CO2 on the menu, Unbundling E-S-G & Tornado God

A newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate

(source: Green Eatz)

CLEAN TECH

Climate startups are making food from CO2


Lately, fretting about the carbon footprint of the food we eat has seemed like a bit of a luxury. When you’re staring at an empty supermarket shelf, it can be hard being green.

The pandemic hasn’t changed the fact that the world’s food systems, and the planet that supports them, have never been under greater strain. Population growth, coupled with escalating demand for meat and dairy — which together account for more than 50 per cent of food-related greenhouse gases, and 80 per cent of all agricultural land use — means the race is on to find more sustainable sources of protein.

Plant-based imitation meats, edible insects, lab-cultured beef and the “chicken-less egg” are some of the alternatives already in the frame. The Chicago-based company Nature’s Fynd makes protein using microbes found in the volcanic springs of Yellowstone Park.

An even more radical solution is one now being proposed by a biotech start-up in Finland called Solar Foods: a protein powder made from CO2 in the air we breathe.


Cosmic Origins


The concept of carbon recycling was first explored by NASA in the 1960s, as a means of feeding astronauts on the longest-distance missions. It wasn’t entertained as a serious alternative to agriculture at the time, however, because there was no commercial or environmental imperative. Chemical fertilizers had just been invented, intensive farming was flourishing and “climate change” was just a speck on the horizon. People simply didn’t see the need.

Half a century later, that NASA research has inspired physicist and biotech entrepreneur Lisa Dyson to co-found Air Protein, a start-up in Berkeley, California, that’s now rivaling Solar Foods.

  • Air Protein launched in 2019, with backing from private investors and the US Department of Energy. Last November, the company debuted what it described as “the world’s first air-based meat”: a CO2-derived piece of protein with the taste and texture of chicken.

  • A UK pioneer in carbon recycling is Deep Branch Biotech. Based at the University of Nottingham, in the East Midlands, the start-up has been recognized by the Forbes 30 under 30 list for turning industrial CO2 emissions into feed for fish and poultry.

  • Air Vodka is a new “carbon-negative” spirit from New York made with industrial CO2 emissions captured from businesses around the state. It is the result of a catalytic process that its creator, Air Company, ultimately hopes to employ in making a variety of ethanol-based products including perfume, cleaning products and fuel. Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: And I thought Beyond Meat was a stretch! These startups are following that same tradition of BM, seeking to make our food supply more sustainable.

“Ideas like these have a part to play, but must be placed into a much bigger picture about supply and demand, coupled with the food system, which is what really needs transforming,” according to Guy Poppy, food systems expert and ecology professor at the University of Southampton. The problem is the scaling necessary to provide an alternative to the livestock industry. We tend to agree.


Issue No. 29 - May 31, 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.

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. 

It was another historic weekend for tech visionary Elon Musk. After nearly two decades of effort, his aerospace company, SpaceX, successfully launched its first two people into orbit, ushering in a new age of human spaceflight in the United States. The flight marked the first time astronauts have launched into orbit from American soil in nearly a decade, and SpaceX is now the first company to send passengers to orbit on a privately made vehicle.

Carbon Creed has been chronicling the disruptive impacts that Musk and Tesla have made on the power and automotive industries. Here are 4 of our most popular posts in the series:

As always, feel free to ping me at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com.

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Now, LET’S DIVE DEEP!


READING

Tornado God

by Peter Thuesen


What are we to make of a tor­nado that de­mol­ishes a school with teach­ers and chil­dren in it? A flood that wipes out a neigh­bor­hood? A drought fueled wildfire that consumes everything in its path? Until the lat­ter part of the 18th cen­tury, a sub­stan­tial part of the pop­u­la­tion in West­ern na­tions would have at­tributed such nat­ural calami­ties to God. Things are different in today’s sec­u­lar West. De­struc­tive floods are now the fault of lax en­gi­neers or cor­rupt lo­cal of­fi­cials or the U.S. pres­i­dent. Hur­ri­canes and tor­na­does are the fault of car­bon-emit­ting industries and the power­brokers behind them.

