How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats

December 21, 2020 by  
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How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats C.J. Clouse Mon, 12/21/2020 – 02:00 The contraption Matt Sheffer wants to show me sits at the far end of a field of alfalfa and grasses, a weave of green and pale gold, broken only by the parallel grooves we’re trudging along, a path carved by the tires of a pickup truck. It’s Nov. 4, and America is in the midst of a presidential election that feels like being trapped, upside down and spinning, on a ramshackle carnival ride. So I’m grateful for this opportunity to escape, to walk on sturdy ground and see all the way to where the earth touches the sky.  I’ve come to Stone House Farm from Brooklyn to learn more about how regenerative agriculture — the nature-based approach to farming generating all kinds of buzz around its climate mitigation potential — actually works. Standing alone in the open field, the solar-powered equipment Sheffer shows me could be mistaken for some sort of high-tech scarecrow, but it has a far different job: to monitor and measure the CO 2 in the soil at this farming operation and research center in New York’s Hudson Valley.  Many scientists and other experts agree that regenerative practices — growing diverse crops rather than monocultures; planting cover crops (such as the alfalfa and grasses) on resting fields instead of leaving them bare; minimizing mechanical tillage of the soil; and incorporating livestock into the crop rotation — lead to environmental and health benefits. The soil becomes richer and healthier, runoff that pollutes water is reduced, biodiversity and habitat for the birds, bees and other wildlife increases, farm animals live better, and the food produced is more nutritious. Early research also indicates farmers using these techniques can reap long-term financial gains .  Still, it’s regenerative agriculture’s potential as a carbon sink that’s driving millions of corporate and investor dollars into soil-climate initiatives, large and modest. And while there’s plenty of room for skepticism when Big Ag gets into the sustainability business, this trend represents something of a game-changer, a level of investment in sustainable farming that never has happened before.  In fact, the current system of agriculture finance in the United States has, for decades, worked against any large-scale transition away from the industrial farming complex it was built to support. Scientists may not agree on exactly how much CO 2 agricultural soil can sequester — in fact, they spend a fair amount of time blog fighting about it. But in a way, it doesn’t matter. Given that American agriculture needs to change, for a whole slew of reasons including its contribution to the heating of the planet , if the hype around soil carbon helps to fuel that transformation, that in itself is a good thing.  Making it rain for America’s farmers Sheffer and his partner Ben Dobson are among those who believe aligning farmers’ economic interests with positive environmental outcomes is the way to remake the farming landscape. This month, they’ll launch Hudson Carbon , an agriculture-focused carbon marketplace they envision as a “farmers market” for carbon credits, where mission-driven brands and individual consumers can connect with a particular farm and buy offsets to support its regenerative transition.  They’re also asking Hudson Carbon customers to pay more, significantly more than the current global price of roughly $20 per ton, which they say doesn’t necessarily motivate farmers. (That price is also far below the low-ball estimate of $50 per ton for the true social cost of carbon pollution.)  “The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation,” Sheffer tells me. “To catalyze any major shift to regenerative agriculture, there needs to be better financial mechanisms and a higher price per ton of CO 2 .” How high? Hudson Carbon wants its customers to pay $100.  Matt Sheffer is managing director of  Hudson Carbon , an agriculture-focused carbon marketplace they envision as a “farmers market” for carbon credits. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse The marketplace is one of a number of new platforms born in anticipation of huge corporate demand for soil carbon credits. In January, Seattle startup Nori raised $1.3 million to fund its marketplace, which uses blockchain technology to pay farmers for carbon sequestration. Boston-based Indigo Agriculture , a similar startup, announced in June a $300 million kitty from its investors, making it the world’s highest-valued agtech firm at an estimated $3.5 billion. The new Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), set to launch in 2022, promises to be the largest. It will offer both carbon and water credits, and planning has begun for biodiversity credits as well, executive director Debbie Reed told me when we spoke by phone in October. ESMC, in fact, will comprise two markets: one where a broad range of companies — from Silicon Valley to Wall Street — can buy offsets to meet science-based emissions reduction targets; and one for “members,” companies with agriculture in their supply chains — including food and beverage, fashion, and beauty and cosmetics brands — that will make results-based payments to their suppliers. Some refer to this practice as “insetting.”  The beauty of insetting is that a company enables its suppliers’ transition from conventional to regenerative practices by providing educational, technical and, in some cases, financial assistance. One $8.5 million ESMC-linked pilot , sponsored by McDonald’s, Cargill , Target and The Nature Conservancy, aims to convert 100,000 acres of land in Nebraska, by providing beef producers technical assistance and an upfront 75 percent cost share. Meanwhile, Nestlé, which is working with 500,000 farmers to support the implementation of regenerative agriculture practices, just announced it would invest $1.3 billion in that effort over the next five years, funds that will go toward sharing the cost of capital improvements and the premium price the company will pay for regeneratively grown goods.  Farmers who want to earn money selling credits — offsets or insets — on these new markets opt into data monitoring and measurement, because payments are based on outcomes such as increases in soil carbon or improved water quality. The Nebraska program is one of a number of pilots underway to test ESMC’s protocols for quantifying and verifying credits. These pilots are also working out potential cost and pricing models, Reed said. The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation. “These major corporations are putting a lot of money into this, and if we can work with them … we can scale impact,” said Reed, who believes having standardized, transparent protocols will help hold companies accountable. “If we don’t work with these companies, and they do it themselves, then we have a patchwork, and it’s really hard to tell [who’s actually successful and who’s not].” While multinational corporations making big announcements get most of the attention, regenerative agriculture is a movement led by farmers and mission-driven entrepreneurs and brands, which have been researching and innovating for years. Of the 670 companies that work with The Climate Collaborative , nearly 300 have made regenerative ag commitments, director Erin Callahan told me. Most of these are privately owned small to midsize companies in the natural products industry. When we spoke in October, Callahan shared that she’d recently sent an email blast asking for progress reports on regenerative ag initiatives. “I thought I’d get five responses,” she said. “And I got 130 in 36 hours.”  One example comes from Happy Family Organics , which learned from two training pilots it sponsored, in 2018 and 2019, that farmers really need financial assistance and ongoing access to mentoring to make the transition to regenerative practices work. This year, the company established a Regenerative Farmer Fund, setting aside $40,000 per year to support up to four farmers annually with new practice implementation. You grow tom?toes, I grow tom?toes  It’s difficult to overstate how crucial both training and financial help are to farmers, because transitioning to regenerative or organic practices is complicated, expensive and risky. It takes time and knowledge. Stone House Farm, which sits on more than 2,000 acres in Columbia County, New York, used to grow corn and soybeans conventionally. A grain farm of this size can expect to run in the red for the first two years of an organic transition, accumulating a deficit of more than $400,000 before turning a profit in year three, according to analysis by the USDA.  