Investing in the future of our planet
Tue Apr 12
When it comes to addressing climate change, we are severely behind. And without action to speed up the removal of carbon from our air by 2050, we will suffer a litany of dire consequences from global crop failure and water scarcity to flooded human settlements. That’s why Google, Shopify, Meta (Facebook), and more have poured $1B into Stripe’s Frontier Fund, a public benefit corporation dedicated to developing carbon removal startups.
- Why are private companies stepping up and not leaving it to government?It’s a huge, critical undertaking. Even if we hit net zero emissions, the U.S. alone is aiming to remove almost two billion tons of CO2 from the air annually — that’s equal to 30% of current annual emissions.
- Government investment is slow and small. Experts say the U.S. should invest $6B every year in carbon removal, but we’ve only just put $80M towards research in 2021. A lot more investment is necessary to get the technology and market to an affordable place for governments to start paying for carbon removal.
- Fossil fuels companies globally rake in $11M a minute in subsidies alone. The U.S. in 2020 gave explicit and implicit subsidies totaling over $600B, and change to that is just starting.
And funding for the many different solutions can not come fast enough. As of last year, less than 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide have been removed through the use of new technology. The IPCC’s most conservative minimum for carbon dioxide removal to avoid utter climate disaster is one billion. Though there are a number of solutions worth considering:
- Some startups crush the minerals that attract CO2 like iron filings to a magnet.
- Others pickle tree wood (a process for staining wood) to prevent it from degrading and releasing the C02 captured in its life as a tree.
Of course, this fund is simply one of many crucial financial supports for carbon removal. Lowercarbon Capital has raised $350M to invest in carbon remove startups while McKinsey is also launching a new practice specializing in sustainability.
U.S. lettuce recalls are far from over
Thu Apr 7
Remember the romaine lettuce recall of 2018? And then 2019? And every year since? Unfortunately, it seems E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens are a never ending saga. And despite plans by the FDA to mitigate the issues, rates of outbreaks have remained largely the same. A quick summary of events:
- Outbreaks: In June 2018, an outbreak affected 210 people across 35 U.S. states. In late 2019, a series of outbreaks sickened over 160 people who ate romaine lettuce.
- FDA Responds: In March 2020, the FDA announced its plan to prevent future outbreaks, including science-based minimum standards to help ensure water, fertilizer, compost, worker hygiene, food contact surfaces, and more don’t contribute to contamination.
- But: In the past year alone, outbreaks led to 69 people falling ill, 28 of them hospitalized.
While the industry itself is eager to solve this problem (no farmer wants their fields tied to outbreaks), the FDA is clearly struggling. Beyond pandemic-driven delays to progress, some believe the FDA simply is not equipped to do this work. Reports have found that the FDA’s focus is spent less on food and more on the regulation and oversight of drugs and other medical products.
Food safety advocates believe the government could play a stronger role by enacting regulations. They suggest first increasing tracing efforts to understand the likely routes of contamination, such as proximity to livestock. A new proposed rule could require farmers to assess their water annually for potential sources of contamination — including nearby livestock operations. For now, the cause of a number of outbreaks remains unknown.
If you’re worried about your lettuce, the CDC recommends cooking as the best preventative measure (some cuisines love a lettuce stir-fry), followed by washing. Check out the full recommendation here and for general prevention here.
Below the Fold Bytes
When the Mayor Calls You a Cancer
NYC subways are notorious, complex, integral, and even home to some. The last identifier, however, may become an arrest-able offense as Mayor Erica Adam lays out a plan to stop people from sheltering in the subway. He claims society must remove “cancer” to heal from it. His solution? Increased law enforcement and mental health services. This has alarmed many who point to the recent subway shootings as evidence that increased presence of police does not prevent crime. Instead, many worry plans like the Mayor’s will instead exacerbate problems. The plan also mandates more enforcement for code of conduct violations such as smoking and littering. There is no detail so far on what comes after removing people from subways and no additional services in place to make up for it. >> Read More
In Weather Channel, BBC We Trust
While meteorologists and scientists deserve recognition for their strides in weather prediction, only 52% of Americans consider the Weather Channel trustworthy. The next most trusted news source is PBS, which holds strict standards for accepting funding to maintain impartiality and is 31% funded by individuals; it is also only trustworthy to 20% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats. This divide continues and flips across other sources. After PBS, Americans most trust the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), a world leader in independent, public service broadcasting. The BBC is funded through license fees paid by U.K. households, a model the U.S. has resisted but has been successful with Japan and Germany — both ranking high on the Press Freedom Index. >> Read More
🎬 Action of the Week
Ready to play your part in carbon removal? The Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University has created an Action Tracker that outlines climate change initiatives across aviation, energy, financial sections, retail companies and more. See something that’s missing? Email them to add it!
- Bloomberg: The Frontier Fund 10 days old | 9 minutes long
- Environmental Defense Fund: Low cost alternatives 2 years old | 54 minutes long
- IPCC: Climate change 2022 summary 2 months old | 30 minutes long
- World Resources Institute: US carbon removal efforts 2 months old | 10 minutes long
- IMF: $5.9T in subsidies to fossil fuels 7 months ago | 45 minutes long
- The Atlantic: Why Frontier is Such a Big Deal 9 days ago | 6 minutes long
- CNBC: Other carbon funds 8 days old | 7 minutes long
- Investigate Midwest: E. coli outbreaks 15 days old | 11 minutes long
- FDA: Plans of action 5 days old | 31 minutes long
- Food Poisoning Bulletin: FDAs food safety fails 9 days old | 4 minutes long
ASCII-ing About the News
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The FDA must lettuce know about their plans for action.
Art Credit: Joan G. Stark