Extinction The Facts explores the global extinction crisis and its consequences

April 5, 2021 by  
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When Sir David Attenborough talks, we listen. That’s why we just couldn’t miss the March 31 premiere of “Extinction – The Facts” presented by PBS . Lifelong broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough talks viewers through the consequences of the global extinction crisis along with some of the world’s leading scientists and wildlife experts. The report not only reveals how serious the situation has become but also what it means for humans. For a more timely spin, the documentary goes into how global extinction can put us at greater risk for pandemic diseases like COVID-19. Most importantly, the documentary gives solutions as to what we can do to change the current course. Biodiversity loss Biodiversity refers to the variety of life found on Earth, including plants, animals and micro-organisms. Each of these species and organisms form unique communities and habitats, working together in various ecosystems to maintain balance. Related: The connection between coronavirus and wildlife exploitation The United Nations brought 500 international scientists together in 2019 to investigate the current state of our natural world, only to find that the planet was losing biodiversity at a rate never seen before in the history of humanity. The results were unexpected and unprecedented; there were at least 1 million plant, animal and insect species threatened with extinction at a rate 100 times faster than their natural evolutionary rate. The numbers are nearly split, between about 500,000 insects and 500,000 plants and animals, with populations growing smaller by the day. “Extinction is a natural process,” explained professor Kathy Willis, a plant scientist at the University of Oxford. “Things come, they grow, their populations get huge and then they decline. But it’s the rate of extinction; that’s the problem.” When scientists look at previous groups in fossil records, extinction happens over millions of years. Today, we’re looking at tens of years. Since 1970, vertebrate animals — such as birds and reptiles — have declined by a total of 60%, while large animals have disappeared from three-quarters of their historic ranges. Professor Elizabeth Hadly, a biologist at Stanford University, said one of the most concerning aspects of this decline is that it’s happening simultaneously around the world. “In the Amazon, in Africa, in the Arctic ; it’s happening not at one place and not with one group of organisms, but with all biodiversity, everywhere on the planet.” James Mwenda, a conservationist at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is the caretaker for the world’s last two living northern white rhinos, a species that once numbered in the thousands throughout Central Africa. “Many people think of extinction being this imaginary tale told by conservationists, but I have lived it. I know what it is,” he said in the documentary. As a caretaker, Mwenda watched the northern white rhino population go from seven in 1990 to just two today, a mother and daughter named Najin and Fatu. A subspecies of the white rhinoceros, the northern white rhino was pushed to the critically endangered list due to hunting and habitat loss. “They’re here because we betrayed them,” he said sorrowfully. “And I think they feel it, this threatening tide of extinction that is pushing on them.” Losing entire portions of the planet’s individual species is tragic enough in itself, but the crisis encompasses much more than that. All of biodiversity is interlocked on a global scale, and the planet needs all parts of it to function properly. Humans are not outside of those ecological systems by any means. For example, a loss in insect species can put pollination at risk, which in turn puts food production at risk, affecting both humans and animals alike. Human influence The documentary also examines the ways that humans are driving biodiversity loss. Things like overfishing, deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade are the biggest contributors, but there are also less obvious threats like consumer-driven demand for products like clothes, which can cause pollution in their production. The illegal wildlife trade has become a multibillion dollar global industry over the last 20 years. Increased income in certain countries like China and Vietnam, where endangered animal parts may be seen as a status symbol or used for medicinal purposes, is one of the largest drivers. Pangolins, for instance, represent the most trafficked animals in the world, and the demand for their scales is directly responsible for their declining numbers. The scale of global overfishing has dramatically increased as well. In some parts of the world, limits on ocean catch aren’t regulated. Scientists have seen declines in larger predator fish as their food supply dwindles due to overfishing, so the impact on marine ecosystems is widespread. The link to pandemics The connection between the natural world and pandemic diseases is closer than most people might expect. History is full of them, from Ebola to SARS, and, of course, COVID-19 . Even worse, if biodiversity continues on its current path, we will see more (and possibly worse) epidemics in the future. After every pandemic, scientists look back to try and figure out where it came from and what could have caused it. According to Dr. Peter Daszak of Ecohealth Alliance, they’ve found that humans are directly or indirectly behind every one of them. In a press release for the special, Attenborough said that while hope is not lost, the time to act is now. When he visited the mountain gorillas of Rwanda 40 years ago, they were on the brink of extinction with just 250 individuals left. Thanks to decades worth of conservation from the local government and communities, however, there are now more than 1,000. “Over the course of my life, I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” he said. “Only now do I realize just how lucky I’ve been. Many of these wonders seem set to disappear from our planet forever. We are facing a crisis and one that has consequences for us all, but it’s not too late. I truly believe that together we can create a better future, if we make the right decisions at this critical moment.” + PBS Images via PBS