The fact that the Peggy McGrath Rockefeller Foundation owns Stone House made its transition possible. An activist in the cause of preserving farmland, McGrath Rockefeller engineered the purchases of various dairy operations that created the farm. When her children Abby, David and Peggy took over, they wanted to rid the farm of toxic chemicals and establish a viable business. The foundation hired Ben Dobson to implement the transition in 2013. Along with his work on Hudson Carbon, Dobson manages Stone House Grain , a certified organic, non-GMO producer that grows barley, corn, soybeans and wheat. The grain company rents the land and facilities from the foundation, which intends for the farm to serve as a model for the region. Dobson’s parents ran one of the area’s first organic farms back in the 1980s. His interest in soil carbon grew from an early fascination with managing large landscapes naturally and in a closed loop cycle. “I wanted to farm like my parents, but they were very small-scale,” he says. “All these organic farms are so small, and that’s good, it’s a great lifestyle. But how do we change this huge land base in America that’s just plastered in chemicals?” To see what he means, look at the stats. Over the past decade, organic food sales in the United States doubled to more than $50 billion in 2019, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2020 Organic Industry Survey . The number of individual organic farms has surged as well — climbing by more than 50 percent from 10,903 farms in 2007 to 16,585 farms in 2017 — according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest data , released in October. And yet, there are still only 5.5 million certified organic acres, up from just over 4 million acres over the same time period, a swath of land that represents less than 1 percent of the 911 million acres of total farmland nationwide.  Ben Dobson, founder of Hudson Carbon, also manages  Stone House Grain , a certified organic, non-GMO producer that grows barley, corn, soybeans and wheat. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse Granted, this data does not include regenerative farms not certified as organic. The two farming systems are similar but not exactly the same. Some organic farmers till the soil to control weeds, while no-till farmers sometimes use herbicides. Still, both systems aim to farm more sustainably, and many farmers use methods from both. Often, no-till farmers want to eventually eliminate chemical inputs, while organic farmers are trying to reduce tillage by incorporating certain cover crops, which help control weeds, into their rotation. Some of this is being done out of need, as farmers look for ways to deal with “superweeds” that have become resistant to herbicides.  Dave Miller, founder and CEO of Iroquois Valley Farmland REIT , understands well the disconnect between consumer demand for clean, healthy food and available financing.  For nearly 15 years, the Illinois-based specialty finance company has provided leases and mortgages to organic farmers. One of only a handful of companies with a history of specializing in sustainable farming finance — others include Farmland LP and Dirt Capital Partners — Iroquois Valley has invested in more than 60 organic farms comprising nearly 13,000 acres all over the country. Over time, it became evident that limited access to capital was holding back farmers’ growth, Miller told me. So last year, Iroquois Valley began offering operating lines of credit as well.  “All of our farmers want more land,” Miller said when we spoke by phone in April, as he hunkered down on his farm in Iroquois County, about an hour and a half south of Chicago, during the first wave of COVID-19. “We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. It’s great to have a market for your product, but if you can’t get funds to operate and to grow, then you’re SOL.” Frustration with traditional agriculture finance has led others to step up as well. It motivated the 2019 launch of Steward , a crowdfunding platform for sustainable farming that has raised more than $2.6 million for roughly 20 farms, and this year’s launch of rePlant Capital , a new farmer-first financial company that aims to deploy $250 million to producers converting to regenerative or organic practices. RePlant has partnered with Danone North America (another ESMC member), committing to invest as much as $20 million over the next few years to help Danone’s suppliers transition.  How Goliath won the battle for America’s farmland  America’s industrial agriculture system dates back to just after World War II, when federal farming policy began to focus on quantity. The shift to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, along with advances in mechanization, created the type of efficiency and scale the U.S. government hoped for. In a way, some farmers benefited as well, with increased production and easy pest control. But farming families also paid a big price, as the number of farms in the U.S. dropped by half from 1950 to 1970, and the detrimental environmental and health impacts of these chemicals played out. Still, the mantra “get big or get out” stuck — Sonny Perdue, Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, repeated it just last year . And this policy shaped the country’s system of agricultural funding. Federal subsidies that keep commodity prices low and the federal crop insurance program promote monocultures by making it difficult for farmers to plant a variety of crops at once or to include cover crops in their rotation. Many farmers have taken on huge debts to purchase conventional farming equipment or land, which essentially locks them into the status quo. Meanwhile, banks and other financiers often have denied loans to small operations or organic/regenerative farmers they view “too niche” in their practices.  We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. “Federal farm programs make it more attractive to stay in the system you’re in,” Lisa French, a Kansas farmer, told me during a phone call in October. In terms of federal crop insurance, “you almost didn’t want to tell them you were planting cover crops because it might make you ineligible for payments. …. Or the banker may not want to loan money for cover crop seed because he doesn’t understand why you want that extra expense, when in fact you may be reducing other expenses in the process.” French and her husband grow wheat, sorghum and soybeans, and raise 40 head of cattle on roughly 800 acres near the Lake Cheney Watershed in the south-central part of the state. She’s also served as project director for the watershed for 20 years, because like many small producers, the Frenches don’t earn enough from the farm alone to make ends meet. Intrigued by farming in a way that enriches soil and what that meant for nutrient density in their livestock and crops, the Frenches have used certain regenerative practices for years, but they wanted to learn and do more. So they, along with 23 other growers in the area, enrolled in a ESMC-linked wheat pilot program sponsored by General Mills, one of three regenerative agriculture pilots the company has rolled out in the last year.  A new regenerative normal  To help its suppliers transition, General Mills contracted the consulting company Understanding Ag to provide training and coaching to the participants. They also assigned local regenerative farmers to act as mentors and help build a community. “The opportunity to learn from each other and to see what other people are trying is invaluable,” French said. And having a program focused on one geographic area “tends to bring along other farmers who are not participating because they see many of their neighbors making changes on their farms. The program makes it more likely that farmers will be successful in their transition, and it makes it more likely that regenerative ag is the norm in the neighborhood.” Ray Archuleta, founder of Understanding Ag, has dedicated his life to teaching farmers about soil health. A conservation agronomist, he spent 32 years working for USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) before retiring four years ago. Now he does the same job as a consultant.  “You know how I draw people into my classes? I draw them in economically, and later they start to fall in love with the ecology,” Archuleta told me when I caught up with him by phone in October. “The ecology was always first, then the economics followed, but we switched it around. And they begin to understand.” There is a long-term economic argument for regenerative ag from the farmer’s perspective, if they can just get over the transitional hump. First and foremost, it reduces and even can eliminate the costs associated with conventional farming, the money spent on chemical herbicides and fertilizer. And even though there isn’t a legal or regulatory definition of “regenerative agriculture” yet, consumers already seem willing to pay more for “pasture-raised” and “grass-fed” meat, eggs and dairy products, for example, much as they do for certified organic produce.  