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In his scientific exploration “Enlightenment Now”, Harvard University’s DR Steven Pinker outlines how humanity is making sensational progress, citing real data that will surprise you. The data is real, verifiable and encouraging. But one challenge is highlighted as a critical need to be addressed: Climate change.
The year is 1848, Sacramento Valley is sprinkled with white powder from the heavens in a cold January. The USA is in the midst of a tense negotiation with possessors of the land, Mexico, who days later would cede their territory to the Yanks.
The investment space has grown into an entire industry with its own verticals and niches. Venture capital has never before seen such prominence, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Five decades ago, when someone referred to “investment”, it was usually a simple trust fund with a well structured portfolio providing solid dividends. Today, the term could mean a myriad of different things.
It’s now glaringly obvious that climate change is having a serious impact on everyday human life. We’ve recently witnessed devastating floods in Pakistan and India, and scorching drought in most of Europe. Every month seems to bring more news of severe calamity brought on by mother nature.
As humanity advances to ever greater levels of technological progress, we are confronted with the consequences of that progress with increasing regularity. Each year seems to break records as the hottest ever, while flood-causing storms and drought-causing heat are becoming commonplace.
It’s now harder than ever to deny the reality that our climate is changing at a frightening pace, and the evidence is overwhelming that this change is at least fast-tracked by human activity. As an industrious species, we’re burning fossil fuels at record rates, causing 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere every single year. That’s the equivalent of 101,000 Empire State Buildings worth of carbon dioxide!
Most of us know the science behind that equation: The more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, the more the sun’s heat gets trapped on earth’s surface, and our climate adjusts to those rising temperatures, causing more intense evaporation creating larger storm systems, and parching our land causing more severe drought.
It is argued that humanity is fast running out of time. The need for intervention has never been greater.
But what are our options in the face of such an ominous outlook?
While public intellectual Steven Pinker agrees that Climate Change is civilisation’s most serious existential threat next to nuclear war, he is also convinced of mankind’s technological prowess to build effective solutions. Humanity’s rise has been due to our ability to fight against the elements of the cold, the dark, and long distances using technology. Now we can do the same with an element brought on by our own doing, a warmer climate.
Is Our Answer Big Tech?
While big tech admittedly has an enormous carbon footprint, estimated to be around 2 to 3% of all global emissions, it is seeking to undo much of the damage it has caused. Amazon has targeted 2040 as the year it will achieve net-zero carbon emissions, reaching 50% of that milestone by 2030. In addition to its carbon neutral goals, the e-commerce powerhouse aims to be run on entirely renewable energy by as soon as 2025.
Google has set 2030 as the year they operate 24/7 on carbon-free energy, and aims to replenish 120% of the water they consume, an important step in contributing to sustainable water security. Their largest competitor, Apple, has also identified 2030 as a key date in their fight against climate change, aiming for every Apple device sold to have a net-zero climate impact by that time.
Microsoft is pushing the limits of what is possible, stating that they plan to remove all the carbon they have been responsible for since their inception in 1975. The computer behemoth aims to achieve this considerable landmark by 2050, and on the way there will reach 100% renewable energy operation by 2025, and will become carbon negative by 2030.
Even if the titans of Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft do indeed achieve these admirable targets, will it be enough? Some experts believe their pioneering vision is key to rallying more of the tech industry into effective action.
In a recent protest in Glasgow, Scotland, climate activist Greta Thunberg said that the climate crisis had already been solved, the solutions just haven’t been implemented yet. She pointed to numerous proposals and fact-based solutions, claiming that humanity only needed to “wake up and change.”
The solutions are diverse, but provably effective. From groundbreaking carbon capture tech to electric air travel, and tokenised carbon credits to seaweed for cattle. Some of the most innovative work being done in the fight for our climate will surprise you.
