this partnership, American helped transport cargo and relief personnel for 47 different non-profit organizations, supporting humanitarian efforts in 21 different countries.

Last year, American and its customers donated 85 million AAdvantage® miles to Airlink though American’s Miles for Social Good program. So far, the miles have provided travel for 351 relief workers to support social programs around the world.

For more information about American’s Miles for Social Good program and to donate online, visit www.aa.com/letgoodtakeflight.





Feds slap 20-year mining ban on land near Boundary Waters

27 01 2023

The Kawishiwi River (right) flows Wednesday, in June 2019 near Ely, Minn. Twin Metals planned to setup its mining operations to the left of the river, but a 20-year ban Thursday on new mining projects in the area deals a huge blow to the proposal. Photo: Derek Montgomery for MPR News 2019

By Dan Kraker from Minnesota Public Radio News • Posted: January 27, 2023

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued a 20-year mining moratorium Thursday on 225,000 acres of federal land near the Boundary Waters, dealing a further blow to the proposed Twin Metals mine near Ely, Minn. and other potential mines for copper, nickel and precious metals within the watershed of the canoe wilderness area.

The decision is the latest milestone in a long and contentious tug of war over mining near the popular wilderness area that has spanned more than six years and three presidential administrations.

President Obama first proposed withdrawing federal land from future mineral exploration and leasing within the watershed of the Boundary Waters near the end of his second term in 2016. The Trump administration then stopped the environmental review of that proposal, before it was restarted under the Biden administration in 2021.

The decision announced Monday followed more than a year of analysis by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service of the potential environmental and cultural impacts of mining in the region upstream from the Boundary Waters, and the review of 225,000 public comments.

“Protecting a place like Boundary Waters is key to supporting the health of the watershed and its surrounding wildlife, upholding our Tribal trust and treaty responsibilities, and boosting the local recreation economy,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in announcing her decision.

“With an eye toward protecting this special place for future generations, I have made this decision using the best-available science and extensive public input.”

Duluth Complex

The decision limits the mining of a significant portion of the Duluth Complex, one of the largest undeveloped deposits of copper, nickel, cobalt and other platinum-group metals in the world.

Those metals are critical for the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and other technologies crucial to the transition to a carbon-free economy.

Industry proponents argue that modern mining in Minnesota would be conducted with stronger environmental and human rights protections than in many other parts of the world. They further contend the projects would bring major economic benefits and high-paying jobs to the northeastern corner of the state.

Proponents further argue mining companies should be allowed to submit their specific mining plans to state and federal officials for review — they say that’s the only way to predict whether they can protect the environment.

“This action begs the question: why doesn’t the government have confidence in its own agencies’ ability to review proposed specific projects?” asked David Chura, chair of the business and labor group Jobs for Minnesotans. 

Julie Lucas, executive director of the industry group Mining Minnesota, said the decision will make it more difficult to achieve President Biden’s climate goals. She said it will also limit the role the state can play in powering a transition to 100 percent carbon-free energy — something the state legislature is considering requiring by 2040. 

“We should be prioritizing the safe and responsible development of these minerals, not putting them in a lockbox to ensure they can’t be used,” Lucas said. 

An Interior Department official speaking on background said the Biden administration is committed to developing a strong domestic mineral supply chain, and supports responsible mining to develop those critical minerals.

“But we have to do so in a responsible manner,” the official said. “That includes balancing our commitment to ensure we protect some of our country’s most spectacular outdoor places for future generations. The Boundary Waters and its surrounding watersheds are one of those places.”

Mining impacts

While iron ore mining has a rich history in the state, mining for copper, nickel and precious metals has never been done before in Minnesota, and carries with it the risk for acid mine drainage and other severe water pollution.

Environmental groups have argued that risk is incompatible with the Boundary Waters — a fragile, million acre wilderness of interconnected lakes and rivers that hosts more than 150,000 visitors a year from around the world, and supports a thriving tourism and recreation-based economy.

As part of its analysis of the mineral withdrawal, the U.S. Forest Service looked at 20 other copper-nickel mines across the U.S. and Canada, and found all resulted in some level of environmental degradation, and that the environmental reviews of those projects frequently underestimated their eventual impacts.

“Our request for this withdrawal was based on concern for irreparable harm to this watershed,” said a Department of Agriculture official speaking on background.

“During the last decade or more numerous examples of environmental harm resulting from mining and sulfide mineral deposits have occurred. Although contamination containment strategies exist, the prospect of their failure as evidenced by harmful releases elsewhere, demonstrates the risk of irreparable harm to the Rainy River watershed, tribal treaty rights and the wilderness values in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness.”

Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, called the withdrawal the most significant land conservation measure in Minnesota in 45 years, since Congress passed a law in 1978 that expanded the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and banned mining within it. 

“Today Secretary Haaland completed the protection of the Boundary Waters adding to the mining ban area federal lands and minerals in the headwaters of the Boundary Wates, where all waters flow downstream into the Boundary Waters.” 

That area within the Rainy River watershed covers a swath of about 350 square miles where any rain or snow that falls flows north and west into the Boundary Waters, Quetico Provincial Park, Voyageurs National Park and beyond. 

“You don’t let the most polluting industry in America operate next to a pristine wilderness that contains an abundant supply of the cleanest water in the country,” said Chris Knopf, executive director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. 

“This is commonsense, and it’s supported by the rigorous findings of an exhaustive, two-year scientific study.”

Twin Metals

Thursday’s decision places another roadblock in front of the proposed $1.7 billion dollar Twin Metals project, an underground copper-nickel mine near Ely, just south of the Boundary Waters and within the mineral withdrawal area. 

Last year the Biden administration canceled two federal mineral leases held by Twin Metals along Birch Lake in the Superior National Forest. Those leases are required to mine the valuable metals underground.

The company has sued to have those leases reinstated. But even if it prevails, the mineral withdrawal puts additional federal leases that Twin Metals had hoped to obtain off limits.

“Twin Metals Minnesota is deeply disappointed and stunned,” Twin Metals spokesperson Kathy Graul said about the withdrawal, adding the company remains “committed to enforcing Twin Metals’ rights.”

The withdrawal does not have an impact the proposed PolyMet mine, which lies within the Lake Superior watershed, south of the withdrawal area.

That project has been approved by state regulators, but has been tied up in legal and regulatory proceedings for the past three years.

Permanent protection? 

There have been about 90 mineral withdrawals enacted across the U.S. in the last roughly 50 years, said Save the Boundary Waters’ Rom. 

Over the years both Democrats and Republicans have supported withdrawals, including the protection of about 30,000 acres in Montana known as Paradise Valley, in 2018 under the Trump administration, from potential mining federal lands north of Yellowstone National Park. 

The withdrawal could be reversed by future administrations, or modified. That’s why DFL. Rep. Betty McCollum said she plans to reintroduce a bill to permanently ban mining within the watershed of the Boundary Waters. 

But that proposal would likely not pass out of the House with its newly elected Republican majority. 

“Today is an attack on our way of life,” said GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, who represents the area where the mineral withdrawal was imposed. “I can assure you that this Administration, from the President to the Forest Service, to the Interior Department, will answer for the pain they elected to cause my constituents.” 

Bills have also been introduced in the Minnesota legislature to ban mining on state lands within the watershed of the Boundary Waters.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2023/01/26/feds-slap-20year-mining-ban-on-land-near-boundary-waters





Municipal Green Bonds: The Next ESG Battleground

26 01 2023

By Tina Casey from Triple Pundit • Reposted: January 26, 2023

City taxpayers in states like Texas are set to lose out financially due to “anti-ESG” laws. Image credit: Perry Merrity II/Unsplash

When red-state policymakers began to target ESG (environment, social and governance) investing for attack, it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt. As it happens, that someone is the local taxpayer. A new anti-ESG state law in Texas has already induced one city to miss out on the most competitive bid for its municipal bond sale. As for cities in blue states, growth in the market for municipal green bonds could help ensure economic health and resiliency in the era of climate change.

Somebody’s gonna get hurt: Small city loses $277,334 on bond sale

An early sign of trouble appeared last September when Bloomberg reported that the city of Anna, Texas (population 16,792) declined to pick the best bid for its bond sale. The bidder, Citigroup, apparently ran afoul of a new state law, SB 19. That law passed in 2021 with the goal of protecting gun industry stakeholders from being passed over by financial firms with ESG policies.

Citigroup is one such firm. In 2018, the company set a relatively mild “best practices” policy on gun sales for its retail clients. The new policy required background checks and a 21-year age threshold, and it limited the sale of extra-lethal equipment such as bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

“It is not centered on an ideological mission to rid the world of firearms,” Ed Skyler, Citigroup’s EVP of global public affairs, said of the policy back in 2018. “But we want to do our part as a company to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands.”

Skyler also noted that Citigroup’s policy applied to retail clients only, not to the company’s relationships with gun manufacturers, which he described as “few.” Even so, that was enough to set off alarm bells under SB 19. 

As described by Bloomberg, city officials in Anna rejected Citibank’s bid after discussing the matter with the state Attorney General. They dropped the opportunity to get the best deal, reportedly costing local taxpayers $277,334.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Earlier this month, a Wharton analysis concluded that SB 19 and a similar bill, SB 13, will cost Texas municipal bond issuers $300 million to $500 million in additional interest over the first eight months after enactment.

A follow-up analysis commissioned by Ceres and the investor group As You Sow also indicated that similar losses are in store for cities as a group of state policymakers consider similar laws. That group includes lawmakers in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Picking winners and losers in the market for municipal green bonds 

The prospect of a negative bottom-line outcome for city residents will probably not make red-state policymakers change their minds and stop the crusade against ESG investing. After all, punishing city dwellers to make a point is par for the course among red-state policymakers.

In contrast, blue-state taxpayers can look forward to a competitive environment for their municipal bond sales, including municipal green bonds.

Earlier this month, an organization of international investors called the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) released a report in support of the U.S. municipal market titled, “The thematic ESG approach in U.S. municipal bonds.”

“As the largest liquid sub-sovereign debt market in the world, the U.S. muni bond market merits consideration by ESG-minded fixed income investors,” PRI emphasized.

PRI is tasked with promoting the six ESG principles outlined by the United Nations Global Compact in 2006. More than 1,500 investment firms have signed onto the principles, with assets under management totaling an eye-popping $62 trillion.

In the report, PRI noted that municipal bonds are “well-positioned for investors pursuing a thematic ESG approach.” While cautioning that investors still need to exercise due diligence, the report’s authors noted that thematic or “labelled” municipal bonds can “help investors assess and report on the environmental and social outcomes of their investments.”

PRI analyst Jasper Cox elaborated: “U.S. municipal bonds are useful for fixed income investors seeking to contribute to sustainability outcomes, since issuers of these bonds are crucial for the wellbeing of most Americans and also the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Based on data culled from PRI’s ESG reporting platform, the organization observed that momentum is growing for “thematic ESG investing in U.S. muni bonds due to increasing investor interest in environmental and social themes.”

Among other factors, the report also took note of “growing opportunities to fund climate-related projects.”

Indeed, some PRI signatories are using muni bonds to align investment objectives with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals or, alternatively, exclude bonds linked to revenue from certain sectors, such as tobacco.

Yes, interest in municipal green bonds is growing

Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs provided another indication that the outlook for municipal green bonds in the U.S. is a healthy one — at least for blue-state cities.

“The global bond market will be an important source of investment to drive the climate transition, and green bonds finance projects with positive environmental impact,” the firm’s lead portfolio manager for green, social and impact bonds, Bram Bos, wrote in a company blog post.