Some early research also indicates that regenerative farmers can maintain or even improve yields in the long run, because the soil is healthier and can better withstand the severe weather disturbances happening more often due to climate change.  “If you have drought conditions or heavy rain, land farmed regeneratively is more resilient, because with better management the soil is usable again more quickly,” Keith Paustian, a professor in soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, explained. “If you have heavy rain, there is typically more water holding capacity which reduces flooding. And if you have a dry year, because regenerative farm soil holds moisture longer, it’s less dry than soil farmed conventionally.” Cattle grazing on the French farm in Kansas. Photo courtesy of Lisa French Flipping the script to reward positive outcomes When it comes to soil’s potential to sequester carbon, however, any scientific consensus ends. Some declare soil carbon the planet’s savior and others basically call BS on such assertions. As is often the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between the extremes. “People who say this is a panacea, those numbers are wrong,” Paustian told me. “But in my opinion, and I think the data bears it out, there’s a definite role for soil carbon sequestration as part of the solution [to the climate crisis].” Some people I spoke to seem exasperated by the whole debate.  “I think there has been a bit too much argument about what the exact potential is,” said Jay Watson, sustainability engagement manager at General Mills. “Can we just agree that there is potential, and it’s the right thing to do? I think the General Mills approach has been: We’re committed to learning, but let’s just get started. … The clock is ticking.” Essentially, it comes down to a chicken-and-egg question. Some believe paying for carbon sequestration will motivate a regenerative transition that will bring a whole slew of environmental and social benefits. Others favor cost sharing and alternative financial incentives — payment for water quality and biodiversity, for example — to motivate the transition, which in turn will reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and lead to some amount of carbon sequestration.  In the end, the goals are the same, and meeting those goals requires a realignment of America’s agriculture finance system to one that rewards positive environmental outcomes and discourages destructive practices. Right now, it does the opposite, by not considering the true costs, the unsustainability of the current system or the benefits of a regenerative transformation.  In 2018, Farmland LP, Delta Institute and Earth Economics released a report , funded by the USDA, that found $21.4 million in net ecosystem service benefits using regenerative practices on roughly 6,000 acres over five years. Yet, the system continues to incentivize farmers to plant the same monoculture crops year after year, sapping the soil of minerals and organic matter. To boost production of weak soil, they add more chemical fertilizers, which run off into the water supply and eventually to the ocean, causing dead zones, such as the Massachusetts-sized one in the Gulf of Mexico . At the same time, the U.S. loses top soil at a rate 10 times faster than it’s replenished. And carbon seeps from the plowed, exposed soil into the air, contributing to the emissions rapidly warming the planet. What’s more, it costs U.S. taxpayers a bundle to bail farmers out when they get hit by floods or droughts, or sharp drops in commodity prices. Farmers affected by severe weather and Trump’s trade war with China received more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in 14 years. By comparison, government programs that encourage regenerative and organic growing practices, such as the NRCS’s Environmental Quality and Incentives Program and Conservation Steward Program, historically have been funded at a fraction of conventional subsidies.  Such policies have been entrenched for decades, and changing them will not be easy.  “Here’s the problem: We have lobbyists … chemical company lobbyists, the fertilizer company lobbyists … they push the senators, and the senators push the heads of the agencies,” Archuleta said. “Nobody wants to touch the subsidies, no stinking way. The Democrats and the Republicans do not have the guts to terminate them.” Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint. After more than 30 years working for the government, it’s easy to understand Archuleta’s skepticism. However, there are positive signs. New bipartisan legislation that would provide incentives to adopt regenerative techniques has been introduced in the Senate, and President-elect Joe Biden recently reiterated his support for climate-smart farming, saying he would pay farmers “to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops.” The think tank Data for Progress also has proposed overhauling the federal crop insurance program to limit the total acreage eligible for coverage, phase out incentives for single-crop planting and create new tax credits designed specifically for family-owned farms.  If they wanted to, large, powerful corporations that have set science-based emissions reduction targets could push politicians toward a regenerative agriculture transition, although it’s still unclear whether that will happen. In the end, the real push could come from the farmers themselves, as they find themselves struggling year after year to produce sufficient yields on conventionally farmed land.  “Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint,” General Mills’ Watson told me. “The current way they’re farming just isn’t working anymore. They’re having to apply a lot more input to protect yield, and at some point, that becomes unsustainable.”  Grassroots grass-fed solutions  Like Archuleta, Dobson doubts real change will come from the top. When we sit down Nov. 4 in the sparse office he uses to manage farm business at Stone House, I ask him how he feels about the presidential election, which won’t be called for three more days.  “I don’t think we can look up for a leader,” he tells me. “The solutions are going to come from people. It would be easier with a Biden presidency to make progress, but I still think it has to come from people seeing a problem and believing we have to do something about it.”  Dobson and Sheffer have been measuring soil carbon at Stone House for five years, and the trends in the data at various sites show the farm is gaining soil carbon at various levels, sequestering CO 2 at a rate of about 7 tons per acre per year. Meanwhile, the trend in the data from the conventional farm up the road, which they’ve been measuring since 2018, shows it is losing soil carbon. This month, Stone House will begin selling credits on the Hudson Carbon marketplace as its first project. The farm and the PMR Foundation plan to divide proceeds from these sales, with the farm’s portion going to overhead, while the foundation’s portion goes to infrastructure improvements and other costs related to its regenerative agriculture mission. The platform aims to add more local farms next year and eventually to go global and include forest carbon credits.  But will companies and consumers be willing to fork over $100 per ton?  At least one company is. Hudson Carbon’s first customer, Light Phone , a New York-based technology startup that makes an “anti-smartphone,” has agreed to offset its footprint by purchasing credits on the platform. Time will tell whether others follow, or whether we succeed at transforming American agriculture before the planet completely falls apart.  I’ve not felt optimistic about our willingness to undertake transformational change and save ourselves in a long time, but something about regenerative agriculture does leave you with a sense of hope — a sense that if we can, one way or another, just get farmers through the transitional phase, replacing our industrial agriculture complex with something better is actually — doable. Pull Quote The current carbon price is self-serving for those who are required to offset, like power plants and other polluters, but it doesn’t motivate behavior change on the other side of the equation. We saw operating credit as the biggest barrier to growth in sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately, we hear from a lot of farmers that they’re getting into the soil health regenerative ag space because they feel like they don’t have any other choice, just from a profitability standpoint. Topics Food & Agriculture Carbon Removal GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Stone House Farm in New York is home to a new carbon marketplace tied to regenerative agriculture. Photo courtesy of C.J. Clouse Courtesy of C.J. Clouse Close Authorship