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Extinction The Facts explores the global extinction crisis and its consequences

Deforestation contributes to disease outbreaks, study says

March 26, 2021 by  
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A recent paper published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science has established that there is a connection between deforestation and the occurrence of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. The study indicates that deforestation has led to increased outbreaks of viruses similar to COVID-19 and also facilitates the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Of more concern is the fact that the findings also show an increase in disease spread in areas that are undergoing reforestation . The authors of the paper say that tree planting can equally increase the risk of diseases if not done correctly. The researchers explained that monocultures, like commercial forests, can kill native plants that provide protection against viruses and pests. Related: WWF releases report on avoiding the next zoonotic disease pandemic “I was surprised by how clear the pattern was,” said Serge Morand, study co-author and director of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. “We must give more consideration to the role of the forest in human health , animal health and environmental health. The message from this study is ‘don’t forget the forest.’” The researchers used data from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organization, among others, to determine correlations among diseases, populations and forest cover. They found that from 1990 to 2016, there were nearly 4,000 outbreaks of 116 zoonotic diseases that crossed the species barrier to infect humans as well as 1,996 outbreaks of 69 vector-borne diseases. Previous studies have shown a strong relationship between the risk of diseases and proximity to ecosystems that have been destroyed by human activity. In particular, increased instances of malaria have been reported in Brazil, close to the Amazon rainforest , due to increased deforestation. Morand is concerned with the continued deterioration of the Amazon. Since president Jair Bolsonaro took over, logging and forest fires have been the order of the day. “Everyone in the field of planetary health is worried about what is happening to biodiversity , climate and public health in Brazil,” Morand said. “The stress there is growing. The Amazon is near a tipping point due to climate change, which is not good at all for the world ecosystem. If we reach the tipping point, the outcomes will be very bad in terms of drought, fires and for sure in terms of disease.” + Frontiers in Veterinary Science Via The Guardian Image via Martin Wegmann

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Deforestation contributes to disease outbreaks, study says

Tribal Textiles employs local artisans to uplift rural Zambian community

March 15, 2021 by  
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On the edge of the beautiful South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, social enterprise  Tribal Textiles  has made significant strides in uplifting a small rural community with eco-friendly and ethically crafted textiles. The company, which is now in its 30th year, is one of the biggest employers in the remote area and follows a corporate social responsibility strategy that provides sustainable employment and reinvests a percentage of the profits back into local community and conservation initiatives. Developed for minimal environmental impact from sourcing to production, Tribal Textiles’ home decor pieces are handmade at their workshop in  Zambia  and shipped around the world with a portion of shipping costs donated to supporting children at the local Hanada orphanage.  With 86 local Zambians currently employed, Tribal Textiles offers a wide variety of handmade home decor pieces and accessories from pillowcases and tablecloths to face masks and aprons. All products use locally sourced and sustainable materials with  waste repurposed  wherever possible. The hand-painted textiles are inspired by Africa’s vibrant heritage and culture and combine traditional Batik techniques with contemporary compositions and bold colors.  According to the company, all employees receive a fair monthly wage with annual paid leave, sick pay, bereavement pay, a housing and travel allowance as well as other benefits such as daily breakfasts and lunches and access to free HIV screenings. By providing sustainable and stable employment in a job-scarce area, Tribal Textiles is also able to help reduce the rates of poaching and  deforestation  in the wildlife-rich region. Related: Orkidstudio’s 10 Handpicked UK Students Build a Zambian Community Center in Just Seven Weeks Five percent of every Tribal Textiles purchase is reinvested into local community and  conservation  initiatives, including Conservation South Luangwa, Zambian Carnivore Programme, BirdWatch Zambia, and Bio Carbon Partners as well as the Malimba School, Hanada Orphanage & Chipembele Education Trust and the Luangwa Artisan Collective. The local artisans have also helped supply the community with approximately 35,000 hand-sewn face masks.  + Tribal Textiles Images via Tribal Textiles