Bos explained that the market for municipal green bonds is expanding as the twin forces of investor interest and government policymaking come to bear. Though much of the activity has been centered in Europe, Goldman Sachs expects the pace to pick up in the U.S. and elsewhere in the coming years, Bos reported.

That outlook was affirmed back in 2021 by Fidelity, which issued a white paper noting that municipal green bonds were a small but growing segment of the market.

“Provided that the bonds meet the investor’s current investment objectives and that the investor understands the associated risks, Green Bonds may present a unique investment opportunity,” Fidelity stated.

ESG is here to stay

CNN ran the numbers earlier this week and reported that “sustainable investing generated returns similar to the market” last year. That’s an interesting contrast with the New York Times, which ran a string of articles critical of ESG investing last year.

Among other data indicating strength in the ESG area, CNN cited the Morningstar U.S. Sustainability Index, which fell 18.9 percent in 2022. That may look bad at first, but in the context of an overall market downturn, the Index actually did better than the S&P 500 — which fell 19.4 percent.

Against this backdrop, the anti-ESG, “anti-woke” movement is simply another Republican exercise in performative politics, aimed at mollifying their supporters in the fossil energy and weapons industries while feeding the emotions of their angry base, regardless of the consequences for everyone else.

It’s little wonder that the Republican Party underperformed expectations in the 2022 midterm elections by a wide margin. The world is passing them by, and that includes ESG investors and the voters who benefit from fact-based financial decision-making in the era of climate change.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/municipal-green-bonds-esg/764771





EPA considers tougher regulations on livestock farm pollution

26 01 2023
Hog farmer Mike Patterson’s animals, who have been put on a diet so they take longer to fatten up due to the supply chain disruptions caused by coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreaks, at his property in Kenyon, Minnesota, U.S. April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

By John Flesher, Associated Press • Reposted: January 26, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will study whether to toughen regulation of large livestock farms that release manure and other pollutants into waterways.

EPA has not revised its rules dealing with the nation’s largest animal operations — which hold thousands of hogs, chickens and cattle — since 2008. The agency said in 2021 it planned no changes but announced Friday it had reconsidered in response to an environmental group’s lawsuit.

While not committing to stronger requirements, EPA acknowledged needing more recent data about the extent of the problem — and affordable methods to limit it.

“EPA has decided to gather additional information and conduct a detailed study on these issues in order to be able to make an informed decision as to whether to undertake rulemaking,” the agency said.

Food & Water Watch, whose lawsuit prompted the agency’s reversal, said a new approach was long overdue.

“For decades EPA’s lax rules have allowed for devastating and widespread public health and environmental impacts on vulnerable communities across the country,” Tarah Heinzen, the group’s legal director, said Monday.

Beef, poultry and pork have become more affordable staples in the American diet thanks to industry consolidation and the rise of giant farms. Yet federal and state environmental agencies often lack basic information such as where they’re located, how many animals they’re raising and how they deal with manure.

Runoff of waste and fertilizers from the operations — and from croplands where manure is spread — fouls streams, rivers and lakes. It’s a leading cause of algae blooms that create hazards in many waterways and dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA regulates large farms — known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs — covered by federal pollution permits. Federal law requires only those known to discharge waste to obtain permits, although some states make others do so.

EPA’s most recent tally shows 6,266 of the nation’s 21,237 CAFOs have permits.

In its plan, the agency said its rules impose “substantial and detailed requirements” on production areas — barns and feedlots where animals are held, plus manure storage facilities — as well as land where manure and wastewater are spread.

While prohibiting releases to waterways, the rules make exceptions for production area discharges caused by severe rainfall and for stormwater-related runoff from croplands where waste was applied in keeping with plans that manage factors such as timing and amounts.

In deciding whether to revise the rules, EPA said it would consider how well they’re controlling pollution and how changing them would bring improvements.

The agency conceded its data on discharges to waterways is “sparse,” with a preliminary analysis based on reports from only 16 CAFOs. In addition to seeking information from more farms, EPA said it would assess whether discharges are widespread nationally or concentrated in particular states or regions.

It also will look into practices and technologies developed since the rules were last revised, their potential effectiveness at preventing releases, and their cost to farm owners and operators. Under the law, new requirements on farms must be “technologically available and economically achievable.”

Revising water pollution rules typically takes several years, three full-time employees and $1 million per year for contractor help, EPA said. The study will determine whether “the potential environmental benefits of undertaking rulemaking justify devoting the significant resources that are required,” it said.

Livestock groups have said government regulation is strong enough and that voluntary measures such as planting off-season cover crops and buffer strips between croplands and waterways are the best way to curb runoff.

Environmental groups argue regulations should cover more farms, require better construction of manure lagoons to avoid leaks, and outlaw practices such as spreading waste on frozen ground, where it often washes away during rainstorms or thaws.

“We’re not talking about really expensive fixes here,” said Emily Miller, staff attorney with Food & Water Watch. “We need the standards to be stronger so they actually prevent discharges as they’re supposed to do.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/epa-considers-tougher-regulations-on-livestock-farm-pollution





National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley Announce New Video Series Celebrating Spaces and Stories Within Nature

25 01 2023

National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley are furthering the permanent protection of places that honor the people and stories who shaped our public lands.

From the National Parks Conservation Association • Reposted: January 25, 2023

Today, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and its partner Nature Valley are announcing a new video series that celebrates and brings awareness to the historical and cultural heritage of our Hispanic and Latino communities – while generating greater access to nature by preserving public lands and national park sites.

The series features three videos highlighting transformational park experiences by national park advocates in Texas and California. These stories are told through the lens of recreation, accessibility and representation, and family heritage. Each story is further brought to life through a unique piece of artwork reflective of each advocate’s experience and emblematic of the park site special to them.

The first video in the series released today features community member, Josie Gutierrez, and her experiences within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Josie’s story serves as an example of how park access allows people to connect to nature through recreation, while also providing a space to find peace and relaxation in the outdoors. Also revealed in the video is an art piece created by Cristina Noriega, a painter and muralist born and raised in San Antonio, commissioned to embody Josie’s experience at the San Antonio Missions. Subsequent videos highlighting additional national park advocates and their profound personal experiences within park sites will be released over the coming months.

“Our national parks tell the stories of America,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “They teach us about our history, our culture and the power of place. By sharing these powerful first-person stories, as we have done in this video series, we hope to introduce more people to America’s national parks and the richness of the experiences people have within these protected places. And we hope they are inspired to create stories of their own.”

Partners since 2009, Nature Valley recently donated $200,000 to NPCA to support the permanent protection of park sites that celebrate and bring awareness to the historical and cultural heritage of our Hispanic and Latino communities. These funds advance NPCA’s work around access, equity and representation within the outdoors to ensure our parks tell comprehensive stories of our nation’s rich history and culture, while providing all Americans the opportunity to see themselves in our parklands.

“Nature Valley is committed to ensuring nature’s energy is accessible to all, starting with education and awareness,” said Katie Wong, head of ideas and partnerships for General Mills. “Our partnership with National Parks Conservation Association advances this mission by furthering the permanent protection of places and spaces that honor the historical and cultural heritage of Hispanic and Latino communities who shaped our public lands by amplifying their stories.”

To view the first video in the series and learn more about NPCA and Nature Valley’s partnership and its impact, visit www.npca.org/naturevalley. Viewers can also follow along on NPCA’s InstagramFacebookTwitterYouTubeVimeo and TikTok as videos are released through April.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/764461-national-parks-conservation-association-and-nature-valley-announce-new-video





Turning problem sea algae into a replacement for plastic

25 01 2023

Mari Granström, a biochemist, sources microalgae from the Baltic Sea and seaweed from the Caribbean. Photo: BBC News

By Jo Harper fro BBC News • Reposted: January 25, 2023

Excessive outbreaks of seaweed and microalgae are clogging up waters from the Caribbean to the Baltic. Now both are being harvested alongside farmed crops to create ingredients for cosmetics and food products.

Mari Granström says it was her passion for scuba diving that opened her eyes to the continuing problem of toxic microalgae blooms in the Baltic Sea.

The outbreaks occur when tiny cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, suddenly multiply rapidly, stretching out on top of the water for potentially kilometres.

Also called eutrophication, it is a form of marine suffocation, and it is a significant environmental concern in the Baltic Sea. It can occur in 97% of the total area of the sea, according to official figures.

The blooms impact on other marine life, by causing oxygen deficiency, reducing water quality, and blocking out light.

A microalgae bloom in the Baltic Sea
Microalgae blooms can plague the Baltic Sea, particularly in the summer. Photo: BBC

The problem is caused by too many nutrients entering the water, typically nitrogen and phosphorus from artificial fertilisers. These are carried into the sea by the rivers of the surrounding countries – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

While the use of such fertilisers has reduced in recent years, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, the intergovernmental organisation that aims to improve water quality in the sea, says “the effect of these measures has not yet been detected”.

Some six years ago Ms Granström, a Finnish biochemist, determined to tackle the problem herself. She’d harvest the microalgae and use it to make ingredients for a host of products. In addition to cosmetics and human food, the microalgae extracts can be used in detergents, animal feed, packaging, and even as a replacement for plastic.

This comes as there is a growing trend for seaweed to be harvested for such purposes, as a replacement to oil-based ingredients.

Extracts from blue-green algae
Origin by Ocean produces numerous extracts from the microalgae. Photo: BBC

“I saw with my own eyes – or perhaps couldn’t see – how it was affecting the marine ecosystem, and decided to do something,” she says. “There was too much finger pointing and not enough action.”

Ms Granström says she worked on the project as “a hobby for a long time”, before in 2019 setting up a company called Origin by Ocean (ObO). She is the chief executive.

The business, which has attracted both commercial investment and European Union funds, is now continuing with a pilot production scheme ahead of aiming to be fully operational by 2025-26.

ObO collects the microalgae off the coast of Finland, where it is sucked on to boats and then separated from the water. The firm is also importing invasive sargassum seaweed from the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

ObO staff harvesting blue-green algae
The algae is harvested by sucking it out of the sea. Photo: BBC

Vast blooms of that seaweed have plagued that region for a number of years.“There are 25 million tonnes of sargassum blooming in the Caribbean every year,” says Ms Granström.

“It stops people fishing and harms tourism. We are now buying several tonnes of sargassum from the Dominican Republic, and this volume will increase.”

The company further sources unwanted seaweed from Portuguese and Spanish waters.

ObO’s pilot processing is done at a facility in northern Finland. It uses a patented biorefinery technology it calls “Nauvu” to separate the algae into numerous useable materials.

These are then sold to food, cosmetics, textiles, packing and agricultural companies.

To help grow the business ObO is working with one of its investors, Finnish chemicals and industrial group Kiilto. “If this can be successfully scaled up here, then ObO can replicate similar processes around the globe,” says Ville Solja, Kiilto’s chief business development officer.

ObO already has plans to set up a refinery in the Dominican Republic.

Across in Sweden, a separate business called Nordic Seafarm is showing just how versatile seaweed can be.

“We make algae-based gin and beer, both locally produced,” says director Fredrik Gröndahl.

Nordic Seafarm, which grows its own seaweed, is a commercial spin-off from Seafarm, a Swedish government-funded project that helps commercialise aquaculture research. 

“If this market [for seaweed] gets big, and we think it will, we are ready to scale up,” adds Prof Gröndahl, who is also project leader of Seafarm, and head of department for sustainable development, environmental science and engineering at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

“Just imagine if Ikea asked for algae-based meatballs globally, which could happen.”