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How carbon-smart farming is catalyzing the big bucks needed to transform the way America eats

1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

November 20, 2020 by  
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Recent research published in  Global Environmental Change  has revealed that only 1% of people cause half of all aviation pollution globally. According to the study, regular “super emitters” are polluting the environment at the expense of millions of people who do not fly.  The study, conducted through analysis of aviation data, revealed that large populations across all countries did not fly at all in the years observed. For instance, about 53% of Americans did not fly in 2018, yet the U.S. ranked as the leading aviation emission contributor globally. In Germany, 65% of people did not fly, in Taiwan 66%, and in the U.K. about 48% of the population did not fly abroad in the same period.  These findings suggest that the bulk of pollution caused by the aviation industry comes from the actions of very few people. Further supporting this point, the study revealed that only 11% of the global population flew in 2018, while only 4% flew abroad. Comparing these numbers to the level of emission aviation causes indicates that the rich few in society fuel this pollution the most. Meanwhile, marginalized communities will likely face the harshest consequences of this pollution . In 2018, airlines produced a billion tons of CO2. Even worse, the same airlines benefited from a $100 billion subsidy by not paying for the climate change caused. The U.S. tops the list of leading aviation emitter countries, contributing more CO2 to the environment than the next 10 countries on the list. This means that the U.S. alone contributes more aviation-based CO2 than the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia combined.  Research also indicates that global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis continues to increase. Before the coronavirus pandemic, emissions caused by flights had grown by 32% between 2013 and 2018. If there are no measures put in place to curb the pollution, these rates will likely continue skyrocketing post-pandemic.  Stefan Gössling of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the study’s lead author, says that the only way of dealing with the issue is by redesigning the aviation industry. “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming ,” said Gössling. “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

Converging crises call for converging solutions

November 20, 2020 by  
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Converging crises call for converging solutions Sarah Golden Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:45 In the words of President-elect Joe Biden, America is facing four historic colliding crises: the economy; a pandemic; systemic racism; and climate chaos.  These aren’t four separate asteroids all coincidentally headed our way at once. They’re intertwined and part of the same challenges; they’re the consequence of decades of actions and inactions that are boiling over and activating one another. It stands to reason that we couldn’t silo solutions.  Perversely, it is possible that economic crises will be the catalyst we need to address climate change. That’s because the problems have the same solution: the rapid deployment of clean technologies across the economy.  COVID, the economy and emissions As the world pressed pause this spring in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, our emissions curve flattened, too. We conducted a science experiment on a historic scale: What happens to emissions when everyone (or a large majority of people) stands still?  As the year rounds to a close, the results are becoming clear: We’re on track to reduce carbon emissions from energy by 8 percent.  While significant, I am surprised that the emission reductions are so small. It reflects the limits of individual action; even if we all do everything we can, the built-in emissions to our economy still will bust our carbon budget. America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. More distressing is the projection of emissions as our economy recovers. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook , carbon emissions are set to rise through 2027, then decline 0.7 percent per year through 2050. That would put the world on track for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming.  In order to have a chance at 2 C warming, emissions would need to decrease 10 times faster. If we’re striving for 1.5 C warming (and we are), emissions will need to drop fourteenfold faster.  We can rebuild the economy without ramping up emissions Historically, emissions and the economy are closely related. It makes sense; when people have more money, they tend to use more energy, travel more, buy more things. Likewise, the only three times emissions fell between 1975 and 2015 were during the recessions of the 1980s, 1992 and 2009. And when the economy rebounded, so did emissions .  Climate skeptics have weaponized this correlation to frame the economy and the environment as trade-offs.  But thanks to clean energy, this relationship is no longer true. In 2016, the International Energy Agency confirmed that emissions and economic growth have decoupled. For the first time in more than 40 years, global GDP grew in 2014 and 2015 — but emissions didn’t.  That’s great news for this moment; the work we need to do to decarbonize is the same work that can pull us out of a global recession. Building a new type of future  The concept of a Green New Deal predates the COVID crises. Yet the harkening to the New Deal, the massive federal effort to pull America out of the depths of the Great Depression, feels prescient as we reckon with the worst economy in a century.  And it may be the urgency to address the faltering economy that spurs the necessary policy alignment to reach true decarbonization.  The numbers are there. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report in September making the case for investment in clean energy R&D to create jobs and boost the economy, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report to analyze the spillover economic gains from such an investment. Saul Griffith’s new organization, Rewiring America , shows how decarbonizing the economy would require around 25 million jobs in the U.S.  While the New Deal did wonders for the economy, it arguably had elements that lacked a strategic lens. Case in point: The Bureau of Reclamation damming every river it could in the west, regardless whether it was justified. Imagine what would be possible with a New Deal that has a guiding principle: rapid decarbonization.  America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Climate change, for reasons I don’t understand, proves to be a difficult unifier. But the economy — now that’s something Americans can get behind.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Topics Energy & Climate Racial Issues COVID-19 Clean Economy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Converging crises call for converging solutions