Carbon Capture Tech
Capturing the carbon already released into earth’s atmosphere is one of the most important tasks we face in this fight. It’s common knowledge that vegetation removes carbon dioxide from the environment, synthesising it in energy production, and releasing oxygen. And with the math suggesting that there is more CO2 being released than there are plants to consume it, man-made carbon capture is one of our more promising solutions.
Net Zero Teeside is one of the world’s leading industrial clusters doing just that. NZT in Middlesbrough, UK have developed pioneering carbon capture technology, and are able to produce 860 MegaWatts of carbon negative electricity, with carbon captured at source, which is then transported to geological storage via pipeline several kilometers below the North Sea.
Electric Air Travel
Greta Thunberg and leading climate scientists believe that air travel is the worst possible form of transportation due to the amount of CO2 emitted and the way in which those emissions happen. Experts have warned that unless something drastic is done to transform air travel, the world’s economies will never achieve their environmental targets.
A key contributor to this transformation will likely be a move to electric air travel, with EasyJet identifying leading E-plane engineers Wright Electric as the most effective solution they’ve seen. The airline has invested heavily into the engineering firm, who have already conducted tests on a 1.5 megawatt electric motor. The plan is to introduce the hybrid aircraft into Europe’s second-busiest route by 2030, traversing the 500 km journey between London and Amsterdam.
Tokenised Carbon Credits
Scientists, economists and politicians alike have identified a carbon scoring system that incentivises corporations to radically reduce their carbon emissions. The Carbon Credit system allows market mechanisms to drive business processes to be less carbon intensive, and utilise tradable permits representing the right to emit a set amount of CO2. One carbon credit is equal to one tonne of CO2 or equivalent gasses, and companies that capture CO2 out of the Earth’s atmosphere can sell those credits, while companies that emit CO2 can purchase them – thereby ensuring a climate equilibrium in a given economy.
Experts believe that tokenising the Carbon Credit system via Web 3 technology is one of the most effective means to scale the mechanism. IBM’s Senior VP of blockchain was recently quoted as saying that the technology is imperative to creating effective marketplaces for this kind of solution. The EcoWatt project on Polygon is one such solution, with a real portfolio of green energy assets backing each of its one billion digital tokens. The company has built an ecosystem that tokenises the carbon credits of renewable energy, cleantech and reforestation projects, enabling global brands to become carbon neutral, and participate in climate action projects through NFTs.
Alternative Cattle Feed
It’s common knowledge that humanity’s affection for dairy and beef has contributed significantly to the climate disaster. The 996 million heads of cattle on earth today are responsible for a devastating 13% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. But a recent discovery could transform that equation into one of the most promising stories of the century.
On Prince Edward Island in Canada, farmer Joe Dorgan discovered that his organic seaweed is able to reduce cattle’s gaseous emissions by an astonishing 40%. Dorgan produces organic seaweed for numerous culinary and fertilizer applications, and knew the health benefits of his product. Based on a hunch, he added it to cattle feed and tested the animal’s emissions, confirming the results with the Dalhousie University in Canada’s Nova Scotia district.
The discovery has scientists stumbling for its application, with conservative estimates targeting a global reduction of CO2 emissions by a remarkable 5.2% based on the diet change alone.
Is It Enough?
While these technologies are still in their infancy, there is no doubt there is overwhelming promise in their ability to turn back the climate clock. Adding seaweed to the entire planet’s cattle food supply isn’t going to be a walk in the park, and neither is shifting the world’s corporations to trade on Web 3 digital asset platforms for carbon credits, but experts believe that incrementally they could contribute to shifting the tide.
A significant tidal shift is indeed needed in the fight against catastrophic climate disaster, and technologies of this nature are certainly hope inducing.
As Samuel Smiles so eloquently stated, “Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.”
And we can all agree, a miracle is most certainly needed here.
Tesla has been criticized for its previous years’ earnings being dependent on the sales of its carbon credits. These credit sales have been a
major driver of Tesla’s profits over the years.
But since it separated reporting its regulatory credits from other sales, it showed that it’s profitable.
