The proposal would protect 30 percent of the continent’s land and water by 2030.
After the candidate called for a “transition” away from oil and gas, executives said the country would need fossil fuels for decades to come.
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s debate statement that he would “transition” the country away from oil gave President Trump an opening and thrust climate change center stage.
For many people, the most familiar way to “go green” or “be eco-friendly” is probably paper recycling. (And perhaps its aging office cousin: “Consider a tree before you print this email.”) There are many ways to evaluate the environmental benefits of such actions, and one of those is greenhouse gas emissions. So how does paper recycling stack up in this regard?
That’s a more interesting question than it may seem, namely because of the way paper products are made. Processing pulp to make paper is typically powered by “black liquor”—a byproduct organic sludge with some useful properties. Burning it for heat and electricity to run the mill is approximately carbon neutral, since the carbon you emit into the air started out in the air (before a temporary stint as tree stuff). So if your recycling process generates CO2 as it makes new paper, recycling could end up increasing emissions.
A new study led by Stijn van Ewijk at Yale University tries to do the math on this, using practical scenarios for the next few decades. Namely, they calculate whether increasing paper recycling would make it easier or harder to hit emissions targets that would halt global warming at 2°C.
The United States is home to 95 million cattle, and changing what they eat could have a significant effect on emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that are warming the world.
Downplaying the dangers of the pandemic and politicizing public health measures was grossly negligent and cost untold lives.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer numerous questions, but it was her avoidance of acknowledging climate change that particularly resonated.
The Tesla Model S and the Porsche Taycan give environmentally conscious speedsters an outlet for their desires.
The program, part of the company’s larger efforts to combat climate change, will be available in 27 countries, but not the United States.
Researchers in Australia blamed climate change for the loss, which they said could diminish critical habitats for fish and other marine life.
Returning strategic parts of the world’s farmlands to nature could help mitigate both climate change and biodiversity loss, a new study found.
Patrick Chopson and Sandeep Ahuja started cove.tool, an Atlanta-based company developing software to optimize building design for sustainability and cost, because of problems they’d faced in their careers as architects.
Along with Patrick’s brother, Daniel Chopson, the two Georgia Institute of Technology graduates have developed a suite of software products that are now used by thousands of architects, engineers, contractors and developers like EYP, P2S, Skanska, and JLL in 22 countries around the world. The company’s software is also taught in universities including California Polytechnic State University, the University of Illinois, and UNC Charlotte, along with their alma matter, Georgia Tech.
Now the company is $5.7 million richer following the close of its series A funding led by the Los Angeles-based investment firm Mucker Capital and including previous investors Urban.us, Knoll Ventures, and Atlanta’s own Techsquare Labs.
The company’s first product is software that helps model the energy consumption of a building and provides insights on how to improve energy efficiency. The product turns what used to be a manual process that involved outside consultants and roughly 150 hours of work into a job that can be done in 30 minutes, according to the cove.tool.
The software can account for factors such as energy consumption, light exposure, glare, radiation, water and embodied carbon targets for new and existing buildings and offers the ability to compare different options, allowing architects and developers to determine the most cost-efficient way to meet energy targets. In its most recent update, the company added an occupancy tool to help developers understand the safest designs for reducing the potential spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19.
Buildings and building construction are a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, accounting for roughly 39 percent of carbon emissions annually, according to data released by the Global Alliance for Building and Construction and the International Energy Agency. And the continuing global migration to cities means that demand for new buildings and construction won’t slow down anytime soon. As demand for buildings increases, technologies like cove.tool’s software could save the equivalent of 40,000 trees on a typical construction project, the company said.
“We only have about 10 years to lower buildings to actually be net zero before the action would be useless in terms of stopping climate change,” said Ahuja, the company’s chief executive.
With the new funds in hand cove.tool intends to expand global sales and marketing efforts and develop some new projects, according to Ahuja. Both founders said that the software is already designed to meet the building standards for Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. And the company has a plan to see if it can design energy efficient structures for a martian environment.
“For fun, we’re going to do Mars,” Ahuja said. “We want to see what the model looks like.”