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Tribal Textiles employs local artisans to uplift rural Zambian community

The Australian government unveils plan to end plastic pollution

March 15, 2021 by  
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The Australian federal government has launched the  National Plastic Plan , which seeks to deal with plastic pollution in various areas. According to the government, the plan will be aimed at banning single-use plastics on beaches, ending expanded polystyrene packaging and introducing microplastic filters for washing machines. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the plan is that the government intends to bring biodegradable plastic to an end. Most countries that have plastic pollution reduction plans tend to be lenient on biodegradable plastic products. But experts have warned that biodegradable plastic is not any better than regular plastic . The term “biodegradable plastic” is used to mean plastic derived from plant-based materials and is said to be biodegradable after use. It is also often called bioplastic. While some people may think that biodegradable is good, there are no standards that regulate the type of products that can be labeled as biodegradable. Some of these products can take several decades or centuries in landfills before breaking down. Related: Are bioplastics better for the environment or a waste of time? The recently unveiled plan seeks to bring together industry players to forge a way forward in dealing with the problem. Its implementation will lead to the phasing out of “fragmentable” plastic by July 2022. The other area of concern for the Australian government is recyclable plastic. Many companies produce plastics in huge quantities and label them as recyclable. The problem is that only 18% of plastics in Australia are recycled while just 9% of plastics are recycled globally. Recycling plastics is a process that still faces plenty of challenges. First, recycling is very expensive compared to making new plastics from fossil fuels. As a result, most companies prefer investing in fresh plastic. In Australia , the recycling system is well-developed, but it faces challenges of cost and waste separation at residential levels. The National Plastics Plan will also seek to deal with compostable plastic. The Australian government already has regulatory standards and certifications for this type of plastic. Unfortunately, most of the standards only apply to plastics that can be composted within an industrial facility. The plan hopes to help recover more plastic through methods like composting, but the government has yet to outline how it will support specialized collection and composting systems. + National Plastic Plan Via Phys.org Image via Brian Yurasits

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The Australian government unveils plan to end plastic pollution

San Diego Zoo apes get experimental, animal-only COVID-19 vaccine

March 5, 2021 by  
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In California, like other states, officials have come up with a priority list of COVID-19 vaccination recipients: healthcare workers, long-term care residents, elderly people, endangered apes — wait a minute, did the bonobos and orangutans at the San Diego Zoo just jump the line? No, they’re the first great apes to receive an experimental COVID-19 vaccine made specifically for animals. After some of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s gorillas tested positive in January, zoo keepers were worried. The IUCN Red List includes all gorilla species in the endangered or critically endangered categories. “Susceptibility to disease” is cited as one of the main dangers. Gorillas live in family groups, like many people, so infections can quickly spread. Related: Tourists could spread COVID-19 to gorillas in East Africa The decision to vaccinate was not made lightly. “This isn’t the norm,” said Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, as reported by National Geographic . “In my career, I haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one.” Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, developed the vaccine. Last month, the San Diego Zoo used it to vaccinate five bonobos and four orangutans. Bonobos are endangered, and orangutans are critically endangered. The zoo also plans to vaccinate one gorilla. Because many of the zoo’s gorillas have already recovered from COVID-19, they’re considered lower priority than some of the other primates. At first, Zoetis was developing the vaccine for use in cats and dogs, the only animals it has been tested on. But when COVID-19 broke out in farmed mink populations last year, the company shifted its focus to mink. The vaccine is similar to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine produced for humans. The USDA has not yet approved the experimental vaccine for animal use in the U.S. So far, the vaccinated apes seem to be doing fine. Soon they’ll be checked for antibodies. For Karen, one of the orangutans, making medical headlines is nothing new. In 1994, she was the world’s first orangutan to have open-heart surgery. Via National Geographic and Live Science Image via Oleg