The carmaker revealed a big jump in its net income in its latest quarterly report. This is a plus for the company’s reputation as it managed to exceed Wall Street’s estimates. And this is amid the worst supply chain shocks hitting the entire industry right now.
Tesla’s profits on electric vehicles totaled $3.22 a share, beating the $2.27 estimates. Also, actual revenue rose to $18.8 billion, higher than $17.9 billion estimates.
Most interesting is its $679 million carbon credit sales. It’s more than double the prior quarter’s sales of $314 million and is even much higher than its Q1 2021 sales ($518 million). Its Q2 2021 and Q3 2021 credit sales are $354 million and $279 million, respectively.
The chart below shows Tesla’s regulatory credit sales since Q1 2021.
Tesla’s regulatory carbon credit sales account for over 20% of its profits this quarter.
Tesla has warned that carbon credit sales in the future will fluctuate and decline.
Tesla’s Regulatory Carbon Credit Performance
Tesla has earned billions already through its regulatory carbon credit sales. This allows other automakers to meet emissions regulations and avoid billions in fines.
Tesla has been receiving emissions credits from various local regulations sources like California’s ZEV program. These credits are then sold which helps the company’s bottom line.
Tesla has been getting paid by other carmakers for selling its carbon credits for years whose names used to be a secret.
But a report from Bloomberg revealed two famous names. These are General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). About how much exactly they’re buying, it’s between them and Tesla.
So far, it’s only Tesla that’s selling a lot of regulatory credits within the industry. Others even speculated that Volkswagen is also buying credits from Tesla to offset its huge emissions credit shortage in China. While others are striving to be at par with Tesla’s all-electric car production.
What Comes Next For Tesla’s Regulatory Carbon Credits?
Governments are tightening up their regulations to decarbonize the automotive industry. This is because of the urgent need to tackle climate change and the industry’s huge emissions.
In a sense, this seems to drive Tesla’s carbon credit sales further up in the coming years. Plus, the company remains the most-valuable zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) maker by volume.
Unfortunately, other major automakers are also catching up on their own ZEVs programs. It means that they will rely less on Tesla in meeting the regulatory carbon credit cap.
For instance, Europe’s Stellantis that owns FCA (once Tesla’s biggest buyer of carbon credits) planned to sell more of its own ZEVs.
In fact, it had significant emissions reductions in 2021 with its electrification ramp-up. This involves its battery electric vehicles and low emission vehicle programs.
The European carmaker also pledged to reach net-zero by 2038 through various measures. These include energy efficiency, renewable energies, technological innovations, and carbon capture and storage.
Considering this, it appears that Tesla has to continue its efforts to have more deliveries to its customers and do better in reducing costs.
Still, will Tesla’s carbon reduction initiatives produce more regulatory carbon credits?
Tesla’s Net-Zero Strategy
Tesla’s all-electric car lineup has been helping cut down emissions in the industry. This is a big part of Tesla’s mission to speed up the transition to a sustainable energy ecosystem.
Yet, the carmaker remains less transparent of its decarbonization strategies. It still has not made any public commitment on net-zero or carbon-negative targets.
What is only shared so far is its plans to make EVs more available to consumers by using profits from new models to make subsequent models less costly.
Currently, the carmaker is providing energy generation and storage products using solar power. It also has a network of Supercharger stations for EVs across North America, Europe and Asia. These contribute to Tesla’s regulatory carbon credit generation.
But for its clear and detailed net-zero roadmap like Stellantis has, the public is still waiting for Tesla’s disclosure.
WINT provides water management and leak-prevention solutions to businesses by using AI and IoT. It caters to commercial facilities, construction sites, and industrial manufacturers.
Its solutions are particularly designed to cut carbon emissions, water waste, and water leakage.
Data-Based Application That Cuts Water-Related Carbon Emissions
WINT’s new app will aid firms to reduce their GHG emissions related to water use in buildings.