Fredrik Gröndahl
Professor Fredrik Gröndahl helps to run a company that puts seaweed to various uses. Photo: BBC News

Prof Gröndahl also hopes that in the future algae will become a key ingredient in animal feed, to replace environmentally-damaging fish meal, which is common in pigs and poultry diets. “Algae is also cheaper than existing ingredients as there is no cost for feeding and irrigation.”

Back at ObO, Ms Granström says the aim is for shoppers around the world to “play a part in cleaning up the Baltic Sea” by simply buying a number of consumer products.

“We wanted to do something to help at both ends of the process, upstream and downstream, as it were – cleaning the seas, but also monetising a change in consumer behaviour.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-64317261





Parsing which foods are healthy and which are less so isn’t always straightforward – a new rating system aims to demystify the process

24 01 2023

The new system generally gives higher scores to fruits, vegetables and minimally processed foods. Photo: RapidEye/iStock via Getty Images Plus

By Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Professor Emeritus in Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Paul F. Jacques, Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University and Renata Micha, Associate Professor in Human Nutrition, Tufts University from The Conversation • Reposted: January 24, 2023

Many people aim to start the year off with healthier food choices. But how do you choose between seemingly similar foods, snacks or beverages? How does a bagel with cream cheese compare to toast topped with avocado, for instance? Or a protein-based shake compared to a smoothie packed with fruits? Or two chicken dishes, prepared in different ways?

As nutrition scientists who have spent our entire careers studying how different foods influence health, our team at Tufts University has created a new food rating system, the Food Compass, that could help consumers and others make informed choices about these kinds of questions. 

Food rating systems explained

Many such systems exist and are widely used around the globe. Each one combines facts about different nutritional aspects of foods to provide an overall measure of healthfulness, which can be communicated to consumers through package labels or shelf tags. They can also be used to help guide product reformulations or socially conscious investment goals for investors.

Examples of common systems include Nutri-Score and Health Star Rating – widely used in Europe, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand – and “black box” warning label systems, which are increasingly used throughout Latin America.

All such food rating systems have strengths and limitations. Most aim to be simple, using data on just a few nutrients or ingredients. While this is practical, it can omit other important determinants of healthfulness – like the degree of food processing and fermentation and the presence of diverse food ingredients or nutrients like omega-3s and flavonoids, plant compounds that offer an array of health benefits.

Some systems also emphasize older nutrition science. For example, nearly all give negative points for total fat, regardless of fat type, and focus on saturated fat alone, rather than overall fat quality. Another common shortcoming is not assessing refined grains and starches, which have similar metabolic harms as added sugars and represent about one-third of calories in the U.S. food supply. And many give negative points for total calories, regardless of their source. Millions of Americans are overweight yet undernourished.

Enter the Food Compass

To address each of these gaps, in 2021 our research team created the Food Compass. This system assesses 54 different attributes of foods, selected based on the strength of scientific evidence for their health effects. Food Compass maps and scores these attributes across nine distinct dimensions and then combines them into a single score, ranging from 1 (least healthy) to 100 (most healthy). It incorporates new science on multiple food ingredients and nutrients; does not penalize total fat or focus on saturated fat; and gives negative points for processing and refined carbs.

We have now evaluated 58,000 products using Food Compass and found that it generally performs very well in scoring foods. Minimally processed, bioactive-rich foods like fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, yogurt and seafood score at the top. Other animal foods, like eggs, milk, cheese, poultry and meat, typically score in the middle. Processed foods rich in refined grains and sugars, like refined cereals, breads, crackers and energy bars, and processed meats fall at the bottom. 

We found Food Compass to be especially useful when comparing seemingly similar food items, like different breads, different desserts or different mixed meals. Food Compass also appears to work better than existing rating systems for certain food groups. 

For example, it gives lower scores to processed foods that are rich in refined grains and starch and to low-fat processed foods that are often marketed as healthy, like deli meats and hot dogs, fat-free salad dressings, pre-sweetened fruit drinks, energy drinks and coffees. It also gives higher scores to foods rich in unsaturated oils, like nuts and olive oil. Compared with older rating systems, these improvements are more aligned with the latest science on the health effects of these foods.

We also assessed how Food Compass relates to major health outcomes in people. In a national sample of 48,000 Americans, we calculated each person’s individual Food Compass score, ranging from 1 to 100, based on the different foods and beverages they reported eating.

We found that people whose diets scored higher according to Food Compass had better overall health than those with lower scores. This includes less obesity, better blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and better blood cholesterol levels. They also had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome or cancer and a lower risk of death from all causes. For every 10-point higher Food Compass score, a person had about a 7% lower risk of dying. These are important findings, showing that, on average, eating foods with higher Food Compass scores is linked to numerous improved health outcomes.

Fine-tuning

While we believe Food Compass represents a significant advance over existing systems, more work is needed before it can be rolled out to consumers.

As one step, we’re investigating how the scoring algorithm can be further improved. For example, we’re considering the most appropriate scoring for food items like certain cereals that are high in whole grains and fiber but are also processed and have added sugar. And we’re looking at the scoring of different egg, cheese, poultry and meat products, which have a wide range of scores but sometimes score a bit lower than may make intuitive sense.

Over the coming year we will be refining and improving the system based on our research, the latest evidence and feedback from the scientific community.Whole grains are much better for you than refined grains.

In addition, more research is needed on how a consumer might understand and use Food Compass in practice. For example, it could be added as a front-of-pack label – but would that be helpful without more education and context?

Also, while the scoring system ranges from 1 to 100, could it be more accessible if scores were grouped into broader categories? For instance, might a green/yellow/red traffic light system be easier to understand? 

And we’re hoping that future Food Compass versions might contain additional criteria to filter foods for people who follow special diets, such as low-carb, paleo, vegetarian, diabetic-friendly, low-sodium and others.

The big picture

Food Compass should not be used to replace food-based dietary guidelines and preferences. Raspberries and asparagus score really well – but a diet of only these foods would not be very healthy. People should seek a balanced diet across different food groups. 

To help, Food Compass may be most useful to compare similar products within a food group. For example, someone who prefers eggs for breakfast can look for higher-scoring egg dishes. Those preferring cereal can look for higher-scoring cereals. And even better, Food Compass can help people add other highest-scoring foods to their plate – like veggies and healthy oils to eggs, and fruit and nuts to cereal – to increase the overall health benefits of that meal.

To make use by others as easy as possible, we’ve published all the details of the scoring algorithm, and the scores of the products evaluated, so that anyone can take what we’ve done and use it. 

Stay tuned – as we complete additional research, we believe Food Compass will become an important tool to clear up confusion in the grocery store and help people make healthier choices.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/parsing-which-foods-are-healthy-and-which-are-less-so-isnt-always-straightforward-a-new-rating-system-aims-to-demystify-the-process-192831





Closing the gap between good intentions and actually adopting farm conservation practices

24 01 2023

Photo: BG Independent News

By Jan Larson McLaughlin from BG Independent News • Posted: January 24, 2023

Most farmers want to be good stewards of the land. And most acknowledge that some crop practices can help protect the region’s water quality.

But somewhere between believing in conservation methods and actually practicing them is a gap. Those good intentions do nothing to keep harmful nutrients from reaching local waterways, stressed Dr. Robyn Wilson, of the Environmental and Social Sustainability Lab at Ohio State University.

The professor of risk analysis and decision science at OSU would like to help close that gap. Wilson, who spoke last week to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, comes to conservation from the unusual perspective of growing up on a farm near Findlay and being trained as a behavioral scientist.

This region – the Great Black Swamp – poses significant challenges for farmers. Because the landscape naturally holds onto water, farmers have worked for centuries to drain the swamp. Their efforts to get rid of the water as quickly as possible have resulted in great crop production.

But the wetlands that previously acted as a filter to runoff, no longer function to slow down the drainage into public waterways, Wilson said. And as climate changes create warmer, wetter and wilder conditions, the problems are exacerbated.

Big spring rains drive nutrients – fertilizer – into ditches, rivers and Lake Erie, leading to harmful algal blooms and poor water quality.

Research has shown that two farming practices could greatly slow the runoff of fertilizer, Wilson said. Planting cover crops and injecting the nutrients under the soil could help solve the water quality issues, she said.

“We know what’s causing it and we know how to fix it,” Wilson said. “We could solve Lake Erie’s water quality problems.”

But while farmers believe these practices could help, fewer than a third have actually implemented the methods, she said. A study of farmers in the Great Black Swamp area showed 65% see themselves as good conservationists.

“Good farmers care about soil health and water quality,” Wilson said. “But we have plenty of farmers with strong conservation identities who are doing very little.”

If 70% of farmers adopted these practices, she said, the region would experience a big difference in water quality.

“It’s the failure we have as humans to follow through with good intentions,” Wilson said.

Farmers have been slow to participate in cover crop programs, despite all the benefits. The cover crops can prevent soil and wind erosion, combat nutrient and soil runoff into nearby waterways, improve the soil and add nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of water in the soil, and break pest cycles.

Surveys of Ohio farmers showed they think differently about cover crops depending on the time of year due to fluctuations in financial stability, the amount of work to do, and stress. In January and February, farmers are more likely to be financially stable, think more clearly, and have time to consider conservation practices. 

“Cover crops is one of the trickiest things to ask farmers to do,” Wilson said.

Growing up on a farm and studying as a behavioral scientist, Wilson understands the importance of how conservation topics are presented to farmers. She knows better than using the politically polarizing term “climate change” in a survey.

“They’re all going to throw it away,” if the issue is presented as climate change, she said. The phrase “changing weather patterns” is more acceptable in the farming community.

“All farmers know the climate is changing,” she said. However, there is disagreement over whether the changes are caused by humans.

“I think we have a ways to go on that front,” Wilson said.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://bgindependentmedia.org/closing-the-gap-between-good-intentions-and-actually-adopting-farm-conservation-practices/





New CEO Study on Corporate Sustainability From Accenture and the UN Global Compact

23 01 2023

An overwhelming 98% of executives now agree that sustainability is core to their role. But faced with geopolitical instability, they are also navigating an unprecedented number of global business challenges. From CSRwire: Posted: January 23, 2023

As we’re approaching the halfway point to accomplish the 2030 Agenda, how are business leaders contributing to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals? 

According to the 12th UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study — the world’s largest research initiative on sustainable leadership — an overwhelming 98% of executives now agree that sustainability is core to their role. But faced with geopolitical instability, they are also navigating an unprecedented number of global business challenges.

Download the CEO Study today to find out how business leaders are:

  • Building resilience by incorporating sustainability into their core business operations and strategies 
  • Leveraging innovation and partnerships to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Shaping the future of sustainable development by delivering shared stakeholder value and competitive advantage

Download now

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/764606-new-ceo-study-corporate-sustainability-accenture-and-un-global-compact





Politics and Purpose: The US Consumer Response to Purpose-Driven Marketing Across the Political Spectrum

23 01 2023

By Eric Block • Posted: January 23, 2023

In a landmark research report published by Sustainable Life Media, Maddie Kulkarni of PepsiCo reports on the response to Purpose Driven Marketing by groups who self-identify as Democrats, Republican or Independent Voters.