In “Tor­nado God: Amer­i­can Re­li­gion and Vi­o­lent Weather” author Peter Thuesen chron­i­cles the ways in which Amer­i­can Chris­tians have in­ter­preted the calamities wrought by floods, hur­ri­canes and tor­na­does. The book is a su­perb work of schol­ar­ship, dis­till­ing a vast ar­ray of work on me­te­o­rol­ogy, the­ol­ogy and Amer­i­can his­tory. Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: I found Tornado God well-written and thoroughly researched. Thuesen avoids the “lecturing” style common in most climate-themed books these days.

Towards the end there is a lengthy dis­cus­sion of re­li­gious re­sponses to cli­mate change, which as an ac­count of re­cent his­tory is both ac­cu­rate and help­ful, though slightly partisan. Definitely a solid read this summer.


INSIGHTS

(image: Robert_s/Shutterstock)

“Unbundling” environment, social and governance (E-S-G) metrics


In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic there are silver linings, among them a decline in air pollution due to a drop in driving, flying and industrial activity and better performance by mutual funds and ETFs focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, funds that invest in companies based on their ESG ratings have functioned as “relative safe havens in the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”

S&P Global Market Intelligence analyzed the performance of 17 exchange-traded and mutual ESG funds with more than $250 million in assets year-to-date through May 15, and 14, or 83%, outperformed.

But that hasn’t stopped the nation’s top financial regulator from questioning the “value” of a bundled ESG rating.

According to the financial times, Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said any analysis that combined separate environmental, social and governance metrics into a single ESG rating would be “imprecise”.

“I have not seen circumstances where combining an analysis of E, S and G together, across a broad range of companies, for example with a ‘rating’ or ‘score’, particularly a single rating or score, would facilitate meaningful investment analysis that was not significantly over-inclusive and imprecise.” Jay Clayton, SEC Chairman.

The SEC has asked for feedback from asset managers about ESG ratings as concerns rise about the spread of so-called greenwashing by companies that make misleading claims about their environmental credentials to appeal to unsuspecting investors. Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: I think the SEC Chairman is missing the forest for the trees here. The fact that corporations are being held accountable to any E-S-G metrics is a major step forward. We can worry about whether or not to bundle into a single rating once we have the data.


GOVERNMENT

(image: Johanna Geron/Reuters)

Europe unveils $824B “green” covid-19 recovery package


The United States and Europe have each responded to the virus-induced recession with aggressive economic policy. But their tactics have diverged in one major respect: climate. 

That rift widened further on Wednesday when the European Commission—the bloc’s executive arm—unveiled a €750 billion ($824 billion) plan featuring heavy spending on long-term climate goals, such as electric vehicles, low-carbon electricity production and hydrogen fuels. 

The full details have not yet been finalized. But a preliminary version calls for spending €91 billion per year in grants and loan guarantees on renewable heating systems, rooftop solar panels, and other sustainability initiatives; €25 billion for renewable energy generation as well as a two-year €20 billion package to increase sales of low-carbon vehicles; and installing two million electric and hydrogen vehicle charging stations by 2025, according to a draft document obtained by Reuters. 

“Next Generation EU,” as the proposal has been dubbed, integrates many elements of the vaunted “Green Deal” that aims to make the bloc carbon-neutral by 2050 and that the European Union Parliament approved in January. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has championed the green deal as a central mandate of her tenure.  Go deeper here LINK.

Creed Comments: This is a tale of two very different ideologies. The U.S. recovery package has focused on returning the economy back to normal, while the E.U. recovery package is laying the groundwork for a new low-carbon economy. I believe the E.U. leaders have it right here - this is the moment to decarbonize, seize it.


RESOURCES


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