The new app gives owners, contractors, and managers vital data to track the CO2 impact of their water use. This water-waste and carbon tracking solution goes with WINT’s advanced analytics.
The resulting tool enables users to address water inefficiencies and decrease water waste. Better yet, it limits the negative impact of water supply on the environment.
The launch of this new carbon tracking app is so timely as the world is in a tight battle over climate change.
Companies across the globe have pledged their goals to be carbon net-zero by 2050. Big reductions in CO2 emissions are a must to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission recently released its new rule requiring firms to disclose their GHG emissions.
WINT’s carbon-tracking app allows businesses to manage their water-related carbon emissions. It will also enable them to give stakeholders detailed information about those emissions.
The Need for Buildings to Reduce C02 Emissions
Studies show that there are 60 to 120 pounds of carbon emitted for every 1,000 gallons of water used. This translates to about 7-15 kg for each cubic meter of water.
Moreover, buildings are a primary source of water waste and CO2 emissions. In fact, the building sector contributes a total of 39% (28%+11%) of the annual global CO2 emissions.
The pie chart below represents global CO2 emissions by sector in 2020.
Source: International Energy AgencyAs for its water-related carbon emissions, the building sector also contributes a lot.
For instance, a leaking toilet is approximately losing 1 million gallons of water a year. This results in around 4.5 tons of GHG emissions, which is close to a passenger car’s annual emissions.
Now, research suggests that almost 25% of water in buildings goes to waste. This involves all types of buildings (commercial, residential, and industrial). In this case, the global impact of water-related carbon emissions is so huge.
Water waste can be due to leaks, malfunctions, outdated infrastructure, and human errors.
According to WINT’s chief strategy officer, Yaron Dycan,
“Waste and inefficiency in water supply systems are so significant… But they are often an overlooked source of CO2 emissions.”
Hence, WINT’s data-based tool provides real-time alerts to tackle water inefficiencies and wastes. It does so by integrating the firm’s IoT water-flow analysis devices. It can even shut off water supplies automatically if needed.
As such, it can help owners, developers, and facility managers to cut their water use. And thus, they can also reduce carbon footprint by about 20% – 25%.
The company said that its innovative carbon reporting tool is the first of its kind. And by allowing users to pinpoint waste and keep track of water-related emissions, WINT’s new tool can help meet their carbon goals.
The money lining up to fund early-stage carbon removal technologies is adding up so fast. After the giant tech companies revealed their almost $1 billion fund for carbon removal startups, millions of capital came rushing in.
But what is more interesting is the value created in capturing CO2 and converting it into a product. Just like what Air Company is doing that attracted $30 million capital investment.
Carbon Direct Capital Management led the round along with other venture capital firms. These include Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Parley for the Oceans.
How Air Company’s Carbon Conversion Technology Works
The startup makes carbon-negative alcohols and consumer products out of thin air. It does so through its proprietary technology that transforms CO2 into impurity-free alcohols.
The converted alcohol is then used to make a variety of consumer goods. Some of them are the famous ones like carbon-negative Air Vodka, Air Spray hand sanitizer, and Air Eau de Parfum.
The company is using only three key inputs to create its innovative products – air (CO2), water, and sun. It uses 9% solar energy for the conversion process and 91% wind energy to power its production.
Here’s how Air Company’s carbon conversion technology works:
With its pioneer carbon technology, Air Company made the world’s first alcoholic beverage directly from CO2, Air Vodka.
According to its CEO and Co-founder, Gregory Constantine,
“Our goal is to integrate our carbon technology into every applicable sector to help combat the climate catastrophe… We’ll do this by providing people with a beautiful range of products made from captured CO2.”
Air Company debuted in 2019 and started with its first factory in Brooklyn, New York.
Where Will The Funding Go?
The $30 million growth capital will be for building the Air Company’s third factory. This is to ramp up its carbon conversion technology and CO2-derived alcohol production.
This new state-of-the-art factory will be home for its new commercial-scale carbon technology. By far, it would be the biggest factory to date.