In the report, Kulkarni writes:

“As a marketer, given the high drama of the US midterm elections this November, and the recent criticism of “woke marketing” by some activists and politicians, I wanted to investigate how consumers felt about brands engaging in purpose-driven marketing. Purpose-driven marketing — also known as “sustainability marketing” or “social impact marketing” — speaks to a brand’s attempt to engage its consumers on a social or environmental issue. I wondered: Does identifying with a certain political party influence whether consumers think more highly or more disapprovingly of a brand taking on a cause?

To find out, I turned to data gathered from consumers’ reactions to about 50 purpose-driven advertising campaigns tested with over 25,000 consumers in the last two years through the Sustainable Brands®’ (SBAd Sustainability Awareness Platform (ASAP) insights tool. Developed in 2020 when several global brands came together under the SB Brands for Good initiative, the ASAP tool was designed to create a way to measure (across industries and with a standardized set of metrics) how effective purpose-driven advertising campaigns were in driving consumer behavior change around environmental and social issues.”

The key findings in the report included the following:

• Democrats have a significantly more favorable opinion of a brand after seeing its sustainability campaign, over Republicans and Independents.

There are similarities and differences in the sustainability issues Democrats and Republicans most care about.

• US women like seeing brands that support women.

• Sustainability campaigns are currently most resonating with Millennials.

• Targeted cohorts appreciate a brand’s effort to reach them; though with the Hispanic cohort, there is room to improve ad effectiveness.

• Environmentally focused ads score higher on Effectiveness than socially focused ads.

In summarizing key insights that effective marketers approach to communication, Kulkarni reports the following conclusions:

What are the implications from this research for the marketing industry?
  1. We can use the insights of this research to create strategic media plans that are responsible and take on a social impact lens. At a minimum, our ads need to be accurate, honest and respectful — this is a basic requirement. But by understanding our target consumers, we can not only create content that resonates with them and helps them feel seen; we can also leverage media’s targeting abilities to deliver our content to an audience that normally would not be exposed to it. This would be an effort to develop understanding across people of different backgrounds and help a broader audience “see another side.” Note this strategy might come with some risk if the “other side” does not agree with your point of view; it is best to prepare for this possibility.
  2. To drive creative ad effectiveness around sustainability storytelling, we should continue to focus on Influence, Credibility, Actionability and Talkability metrics. Demonstrating Influence and garnering Credibility with a campaign comes from research, engaging with partners, and spending meaningful time and resources on a cause. Creating an Actionable campaign comes from being clear on how consumers can use our productsto lead more sustainable lifestyles. And Talkability, the notion that people want to share and talk about the campaign, comes from campaigns having a creative spark that surprises and delights the consumer.
  3. Given that our creative ad effectiveness scores are generally lower on socially focused behaviors than on environmentally focused behaviors, we should study how we can improve storytelling when it comes to the former.
  4. We can study how different generational cohorts connect with sustainability issues, so we can develop content that resonates with each group’s unique life stage.
To read the original research findings, follow this link to the Sustainable Life Media report here:https://sustainablebrands.com/read/marketing-and-comms/politics-and-purpose-the-us-consumer-response-to-purpose-driven-marketing-across-the-political-spectrum




Deep seabed mining plans pit renewable energy demand against ocean life in a largely unexplored frontier

23 01 2023

Brightly colored sea cucumbers and many other unusual deep sea creatures live among the nodules in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. ROV KIEL 6000/GEOMAR

By Scott Shackelford, Professor of Business Law and Ethics, Indiana University, Christiana Ochoa, Professor of Law, Indiana University, David Bosco, Associate Professor of International Studies, Indiana University and Kerry Krutilla, Professor of Environmental and Energy Policy, Indiana University from The Conversation – Reposted: January 23, 2023

As companies race to expand renewable energy and the batteries to store it, finding sufficient amounts of rare earth metals to build the technology is no easy feat. That’s leading mining companies to take a closer look at a largely unexplored frontier – the deep ocean seabed. 

A wealth of these metals can be found in manganese nodules that look like cobblestones scattered across wide areas of deep ocean seabed. But the fragile ecosystems deep in the oceans are little understood, and the mining codes to sustainably mine these areas are in their infancy.

A fierce debate is now playing out as a Canadian company makes plans to launch the first commercial deep sea mining operation in the Pacific Ocean. 

The Metals Company completed an exploratory project in the Pacific Ocean in fall 2022. Under a treaty governing the deep sea floor, the international agency overseeing these areas could be forced to approve provisional mining there as soon as spring 2023, but several countries and companies are urging a delay until more research can be done. France and New Zealand have called for a ban on deep sea mining. 

As scholars who have long focused on the economicpolitical and legal challengesposed by deep seabed mining, we have each studied and written on this economic frontier with concern for the regulatory and ecological challenges it poses.

A view looking across a sea floor with nodules looking like cobblestones on a street.
Manganese nodules on the seafloor in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Hawaii and Mexico, captured on camera by a remote vehicle in 2015. Photo: ROV KIEL 6000, GEOMARCC BY

What’s down there, and why should we care?

A curious journey began in the summer of 1974. Sailing from Long Beach, California, a revolutionary ship funded by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes set course for the Pacific to open a new frontier — deep seabed mining

Widespread media coverage of the expedition helped to focus the attention of businesses and policymakers on the promise of deep seabed mining, which is notable given that the expedition was actually an elaborate cover for a CIA operation.

The real target was a Soviet ballistic missile submarine that had sunk in 1968 with all hands and what was believed to be a treasure trove of Soviet state secrets and tech onboard.

The expedition, called Project Azorian by the CIArecovered at least part of the submarine – and it also brought up several manganese nodules from the seafloor.

Manganese nodules are roughly the size of potatoes and can be found across vast areas of seafloor in parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans and deep abyssal plains in the Atlantic. They are valuable because they are exceptionally rich in 37 metals, including nickel, cobalt and copper, which are essential for most large batteries and several renewable energy technologies.

A person holds two halves of a split nodule, showing concentric rings
Manganese nodules form as metals accumulate around a shell or part of another nodule. Thomas Walter/GEOMAR

These nodules form over millennia as metals nucleate around shells or broken nodules. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Mexico and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, where the mining test took place, has been estimated to have over 21 billion metric tons of nodules that could provide twice as much nickel and three times more cobalt than all the reserves on land.

Mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone could be some 10 times richer than comparable mineral deposits on land. All told, estimates place the value of this new industry at some US$30 billion annually by 2030. It could be instrumental in feeding the surging global demand for cobalt that lies at the heart of lithium-ion batteries.

Yet, as several scientists have noted, we still know more about the surface of the moon than what lies at the bottom of the deep seabed.

Deep seabed ecology

Less than 10% of the deep seabed has been mapped thoroughly enough to understand even the basic features of the structure and contents of the ocean floor, let alone the life and ecosystems therein.

Even the most thoroughly studied region, the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, is still best characterized by the persistent novelty of what is found there.

Between 70% and 90% of living things collected in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone have never been seen before, leaving scientists to speculate about what percentage of all living species in the region has never been seen or collected. Exploratory expeditions regularly return with images or samples of creatures that would richly animate science fiction stories, like a 6-foot-long bioluminescent shark.

Also unknown is the impact that deep sea mining would have on these creatures.

An experiment in 2021 in water about 3 miles (5 kilometers) deep off Mexico found that seabed mining equipment created sediment plumes of up to about 6.5 feet (2 meters) high. But the project authors stressed that they didn’t study the ecological impact. A similar earlier experiment was conducted off Peru in 1989. When scientists returned to that site in 2015, they found some species still hadn’t fully recovered.Video from MIT shows the sediment plume created by a nodule-collecting machine during an experiment.

Environmentalists have questioned whether seafloor creatures could be smothered by sediment plumes and whether the sediment in the water column could effect island communities that rely on healthy oceanic ecosystems. The Metals Company has argued that its impact is less than terrestrial mining.

Given humanity’s lack of knowledge of the ocean, it is not currently possible to set environmental baselines for oceanic health that could be used to weigh the economic benefits against the environmental harms of seabed mining.

Scarcity and the economic case for mining

The economic case for deep seabed mining reflects both possibility and uncertainty.

On the positive side, it could displace some highly destructive terrestrial mining and augment the global supply of minerals used in clean energy sources such as wind turbines, photovoltaic cells and electric vehicles. 

Terrestrial mining imposes significant environmental damage and costs to human health of both the miners themselves and the surrounding communities. Additionally, mines are sometimes located in politically unstable regions. The Democratic Republic of Congo produces 60% of the global supply of cobalt, for example, and China owns or finances 80% of industrial mines in that country. China also accounts for 60% of the global supply of rare earth element production and much of its processing. Having one nation able to exert such control over a critical resource has raised concerns.The Metals Company shared video of its first collection mission.

Deep seabed mining comes with significant uncertainties, however, particularly given the technology’s relatively early state.

First are the risks associated with commercializing a new technology. Until deep sea mining technology is demonstrated, discoveries cannot be listed as “reserves” in firms’ asset valuations. Without that value defined, it can be difficult to line up the significant financing needed to build mining infrastructure, which lessens the first-mover advantage and incentivizes firms to wait for someone else to take the lead. 

Commodity prices are also difficult to predict. Technology innovation can reduce or even eliminate the projected demand for a mineral. New mineral deposits on land can also boost supply: Sweden announced in January 2023 that it had just discovered the largest deposit of rare earth oxides in Europe.

In all, embarking on deep seabed mining involves sinking significant costs into new technology for uncertain returns, while posing risks to a natural environment that is likely to rise in value.

Who gets to decide the future of seafloor mining?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in the early 1990s, provides the basic rules for ocean resources.

It allows countries to control economic activities, including any mining, within 200 miles of their coastlines, accounting for approximately 35% of the ocean. Beyond national waters, countries around the world established the International Seabed Authority, or ISA, based in Jamaica, to regulate deep seabed mining.

Critically, the ISA framework calls for some of the profits derived from commercial mining to be shared with the international community. In this way, even countries that did not have the resources to mine the deep seabed could share in its benefits. This part of the ISA’s mandate was controversial, and it was one reason that the United States did not join the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Map showing concentrations of nodules in the Pacific and Indian Ocean in particular
A map shows the distribution of manganese nodules, with areas of the greatest concentrations circled. Sven Petersen/GEOMAR

With little public attention, the ISA worked slowly for several decades to develop regulations for exploration of undersea minerals, and those rules still aren’t completed. More than a dozen companies and countries have received exploration contracts, including The Metals Company’s work under the sponsorship of the island nation of Nauru.

ISA’s work has started to draw criticism as companies have sought to initiate commercial mining. A recent New York Times investigation of internal ISA documents suggested the agency’s leadership has downplayed environmental concerns and shared confidential information with some of the companies that would be involved in seabed mining. The ISA hasn’t finalized environmental rules for mining.

Much of the coverage of deep seabed mining has been framed to highlight the climate benefits. But this overlooks the dangers this activity could pose for the Earth’s largest pristine ecology – the deep sea. We believe it would be wise to better understand this existing, fragile ecosystem better before rushing to mine it.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/deep-seabed-mining-plans-pit-renewable-energy-demand-against-ocean-life-in-a-largely-unexplored-frontier-193273





Energy Efficiency: A Co-Benefit to Disaster Risk Reduction

22 01 2023

Damage caused by Hurricane Ida to homes in Pointe-aux-Chenes in Terrebonne Parish, La. (FEMA photo by Julie Joseph)

Critical infrastructure failures are a climate risk multiplier. Research has demonstrated how dramatically the impact of hurricanes/tropical cyclones may increase over time, due to compound effects of changes in storms and heatwaves.