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San Diego Zoo apes get experimental, animal-only COVID-19 vaccine

Investors are failing African entrepreneurs — it’s time for a change

February 25, 2021 by  
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Investors are failing African entrepreneurs — it’s time for a change Salma Okonkwo Thu, 02/25/2021 – 00:10 Despite the global economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, the case for investing in Africa is stronger than ever. Africa will remain a competitive investment destination for decades to come because of its improving relative risk profiles, regional integration and strong economic fundamentals. However, many challenges remain for local founders despite the record -breaking fundraising year African startups had in 2019. This is especially the case when it comes to women-led companies. The energy sector will be critical for Africa’s post-COVID economic recovery and will be one of the most attractive investment sectors in 2021. Stakeholders ranging from the African Development Bank to large-scale private funds recognize the need cost-efficient industrial energy access as well as universal household electricity. To expand the impact of their investments in the energy sector, development finance institutions (DFIs) and private investors should pay more attention to empowering African-led energy firms by adjusting their risk analyses and to closing gaps for off-grid solar project financing. Representation of local African founders, and female founders, remains a challenge in the African startup funding space. While it is a positive sign that African companies are attracting international investors’ attention, only 20 percent of private investment into African startups and companies came from Africa-based investors during the last five years. Further, eight of the top 10 African startups that attracted the most capital in 2019 were led by foreigners. These figures get more concerning when considering the number of women-led or co-founded startups in Africa. Although 25 percent of all sub-Saharan African women are engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity, women-led startups receive a fraction of the investments compared with their man-led counterparts. This year’s projected drop in funding for African startups is a perfect opportunity for the investment community to reflect on these trends and make changes for the coming surge of financing needed for the post-COVID recovery. The economic recoveries of African economies are underway , and investors can take advantage of strong positive economic trends that existed pre-COVID to invest in strategic sectors such as energy. Investing in African markets always has been associated with risk , but now the COVID-19 pandemic has made safe markets risky, and traditionally risky markets look attractive. Off-grid solar projects in Africa consistently have outraised their competitors in other countries, making Africa the leading global destination for off-grid solar investment. From China to the U.S ., geopolitical crises already were stressing major economies, and COVID accelerated this trend. Now, investors are increasingly looking elsewhere for stable returns and reassessing their risk profiles. Compared to traditional markets, Africa is young , connected , entrepreneurial and poised for immense growth through regional integration via the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which will create the world’s largest free trade area. Renewable energy is a priority sector for Africa’s post-COVID recovery because small and midsize enterprises need reliable and clean energy to get back to business and continue growing. Over $200 million in funding last year went to energy sector startups. Off-grid solar projects in Africa consistently have outraised their competitors in other countries, making Africa the leading global destination for off-grid solar investment. The importance of off-grid and mini-grid projects will only grow as they are the most cost-effective way to bring hundreds of millions of Africans without electricity online and reinforce power supplies for businesses. DFIs and investors should prioritize supporting African-led renewable energy companies to achieve stable returns, close the energy access gap and elevate African founders. Despite expanding programs for solar energy financing, outdated risk analyses keep critical funding out of the hands of African entrepreneurs. Some of the largest off-grid solar companies in Africa are co-founded and backed by Western CEOs and investors. Thinking that local African firms with market expertise cannot deliver the same returns with the same, if not better, risk profiles are outdated. More developed economies do not have a monopoly on talent either. African talent, combined with recruited international talent, can result in world-class teams to lead companies capitalizing on the African solar opportunity. Africa’s off-grid solar sector represents a $24 billion annual opportunity, and the continent faces a significant energy gap. DFIs can serve as bridges between the private sector and governments by expanding credit enhancement services to hedge against project risk. These institutions already have several tools at their disposal to help investors hedge against risk, including credit and political risk guarantees, and serving as lenders of record for project financing to secure favorable loans using their preferred credit status. Promoting technology transfer and local content is a stated priority of DFIs. The best way to accomplish these objectives is by supporting African companies in securing investment. The golden age of African investment is just beginning. However, real developmental impact in critical sectors such as solar energy cannot occur without local empowerment and African firms taking a leading role. Investors are running out of excuses: African companies can be competitive, profitable and world-class when given the support they merit from capital markets and DFIs. Pull Quote Off-grid solar projects in Africa consistently have outraised their competitors in other countries, making Africa the leading global destination for off-grid solar investment. Topics Renewable Energy Africa Entrepreneurship Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Solar panels in the African country of Zimbabwe. Photo by Shutterstock/Sebastian Noethlichs