The big selling point for the software is that environmental sustainability is baked into the product so even if developers only care about cost-cutting, they’ll be improving their carbon footprint anyway.
“Every developer that uses our platform may or may not care about sustainability, but they definitely save on cost,” said Ahuja.
Next on the product roadmap is a marketplace that can provide energy efficient materials that construction managers and developers would need to turn the cove.tool designs into actual buildings.
“Everybody is using a completely different bad workflow,” Chopson, the company’s co-founder and product development lead, said. “This brings it together in terms of cost and the offset carbon targets that every building and every city actually need to meet.”
The roadmap is to create easier workflows from the architect to the contractor so everyone involved can coordinate more closely. As it moves into this side of the construction market, cove.tool will find itself facing some very well-funded competitors, but that’s because the construction management and procurement side of the market is massive.
Companies like Procore have become billion dollar businesses on the back of. their pitch to simplify the construction management process.
The cove.tool marketplace product will be arriving sometime in the middle of 2021 and the company has already amassed a database of over 1,000 products from hundreds of vendors that it intends to list, according to Ahuja.
“There’s a lot of product databases, but no one can analyze it,” said Chopson. “We’re the only ones who can analyze that glass is better than any other glass.. It’s highly disorganized and you can’t compare one thing versus another.. The key is to be able to analyze things and put the analysis you do in the context of a building.”
Ultimately, the focus will still be on efficiency and sustainability, the founders said. And in a rapidly warming world, there are few things that are important.
As Omar Hamoui, a partner at Mucker Capital and the new director on the cove.tool board, said in a statement, “Sustainable design is rapidly becoming a necessity in the built world.”
Co-housing is on the rise, as is solar power and geothermal heat. In one neighborhood, trash is collected via pneumatic tubes.
President Trump has made fracking a “Hail Mary” attack on Joe Biden in the industrial Midwest, but three weeks before Election Day, it does not seem to be working.
Facing a climate crisis, environmental groups and industry agree to work together to bolster hydropower while reducing harm from dams.
Home sales in areas most vulnerable to sea-level rise began falling around 2013, researchers found. Now, prices are following a similar downward path.
The Trump administration’s moves to decouple the two economies means less leverage over Beijing’s green policies.
JPMorgan Chase and other big banks should use their lending power to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
You might be surprised: Protecting peat bogs could help the world avert the worst effects of global warming, a new study has found.
Climate change is taking a toll on woodlands in the Northeast.
The analysis, by European scientists, kept this year on track to be one of the five hottest in recorded history.
The news last week that NextEra Energy, a U.S. utility and renewable energy company, briefly overtook ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco to become the world’s most valuable energy producer shows just how valuable sustainable businesses have become. It’s yet another proof point that there are billions of dollars available for companies focused on renewable energy alone — and a sign that, finally, the floodgates may be about to open for companies that build their businesses to service a sustainability revolution.
Large money managers are already returning to investing in earlier stage sustainability investments after an extended hiatus. These are institutional investors like the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which could commit billions between them to technologies focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change or reducing greenhouse gas emissions across industries. The flood of dollars into renewable energy and sustainable technologies actually began in the first quarter of the year.
Some of the largest private equity funds in the U.S. like Blackstone (with $571 billion in assets under management), announced a flood of investments into renewable power generation and storage. Blackstone alone invested nearly $1 billion into Altus Power Generation, a renewable energy developer, and NRStor, an energy storage company; while Generate Capital raised $1 billion for renewable energy infrastructure projects; and Warburg Pincus (with over $50 billion in assets under management) backed Scale Microgrids, which developed clean energy and storage projects, with another $300 million. In March, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board closed its investment in Pattern Energy Group, a $6.1 billion transaction that gave the massive money manager ownership of a renewable power project owner and developer with assets across North America and Japan.
Behind all of that massive investment will be a surge in demand for technologies that can orchestrate resources that will be more distributed and provide better energy storage and distribution technologies for a more complicated grid. Indeed, the beginning of the year saw venture firms like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia and Union Square Ventures begin to plant flags around sustainable investments in startup companies. Microsoft announced a $1 billion climate change-focused investment fund and in the second quarter, Amazon followed suit with the commitment of $2 billion to its Climate Pledge Fund that would invest across a range of renewable and sustainability-focused technology startups and climate-related projects.