By Natalie Enclade from Homeland Security Today. Reposted: January 21, 2023

While we continue to learn lessons from recent natural hazards and their impact on critical infrastructure—like the electric grid and water systems—we are moving toward an environment of increased understanding and acceptance of modern sustainability and resilience concepts. 

Case studies out of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian provide evidence that individuals and communities were kept safe through the strength of their homes and the infrastructure that provided critical resources and services in those affected areas. Any national discussion of reducing damage from natural disasters, climate events, and protecting the environment must include disaster-resilient and sustainable construction and infrastructure. It does not need to be an “either/or” choice.

Many communities facing current known hazards still haven’t adopted modern hazard-resistant codes, despite the expectation that natural hazards will increase in frequency and severity in the years ahead. Between the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, energy codes saw a $1.25 billion investment at a time when FEMA is providing less than $2 million annually to support resilient codes through its hazard mitigation grant programs. Without strong codes and standards, infrastructure will sustain avoidable damage, unable to realize climate benefits if they are damaged or destroyed because they were not constructed to withstand hazard risk. 

Critical infrastructure failures are a climate risk multiplier. Research has demonstrated how dramatically the impact of hurricanes/tropical cyclones may increase over time, due to compound effects of changes in storms and heatwaves. These infrastructure failures drive compounding hazards and life and safety impacts. An example of this dramatic impact was seen in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona where over 100,000 people were still without power weeks after the storm made landfall, while the heat indices rose above 100 degrees. It is also important to note that “excessive heat during an extended power outage” was the cause of most deaths in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida, not the immediate impact of the storm.

Loss of electric service can also adversely impact other critical lifeline infrastructure systems, such as wastewater treatment and water transmission and distribution. Furthermore, power outages and compound hazards can significantly disrupt local business and supply chains, leading to secondary losses, and the enhanced connectivity of local and global economics potentially would further foster the impact.  

Energy efficiency and decarbonization can lead to co-benefits in disaster risk reduction. Disaster after disaster we see over and over again that the most at-risk communities are least likely to be able to evacuate, so making it safer to shelter in place and reduce emissions (e.g., better insulation to maintain interior temperatures when the power grid goes down) should be a priority. 

In conclusion, while contemplating energy efficiency, we must enhance disaster resilience across the nation through measures that would effectuate these policy ideals, changes in authority, development of incentives, and streamlining of assistance to serve our communities in an equitable and transformational way.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.hstoday.us/featured/energy-efficiency-a-co-benefit-to-disaster-risk-reduction/





Business management doesn’t always have to be about capitalism – this course shows how it can also be a calling

22 01 2023

By Andrew J. Hoffman, Professor of Management & Organizations; Professor of Environment & Sustainability; Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Ross School of Business and School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan from The Conversation • Reposted: January 22, 2023

Uncommon Courses is an occasional series from The Conversation U.S. highlighting unconventional approaches to teaching.

Title of Course:

“Management as a Calling”

What prompted the idea for the course?

The idea for this course came from my frustration that business schools do not do enough to create successful business leaders with a desire to serve society. All too often, we simply drop an ethics or sustainability elective into a curriculum that puts profits over people – and gives short shrift to big issues such as climate change and income inequality.

So I thought we should develop a course that helps students examine their own ethics, values and purpose. As I point out in my book, rather than simply imparting knowledge, this course helps students develop wisdom. Rather than treating management as a precise science, it adds the liberal arts. I want students to examine their own conscience and decide what kind of a manager they are meant to be, what kind of career they aspire to have and what kind of legacy they hope to leave. 

What does the course explore?

This course helps undergraduate and graduate business majors consider their career as a calling. Ungraded, its core centers on three weekend retreats where students leave their cellphones behind, join others with similar aspirations and examine their unique purpose in life.

The retreats take place at the start and end of their final year of study, and one year after graduation. They involve exercises, readings, collaboration and quiet reflection. At the end, students write a personal mission statement and a plan for fulfilling it.

There are also lectures on the notion of a calling, which for this course I define as a purpose that people truly believe in and will dedicate themselves to wholeheartedly, without qualm or self-interest.

Why is this course relevant now?

When I started teaching business in the mid-1990s, students who wanted to improve the world typically studied government or nonprofit management. Today, many are coming to business school with a sense of purpose to make a positive change.

Unfortunately, business education has not done a good job, in my opinion, of accommodating this demand. Curricula focus far too much on the “how” of business and not enough on the “why.” But if we don’t change that, we will continue to have corporate transgressions like tax avoidancelabor exploitationand fraud, where short-term profit goals are placed above responsibilities to society. 

What’s a critical lesson from the course?

We study what a calling is, techniques for examining each student’s individual calling, and tactics for staying on course. My hope is that students will cultivate a sense of passion and vision in their careers and apply the power of business to address society’s challenges, whether that be equitable pay structures, innovations to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions, collaborations to support government’s role in the market and new definitions of the role of the corporation in serving the interests of all in society.

What materials does the course feature?

Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl.

Life on Purpose” by Victor J. Strecher.

Articles by Parker PalmerHerbert ShepardDavid Foster-WallaceDeb Meyersonand others.

What will the course prepare students to do?

This course will help students develop a vision of what a calling is, what their calling is and a desire to make its pursuit a lifelong goal. Rather than thinking only in terms of a job, I hope students will imagine the role they want to play in business to create a future that serves not just shareholders, but all of society – employees, customers, the community and the world.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/business-management-doesnt-always-have-to-be-about-capitalism-this-course-shows-how-it-can-also-be-a-calling-191837





What does ESG mean? Two business scholars explain what environmental, social and governance standards and principles are

21 01 2023

Graphic: Kiplinger

By Luciana Echazú, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education; Associate Professor of Economics, University of New Hampshire and Diego C. Nocetti, Dean, School of Business; Professor of Economics and Financial Studies, Clarkson University

Environmental, social and governance business standards and principles, often referred to as ESG, are becoming both more commonplace and controversial.  But what does “ESG” really mean?

It’s shorthand for the way that many corporations operate in accordance with the belief that their long-term survival and their ability to generate profits require accounting for the impact their decisions and actions have on the environment, society as a whole and their own workforce.

These practices grew out of long-standing efforts to make businesses more socially and environmentally responsible. ESG investing, sometimes called sustainable investment, also takes these considerations into account.

Zeroing in on the E, S and G

ESG priorities vary widely, but there are some common themes.

These priorities usually emphasize environmental sustainability – the E in ESG – with a focus on contributing to efforts to slow the pace of climate change.

There’s also an effort to uphold high ethical standards through corporate operations. These social concerns – the S – can include, for example, ensuring that a company doesn’t buy goods and services from exploitative suppliers, or treats its employees well. Or it might entail taking care to hire and retain a diverse workforce and taking steps to reduce social injustices in the communities where a corporation operates.

Companies embracing ESG principles should also have high-quality governance– the G. Governance includes oversight, handled by a competent and qualified board of directors, regarding the hiring and firing of top corporate leaders, executive compensation and any dividends paid to shareholders.

Governance also pertains to whether a company’s leadership operates fairly and responsibly, with transparency and accountability.

Why ESG matters

By 2026, the total amount invested globally according to these principles will nearly double to US$34 trillion from $18.4 trillion in 2021, the accounting firm PwC estimates. However, increasing scrutiny of which investments really qualify as ESG could mean it takes longer to reach that volume.

This corporate concept is becoming a political touchstone in the U.S. because some states, like Florida and Kentucky, arguing that these practices divert from the focus on maximizing profits and can be detrimental to investors by making other considerations a priority, have barred their pension funds from using ESG principles as part of their investment considerations. Some very large asset managers, including BlackRock, aren’t allowed to work with those pension funds anymore.

Many of the arguments against embracing these principles hold that they reduce profits by taking other factors into account. But how do ESG practices affect financial performance?

A team of New York University scholars looked at the results of 1,000 different studies that had sought to answer this question. It found mixed results: Some of the studies found that ESG principles increased returns, others found that they weakened performance, and a third group determined that these principles made no difference at all.

It’s possible that the disparities among results could be due largely to the lack of clarity regarding what counts and does not count as ESG, which has been a long-standing discussion and makes it hard to assess how ESG investments perform.

The NYU scholars also found two consistent results regarding ESG strategies. First, they help protect investors against risks such as losses resulting from the failure of a supply chain due to environmental or geopolitical issues, and they can protect companies from volatility during periods of economic instability and downturns. Second, investors and companies benefit more from ESG strategies in the long term than in the short term.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://theconversation.com/what-does-esg-mean-two-business-scholars-explain-what-environmental-social-and-governance-standards-and-principles-are-196768





Climate change trauma has real impacts on cognition and the brain, wildfire survivors study shows

21 01 2023

The 2018 Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed 20,000 buildings in and around Paradise, Calif. Photo: Los Angeles Times

By Jyoti Mishra. Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego • Reposted: January 21, 2023

The big idea

Psychological trauma from extreme weather and climate events, such as wildfires, can have long-term impacts on survivors’ brains and cognitive functioning, especially how they process distractions, my team’s new research shows.

Climate change is increasingly affecting people around the world, including through extreme heat, storm damage and life-threatening events like wildfires. In previous research, colleagues and I showed that in the aftermath of the 2018 fire that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression were highly prevalent in the affected communities more than six months after the disaster.

We also found a graded effect: People whose homes or families were directly affected by fire showed greater mental health harm than those where who were indirectly effected, meaning people who witnessed the event in their community but did not have a personal loss.

In the new study, published Jan. 18, 2023, our team at the Neural Engineering and Translation Labs, or NEATLabs, at the University of California San Diego, wanted to understand whether the symptoms of climate change-related trauma translate to changes in cognitive functioning – the mental processes involved in memory, learning, thinking and reasoning.

We evaluated subjects’ cognitive functioning across a range of abilities, including attention; response inhibition – the ability to not respond impulsively; working memory – the ability to maintain information in mind for short periods of time; and interference processing – the ability to ignore distractions. We also measured their brain function while they performed cognitive tasks, using brain wave recordings obtained from electroencephalography, or EEG.

A man at  a keyboard with a cap that has nodes on it.
A wireless EEG cap records brain activity as a person responds to cognitive tests. The image on the right shows significant differences in electrical brain activity recorded on the scalp between people directly exposed to wildfires and a control group, with greater activity in left frontal cortex (red) for the group directly exposed. Grennan et al., 2022, PLOS ClimateCC BY

The study included three groups of individuals: people who were directly exposed to the fire, people who were indirectly exposed, and a control group with no exposure. The groups were well matched for age and gender.

We found that both groups of people exposed to the fire, either directly or indirectly, dealt with distractions less accurately than the control group.

We also found differences in the brain processes underlying these cognitive differences. People who were exposed to the wildfire had greater frontal lobe activity while dealing with distractions. The frontal lobe is the center for the brain’s higher-level functions. Frontal brain activity can be a marker for cognitive effort, suggesting that people exposed to the fires may be having more difficulty processing distractions and compensating by exerting more effort.

Why it matters

With climate change fueling more disasters, it is incredibly important to understand its impacts on human health, including mental health. Resilient mental health is what allows us to recover from traumatic experiences. How humans experience and mentally deal with climate catastrophes sets the stage for our future lives.

There are strategies people can use to help reduce the stress. Psychosocial research suggests that practicing mindfulness and developing healthy lifestyles, with regular exercise and enough sleep, can protect mental well-being in these scenarios, along with developing strong social bonds

What’s next?

