An unholy alliance, 5 min EV charging & ESG bots are coming!

A newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate

(source: Stockholm Environment Institute)

INSIGHTS

The unholy alliance of covid-19, nationalism, and climate change

As the covid-19 outbreak rages across the world, it’s easy to forget about the climate crisis. The priorities right now are, and should be, slowing the pandemic, saving lives, and then restarting economies left in shambles. But by that point few countries are likely to be able or especially eager to sacrifice near-term growth to help slow climate change.

In the short term, global emissions are falling, as they did during steep economic declines in the past. But carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for centuries, meaning the total concentration will continue to rise even if we’re producing less of it. And emissions will bounce back as soon as economies do.

So the threat of rapidly accelerating climate change will remain. And we’ll be living in a much poorer world, with fewer job opportunities, less money to invest in cleaner systems, and deeper fears about our health, our financial futures, and other lurking dangers.

When the pandemic wanes, a poorer, more divided world will still face the rapidly rising threat of climate change.


These are ripe conditions to further inflame nationalist instincts, making our global challenges even harder to solve. Indeed, the breakdowns in international (and even intra-national) cooperation as countries race to understand and tackle the covid-19 outbreak offer a stark warning for our climate future.

Another major casualty of the pandemic has been our faith in a global supply chain. As countries shut down production and distribution, first in China and then around the world, essential goods are in short supply. It has become evident how vulnerable we are to trade relationships and concentrated manufacturing centers.

That too presents a challenge for climate change. China produces about a third of the world’s wind turbines, two-thirds of its solar panels, and roughly 70% of its lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. What happens if we enter a cold war on clean tech?

In the end, whether people feel the need to tighten international ties or erect higher walls may depend on how ugly things get in the coming weeks and months, and the political narratives that take hold as we try to make sense of how it all happened.

Author James Temple goes deeper addressing America First, the collapse of trust and Climate Fascism in the full article. LINK


Issue No. 22

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate. Last week our top articles were Women Greening Big Tech & Wired to Solve Climate Change.

My name is Walter McLeod, and I’m glad you’ve joined our tribe! We hope to hear from you as we navigate this weekly journey through the good, bad and ugly of carbon and climate. You can ping me anytime at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com.

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Now, LET’S GO DEEP!


CORPORATE CITIZEN

the ESG bots are coming!

(source: SHUTTERSTOCK/MOPIC)

Corporate reporting on sustainability — including environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and achievements — has grown more than fivefold in the past 10 years. Roughly 20 percent of S&P 500 companies published a sustainability report in 2011. In 2018, that number rose to 86 percent. During that time, sustainability professionals have fretted about whether anybody reads their reports.

What we’re beginning to see is that it may not be "who" but "what."

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are being leveraged to both generate and evaluate ESG data.


The bots and AI are largely in response to the confusing world of ESG reporting. There are more than 600 ESG ratings agencies globally, according to the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings, as ESG data becomes a greater factor in a company’s valuation and access to capital. The challenge is that current corporate ESG disclosures lack consistency and standardization.

Further complicating things, financial markets don’t produce enough data to get the most out of AI and machine learning, according to industry watchdog MarketWatch. AI functions best on billions of data points rather than millions, but three decades of daily share-price data for the benchmark S&P 500 Index would yield only about 4 million data points, a mere drop in the big-data bucket.

For many investors, the technology doesn’t have to be exotic. For example, bot searches of companies’ 10-Q and 10-K filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission can track and redline what has changed when it comes to sustainability and ESG topics. Investors take notice when a phrase in what normally may be seen as boilerplate shifts from "probable" to "likely" from one report to the next. A machine is more likely to spot such subtleties.

The takeaway is that bots and AI work best when humans develop an investment thesis and machines test that theory. Go deeper here. LINK


GOVERNMENTS

Post coronavirus, two sharply divergent paths on climate

(source: VICTOR J. BLUE/GETTY IMAGES)


A year from now, how will the battle to slow global warming look in a post-coronavirus world? That’s a question being asked a lot these days by policy experts and activists, and it’s one with huge implications. Some hope it will bring out the best in us and our leaders, and that the resurgence of government action during the pandemic offers a way forward for fighting climate change. Others fear the worst, that the rush to resuscitate a badly battered global economy will push climate back down the international agenda.