The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag

November 20, 2020 by  
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The chef who wants diners to fund regenerative ag Jim Giles Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:30 “We have solutions that are bipartisan and cost the government $0.” That was the opening line of a message I received from award-winning chef Anthony Myint, who replied to my request for elevator pitches for president-elect Joe Biden . Myint went on to describe a scalable mechanism for capturing large amounts of carbon in agricultural soils that would, indeed, cost governments $0. If this sounds too good to be true, consider what happened 20 years ago in a different economic sector. Solar and wind are cost-competitive means of producing electricity, but this wasn’t the case in the late 1990s. Back then, renewable energy advocates were trying to figure out how to scale technologies that were more expensive than fossil-fuel incumbents.  Some state governments simply mandated the use of renewables, but in places without mandates, advocates had to get creative. Even in states with mandates, some utilities wanted to do more. One solution was to ask consumers to chip in. The thinking was that if enough people opted to pay a little extra on their electricity bill, the combined funds would be enough to swap out some coal and gas plants for wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. The idea worked. In 2019, close to 8 million people in the United States voluntarily paid for electricity from renewable sources. This mechanism alone would not have driven the extraordinary growth of renewables witnessed over the past two decades, but it played an important role in kick-starting the renewables market, said Jenny Heeter , an expert on voluntary pricing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. This brings us back to Myint, co-founder of a fantastic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco and director of partnerships at Zero Foodprint , the organization behind his pitch to the president-elect. Myint’s idea is to add a 1 percent charge to restaurant bills — perhaps someday to every bill in every restaurant — and $1 per month to waste hauling charges. The money would be used to help farmers implement regenerative agriculture techniques that boost soil fertility and store carbon.  We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Right now, Myint and colleagues are signing up restaurants one-by-one. Although progress has been slowed by the pandemic, around 40 restaurants in California and beyond are funding carbon farming, including big names such as Noma and Chez Panisse. Farmers apply to Zero Foodprint for a share of the proceeds; the proposals that sequester the most carbon for every dollar are selected for funding. “We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action,” Myint told me. To take it to the next level, he’s asking regional or state governments to create legislation that would make the charge a default on all restaurant bills. Diners will be able to opt out, but data on other funding schemes that use opt-in as the default show that few are likely to do so. For policy-makers that want to establish a renewable food economy, Zero Foodprint can provide model legislation that they can use as a starting point.  There’s another similarity here with renewables. I said that voluntary charges alone would not have driven renewable growth: It took a portfolio of initiatives, including state mandates and tax credits. It’s exciting to see something similar happening in regenerative ag. Companies are paying farmers to implement regenerative practices in return for carbon offsets generated — either direct, as in the case of Cargill and Bayer , or via a marketplace, such as those offered by Nori or Indigo Ag . Producers also use regenerative branding to justify premium prices . And investors are linking interest rates to carbon storage and soil health .  The challenge of reforming the way we manage the almost 1 billion acres of U.S. farmland can seem overwhelming, but we’re seeing the emergence of a suite of solutions that might be up to the job. One critical next step will be support, or lack of it, from the incoming administration. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote We’re trying to unlock the ability of citizens and consumers to take climate action. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Anthony Myint, director of partnerships, and Karen Leibowitz, executive director, of Zero Foodprint. Courtesy of Zero Foodprint

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How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy

