Politics and Policy

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The scoop: With control of Congress and the White House, the Democrats have the weight of the world take serious climate action. If they fail, perhaps government is incapable of getting the job done.

Some talking points:

  • Any climate plan taken in the next few years should be targeted at institutions, not individuals.
  • We're looking for stringent environmental protections laws, and harsher rules on corporate carbon emissions. Let's not damage SMB's either, please.
  • ^In that light, if there was a vaccine-like waitlist for taking climate action, corporations should be at the top of the list. Let's get them out of the way.

Bottom line: The legacy of federal governance (fair or not) lies in the hands of an aging Biden. If his administration fails to bring about tangible change, the distrust of government may be irrevocable.

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  1. Lifestyle
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The scoop: Sustainability in 2020 was about transition. Let's make this decade about change (not the World Economic Forum kind... the ordinary people kind).

Top sustainability trends in 2020:

  1. Economics merge with environment
    • Rise of ESG superfunds
    • Corporate-social sustainability skyrockets
    • Individual sustainable investing spikes
  2. Climate awareness goes mainstream
    • Data showed most Americans now concerned about environmental issues.
    • Climate entered national politics.
    • Animals gained more rights - backed by science as much as emotion.
  3. Climate community can't stop fighting with itself. Here are different type of activists:
    • The optimist "Don't worry, science & tech will get us out of this mess!"
    • The concerned consumer "How can we blame corporations if we keep buying their products??"
    • The concerned citizen "The problem isn't with consumers, it's with citizens. You need to vote to make real change!"
    • The institutionalist "It doesn't matter what individuals do, it's governments and corporations that are to blame."
    • The doomsday-er "We are screwed no matter what, Kathy. Start preparing for the next Ice Age."
    • The compromiser "I think Biden made good cabinet choices for climate."
    • The radicalist "If you drive a gas car, I realistically can't spend Thanksgiving with you."

Bottom line: 2020 was a mixed year for sustainability, but we are bullish long-term.

Dig deeper → 7 min

  1. Better Markets
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The scoop: Overpopulation is a myth because Jack Ma and Elon Musk said so.

Some talking points for your New Years rant:

  1. Overcrowded cities ≠ overcrowded planet. The entire world population can fit in the state of Texas with the same population density as Manhattan.
  2. Lopsided populations will inevitably occur in modern advanced nations. That means young workers will be unable to support aging populations, causing population declines.
  3. 'Malthusian traps' refer to eventual food shortages as a population grows. Either Malthus was right and some of us go hungry naturally (as in we don't need to artificially halt population growth), or he's wrong and the population keeps growing sustainably through innovation.

Bottom line: The Earth has plenty to offer for 9 billion mouths. We just need to spread out more.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Below are top 10 head-scratchers for the so-called 'COVID-19 Relief Package'.

  1. Despite spending 15 years and billions of dollars, American counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan are ineffective (Foreign Aid)
  2. The Fish and Wildlife Service is subsidizing yachting (Environment, Energy,Science)
  3. NIH paid to find out if hot tubbing can lower stress (Health Care)
  4. Using CARES Act funds, the FAA renovated a taxiway at the airport on Nantucket Island most often used by private jets (Miscellaneous)
  5. NIH paid researchers to interview San Franciscans about how they use edible cannabis (Health Care)
  6. FEMA paid for test tubes for COVID tests but received contaminated mini soda bottles (Miscellaneous)
  7. NIH paid researchers to develop methods to stop grown adults from binge-watching television (Health Care)
  8. DOD lost more than 100drones over Afghanistan (Military)
  9. USAID is open to creating a venture capital fund in Bosnia & Herzegovina for bad investments (Foreign Aid)
  10. NSF ran lizards on a treadmill (Environment, Energy, Science)
  1. Cities and Communities
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The scoop: The World Bank projects extreme poverty to rise for the first time since the 1990s, while 270 million people are at risk of starvation (2x higher than 2019).

Lockdowns and inequality: 20+ million Americans are still unemployed. 160,000 US business have closed. Despite that, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Costco (for example) are posting record high online sales.

What can we do? Go beyond SBA loans and stimulus checks. We should like, actually be doing everything we can to keep small business owners afloat.

Local coffee shops > Starbucks, Thrift > Marshall's, Art galleries for Home Decor > Amazon.

Bottom line: We can clean up this institutional mess by creating a new structure around congressional term limits, monopoly break-ups, whistleblower support, and free speech... or we can allow the same actors to weave the world we've grown to love and hate.

Dig deeper → 3 min

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What to know: For the first three US presidential elections, the runner-up became VP. The 12th amendment rewrote the rules in 1804 so that candidates ran with a running mate. Electors are required to submit one electoral vote for a candidate, and one electoral vote for a candidate's running mate.

Picture this: A climate-focused Gore sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden's economic recovery bid?

One more point: Imagine if a climate-focused Gore was sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton was sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden during his economic recovery bid?

Bottom line: We all know the American republic is under scrutiny. Our divisive two-party system, though highly profitable for Big tech and media, is at its breaking point. In a close race, allowing a runner-up candidate to serve as veep could help quell the American political fire.

Dig deeper 🠒 2 min

  1. Federal
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The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.

Why Paris no bien:

  1. It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
  2. It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).

Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Cities and Communities
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

The scoop: In 2018, global risk firm Verisk combined UN population data with their Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) and found that 84 of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world face 'extreme risk' from climate change. The remaining 14 faced fell under the 'high risk' categories.

By the numbers:

  1. 95% of the 234 cities most affected by climate change fall in Africa & Asia.
  2. 86% of the 292 'low risk' cities are located in Europe and the Americas

Between the lines:

  • The world's poorest with higher rates of urbanization = face greatest threats from climate disruption.
  • The world's most advanced economies (US, China, India, Europe) account for half of the world's carbon emissions.
  • The International Monetary Fund estimates that 8 out of the 10 fastest growing economies between 2018 and 2023 will be African countries, posing serious risk to companies operating in the region.

Bottom line: There is a clear correlation between climate change vulnerability and population growth. This is occurring in the fast growing economic region of the world, making an even stronger case to invest in climate resilience. Secondly, advanced economies (as the cause but not the victim) have a moral, social and economic responsibility to mitigate the impact of carbon emissions.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

The scoop: The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. They spent 10 minutes on the topic.

Why it matters: Recent polls revealed 12% of likely voters considered climate change to be their #1 issue behind the economy and coronavirus.

Stuff to know: Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is made up of 300 billion trees and 1/5 of the world's species. Trump acknowledge anthropogenic climate change (sort of) for the first time.

Bottom line: The world is suffering from a public health disaster that has leaked into the global economy, yet voters still consider climate change a centerpiece issue. That is a sign of things to come.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Lifestyle
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
  4. Thinking

The scoop: China made an announcement to the UN with plans to go carbon neutral by 2060.

What to know:

  1. China is the number one carbon emitter in the world, with more carbon emissions thn the US and Europe combined.
  2. China is still investing heavily in coal-powered plants through 2020, de-legitimizing the carbon pledge.
  3. The UN took the pledge very seriously, indicating its unwillingness to criticize Chinese climate policy.

Bottom line: China’s carbon pledge is smoke and mirrors. The announcement comes weeks before a major US election when voters are antsy. The United Nations needs to focus on human rights efforts, not tweeting celebration emojis for empty words.

Dig deeper 3 min

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