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Investors are failing African entrepreneurs — it’s time for a change

Tourists could spread COVID-19 to gorillas in East Africa

February 18, 2021 by  
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A study by researchers at Oxford Brookes University shows that tourists may be spreading COVID-19 to gorillas in the wild. The study was carried out through an analysis of about 1,000 photos from Instagram posts. The researchers noted that tourists were taking photos too close to gorillas, a situation that may lead to disease transmission. Most of the photos analyzed were from people visiting mountain gorillas in East Africa. “The risk of disease transmission between visitors and gorillas is very concerning,” said Gaspard Van Hamme, lead author and Oxford Brookes University Primate Conservation alumnus. “It is vital that we strengthen and enforce tour regulations to ensure gorilla trekking practices do not further threaten these already imperiled great apes.” Related: 2 gorillas at the San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19 The researchers’ concerns draw from the fact that apes have been infected by the virus from humans before. In January, gorillas at the San Diego Zoo were infected with the virus, which was passed on from their caretakers. Magdalena Svensson, biology lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, noted that most tourists do not wear masks when interacting with the animals . “In the photos we analyzed, we found that face masks were rarely worn by tourists visiting gorillas, and that brings the potential for disease transmission between people and the gorillas they visit,” Svensson said. “With people all over the world getting more used to wearing face masks we have hope that in the future wearing face masks will become common practice in gorilla trekking.” Mountain gorillas are native to East Africa, with the largest population in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Their population had been on a downward trend due to hunting and other human activities. In recent years, legislation and strict policies have seen the numbers start to climb. Today, there are 1,063 gorillas in the region that must be protected. According to Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Conservation Through Public Health, Uganda, the new study shows the need for responsibility from tourists. “This research provides a valuable perspective on how much tourists are willing to share their too-close encounters with mountain gorillas through Instagram, which creates expectations for future tourists,” Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka said. “It highlights a great need for responsible tourism to provide adequate protection while minimizing disease transmission, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.” + People and Nature Via Oxford Brookes University Image via Thomas Fuhrmann

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Tourists could spread COVID-19 to gorillas in East Africa