November 20, 2020 by  
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How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy Emily Elizabet… Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:00 In the absence of federal action on climate change in the United States, local communities have taken on the responsibility of reducing their greenhouse emissions. To date, more than 150 cities, counties and states across America have passed resolutions to commit to 100 percent net-renewable electricity in the coming years, defined as meeting the city’s total electricity demand with the gross amount of electricity generated and purchased from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal as well as energy efficiency, demand management and energy storage. Six cities already have achieved this goal: Kodiak Island, Alaska; Aspen, Colorado; Georgetown, Texas; Greensburg, Kansas; Rock Port, Missouri; and Burlington, Vermont. In Utah, 23 cities and counties have resolved to adopt 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2030, representing about 37 percent of Utah’s electricity load. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve such a commitment? We recently published a study in the journal Sustainability (access is free) exploring how it began with Salt Lake City, Park City and Moab, the first Utah cities to enact 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions in 2016 and 2017. Through interviews with the key players involved and secondary sources, our research uncovered the initial key obstacles facing the cities’ renewable electricity goals and the strategies they have initiated to resolve them. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? The biggest hurdle was convincing Rocky Mountain Power, their existing fossil-fuel-dependent utility monopoly, to develop and provide the communities with sufficient clean, renewable electricity resources — not renewable energy credits or supplies from existing sources — and to retire fossil-fuel assets. The other significant challenge was securing buy-in from all city residents and businesses to accept 100 percent net-renewable energy, especially given that the costs for the transition were unknown. Would citizens voluntarily adopt renewable electricity under these circumstances, or would the cities have to mandate participation? Engaging the utility We found that the cities collaborated with each other (along with Summit County, which eventually passed its own resolution), each playing different roles to bring Rocky Mountain Power to the table. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski initiated talks with the utility, and with the help of State Representative Stephen Handy, negotiations resulted in landmark legislation, the Community Renewable Energy Act (CREA) of 2019, which authorized the utility to procure renewable electricity resources and create a renewable electricity bulk-purchase program for participating cities. The Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019 Rocky Mountain Power required that the additional costs associated with procuring the renewable electricity would not increase rates for customers outside the program. Consequently, CREA stipulated that any new costs and benefits associated with renewable electricity procurement would be designated only to the cities receiving it. CREA also set a deadline for other Utah cities to join the bulk purchase program, and this resulted in 23 Utah cities and counties in total coming forward to take the renewable electricity pledge. These additional cities and counties included some of Utah’s most populated, including Salt Lake County, West Valley City, West Jordan, Orem and Ogden, totaling about 37 percent of the state’s electricity load. Finally, CREA specified that all participating cities’ residents and businesses would receive renewable electricity by default, with a provision for customers to have the opportunity to opt out if they so desired. Park City had found that automatic enrollment in its own WaterSmart conservation program resulted in very high participation rates among its citizens with few choosing to opt out. Thus, the automatic enrollment provision was a critical component of CREA. Academic research suggests that people typically accept defaults as a social norm, so the expectation is that few Utahns may opt out of the renewable electricity program. We argue that CREA may be a model for other cities and communities across the nation implementing 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions. Nevertheless, the next major challenge will be holding together Utah’s coalition of cities and counties in the coming years as the costs of the bulk renewable electricity program and its benefits to ratepayers become better understood and accepted. Preventing the coalition from unraveling In 2017, Salt Lake City-based Energy Strategies was commissioned by Park City, Salt Lake City and Summit County to evaluate various cost impacts for each community to achieve 100 percent net-renewable electricity. The studies concluded that electricity rates could be 9 percent to 14 percent higher (?$15 to $17 increase in a typical resident’s monthly electricity bill) over the standard rate should the cities transition to 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2032. This amounted to about $200 more per year. In our study, officials of the small town of Moab in southern Utah expressed concerns about how these added costs could affect its town budget and residents of modest means. More recently, the city of Ogden announced that it is reconsidering its participation in CREA over fears of potential high costs and rate impacts on the city’s most vulnerable residents. Many cities in the coalition seek ways to offset implementation costs through third-party funding and grants as costs become better understood to minimize their impact on lower-income customers. Rocky Mountain Power seeks renewable electricity sources to fulfill the needs of the bulk purchase program and is developing its own cost estimates that must be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission. While it is a fact that the final costs of CREA by 2030 remain unknown, it is also true that the cost of Rocky Mountain Power’s standard fossil-fuel rate in 10 years is also unknown. Consequently, cities participating in CREA are grappling with these risks. Since the initial 2017 Energy Strategies’ cost studies, wind and solar prices have continued to fall, becoming increasingly cost-competitive with and in many circumstances, less expensive than traditional fossil-fuel electricity sources. Indeed, a key economic benefit of renewable electricity is its price stability because the “fuel” for wind and solar is free and not susceptible to the price volatility of the boom and bust cycles associated with fossil fuels. By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. By contrast, fossil-fuel power plants face strong headwinds in the form of reduced subsidies and the prospect of carbon taxes. While the U.S. does not have a national carbon tax, 13 states do and several more are considering one. The forthcoming Biden administration already has signaled that it plans to cut federal subsidies for fossil fuels and will re-engage the U.S. in global efforts to protect the climate. In a world that is increasingly facing up to carbon emissions, fossil fuels are a risky and expensive bet. In short, by 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Recent polling shows that Utahns want a stronger transition to cleaner energy and air. To date, CREA and its coalition of 23 Utah cities and counties representing 37 percent of the state’s electricity load is the state’s best opportunity to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially, given that the state of Utah does not have a mandated renewable energy portfolio standard (it does have a voluntary standard of 25 percent by 2025). The challenge is keeping that impressive coalition of Utah cities and counties from unraveling before CREA’s costs and benefits are clearly understood vis-à-vis the future costs and expected emissions inherent with fossil fuel-generated electricity. The Utah experiences profiled in our research provide insights about the hurdles facing the implementation of 100 percent net-renewable electricity and the strategies cities are using to engage them that may help other communities chart their own paths toward a cleaner future. Pull Quote How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Contributors EdwinRStafford Roslynn Brain McCann Topics Renewable Energy Community Resilience Partnerships Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide

November 13, 2020 by  
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It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide Sarah Golden Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:30 Partisanship runs deep in America.  We’ve self-organized so our neighbors, friends and social media agree with us, and we gravitate voices who are increasingly vitriolic towards those who don’t. Is it any wonder our empathy muscles have gone into atrophy? But we might be on the precipice of a new era. Last week, the United States elected a new commander-in-chief who is less shouty and divisive. Joe Biden leaned into this brand during his first speech as president-elect Saturday, declared that now “is the time to heal.”  The clean energy sector is not immune to divisions. So let the healing process begin — starting with our own house.  The clean energy divide: the pragmatists versus the enviros A rift is deepening within the clean energy sectors: those who advocate for steady, incremental change; and those who demand urgent transformational change. For lack of more precise terms, I’ll dub these two camps “pragmatists” and “environmentalists,” aka “enviros.” Enviros have long been marginalized by the powers that be, labeled as elitist, unreasonable and/or not understanding how the system works. I’d expect that from incumbent energy forces, and I’m disheartened to hear the extent to which these judgments have infiltrated clean energy spaces.  With increasing frequency, I hear clean energy and corporate sustainability professionals publicly dismiss enviros, implying they have an ax to grind against big business, big agriculture, big oil — as though environmentalists are irrational, rather than responding to decades of corporate malfeasances that allowed an elite few to profit through unsustainable extraction and a disregard for the communities they affect. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. This despite the fact that big green groups, from Sierra Club to Greenpeace to the Natural Resources Defense Council, regularly produce rigorously researched and prescient reports that often foreshadow where mainstream thinking follows.  Likewise, I’ve seen environmental organizations categorically demonize pragmatists, despite ultimately wanting the same thing: a safe climate future. Of course, fringe enviro groups peddle misinformation and anger, but they are truly the minority. Defining the group by its outliers is how we got into this partisan mess in the first place. We can do better.  The importance of a moral compass  Here’s the thing: Enviros are usually right. The pure moral compass isn’t about being holier than thou; it’s because physics is poor at compromises.  Corporations often look at the demands of climate activists and call them unreasonable, pointing to the speed of adoption of technologies and development of markets. But enviros are in no better position to change the rules of climate change than the Lorax was to change the ecosystem needs of the truffala tree. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. And it will feel unreasonable, because in reality we need to move unreasonably quickly to get to where we’re going.  Let’s be more than the sum of our parts The Biden administration has the most bullish climate plan America has seen, and the clean energy sector is about to be thrust into the limelight. Instead of infighting, clean energy factions should use this moment to push and pull each other towards rapid decarbonization. Enviros aren’t an impediment; they’re an asset. They provide a guiding light to push all companies and communities to do more, to move faster and to never pretend half measures are complete solutions. They provide cover for politicians to be ambitious. And they remind all of us that anything less than a holistic solution isn’t a solution.  After all, if we can’t heal the fissures separating us from those working towards the same goals as us, what chance do we have of healing anything else?  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock KieferPix Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