Optimists say that the sudden transformation of our lives by COVID-19 will teach us about the virtues of mutual aid, and that it will shock policymakers into being more precautionary in the face of future risks — more inclined to believe the warnings of experts, and less inclined to imagine that the worst may never happen.

And they hope that society as a whole will recognize the power and ultimate duty of governments to act decisively in the common interest, whether enforcing lockdowns or moving aggressively toward zero emissions. “Governments have the critical central role in maintaining our health and safety in times of crisis,” says Mark Maslin, a climatologist at University College London. “We need to harness this new acceptance of government dominance of our lives and shift national and global economies to a more sustainable footprint.”

Optimists are encouraged by people such as the director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, who last month called the crisis an “historic opportunity today to steer [energy] investments onto a more sustainable path.” With G20 governments already pledging around $5 trillion to stimulate their economies in the wake of the shutdown, Birol called on them to “put clean energy at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis.”

But there is a pessimistic narrative, too. It warns against hyping the environmental benefits of the short-term shutdown. Most analysts agree that the reduction in emissions will be very short-lived. In China, carbon dioxide emissions fell by around 25 percent in February, as many coal-fired power stations shut. But according to Lauri Myllyvirta of the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent research institute based in Finland, coal burning was back to normal by the end of March.

Politically, pessimists fear a leap backward rather than forward. Public fear and desperate measures by governments and bankers to kick-start economic growth will combine to encourage political short-termism and nationalism. The economic stimuli will prop up the old energy-intensive and fossil fuel industries, and give a green light to ransacking natural resources such as rainforests, the pessimists warn.

This pessimistic narrative also foresees a scramble to cut “red tape” by eliminating or refusing to enforce environmental standards. And it expects that the “war” to conquer the virus will eclipse strategies to reduce other existential risks, such as climate change.

Climate optimists and pessimists agree: it’s ‘game on’ for the hearts and minds of the people.


It remains an open question whether delegates will show up for the 2021 Glasgow UN summit invigorated to head off the climate crisis, or whether climate will have by then been reduced to a footnote on their governments’ agendas.

Author Fred Pearce goes deeper addressing the EU Green Deal, Financial Market trends, and Environmental Advocacy in the full article. LINK


CLEAN TECH

5 minute electric vehicle charging?
It’s closer than you think

(source: WIRED/GETTY IMAGES)

LATE LAST YEAR, Formula E officials announced the specs for the third generation of all-electric race cars that will debut on the motorway in 2022. The new Formula E cars will be the first to use extremely fast charging stations that pack enough power to fully charge a Tesla Model S battery in about 10 minutes. Although the racers will only use the charging stations for brief pit stops, they’ll provide a glimpse of the future beyond the racetrack: EV batteries that charge in the same amount of time it takes to fill a gas tank.

The new frontier in lithium-ion batteries is XFC, or extremely fast charging. Companies like California’s Enevate, Israel’s StoreDot and England’s Echion are all working on solutions that would allow these batteries to charge in under 10 minutes, replicating the experience of a gas station.

The challenge is commercial deployment of extremely fast charging (XFC) at scale.


“These bespoke XFC batteries haven’t made it out of the lab and into the real world yet,” writes Wired. “Producing lithium-ion batteries at scale is challenging, and manufacturers have to be persuaded to add new materials into their assembly lines.”

The problem with XFC is that it has the potential to kill the performance and life of a battery. To solve this, they’re changing the composition of the battery’s anode. Some are using pure silicon, others are using mixed niobium oxide.

As you can imagine, the stakes and rewards are tremendously high. If successful, there could be no reason not to buy an EV as soon as 2025. Go deeper LINK.


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Curated by Walter McLeod, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Carbon Creed and Managing Partner with Eco Capitol Energy.

mcleodwl@carboncreed.com