Such scaling up is also part of the firm’s plan to expand into the industrial and aerospace sectors. For instance, it has worked with NASA for space exploration in making sugars and proteins from its CO2-derived alcohols.
Air Company’s pioneering system seems capable of scaling up across industries. If so, its carbon conversion technology can help tackle up to 10.8% of global CO2 emissions. This is roughly more than 4.6 billion tons of CO2 removed and avoided each year.
By using captured carbon and replacing CO2 taken out the ground, Air Company aims to really have an impact in addressing climate change.
By far, Air Company is not the only carbon technology that focuses on how to use captured CO2 to make new products. There are a couple of others, too, recognized by Elon Musk’s $100 million Carbon Removal XPrize.
Examples include SkyNano that is using captured CO2 to make parts of tires and batteries. Another one is DyeCoo that uses reclaimed CO2 to dye textiles, avoiding the use of chemicals.
When these carbon tech startups mature, we can all expect to see a growing sector called “carbon to value”. This space presents a double blow of removing carbon while creating additional value.
And one way to create more value to carbon is by reusing it as an ingredient for materials like cement or consumer goods.
Turns out timing is everything.There are moments when world events combine to rescue the truth of old lines from mere cliché.
The release of the latest landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week was one of them.
If you were to distill the thousands of pages of “Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Working Group III Contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report” detailing our shrinking window to avert climate catastrophe into a single line , it would simply be this:
Timing is everything.
Everything, because the report delineates with clinical precision the steps to something like a livable future and exactly how much time the world has for each . (Spoiler alert: Less than we thought.)
But everything also, because at a moment when the human tragedy in Ukraine has forced a global conversation on fossil fuels and our energy future, the report is exactly what the world needs to hear right now.
THREE YEARS TO TURN THE CORNER ON FOSSIL FUELS
The toplines of the report will not surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to the headlines on climate recently. In a nutshell, we have just three years – not decades – to reach the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions (aka “peak emissions”) planetwide before rapidly reducing fossil fuel use and reaching net-zero levels by 2050.
Three years, that is, to have any reasonable chance at holding global warming to something like 1.5 degrees Celsius, the danger line after which climate-fueled destruction threatens to go from “quite bad” to “downright Biblical” with projected human suffering growing exponentially with every fraction of a degree above 1.5.
The stakes are huge. Miss this goal and emissions keep rising, which the report estimates could lead to warming of 2.2–3.5 degrees (Celsius) by 2100.
PEAKING GLOBAL EMISSIONS: A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB
Needless to say, peaking global emissions in just three years is a tall order. One of almost Everest-like proportions.
Despite years of promises by the international community and the historic accomplishment of the Paris Agreement, the report authors underscore that global emissions continued to grow over the last decade from 2010–2019.
Perhaps most concerningly with respect to 2025, a recent study shows that the first and third-greatest polluting nations – China and India, respectively – both rosebetween from 2019–2021. China’s current Paris Agreement commitment calls for the country to peak emissions “before 2030” but doesn’t specify a year. India, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to peak emissions before 2040 at the earliest.
(To be clear, India and China are not the sole villains in the global emissions picture, as both are working to develop and pull millions out of poverty. The US and EU, for example, are in no position to throw stones.)
The result, the report notes is that: “Without a strengthening of policies beyond those that are implemented by the end of 2020, GHG emissions are projected to rise beyond 2025, leading to a median global warming of 3.2 [2.2 to 3.5] °C by 2100.”
In short, the world is not doing enough. Not nearly.
THERE IS STILL A PATH TO A BETTER FUTURE. JUST.
There is an implicit note of hope here. For all the task of reaching net zero by 2050 is a huge one, we can still do it. But it’s going to take an unprecedented effort and we’re talking about making it by the proverbial skin of our 2050 teeth.
Much of the report is given to the steps we need to take quickly to accelerate just energy transition and social transformation. Some of the key takeaways here:
- It’s going to take an all-of-society approach.