There is much work to be done to understand if the effects we found are replicable in large sample studies. In this work, we focused on a total of 75 study participants. Scientists also need to understand how these effects evolve as climate disasters like wildfires occur more often.

We are also pursuing research with community partners to implement interventions that can help alleviate some the impacts we observed on brain and cognitive functioning. There is no one-size-fits-all solution – each community must find the resiliency solutions that work best in their environmental context. As scientists, we can help them understand the causes and point them to solutions that are most effective in improving human health.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/climate-change-trauma-has-real-impacts-on-cognition-and-the-brain-wildfire-survivors-study-shows-197870





CEOs Know ‘Business-As-Usual’ Isn’t Working, But Many Are Too Tapped Out to Change

21 01 2023

Image credits: Marvin Meyer and Ryoji Iwata via Unsplash

Executives view climate change as both a short- and long-term threat, but most are failing to address it proactively, PwC CEO Survey shows. By Mary Mazzoni from Triplepundit.com • Reposted: January 21, 2023

We’ve heard it for years — “business-as-usual isn’t working” — and the annual PwC CEO Survey indicates executives are well aware. Nearly 40 percent of more than 4,000 responding global CEOs think their companies will no longer be economically viable in a decade if they continue down their current path. 

That’s a pretty big deal. Yet while one would think such a grim consensus would spur an immediate push for change, many executives told PwC they don’t have nearly enough time to think and talk about the future. Maintaining current operating performance consumed the biggest share of CEOs’ time last year, according to the survey, and executives admitted they’d rather spend more time evolving their companies’ strategies to meet future demands.

Findings like these reflect the “dual imperative” facing CEOs around the world as they look to reinvent their businesses for the future while  navigating a laundry list of daunting challenges in the present day, the PwC CEO Survey found. “If organizations are not only to thrive but survive the next few years, they must carefully balance the dual imperative of mitigating short-term risks and operational demands with long-term outcomes — as businesses that don’t transform, won’t be viable,” Bob Moritz, global chairman of PwC, said in a statement. 

So, will business leaders act to save themselves, or will they be too busy with next quarter’s P&L? Let’s take a closer look inside the survey to see what executives are saying — and what it could mean for the future. 

Executives view climate change as both a short- and long-term threat, but most are failing to address it proactively, PwC CEO Survey shows 

While managing climate risk is a long-term challenge that continues to vex executives, the PwC CEO Survey indicates many are also concerned about the effects of climate change in the here and now. 

Most of the CEOs surveyed expect their businesses to feel some degree of impact from climate change within the next 12 months. About half predict the effects of climate change will have a “moderate,” “large” or “very large” impact on their cost profiles. More than 40 percent anticipate impacts to their supply chains, while around a quarter are worried about climate-related damage to their physical assets.

Their concerns are warranted: The 10 most significant climate-related disasters to strike the world last year caused more than $3 billion worth of damage each, according to the World Economic Forum

Still, the way they respond could use some work. “Deeper statistical analysis of the survey shows that the CEOs who feel most exposed to climate change are more likely to take action to address it,” PwC researchers observed.

“This kind of reactive approach is understandable — when your house is in the path of a forest fire, you reach for the hose — but it creates risks of its own,” they continued. “Combating climate change requires a coordinated, long-term plan. It won’t be solved if the only companies working on it are those that face immediate financial impact.”

Beyond issues with reactivity, the researchers underscore that they “don’t know how much” the actions most often taken by businesses — such as decarbonization initiatives and moves to innovate more climate-friendly products and services — “will move the needle, particularly in the near-term, which, in light of emissions already in the atmosphere, promises continued warming under virtually every scenario.”

While it remains murky if business actions will do anything to curb their climate risk in the short term, the researchers warn that many long-term corporate climate strategies are also incomplete or less effective than they could be — setting the stage for even more serious risk in the years to come. 

More than half of all CEOs surveyed, including 70 percent of those at U.S. companies, say their teams have no plans to apply an internal carbon price to decision-making, “even though doing so could help them account for considerations like taxes and incentives, and clarify strategic trade-offs,” the researchers found. Many are also dropping the ball on reporting, as another recent PwC survey found that 87 percent of global investors think corporate reporting contains unsubstantiated sustainability claims, often referred to as “greenwashing.”

CEOs predict declining global economic growth, but is that really a bad thing? 

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of CEOs believe global economic growth will decline over the next 12 months. This is a marked departure from recent years, as more than 75 percent of respondents to the 2020 and 2021 iterations of the PwC CEO Survey said they thought economic growth would improve. It’s also the most pessimistic CEOs have been regarding global economic growth since the PwC CEO Survey began asking this question 12 years ago. 

This comes as no major shock, as other recent polling indicates CEOs around the world are bracing for a recession in 2023. Still, it begs a few questions: Is a slowdown in economic growth inevitable, and is it even a bad thing? 

In the decades since economist Milton Friedman declared that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits for shareholders, conventional reason has dictated that the ultimate marker of business health is to grow bigger and bigger every year, with solid shareholder returns that climb on a quarterly basis. 

Yet study after study indicates that the never-ending pursuit of more consumption, more profit and more money does not equate to better quality of life across the economy — and the spoils of rugged capitalism are not shared equally. In the U.S., for example, CEO pay has grown by a staggering 1,460 percent since 1978, while median worker pay has not even kept pace with inflation, increasing by a mere 18 percent over the same period. U.S. CEOs were paid 399 times as much as a typical worker in 2021. 

So, if the dogged pursuit of “more, more, more” does not increase quality of life for the many, and workers by and large find themselves more wage-poor than their parents were, who really benefits from eternal economic growth as a marker of success? Even businesses stand to lose out as CEOs cash their bloated paychecks while predicting their companies will be belly-up within a decade. 

Against a backdrop like this, it makes sense that conversations around degrowth are having a major moment in mainstream business circles. As the name implies, degrowth calls for intentional reductions in production and consumption to stay within the boundaries of a resource-constrained world — particularly in rich countries, allowing developing countries to have a greater share of the economic pie (and the global carbon budget). 

While respondents to the PwC CEO Survey stop far short of advocating for strategic degrowth, they don’t plan to cope with the impending recession in the way many might expect. While over half of responding CEOs say they are moving to cut operating costs and raise prices, the majority (60 percent) say they do not plan to reduce the size of their workforce in the next 12 months, and 80 percent say they have no plans to reduce compensation. 

Still, it makes sense that predictions about the worst recession in a century would be preoccupying for executives, but as Moritz of PwC observed, those that don’t keep the future in mind are destined for failure. This type of push and pull between long-term longevity and short-term profit is one that has defined conversations around stakeholder capitalism and corporate responsibility for as long as they’ve existed. Parsing through these survey responses, it could be that Mother Nature — and the markets — will finally force executives’ hands, pushing into fruition something that for decades was simply words. 

To see the original post, follow this link. https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2023/pwc-ceo-survey-2023/764296





Medtronic Signs Zero Health Gaps Pledge To Advance Health Equity

20 01 2023

Photo: Medtronic

By joining the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Equity Network the company will help drive progress. From Medtronics • Posted: January 20, 2023

From closing health gaps in Kenya with Medtronic LABS, to helping health systems in the U.S. advance access to quality care for underserved patients, Medtronic is committed to advancing health equity. Addressing health equity is critical because more than half the world’s population lacks access to essential healthcare. And the most challenging health issues disproportionately impact marginalized populations. But we recognize that no one solution or organization can achieve health equity alone; strategic partnerships are essential to accelerating this critical work.

To maximize its commitment to health equity, Medtronic is joining the Global Health Equity Network (GHEN). GHEN is a World Economic Forum initiative that brings the private and public sectors together to drive change in health equity – mobilizing CEOs and business leaders to prioritize action in organizational strategy and purpose.

As part of the GHEN agenda, Medtronic has signed the Zero Health Gaps Pledge, which provides 10 areas where committed organizations agree to help drive progress within health equity across their workforce, their companies, and in their communities by 2050.

“At Medtronic, we know implementing people-first technology through access-enabling partnerships can be a profound equalizer, helping expand quality care and advance health equity. Leveraging the unique power and assets of our GHEN colleagues, we’ll maximize our health equity efforts and collaborate to bring quality healthcare to more people,” said Medtronic CEO and Chairman Geoff Martha. 

Here are excerpts from three areas within the Zero Health Gaps Pledge, and how Medtronic is bringing them to life:

Pledge: Continually seek to understand how our organization can help address the root causes of health inequities and create a positive health equity impact.

Medtronic LABS develops community-based, tech-enabled solutions with and for underserved patients, reaching over 1M patients to date. An independent nonprofit organization funded by Medtronic, LABS drives system-level transformation to enable scalable, sustainable, last-mile healthcare delivery.

Pledge: Collaborate with communities to identify key health equity needs and identify potential solutions, and to measure impact.

By partnering with local health systems, governments, and NGOs, together we identify gaps in care to build health equity programs. For example, Medtronic established the Health Equity Assistance Program for colon cancer screening to provide GI Genius™ modules to communities with low screening rates or where access to the technology is not currently available.

Pledge: Consistently seek to understand health equity needs across our workforce, consumer base, communities, and ecosystem to make strategic decisions, inclusive of investments, and use insights to inform our organization’s choices from strategy to execution. 

Financial stability and wealth are inextricably linked to better health outcomes. Medtronic drives economic opportunity by working with small and diverse-owned suppliers, making $2.7 billion in purchases from small and diverse-owned businesses in FY23. And in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation, the company has established several multi-year, multi-million dollar efforts with groups like Thurgood Marshall Fund and Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers to ensure diverse talent has access and opportunity.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/764466-medtronic-signs-zero-health-gaps-pledge-advance-health-equity





Vinyl Institute To Accelerate Post-Consumer PVC Recycling With Industry-First Recycling Grant Program

19 01 2023

Three Million Dollars in Grants Available Over the Next Three Years

SUBMITTED BY VINYL SUSTAINABILITY COUNCIL • PUBLISHED 01-18-23

 The Vinyl Institute (VI), a U.S. trade association representing the leading manufacturers of vinyl, today announced the formation of VIABILITY, a first-of-its-kind, industry-wide recycling grant program aimed at accelerating post-consumer PVC recycling across the country. The grant program will make available up to $1 million in funds each year over the next three years from four PVC resin manufacturers in the U.S. (Formosa, Oxy, Shintech, and Westlake).

“Each year, more than 1.1 billion pounds of vinyl material is recycled in the U.S. and Canada. However, post-consumer material accounts for less than a fifth of that total,” said Ned Monroe, president and CEO of the Vinyl Institute. “We can do better, and we will. With VIABILITY, we are demonstrating VI’s commitment to help the industry reach its goal of increasing post-consumer recycling volume to 160 million pounds by 2025.

Individual grants issued through VIABILITY are available to qualifying industry collaborations such as trade associations, material recovery facilities, construction and demolition waste facilities, recyclers, or colleges and universities in amounts up to $500,000. The funds may be used for the purchase of equipment, process investments, research and development, educational programs, and program management that supports long-lasting and sustainable recycling of vinyl products. A seven-member grant committee of the Vinyl Institute will choose recipients of the grants.

The first round of grant applications is due on March 1, 2023. The Vinyl Institute will announce the awarding of grants no later than 60 days after a grant application deadline.

“Vinyl has and continues to be an integral part of our daily lives – from the pipes that deliver clean drinking water in our communities, to the windows and siding on our homes, to the floors in our kitchen, to the cars we drive and the packaging for the food we buy at the grocery store,” Monroe added. “It is our responsibility to identify pathways to grow PVC recycling. VIABILITY is a deliberate and compelling step in that direction. We are eager to identify worthy vinyl recycling programs.”

