The scoop: Last week, Ripple’s CEO made an ambitious commitment to go carbon net-zero by 2030 in collaboration with conservation Rocky Mountain Institute and REBA, and pressured other crypto companies to do the same.
- Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple (XRP) was built with a finite supply (100 billion) at its inception, making it easier to control mining activities and mitigate its environmental footprint.
- Compared to Bitcoin’s 4.51 billion lightbulb hours needed to mine it, the XRP Ledger uses just 79,000.
- A lot needs to happen to make do on that claim, but Ripple is the first crypto looking to go carbon net-zero, and they have a plan (see below).
Bottom line: I don’t know if Ripple, Ethereum, and Bitcoin will one day replace Euros, Dollars and Yuan. With that said, why not bet a dollar on the possibility that they one day could?
Dig deeper → 3 min.
Busy? Try the speed read.
Big picture: GM released a new electric Hummer this week. It got me thinking, is it time to make the switch to electric vehicles?
Benefits of electric vehicles:
- Lower carbon footprint... social impact ✓
- Lower maintenance costs... convenience factor ✓
- Tax credits... financial incentive ✓
Cost of electric vehicles:
- EVs require minerals like cobalt and lithium to function. Mineral mining is a tough industry with poor standards in developing countries like Bolivia and Chile. Organizations are working to change that.
- Electric vehicles have a limited driving range compared to their gas cousins. You may find yourself charging up more than usual.
- High sticker prices: The average price of a new electric vehicle is almost double the price of a gas car.
- Limited amount of charging stations: this is a tricky one, because there are still more charging stations per EV on the road than there are gas stations for gas cars. Unless you go on a road trip, most of your charging will probably be at home anyway.
Bottom line: With billions of dollars flowing in, the electric vehicle moment is not only here to stay, it is booming. If you 1) need a car in your life 2) want to be a part of a cleaner future and 3) can afford the extra monthly cost (for now), then making a switch to electric vehicles is the right thing to do.
Dig deeper ➝ 3 min
Why are wildfires detrimental to our environment?
- Burn millions of acres of forests each year; trees are critical to (1) absorbing greenhouse gases to lessen the effects of climate change and (2) preserving biodiversity.
- Kill and displace wildlife.
- Disrupt water cycles and soil fertility.
- Endanger lives and livelihood of local communities.
How are drones being used to fight wildfires?
- Provide real-time support on the ground for firefighters to improve safety.
- Map weather patterns to prevent spreading of the fire to mitigate environmental destruction.
What are the benefits of a drone compared to a traditional aircraft?
- Safer since you don’t need a pilot to operate it.
- More versatile since a drone can fly in poor conditions and hard to reach spaces.
- More accurate by using GPS and imaging technologies to generate a “smart map.”
More recently, the use of drones for fire prevention in the U.S. has been gaining support from the federal government. Regulatory hurdles are starting to lessen. Plus, the civil-use of drones is now more widely accepted.
Drones are becoming a key technological advancement in fighting wildfires. They can not only protect our communities, but they can also mitigate the environmental impact caused by fires.
Dig deeper → 4 min
The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.
The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.
By the numbers:
- The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
- We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
- The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.
Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.
Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.
Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.
The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.
Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.
Dig deeper → <2 min
The scoop: The world uses a lot of materials to produce a lot of waste.
By the numbers:
- Asia accounts for 60% of mineral extraction and 67% of freshwater use.
- The world disperses 28.7 billion tons of fossil fuels and biomass energy.
- Europe, Asia and N. America account for 78% of fossil fuel output.
- It takes <resources to produce >materials.
- A lot of freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, turns into wastewater every year.
- Most raw materials and natural resources end up in the land, air or water.
Bottom line: The current production process outweighs Earth's production capacity. To solve that, we need to maximize the life-cycle of products, treat natural resources carefully, and minimize waste.
Dig deeper → <1 min.
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:
- 95% of the 234 cities most affected by climate change fall in Africa & Asia.
- 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.
The scoop: Golf is still growing, but it needs to incorporate sustainable practices to keep trending up.
Why it matters: Golf uses 2 billion gallons of water every day, and makes up over a million acres of land in the US alone.
- Invest in new technologies that conserve freshwater.
- Take advantage of regenerative and eco-friendly management practices like limiting the use of pesticides, encouraging the growth of wild plants off the fairway, or enacting policies that treat wildlife responsibly.
Bottom line: As a major outdoor sport, golf has a serious opportunity here to capture the hearts of young athletes. As much as it will be challenge, golf and sustainability can work together very well.
Dig deeper → 2 min
What is vertical farming? Indoor agriculture (like greenhouses) using vertical space to optimize crop production in a controlled environment
- Minimized pests and pesticides
- Greater precision and control over water and nutrients, less waste
- More food produced per acre of land, more sustainable for our planet in the long run
- Reduced distribution supply chains delivering fresher produce to customers at greater speed
- Higher costs
- Deep know-how and expertise required
- Limited number of crops can be grown profitably (leafy greens vs. strawberries that require more sunlight and thus more electricity)
Why vertical farming? The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains around the world. The shift to remote work increased office space vacancies... creating an opportunity to redesign spaces. Now is a good time to rethink ways to feed a growing population, especially in urban cities. We need to better adapt to supply and demand shocks.
A touch on Big Tech Algorithmic or machine-learning solutions are applied to the biggest challenge in agriculture: optimization. Artificial intelligence (AI) helps minimize food waste by figuring out the right amount of energy, water, and nutrients required to produce food.
Bottom line With increased pressure on supply chains around the globe, rethinking traditional farming and redirecting efforts toward vertical farming (and AI) will address food security challenges and reduce waste in the future.
Dig deeper → 4 min
The scoop Tech companies can use AI to compose new songs using existing datasets of music. This poses a serious threat to musicians and artists. Let's talk about it.
About the tech
- AIVA Technologies, based in Luxembourg, created an AI that composes music for movies, commercials, games and TV shows.
- OpenAI’s Jukebox allows users to generate genre-specific music. You can look up an artist and select a genre. Theoretically, it would fuse that artist with a Mississippi the selected genre.
- Holograms tours are becoming increasingly popular. Eventually, using AI composition tools and hologram tech, deceased artists will be able to tour new music... and it will be hard to tell the difference from a standard pop concert.
- VOCALOID is a voice synthesizing software that allows users to create 'virtual pop stars'. They are already widely popular in Asia.
- Other voice synthesizing tools allow users to imitate famous voices and spit out whatever output you'd like. Copyright law hasn't caught up to this deepfake dystopian reality, so feel free to go make Jay-Z say whatever you want.
Humans > robots ... for now At least for the foreseeable future, AI is incapable of creating music without mimicking an existing data set that originated from human innovation. Similar to the way AIVA pitched their product, Artificial Intelligence can be used to help the artist speed-up and maximize the composition process. It should be treated as a tool, not a replacement.
Zoom out There will always be a place for bipedal fleshbags in the arts. With or without AI in music. Why? Because the consumers of creation are also fleshbags, and we want to be wowed and wooed by the hairy, smelly creatures that feel and squeal just like we do.
What does this have to do with sustainability? Supporting a pro-human future (in the face of tech) is a critical component of a sustainable future. We need to develop new technologies in a way that prioritizes happiness and harmony over production and profit.
Dig deeper → 9 min