November 13, 2020 by  
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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system Jim Giles Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:14 Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine stepping into an elevator and realizing that the man next to you is President-elect Joe Biden. You have 30 seconds to urge him to focus on a particular issue. What would it be? Earlier this week, I invited leaders from food and agriculture to play that game. Specifically, I asked them what Biden’s administration should do to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system. I got more responses than I can share in a single newsletter, so I’ll be rolling out answers weekly until the end of the year. Here are three — spanning farm spending, technical support and farmers of color — to get the conversation started. No need to wait for Congress One of the most encouraging responses emphasized that there’s a lot Biden can do without additional support from Congress.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture can take advantage of tools and money it already has to help farmers transition to more climate-friendly practices that can also lead to improved farm economic resilience in the long term,” said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “Via the Farm Bill, the department spends approximately $6 billion annually on conservation practices. As part of its conservation funding, the USDA could prioritize soil health through cover crops, crop diversification and other regenerative practices, and partner with the private sector to leverage resources.” Adamo added: “The current administration has also spent over $30 billion compensating farmers for COVID and trade-related losses. However, many farmers may not be in a better situation in the short term. If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind.” Boots on the ground The federal government also can help support ongoing private sector projects in food and ag, where many companies are already working to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to regenerate farmland and waterways.  “To support this transition, the USDA should boost farmer and rancher program service delivery through more boots-on-the-ground technical assistance,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium . “There continues to be a real need for technical assistance to transfer knowledge, outcomes and benefits to working farmers and ranchers.” If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Particularly when it comes to conservation programs, this support needs to recognize that different farmers have different needs, Reed added. In practice, this means it needs to be place-based and flexible enough to allow farmers and ranchers to improve environmental impacts without incurring excessive risk. One way to deliver this, suggested Reed, would be to rebuild the ranks of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Protect farmers of color Black farmers sometimes refer to the USDA as “the last plantation” due to the agency’s long history of discriminating against farmers of color. The results of this lack of support have been devastating. A century ago, there were a million Black farmers in the United States. Now just 45,000 remain, each earning, on average, one-fifth of what white farmers do.  That history is why Leah Penniman, co-director and manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, is urging Biden to enact protections and support for farmers of color. These include expanded access to credit, crop insurance and technical assistance; independent review of farmland foreclosures; and debt forgiveness programs where discrimination has been proven. (If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, Penniman helped create Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals in this area , which remain some of the most ambitious.) What would you say to Biden during your shared elevator ride? Let me know at jg@greenbiz.com . I’ll include as many responses as possible in Food Weekly during the transition period. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Social Justice Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Biden-Harris supporters gather at a farm market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a “get out the vote” event on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. Shutterstock Ben Von Klemperer Close Authorship

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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission

September 21, 2020 by  
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The COVID Covenant: Going big is the price of admission Gil Friend Mon, 09/21/2020 – 01:00 The world (well, most of it) attacked COVID-19 as if it were a true global emergency: with extraordinary speed, scale and scope. With real collaboration and a healthy dose of courage, some gutsy decisions were made both in government and business. Getting billions of people to don masks, allocating trillions of dollars and putting massive human safety nets in place around the globe in record time is no task for the faint of heart. Yet we haven’t responded to other planetary catastrophes with the same speed, scale, scope and coordination. This year’s Climate Week commitments notwithstanding, we haven’t shown the same guts and drive on climate as on COVID. But what if we did? That is the challenge posed by the COVID Covenant. Take climate change — in the grand scheme, a far greater and decidedly more existential emergency than the current pandemic. While some targets have been set, some progress made and some portion of the public enrolled, the world has not become galvanized to meet it. This is a threat we know will affect billions of people and displace hundreds of millions more through sea-level rise, desertification and other disastrous impacts by the time our children are grown. The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. We could talk about why we haven’t acted, but the real question is about what we will do going forward: How will we provoke the world into attacking carbon as it has the virus? And climate is not the only major threat we face. The social infrastructure that has left many millions without access to healthcare in the middle of a major pandemic certainly threatens global stability. Inequality and injustice are worldwide disasters as well. These are all global issues that underpin all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and they are all soluble. Yet our planetary response to them has been tepid at best. Going big The COVID Covenant was created to kick the world into overdrive, to accept no less than the huge, unprecedented commitments required to deal with these issues, to make what seemed impossible, possible. In short: to go big. Developed by a cadre of sustainable business veterans, the COVID Covenant represents an all-in community of influential business leaders, municipal leaders and individuals who — after a long, deep breath — have committed to doing far more, far faster than they ever believed they could, and to turn on the sirens and the flashing lights for others while they’re doing it. Each has committed to the COVID Covenant. They have declared they are going big. That’s the price of admission. The COVID Covenant I solemnly commit to do what is necessary, at the speed, scale and scope that is necessary, to ensure we don’t go back to a broken system — an overheating, divided, unequal world — and build a resilient, equitable, healthy world in its place. Before the ink is dry on this Covenant, I will begin creating economic, social and governmental change at speed, scale and scope. I will practice, and advocate for, unprecedented levels of collaboration and I will mobile mobilize my organization(s), city, company and others in my circle of influence to do the same. We know what a real emergency response looks like now, what it feels like — the immediacy and urgency of it. And still, when this pandemic eventually ends, will most organizations return to their pre-coronavirus goals, such as to reduce emissions by 20 percent in five years, say, or to be carbon neutral by 2050? Will they continue with health care and wages as usual? Or will they go big, to get it done now?Demand and lobby hard to ensure everyone has health care, and for a far more equitable wage structure? Will they catalyze others to do the same? If, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, we have a maximum of eight years of carbon left in our 1.5 degree Celsius carbon budget, then a goal of neutrality 30 or 40 years from now no longer looks like leadership. Like heroism. Like going big. Instead, it looks like thinking small. If — or more likely, when — the next pandemic hits, or Florida is underwater, or California is burning, or whatever the next disruption is — can we afford to have millions of people in food lines within a few days of a shutdown, or for millions to lose their jobs or not be able to access health care? The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. If the COVID Covenant can get those who are crawling toward progress to walk instead, if it can get the walkers to start jogging and the joggers to sprint, then we have a chance. (Those already sprinting? Time to turn on the jets — let’s see commitments that make Microsoft’s aim to remove all the carbon it has ever generated look like last year’s news.) The world has progressed — a bit — on climate. A few short years ago, climate targets were not science-based, and carbon-neutral commitments were rare. Most corporations were not reporting to GRI or SASB or thinking about TCFD. Now, thousands of companies are reporting, hundreds have set science-based targets and many corporations and communities already have committed to neutrality — though, as we’ve noted, their goals are too modest and too slow. The goalposts have moved, but nowhere near fast or far enough. Further, faster The message of the COVID Covenant is, “It’s great you say you’ll do this cool thing in 20 or 30 years, but that’s not soon enough. What if you treated it like the emergency it is and committed to getting the job done fast? What would it take for you to do it in 10 years? Five years? Three?” The COVID Covenant is seeding a community of collaborating competitors, of peers, experts and cheerleaders, sharing best practices, modeling what going big looks like and how to get there, offering feedback and advice, and trumpeting its work to the world. What this community does and becomes is up to those who commit to it — we’re confident that a group of people and companies whose uniting purpose is to go big will do more than just commit. The community might generate new business relationships among its members, new research or new public-private partnerships. However the collaboration evolves, it will be a vehicle for greater change and impact — picking up the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus, climate change and widening social inequity.  Those who’ve committed to the COVID Covenant include Andrew Winston, Hunter Lovins, John Izzo, Gil Friend, Daniel Aronson, Catherine Greener, Daniel Kreeger, Amy Larkin, P.J. Simmons and Phil Clawson.  Read more and make your own commitment here . Pull Quote The stakes are high. There is no room here for laggards. We need to shift the whole game, raise the level of ambition, move that needle. Contributors Daniel Aronson Topics Climate Change Leadership COVID-19 COVID-19 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Recycling Plastic Clamshells and Bottles, the Same but Different