For more information on Viability, visit: https://www.vinylinfo.org/recycling/. For more on the Vinyl Institute, visit www.vinylinfo.org.





Foams used in car seats and mattresses are hard to recycle – we made a plant-based version that avoids polyurethane’s health risks, too

19 01 2023

The authors with two students show methods for recycling bio-based foam. Clemson UniversityCC BY-ND

By Srikanth Pilla, Professor of Engineering, Clemson University and James Sternberg, Research Assistant Professor of Automotive Engineering, Clemson University

The big idea

A new plant-based substitute for polyurethane foam eliminates the health risk of the material, commonly found in insulation, car seats and other types of cushioning, and it’s more environmentally sustainable, our new research shows.

Polyurethane foams are all around you, anywhere a lightweight material is needed for cushioning or structural support. But they’re typically made using chemicals that are suspected carcinogens.

Polyurethanes are typically produced in a very fast reaction between two chemicals made by the petrochemical industry: polyols and isocyanates. While much work has gone into finding replacements for the polyol component of polyurethane foams, the isocyanate component has largely remained, despite its consequences for human healthBio-based foams can avoid that component.

Four chunks of bio-based foam, looking a lot like brownies on a tray.
These bio-based foams avoid the need for petroleum products. Srikanth Pilla, CC BY-ND

We created a durable bio-based foam using lignin, a byproduct of the paper pulping industry, and a vegetable oil-based curing agent that introduces flexibility and toughness to the final material.

At the heart of the innovation is the ability to create a system that “gels,” both in the sense that the materials are compatible with one another and that they physically create a gel quickly so that the addition of a foaming agent can create the lightweight structure associated with polyurethane foams.

Lignin is a difficult material to convert into a usable chemical, given its complicated and heterogeneous structure. We used this structure to create a network of bonds that enabled what we believe is the world’s first lignin-based nonisocyanate foam.

The foam can also be recycled because it has bonds that can unzip the chemical network after it has formed. The main components used to produce the foam can then be extracted and used again.

Why it matters

Polyurethane foams are the world’s sixth-most-produced plastic yet among the least recycled materials. They are also designed for durability, meaning they will remain in the environment for several generations. 

They contribute to the plastic waste problem for the world’s oceans, land and air, and to human health problems. Today, plastics can be found in virtually every creature in the terrestrial ecosystem. And since most plastics are made from petroleum products, they’re connected to fossil fuel extraction, which contributes to climate change.

The fully bio-based origin of our foams addresses the issue of carbon neutrality, and the chemical recycling capability ensures that waste plastic has a value attached to it so it is less likely to be thrown away. Ensuring waste has value is a hallmark of the circular approach to manufacturing – attaching a monetary value to things tends to decrease the amount that is discarded.

Illustration shows the recycling process including unzipping the molecules.
How the chemicals in bio-based foams can be recycled and reused. Srikanth Pilla, CC BY-ND

We hope the nature of these foams inspires others to design plastics with the full life cycle in mind. Just as plastics need to be designed according to properties of their initial application, they also need to be designed to avoid the final destination of 90% of plastic waste: landfills and the environment.

What’s next

Our initial versions of bio-based foams produce a rigid material suitable for use in foam-core boards used in construction or for insulation in refrigerators. We have also created a lightweight and flexible version that can be used for cushioning and packaging applications. Initial testing of these materials showed good durability in wet conditions, increasing their chance of gaining commercial adoption. 

Polyurethane foams are used so extensively because of their versatility. The formulation that we initially discovered is being translated to create a library of precursors that can be mixed to produce the desired properties, like strength and washability, in each application.

To see the original post, follow this link. https://theconversation.com/foams-used-in-car-seats-and-mattresses-are-hard-to-recycle-we-made-a-plant-based-version-that-avoids-polyurethanes-health-risks-too-192154





Why Macy’s and furniture companies are paying more attention to responsible sourcing

18 01 2023

Photo: Macy’s

By Melissa Daniels from Modern Retail • Reposted: January 18, 2022

In September 2022, Macy’s rolled out its first-ever wood-sourcing policy for its furniture sales after more than 150 years in business.

It requires the use of responsibly sourced wood or recycled or reclaimed materials. And it also prohibits the use of timber that has been harvested illegally or from threatened areas, among other restrictions. At the outset, the policy covers wood-based products in Macy’s private labels, while buyers will use the policy as a guide for onboarding new suppliers and brands. 

“We’re really thinking about this policy first from the products that we own and buy, and where we can continue to expand it across our assortment,” said Keelin Evans, vice president of sustainability at Macy’s.

The policy follows Macy’s $5 billion commitment announced in March 2022 to become more sustainable in its policies and practices. It also rolled out a new cotton sourcing policy to ensure cotton isn’t harvested by underage workers or those in forced conditions. 

But Macy’s is far from alone among furniture companies paying close attention to sourcing amid heightened consumer awareness against “fast furniture.” Wayfair, in October 2022, launched a new section to showcase products that meet sustainability certifications. And Crate and Barrel, in August 2022, put out a new sustainability policy that includes ensuring 60% of textiles are Certified Preferred Fibers by 2025.

Macy’s also doubled its score from 9 to 18 on the Sustainable Furnishings Council and National Wildlife Federation’s 2022 Wood Furniture Scorecard — it was among 37% of companies on the list that scored higher than they did the year before.

Part of what’s motivating brands is increasing recognition from shoppers about the environmental impact of production: the eco-friendly furniture market hit $43.26 billion in 2022 with an expected CAGR of 8.6% through 2030, per a recent Grand View Research report

“Rising awareness among consumers towards sustainable production of furniture products has largely influenced the adoption of eco-friendly furniture in residential spaces,” the report said. 

From a retailer’s perspective, though, getting more responsibly sourced materials can be an uphill battle. For example, Evans said that it took about two years to develop the wood policy. And it will take time to implement it across the brands’ product assortment. 

“Furniture has long lead times. And sustainability is not about changing things necessarily overnight, but really working with your partners and your suppliers so that this can start to show up more and more,” Evans said. 

Gaining access 

Conor Coghlan, co-founder and CEO of Hoek Home, launched the DTC brand with the goal of creating easy-to-assemble furniture while minimizing the use of plastic waste. Products include side tables, desks, benches and chairs and Coghlan said the brand aims to keep the prices affordable as possible — a flat desk goes for $495, with a bundle that includes additional shelves for $795.

Some parts of its products use high density poly ethylene, which comes from recycled milk jugs. It also uses sustainably sourced plywood that’s Forest Stewardship Council-certified, indicating responsible sourcing. 

One of the challenges with these materials, though, is reliable sourcing. When the brand launched as a Kickstarter in late 2020, there were a plethora of options, Coghlan said. But when supply chain issues kicked in during 2021, suppliers served larger clients first.

“For small companies who are ordering $8,000 or $10,000 worth of postconsumer [materials] instead of $800,000, they just weren’t answering our emails. So it got more difficult,” Coghlan said. 

Hoek also aims to source as locally as possible, relying more on U.S-based manufacturers rather than foreign birch or materials. But that can put added cost on the product — and drive the price point higher for consumers. 

Still, it’s a balance that Coghlan is willing to try to find in light of widespread concerns about climate change and environmental protection. 

“I think it’s important, as we kind of grow up as businesses, that we just seem to be responsible and care for the environment and make the right, sustainable choices,” he said.

Manufacturing monitoring

With much production happening overseas, many furniture brands rely on third parties to monitor manufacturers and facilities.

Evans from Macy’s said the wood and cotton sourcing policies build on top of existing protocols. The brand regularly monitors its global supply chain with social compliance teams located throughout Asia.

It also relies on third-party auditors that visit factories every 18 months to ensure that suppliers and factories are adhering with the brand’s code of conduct, Evans said, particularly with regard to how workers are treated.

“When we actually identify issues with partners, we’re really all about remediation plans, corrective action plans, continuous improvement and working together,” she said. “So if we identify anything, we can make improvements and actually ensure that they’re having a better working experience and they’re being cared for.”

Barbora Samieian, co-founder of the Canadian DTC furniture brand Sundays, said the brand relies on site visits and quality control teams on the ground with its factories in China, Vietnam, India and Eastern Europe. Working with manufacturers that are using responsibly sourced products, though, typically means a higher price point for the end product. Sundays makes living, dining and bedroom furniture priced in the mid-range; its best-selling white oak Field dining table going for $2,190 while a four-piece sectional ranges from $4,670 to $5,180. 

Sometimes, having a sustainability-first mind, it means there might be a product that doesn’t pass muster: for example, a recent stool design out of Europe was left out of a new collection because it did not meet California’s Proposition 65 environmental guidelines.

But sustainability at Sundays also means paying close attention the longevity of pieces, with a focus on designs that can fit with many aesthetics and are built with long-lasting materials like solid wood. 

“We’d rather our customers have a fewer number of pieces that are sort of workhorse items in their homes that can be multipurpose, rather than expanding to huge numbers of SKUs,” she said. 

But Sundays is wary of greenwashing, Samieian said. Much of the wood used in Sundays products is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a third-party nonprofit designation that ensures timber comes from responsibly managed forests. For it rugs, it relies on certifications from GoodWeave, which verifies products were made without child labor. Still, the brand is careful not to make too many claims for the purpose of marketing or wooing customers who are in the market for an eco-friendly product.

“We’re working really hard behind the scenes and with our partners and making strides and making progress,” she said. “We believe we have to do the right things first, then start talking about it.”

It also means being in a higher price bracket, Samieian said.

“We’ve really focused on solid wood and that’s more expensive and that means we have to play in a certain price point,” she said.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.modernretail.co/operations/why-macys-and-furniture-companies-are-paying-more-attention-to-responsible-sourcing/





Preparing for the Future: Building Climate Resilience for Your Business

16 01 2023

By Ekaterina Hardin and Lia Brussock from NASDAQ • Reposted January 16, 2022

What is Climate Resilience? Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and withstand hazardous events, shifting consumer trends and behaviors, or business disturbances related to climate change.

Improving climate resilience involves (1) assessing how climate change will create new, or alter current, climate-related risks, and (2) taking steps to better cope with these risks.

Since 2020, the world has seen multiple major events – a global pandemic, a supply chain crisis, a geopolitical conflict and an overall economic volatility. These events have challenged businesses and their ability to remain resilient and to manage a range of external constraints.

  • During the pandemic, labor shortages created clogged marine ports and made companies rely on air freight for logistics and transportation, increasing overall expenses and emissions. Corporates are looking for ways to cut their emissions that spiked during the supply chain crisis.
  • The geopolitical crisis spiked energy and fuel costs. In absence of energy independence, the situation was worsened by the lowered production levels in the Middle East. Then recent diesel shortage added more fuel into the fire.
  • The economic volatility felt by many in the most recent months made businesses look deep into their operations for ways to improve efficiency and cut expenses.