Air pollution caused by fossil fuels kills millions

February 10, 2021 by  
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New research has revealed that fossil fuel pollution caused approximately 8.7 million deaths in 2018. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research , was a collaboration by scientists at Harvard University, the University of Leicester, the University of Birmingham and University College London. Experts found that countries that burn fossil fuels heavily for manufacturing and transport are the most affected. Countries such as the U.S. and many developed countries in Europe recorded 1 of every 10 deaths due to air pollution. The total was also higher than global deaths caused by tobacco and malaria combined. “We were initially very hesitant when we obtained the results because they are astounding, but we are discovering more and more about the impact of this pollution,” said Eloise Marais, study author and geographer at University College London. “It’s pervasive. The more we look for impacts, the more we find.” Related: Air pollution could increase risk of irreversible blindness The researchers have also established that the rate of deaths due to pollution is significantly lower in Africa and South America. They found that there are direct links between air pollution from burning fossil fuels and ailments such as heart disease, loss of eyesight and respiratory ailments.  According to Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham and one of the researchers, the focus was on discovering the impact of pollution on specific populations. They looked at specific regions and used 3D modeling of pollution data to get more precise results. “Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” Vohra explained. This is not the first study to link loss of life or disease with air pollution. According to a recent academic  publication , the average global life expectancy would increase by more than a year without fossil fuels . A 2019 study by Lancet estimated that 4.2 million people die annually due to air pollution. The new findings place the figure much higher than previous studies, and some experts believe that the impact might even be worse than that presented by the latest report. + Environmental Research Via The Guardian and CNN Image via Juniper Photon

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GM airs funny electric vehicle commercial during Super Bowl

February 10, 2021 by  
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While people rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs or Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, General Motors waged a war with greater implications. The foe? Norway . General Motors’ war isn’t directed at the Norwegian people but at beating them for global leadership in electric vehicles sales. For a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, the auto company recruited actors and comedians Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina (Nora Lum) to play three Americans ready to fight Norway for EV supremacy. The commercial is part of GM’s “Everyone In” ad campaign designed to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream and increase North American sales. Related: GM pledges carbon neutrality by 2040, expands electric fleet So far, the Chevy Bolt has been General Motors’ EV offering. But in the last few months, the company has introduced the new Cadillac Lyriq SUV and the GMC Hummer EV. Hummer fans may be able to buy an electric model by the end of 2021. The Lyriq will likely go into production late next year. Both of these vehicles are featured in the Super Bowl commercial. General Motors has promised 30 models at a variety of price points coming out over the next four years and plans to sell only electric vehicles by 2035. “We feel like this transition is one that will protect all of our futures,” said Dane Parker, GM’s chief sustainability officer. “And it will help us create a future that will benefit not only the planet but the people.” So why take on Norway? More than half of cars sold in the Scandinavian country are electric, compared to about 4% in the U.S. General Motors was careful to prepare Norwegian leaders in advance of airing the commercial. The officials must have had a sense of humor about it, because part of the commercial was even filmed in Norway. Ultimately, the Super Bowl ad pokes fun at Americans, not Norwegians. Especially the ending, which mocks Americans’ notoriously bad grasp of geography when Will Ferrell winds up in Sweden while Awkwafina and Thompson find themselves on a snowy road in Finland. + General Motors Via Motor Biscuit and CNET Images via General Motors

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GM airs funny electric vehicle commercial during Super Bowl