- “All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors.”
- It’s going to mean shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy sources on a massive scale.
- “Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning . . . to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources.”
- Energy transition alone won’t be enough to hold warming to 1.5 degrees – we need carbon removal technology too.
- “[D]eploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions.”
- Acting on climate and accelerating energy transition will make life better – and be cheaper than the alternative.
- “The global economic benefit of limiting warming to 2°C is reported to exceed the cost of mitigation in most of the assessed literature.”
- Wealthy nations have to step up and support developing countries at much higher levels than are currently pledged.
- “Accelerated financial cooperation is a critical enabler of low-GHG and just transitions, and can address inequities in access to finance and the costs of, and vulnerability to, the impacts of climate change.”
- The future of billions in developing nations depends on rapid energy transition and ambitious climate action.
- “There is a strong link between sustainable development, vulnerability and climate risks. Limited economic, social and institutional resources often result in high vulnerability and low adaptive capacity, especially in developing countries.”
- Perhaps most important, many of the tools we need for rapid emissions cuts – from better use of land resources to improving demand and efficiency to effective electric vehicles – are in our hands today.
THE TIMING MATTERS
There was, of course, no way for the IPCC to know it would be releasing the report at a time when the war in Ukraine is the backdrop to almost everything. And when the world is grappling with the real and wide-ranging costs of fossil fuels like perhaps never before.
But that’s exactly what’s happened. Even before Russian tanks rolled across the border, the EU was working on a new energy strategy to wean the bloc off Russian gas within the decade and – critically – accelerate the pace of clean energy transition. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden told policymakers at a conference on February 19, “We are doubling down on renewables. This will increase Europe’s strategic independence.”
The war has – for Europe – added new urgency to this effort, with the EU now scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian gas by more than two-thirds this year. Meanwhile, in the US, President Biden has pointed to renewables as the path to not only providing true energy security and fighting global warming, but also protecting families from painful fuel prices.
What happens next and how quickly these statements turn into concrete policies is still an open question. Both the US and EU face real but solvable challenges to get to clean energy economies, and the Drill Baby Drill contingent in Congress is seizing every opportunity to argue for more of the same dirty energy that got us here in the first place.
With the world asking how can we keep the lights on without propping up murderous petro-state dictators and protect working families from crippling energy prices, the short-term strategy seems to be a lesser-of-two-evils approach, with Europe trying to trade Russian gas for US alternatives in a global game of energy musical chairs.
Long-term, simply trading one source of the same fossil fuels that got us here for another and expecting peace and democracy to flourish and low prices to return forever sounds a lot like the popular definition of insanity (i.e. doing the same thing twice and expecting different results). Vladimir Putin being far from the only petro-state dictator with a violent turn, and 2022 being not our first oil price spike rodeo.
Let’s be clear: this is a decision point, not just on how we heat our homes in 2022, but what the world looks like in 2052. And this is why the timing of the IPCC report matters, effectively reminding world leaders that responding to what Ukraine’s top climate scientist – and previous IPCC contributor – has called “a fossil fuel war”with more pipelines, terminals, and more is just an invitation to climate disaster: “The continued installation of unabated fossil fuel infrastructure will ‘lock-in’ GHG emissions (high confidence).”
The simple truth is that we cannot drill ourselves to safety or energy security. We cannot pretend the climate bill for doing so will not come due with devastating interest. The only path forward – for our families, our democracies, and our planet has to be to accelerate the just transition to clean energy already underway across the globe.
The stakes are clear. The steps we have to take – peak emissions by 2025 and rapidly reduce fossil fuels to reach net zero by 2050 – are too. It’s now or never. The timing of our collective response is everything.
Learn how you can make a difference on climate when it matters by becoming a Climate Reality Leader. Join us for an upcoming training in Las Vegas, Nevada from June 11–13 and get the tools, know-how, and network to lead the fight for solutions.