“You’ve got all of this activity even without policy changes — and policy changes are even going in the wrong direction,” said Abe Yokell, a longtime investor in technologies addressing climate change and the managing partner of Congruent Ventures, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year. “Our general framework is that the venture model applies to some but not all of the solutions that will solve the problem of climate change.”
Environmental and social investing rises again
In 2007, John Doerr, then one of the world’s most successful venture investors and a leader at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (now just Kleiner Perkins), delivered an emotional speech to an early audience of TED talk attendees. In it, Doerr announced that KPCB would be investing $200 million into a range of “clean technology” companies and encouraged other investors to make similar commitments. Doerr spoke of a coming climate crisis that would reshape the globe and wreak vast economic damage on communities. He wasn’t wrong.
But the solutions that the first generation of clean tech investors backed were economically unfeasible and markets weren’t then ready to embrace massive investments required to avoid what were, at the time, future risk scenarios. Prices for solar and wind energy production technologies were too expensive and energy storage options too unreliable. Biofuels could not compete at costs that would make them competitive with existing petrochemicals, and bioplastics and chemicals suffered from the same problems (along with a consumer culture that had not awoken to the perils of plastic and chemical production).
While there were a few notable successes from that first generation of clean tech companies, including, most notably, Tesla, there were far more failures. Kleiner alone poured hundreds of millions into companies like Think and Fisker Automotive, two early electric vehicle companies. Another electric vehicle bet, Better Place, lost $1 billion for investors like VantagePoint Venture Partners. The losses weren’t confined to electric vehicles. Solar energy companies, biofuel companies, grid management companies and battery companies all racked up millions in losses for a generation of venture funds.
Yokell, who previously worked as an investor at Rockport Capital, saw the failures, but managed to persevere and raise new cash with his fund Congruent. “Things are different, but they are different for 10 different reasons — not one different reason,” Yokell said. “The preponderance of dollars went into the physical layer that would drive down the cost of accessing a product or technology. Solar is a great example; wind is a great example; batteries are a great example. [But] this time around, the venture dollars that are going into the ecosystem are being applied to products and services that are going to the end product.”
This means focusing not on the generation of electricity necessarily, but managing and monitoring how those atoms move. Or in the case of food tech, making the processes of creation and distribution more efficient in addition to making new sources of supply. “Venture is a rule of exceptions,” said Yokell. “If you use what works for the venture model and apply it to Tesla [most investors] were wrong. It only takes two massive successes to prove the rule wrong.”
More often though, the money for venture investors is in following some basic rules of investing — chiefly look for high-margin businesses with low upfront capital costs. If something is going to take $40 million or $50 million just to figure out that it might work and then you need to spend another $200 million to prove that it does work … that’s likely not going to be a good bet for a venture firm, Yokell said.
Public markets and large corporations now lead the way
Even as most venture capital dollars shied away from investments in technology that could move the needle on climate (one large exception being Vinod Khosla and Khosla Ventures … another story), the world’s largest investment firms, money managers, publicly traded energy and agriculture companies began stepping up their commitments.
In part, that’s because the economic viability started to become more apparent for decades-old technologies like wind and solar. The costs of these energy-generating technologies made sense to develop because they were, in many cases, cheaper than the alternative. A June report from the International Renewable Energy Agency showed that renewable power generation projects were cheaper than the cost to operate existing coal-fired plants. Next year, the energy agency said, the 1.2 gigawatts of existing coal capacity could cost more to operate than the cost of new utility-scale solar photovoltaics. According to the agency:
Replacing the costliest 500 GW of coal with solar PV and onshore wind next year would cut power system costs by up to USD 23 billion every year and reduce annual emissions by around 1.8 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 5% of total global CO2 emissions in 2019. It would also yield an investment stimulus of USD 940 billion, which is equal to around 1% of global GDP.
Beyond that, the real effects of climate change began to be felt in rising insurance payouts as a result of increasingly frequent natural disasters and money managers beginning to realize that you can’t have a functioning economy if you don’t have a functioning society thanks to social unrest brought about by rising populations consuming increasingly limited resources thanks to climatological collapse.