The might of metals in the clean energy transition

February 10, 2021 by  
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The might of metals in the clean energy transition Thomas M. Kostigen Wed, 02/10/2021 – 01:15 Metals. It isn’t often that we — most of us, anyway — think about them. They are like water or packaged foods, things that appear out of a faucet or on a grocery store shelf as if by some magic inception. But there is a scientific beginning to metals. And it’s something we ought to be thinking about, increasingly so. Here’s why: Minerals are critical to the transition to clean, green energy. Copper supplies, for example, need to increase by as much as 6 percent per year to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Copper is needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles. Other metals supplies need to rise, too, in order to get companies and countries to their carbon neutrality goals — phasing out fossil fuels.  Yet global metal production is in decline. Global metal exploration budgets are down 11 percent in aggregate from 2019 to 2020, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence . Investment in copper exploration is down 24 percent. Less exploration is no way to meet what promises to be the biggest shift in energy supply since the rise of oil at the turn of the last century. Even the Trump administration, which tried to stop the pivot to alternative energies, realized late in the game that mineral mining was exigent. In December, it determined that the dearth of critical minerals was a national emergency, and urged by executive order a proliferation in mining. Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report. Metals are needed for more than batteries, windmills and solar power, of course. They are also critical to national defense. Metals are used in high tech devices, aircraft engines and rockets, among other military equipment. (Hence the label of critical minerals.)  As it stands, China is winning the critical mineral race. It produces 63 percent of the world’s rare earth elements and 45 percent of molybdenum  — a hard metal resistant to heat that is used widely, from light bulb filaments to body armor. And China has ties to mining in other countries: more than 70 percent of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where China has a majority ownership of these mines. Australia produces 55 percent of world’s lithium, and China is its major importer. South Africa mines 72 percent of world’s platinum output, and China has greatly increased its investments there, too.  Beyond the geopolitical divide, there is economic incentive for the U.S. to fill the mining gap. Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report . To be sure, mining companies see the opportunity, but environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and investors are — ironically — getting in the way of the green transition. “How minerals are produced and the carbon emissions created during their production are under more scrutiny as manufacturers face pressure from governments, investors and end consumers for cleaner, more ethical supply chains,” EY says in a report , “Why mineral supply may be an e-mobility roadblock.” Terrestrial mineral mining produces substantial environmental degradation , from digging up soil, destroying habitats and producing enormous amounts of toxic waste, not to mention the carbon emissions coupled with the loss of carbon storage from excavation. More than half of the world’s lithium resources come from Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, where miners compete with farmers for water resources. Lithium is crucial to EV batteries, and it takes nearly 2 million tons of water for every ton of lithium mined. Millions of tons of lithium are needed for the green energy transition. More amenable mining, to the ESG community at least, lies with recycling metals. But that also means more carbon emissions from melting, processing and purifying metals. Ocean nodules contain four of the minerals deemed most critical to building a global renewable energy infrastructure: nickel, cobalt, manganese, and copper. Photo by  Adwo  on Shutterstock. Collecting ocean nodules  — clumps of rock deposits found on the seafloor — is a relatively new idea to replace land-based mineral extraction processes. Ocean nodules contain four minerals deemed most critical to building a global renewable energy infrastructure: nickel; cobalt; manganese; and copper. All of these can be found in nodules in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. There are enough of these nodules there — billions of tons — to service the entire need of the clean energy transition . And deep sea nodule collecting reduces by about 90 percent the amount of carbon emissions produced by terrestrial mining. Still, the International Seabed Authority has issued only 18 licenses to organizations for nodule exploration. That doesn’t mean extraction nor processing, which could take years.  None of this solves the immediate need of increasing metals supplies. Ramping up terrestrial mining may have an inverse climate effect — creating excessive carbon emissions in material production rather than material use. Facilities that reuse metals could be a solution. Although while that may curb some virgin mining, it still will come with a carbon emissions’ price. And deep sea nodules seem the most promising in terms of reducing climate impact while at the same time solving the need for minerals, it’s going to take awhile to bring that source online (unless the Biden administration, or others, fast track development). Meanwhile, the green energy transition is rearing to go. President Joe Biden signed the Paris Climate Agreement his first day in office. The European Union announced plans to spend more than $1 trillion over the next decade on a clean energy economy. China wants to become carbon neutral by 2060. And electric vehicle sales are expected to reach some 250 million units by 2030. All of this activity translates into a huge need for metals, which is a problem in search of a solution. And climate change can’t be fixed until the metals problem is solved. Green businesses could find big opportunity in focusing on a clean metals’ solution. Investors too can play a part by embracing and backing cleaner, greener minerals extraction concerns.  There is an old saying about the person who got the most rich during the Gold Rush was the one who sold diggers shovels. Metals may be today’s shovel version of that adage.   Editor’s note: You can read an excerpt of Kostigen’s book “Hacking Planet Earth: How Geoengineering Can Help Us Reimagine the Future”  here . Pull Quote Critical mineral mining needs to increase five times current production rates to meet the expected demand by 2050, the World Bank says in a report. Topics Supply Chain Energy & Climate Clean Energy Minerals Mining Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Copper is needed for wind farms, solar panels and electric vehicles. Photo by  Minakryn Ruslan  on Shutterstock.

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