All these challenges are linked to transitional climate risks through fuel, energy and emissions. Setting climate impacts aside, not being able to access resources at low cost also has a direct financial impact. Being able to manage these risks in 2023 and beyond will help companies demonstrate climate resilience and provide access to capital in the long term.

emission graphs

Large Corporates Influence Their Supply Chain to Build Resilience

Climate resilience is crucial for all market participants up and down the value chain. To improve their transitional risk resilience, large corporations who have committed to net zero targets are now engaging with their critical suppliers. Large corporate clients are asking their suppliers to provide their GHG inventories, and in some cases, requiring them to set climate-related targets of their own. In this effort to pass down climate targets, these corporations are working to mitigate their own climate-related risks and improve climate resilience throughout their value chain. According to Nasdaq research, currently 58% of S&P 500 companies have a climate-related goal in their 2022 Proxy Statement. In addition, over 4000 companies of all sizes are taking action to reduce their emissions by setting science-based targets through the Science Based Targets Initiative. Almost half of the 4000+ have already set Science Based targets and almost 1500 companies have made Net Zero commitments (Figure 1A). Scope 3 emission targets (indirect value chain emissions) are a significant portion of these commitments.

Large cap companies are not the only ones committing to science-based emissions reduction targets. Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) make up almost 20 percent (18.6%) of the total companies listed by SBTi (Figure 1B). A total of 747 SMEs have set targets as of November 2022, in comparison to just 29 two years ago. GHG emissions reduction targets are emerging across market caps and organization types, and in many cases the influence of large corporations on their value chain is clear.

We at Nasdaq ESG Advisory hear about these cascade impacts from our clients: their large corporate customers expect them to measure and to reduce their own Scope 1 and Scope 2 footprints, otherwise they risk losing their shared business. This is a significant challenge that smaller and mid-size companies can anticipate in 2023 and beyond. The tide of climate action is rising, and smaller and mid-size companies now face challenges beyond responding to investor pressures and regulatory requirements. They must also address hindered ability to conduct business with large corporate customers. By not having a climate-related target in place, supply chain participants are exposing themselves to climate-related risks that will directly impact their financial health.

Global Transition to Low Carbon Economy and Geopolitical Crisis

Climate resilience has also been challenged this year by the global energy crisis. The 2022 energy crisis, associated with the geopolitical conflict in Ukraine, made energy costs soar. Consequently, high prices on crude oil and natural gas increased the cost of manufacturing and spiked transportation and distribution costs. Lower production levels in the middle east that followed fuel cost increase in the US, only made the situation worse. Additionally, most recently transition to low carbon economy has been under the microscope due to diesel shortages and associated surging diesel cost.

Back in 2020-2021, when marine transportation industry was clogged because of labor shortages, air freight was the only option to deliver goods to customers. Not only is air freight more carbon intensive, but it is also more costly. As a result, we saw increased emissions and narrower margins. Furthermore, in 2022 businesses that rely on fossil-based fuels for energy to produce and transport their goods saw additionally significant operational expense increases. The geopolitical crisis driving energy cost up, combined with a challenging economic environment emphasized the importance of climate resilience. While trying to stop the short-term value bleed, companies need to think about long-term resilience and build-in mitigation strategies such as self-generated energy and increased share of renewables and alternative fuels, so they can climb out of these challenging times ahead of their peers.

Current Economy and Climate Resilience

It is crucial for executives to set up their businesses for resilience in the long term, especially when markets are very volatile. In 2022, decreasing revenue growth rates and shrinking margins have been a focus for investors. Recession and inflation concerns have curbed investor appetite [Scenario Planning and Explaining Your Resilience – Nasdaq’s Advice on Appealing to Investors in Challenging Times]. To build trust with external stakeholders during these times, it is important for companies to explain their resilience to macro concerns like fuel shortage, energy, and raw materials cost. Additionally, understanding the industry trends and setting differentiators from peers will build confidence in management and will help companies to secure capital needed to navigate through the challenging times. Demonstrating financial resilience and climate risks resilience go hand in hand. Companies that are highly exposed to climate-related financial risks, such as energy cost and security, cost of raw materials, cost of transportation and logistics, can prove their financial resilience by demonstrating how they manage these climate-related risks.

Companies in varying sectors have different climate risk profiles, therefore, the way they demonstrate climate resilience would also be different. We encourage each company to access their business specific short-, mid- and long- term climate-related risks and put resilience strategies in place for those risks that companies cannot afford to tolerate in these downturn conditions. related risks and put resilience strategies in place for those risks that companies cannot afford to tolerate in these downturn conditions.

Understanding Your Business Resilience

In times of economic downturn and high volatility, demonstrating to stakeholders that you are an attractive investment, if revenues are down, is a challenge. Companies need to demonstrate how they are planning to capture future opportunities and curb financial risks in current economic conditions. Climate crisis often acts as a risk multiplier. It multiplies all financial risks – operational risk, credit risk, liquidity, underwriting. Being climate resilient company means being financially resilient company. It means capturing climate-related opportunities and mitigating climate-related financial risks better than your peers and competitors.

Knowing what risks your company is exposed to and how they can impact the financial condition and operations of your business across several time horizons and climate futures, will help executives put appropriate resilience strategies in place and build trust with investors.

Understanding industry risks and company specific resilience starts with understanding your risk exposure, risk vulnerability and your risk tolerance and how those might change in the future. For those risks that you cannot tolerate, management strategies must be put in place. At times when it is hard to justify R&D spend on new technologies, products, or services, optimizing efficiencies to reduce operational costs might be the best way to capture climate opportunities and demonstrate climate resilience. By conducting a peer assessment, understanding industry trends and how to achieve a competitive advantage at lowest cost possible, companies can make a business case for themselves and demonstrate to stakeholders that they are an attractive long-term investment.

The Challenges Nasdaq Sees & How We Can Help

Lack of climate expertise coupled with time and resources constraints are the most common pain points for corporates. Companies that are laser-focused on delivering business outcomes during challenging economic times need high efficiency and low-cost solutions. When time is money and when time needs to be spent on delivering products to the market, conducting labor- and time-intensive tasks such as peer benchmarking and assessment is a challenge for resource constrained companies. Staying on top of all the recent regulatory developments and tracking which direction political winds blow is also very time consuming and disrupting.

Climate risk is a systemic risk – meaning it is a risk you cannot diversify from. However, the way it impacts each industry and company varies. Each company’s path along the climate journey is unique. Businesses operate in different geographies, different sectors, have different supply chains and different stakeholders with different short- and long-term priorities. Nasdaq understands that each company has its own set of considerations, and we prepared to partner at each stage of their journey towards climate and financial resilience. Our goal at Nasdaq is to help our community build resilience and trust. We drive impact through cost-effective resources, tools, and guidance around climate data collection, risk identification, and disclosure, ultimately enabling our community to build competitive differentiation. To start your climate resilience journey, contact Nasdaq ESG Advisory here.

About the Authors

Ekaterina Hardin

Ekaterina Hardin is a Lead ESG Advisor focused on Climate at Nasdaq ESG Advisory Practice within our ESG Solutions Business. Ekaterina was previously with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) where she was the Extractives & Mineral Processing Sector Lead Analyst. Ekaterina was also SASB’s climate research lead and Net Zero working group owner. Prior to SASB, Ekaterina was an oil & gas geophysicist for over a decade with an M.S. in Geophysics from University of Moscow, Russia. Later in her career Ekaterina earned an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from UC Irvine, where she focused on Climate Change and Sustainability in the Energy sector.

Lia Brussock

Lia Brussock is a Senior ESG analyst within Nasdaq’s ESG Advisory team. She joins the team with ESG, climate and corporate sustainability expertise. Her prior experience includes environmental footprint management at a global chemical and consumer goods company, where she led engagements with manufacturing facilities to advance progress towards global footprint targets. She is also well-versed in ESG strategy, reporting and benchmarking. Lia holds a M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University and a B.A. in Global Environmental Change & Sustainability with a minor in Economics from Johns Hopkins University.





4 tips from a CSR expert on how to make the most impact in 2023

16 01 2023

Effective ESG practices provide companies with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability, community and equity by integrating these tenets into everyday business processes and company culture.

By Jess Welser  –  Director of B:CIVIC and CSR, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation • Reposted: January 16, 2023

As I look back on the stories shared in this year’s Good Works Colorado content hub, I’m thrilled to see how our state’s leaders have enthusiastically implemented environmental, social and governance policies (ESG) and invested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. 

ESG and CSR are constantly evolving. ESG is a framework for measuring and managing risks and opportunities around a company’s commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance. CSR is a reflection of what a company believes, expressed by how it impacts its stakeholders internally and externally. We like to think of it as how a company aligns its social and environmental activities with its business purpose and values. Or elevating business for good. More and more, ESG and CSR are recognized as an essential component of a smart, viable business strategy for Colorado companies. 

This was one of our founding goals at B:CIVIC, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. Alongside business and community leaders, B:CIVIC is increasing the amount of impact and collective good for the Colorado community. After eight years of doing this work, there are a few lessons we want to share with business leaders who are on their ESG and CSR journey.

1. Now’s the time for ESG. 

As our community faces unprecedented social, economic and environmental challenges, local corporations are taking ownership of their impact through ESG. Effective ESG practices provide companies with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability, community and equity by integrating these tenets into everyday business processes and company culture. 

As ESG practices advance in Colorado and across the globe, it’s important that business leaders continue to develop and enhance their ESG strategy. Like the ever-changing world around us, these strategies must remain nimble to meet the moment — whatever that moment has in store. 

2. It pays to invest in CSR. 

As we head into what may be a recession, many companies are preparing for economic downturn by downsizing budgets, instituting travel freezes and more. Though the immediate future remains uncertain, we know CSR programs and personnel are an important investment for a company’s long-term success. 

To ensure continued engagement, we are encouraging CSR leaders to double down. The economic downturn will impact industries differently, but we can anticipate that employee giving and engagement will experience a decline. Further, economic hardship causes increased stress among employees. To encourage connection, focus on promoting skills-based volunteering and employee well-being programs that boost morale and build community. As we continue through these uncertain times, we challenge CSR leaders to get creative with their CSR strategies. It pays to invest in the community and your people, especially in times of economic hardship. 

3. Colorado is a good place to do business. 

Did you know Colorado is one of the best places to do business? In a 2022 CNBC ranking, Colorado came in at No. 4 in America’s Top States for Business list. The state also ranked No. 12 in the category of life, health and inclusion. These rankings are in large part due to the social impact commitments of our business community — commitments that are continuing to grow alongside our economy. 

The secret’s out: People, organizations and businesses are making the move to Colorado to join in on the great benefits this state has to offer. As the business community grows, the resources available for CSR and ESG will grow with it. The future is full of possibilities for CSR and ESG impact.

4. Create the infrastructure today to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

When business leaders invest in a company’s CSR infrastructure today, they are better prepared to speak out and advocate for the issues that matter to their community and stakeholders. In a recent report released by the Edelman Trust Barometer — a metric that studies trust in business, government, NGOs and the media — it was found that employees care about how their leadership demonstrates commitment to the community. 

According to the Trust Barometer, when considering a job, 60% of employees stated that they want their CEO to speak out on controversial issues they care about. Eighty percent of the general population want CEOs to be personally visible when discussing public policy with external stakeholders or work their company has done to benefit society. Further, 60% of people surveyed will choose a place to work based on their beliefs and values. 

It’s clear the workforce wants business leaders to stand up for the issues that matter to them. Implementing ESG and CSR practices is a great way to demonstrate your company’s commitment to the community. 

As your team is planning for next year, we hope that you consider the above guidance to maximize the impact of your CSR and ESG practices. Want to keep the conversation going? Reach out to our team at B:CIVIC. Together, we can increase the impact and collective good of the community.

To see the original post of this article, follow this link. https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2022/12/23/4-tips-from-csr-expert-on-how-to-make-an-impact.html