September 11, 2020 by  
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You’ve probably seen the #1 recycling symbol on various plastic … The post Recycling Plastic Clamshells and Bottles, the Same but Different appeared first on Earth 911.

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10 fun and fascinating facts about sharks

August 10, 2020 by  
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Sharks are the apex predators of the oceans, but they’re more than movie monsters and beach horror stories. There’s a lot that most people don’t know about sharks and plenty more that scientists are still learning about them. More than 500 species of sharks swim the ocean depths, making up a diverse and endlessly fascinating group of animals who have been hunting the waters for millions of years longer than humans have been walking around on Earth. We’re still learning Sharks are ancient creatures who inhabited the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs . But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about them. In fact, we’re still making discoveries. The megamouth shark was only discovered in 1976, and fewer than 100 of these rare sharks have ever been seen. It grows to an average of 16 feet , we think, and siphons plankton out of the water to feed. Even more recently was the discovery of the pocket shark, a 5-inch shark found in the Gulf of Mexico. It glows under the water to attract prey. Related: How your beauty routine might be killing sharks Their teeth are healthier than yours Shark teeth are totally resistant to cavities . The teeth of sharks are covered in fluoride, an enamel known as fluorapatite. This material is resistant to acid created by bacteria. Sharks also go through several sets of teeth in their lifetimes, shedding and growing new teeth periodically. An average shark mouth will see about 30,000 teeth in one lifetime. Shark teeth are much healthier than human teeth, which need constant care and maintenance. They can clone themselves Through a process that has been observed in many animals , sharks can clone themselves through parthenogenesis , a type of external fertilization. This has been seen in female sharks being kept in captivity. Sharks aren’t that dangerous Humans are a far greater danger to sharks than they are to us. Though it makes for a pretty good movie, there are fewer than 200 shark-human interactions globally every single year. Meanwhile, humans kill about 100 million sharks annually, mostly through hunting. Sharks have a variety of feeding habits. Many species of sharks are filter feeders that eat small marine life , such as clams, and many are bottom feeders who use suction to gather food. Only some species of sharks are hunters that attack seals, dolphins and other large sea creatures. They’re resilient Not only did sharks survive the extinction event that brought an end to the dinosaurs, but they’ve also survived five total mass extinction events on planet Earth. Sharks first appeared in the planet’s oceans over 400 million years ago. That makes them even older than trees. Sharks were swimming in the oceans before dinosaurs roamed the planet. They survived a mass extinction event that killed 75% of all living species on Earth , including many ocean-dwelling species. Then, they survived an event that killed 96% of all marine life on the planet. This is why sharks are often referred to as “living fossils.” The great white isn’t the biggest shark Movies have made the great white shark famous as a predator, but it’s not the biggest shark in the ocean. That honor goes to the whale shark, which grows up to 60 feet in length . Though it has the size, the whale shark doesn’t have the terrifying look that makes the great white shark so distinct. This giant of the water feeds on small fish , plankton and invertebrates. That means whale sharks don’t have those razor-sharp teeth and huge jaws that make the great white shark such a perfectly terrifying villain. By comparison, the great white shark grows up to 20 feet at most. They have a sixth sense Sharks have the same five senses as human beings — plus one more. Sharks have an organ in their snouts, ampullae of Lorenzini, that allows them to sense electrical fields in the water emitted by other fish and marine life. Lion vs. shark? In the battle of lion against shark, if such a battle was possible, sharks would win pretty easily. A lion bite is weaker than you might imagine, about 650 PSI (pound-force per square inch). A shark bite is much more powerful. In a single snap, a great white shark can produce up to 4,000 PSI. They don’t vocalize Despite what you may have seen in “Finding Nemo,” sharks definitely can’t talk, even to other fish. Sharks have no vocal cords; therefore, they make no vocal sounds whatsoever. Instead, they communicate through body language. A mega shark was once real “Jaws” isn’t just a movie, it’s reality. Well, kind of. There once was an enormous shark that swam the ocean depths. The megalodon inhabited the Earth’s oceans 20 million years ago , becoming extinct about 3.6 million years ago. This monster was the largest shark to ever swim the oceans and the largest fish the planet has ever known, up to three times the size of the longest great white shark. Sharks are truly fascinating creatures, and they have much more to fear from us than we do of them. They’ve managed to survive on a planet that’s known for being rocked by massive extinction events, living long enough to see the rise and the fall of the dinosaurs and the evolution of plant life on the planet. Now, they swim the same waters as human beings. The more you research about these hunters of the deep, the more you’ll find that learning about sharks is pretty fun. Via NOAA and WWF Images via NOAA ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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