Author: Danny Schleien

  1. Business

What’s the matter: Greenhouse gas emissions fell sharply with COVID-19 lockdowns, but as governments ease restrictions, emissions are rebounding faster than expected. It begs the question: if a global pandemic can’t meaningfully cut emissions, what can?

By the numbers

  • Of the nearly $12 trillion committed by the world’s 50 largest economies to the coronavirus recovery, “only about $18 billion has been targeted at post-carbon economic priorities such as developing renewable energy or incentivizing clean industry.”
  • To achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold targeted by the Paris Agreement in 2015, we would need to cut emissions by at least 7% every year indefinitely

Next Steps: As we wrote about earlier this month, Europe has proposed an $826 billion green COVID-19 recovery plan. But the rest of the developed world, especially America, is still thinking brown. COVID-19 makes it clear that individual action will not be enough to fix the climate crisis. We need major structural changes at the governmental (and multinational) level to move forward.

→ Dig deeper (3 min. read)

  1. Lifestyle

Lesson 1: Communicate Urgency

  • The brain has a tendency to react strongly to risks that seem novel, uncertain, uncontrollable, and life-threatening --i.e. COVID-19, immediacy
  • Even though it already kills people, Climate Change is predominantly seen as a risk to be faced in the future
  • Shaping awareness around climate change requires reframing its message

Lesson 2: Elevate the Voices of Trusted Messengers

We are learning valuable lessons from this Public Health Crisis

  • Gallup poll rates nurses as the most trusted profession 18 years in a row
  • Can the healthcare community can be more vocal on climate change? Think George Mason Program on Climate Change and Health, Hospital Coalitions, etc.
  • Pew demonstrated that six-in-ten Americans say scientists should play an active role in policy debates about scientific issues
  • Are you tired of hearing 97% of scientists agree on human-caused CC? Clearly that message isn't working.
  • Maybe it is time to hear more from scientists directly, rather than politicians, professors and children.

Lesson 3: Localized Scale Works Best

  • Simple attainable solutions that can be done from home are essential (i.e. telecommuting, leveraging video conferencing solutions, like Zoom, to facilitate remote work)
  • Decentralized response? Perhaps not the most effective, if we had responded sooner to COVID...
  • We are hearing from local leaders... In Atlanta, governor and mayor coordinated efforts...encouraged use of hand san and avoidance of public events
  • Global Covenant of Mayors, ICLEI, National Council of Local Governments, etc. building capacity at these hyper-local levels for climate action

More to know

  • Shift Perspective, Short-Term vs. Long-Term
    • Sacrificing convenience of globalized economy, at least temporarily
    • Amazon reducing stock, harder to access consumer goods, like toilet paper
  • Recognition of Vulnerable populations
    • Like climate change, people who are hit hardest are already vulnerable
      • Low-income, elderly, sick
    • People are banding together to help them

Be intentional, coronavirus feels personal

  1. On NPR, Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, argued that climate change lacks four fundamental features that typically trigger an immediate response: Intentional, Immoral, Imminent, Instantaneous
  2. Show immediacy w/out compromising integrity
  3. “With some people, climate change is actually more of an imminent threat. I mean, I'm thinking about farmers who are seeing more ruined crops. I'm thinking about people who live in certain regions that are definitely getting more extreme weather.”

Dig deeper → 8 min

  1. Business

The scoop John Tyson, Chairman of Tyson Foods, sent out a dire message about the global food chain supply breaking as millions of chickens, cattle and pigs face euthanasia due to widespread closures of slaughter houses. 

Where it stands

  • Meat processing plants across America face closure due to the pandemic. 
  • Processing plants use the ’just in time’ inventory system.
    • Animals have limited processing time, after which they get too big and loses their monetary value for companies such as Tyson.
  • It is difficult for meat processors to pivot between varying amounts of demand, exposing its shortcomings as a reliable form of food production. 

What are the main concerns?

  • Most meat processing plants operate in counties in America worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Thousands of animals and workers in these poorly-sanitised plants remain in close proximity to one other. 
  • The chances of infections spreading are incredibly high in the plants, with over 5,000 meat workers and 1,500 workers contracting the virus since April. 
  • Meat processing systems lack a vital aspect of sustainability: resilience. 

Zoom out Farmers have discarded millions of pounds of edible food due to the virus and warn of increased food security concerns. Almost 30-40% of food is wasted in America, equivalent to an estimated value of $162 billion every year. 

Bottom Line Our food systems need to focus on resilience plans moving forward, making them more adaptable and decentralised to effectively deal with external disturbances such as a pandemic.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Politics and Policy

Big picture

  • The GND was founded on the belief that environmental issues are overlooked and underfunded
  • The GND gained traction in 2018, when the Democratic Party took control of the house. 
  • Biden offered support to the GND, but differs on some policies like an immediate ban on all fracking activities. 

Between the lines Biden has been urged to beef up his climate policy platform by climate advocacy groups to deal with the challenges global warming presents. 

Legislative precedents

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal prioritized conservation of natural resources, control of corporations and consumer protection. 
  • Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal prioritised relief for poor, economic recovery and financial reform. 
  • Johnson’s Great Society aimed at alleviating social justice and education reform. 

Key talking points

  • It helps secure a sustainable future.
  • Our society needs a paradigm shift towards the clean energy sector, this legislation could be among the last chances to make that happen.
  • The GND is perhaps the encouragement voters need to mitigate the effects of global warming by utilizing the power of voting.

Dig deeper 4 min

  1. Energy and Environment

What happened On the evening of April 20th 2010, a blowout occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. High-pressure methane gas had risen into the drilling rig, quickly igniting and exploding.

Visible from 40 miles away, the flames overwhelmed first responders.

Two days later, the platform sank, leaving oil gushing at the seabed...until July, 87 days later. Containment started immediately, stopping the fires and oil burst. Clean up continued and ended...TBA.

Big picture Deepwater is not the first major spill, nor it seems, likely the last, and each disaster results in another human and environmental catastrophe. 

  • Deepwater killed 11 people, injured dozens of others, left vast swaths of ocean fatally contaminated, thousands of miles of beach polluted, killed over one million birds and continues to destroy pristine habitat and wildlife
  • There are 175 offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico with the global total growing to 497 by 2017

Why it matters Deepwater displayed the frailties of our petroleum addiction as clear as day. In 2010, the year of the disaster, the planet used about 86 million gallons of Black Gold every day. Now, we use 100 million gallons every day. Black Gold is unsustainable, damaging to the environment, and could be replaced with sustainable alternatives.

We need a global intervention, a massive mobilization focused on powering our planet with the bountiful clean energy nature so gracefully provides. And we must develop an economic model that hastens the long overdue demise of Black Gold. 

Dig deeper → 5 min

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