In early January, BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms, pledged to refocus all of its investment activities through a climate lens. The investment bank Jefferies has declared 2020 to be the shot from the starting gun for what will be a decade of investments focused on environmental, social and corporate governance. Big energy companies were already picking up the slack where venture investment left off, with firms like National Grid Partners, Energy Investment Partners and others committing capital to new energy technologies even as venture investors pulled back. In 2016, Bill Gates launched a $1 billion investment fund that would focus on climate-related investing, backed by several of his billionaire buddies (including Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr and former Kleiner Perkins managing director, Vinod Khosla) and take the big swings that many venture firms were unwilling to take at the time.
Opportunities beyond energy
Investments in clean tech and sustainability were never just about energy, although that captured a fair bit of the imagination and some of the earliest returns — in biofuels companies and electric vehicles. Now, the breadth of the thesis is being expressed in a deluge of exits and millions invested in areas like novel proteins for food production, new technologies for a more sustainable agriculture, new consumer food products, new technologies for managing power and distributing it, and fantastic new ways to generate that power.
Last week, AppHarvest, a company using greenhouse farming techniques to grow tomatoes more sustainably, agreed to go public through a special purpose acquisition vehicle, and just today, a bioplastics manufacturer is taking the same tack. With the world awash in capital and looking for high-growth companies to generate returns, sustainability looks like a good bet.
Those are the companies that have managed to access public markets in the last week. Beyond Meat captured the attention of institutional investors and the investing public with its better-tasting hamburger substitute, and Perfect Day snagged a massive investment from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to make an alternative to cow’s milk. In fact, Perfect Day was the inaugural investment in the national pension fund’s climate strategy. Other deals should follow.
Meanwhile, as carbon emissions monitoring, management and sequestration gain broader commercial and consumer traction, other investment opportunities will begin to open up for digital solutions.
Higher temperatures are linked to worse test scores, but only for Black and Hispanic children. The likely culprit: a lack of air-conditioning.
The demise of coal-fired power plants in Arizona and Kentucky shows how the president, despite promises to restore jobs, failed to counter the forces decimating the industry.
With the final tallies done, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its energy-related CO2 emissions data for 2019 on Wednesday. This includes all fossil fuel combustion for generating electricity, heating buildings, industrial processes, and transportation. Overall, EIA puts last year’s total at 2.8 percent less than 2018 and equal to the emissions of 2017.
In 2018, US emissions ticked upward by around three percent. This was due, in part, to weather conditions that drove higher demand for both heating and cooling. Transportation emissions were also up, which has been a continuing trend since the last economic recession.
Overall emissions went back down in 2019 for a mix of reasons. (Last December’s edition of an annual global emissions study projected that 2019 US emissions would drop around 1.7 percent, so EIA’s numbers are slightly better.) These emissions are a combination of some long-term trends, combined with year-to-year variations.
The Red Cross has provided more nights of shelter to Americans this year than at any point on record, a sign of the widening human toll of climate change.
Embracing solar panels to save money, homeowners have made the country a powerhouse in renewable energy.
Amid pandemics and environmental disasters, designers and architects have been forced to imagine a world in which the only way to move forward is to look back.
The country debates women’s honor inexhaustibly but pays little attention to the ferocious and imminent dangers of climate disasters.
The E.P.A. will tout a new rule on testing lead in drinking water as President Trump’s latest environmental achievement, but water experts see only modest improvements at best.
This year’s events come amid a climate reckoning in the world’s richest country. Here are the takeaways.
Court losses are piling up for President Trump’s environmental deregulation agenda. But a second term in the White House could help them stick.
The effort to open the Alaskan wilderness area, the nation’s largest national forest, has been in the works for about two years.
The “blob” of hotter ocean water that killed sea lions and other marine life in 2014 and 2015 may become permanent.
Under international pressure to do more to address global warming, Xi Jinping made a surprise commitment to drastically reduce emissions. Now comes the hard part.
The proposal would speed up the state’s efforts to fight global warming at a time when California is being battered by wildfires, heat waves and other consequences of climate change.
President Xi Jinping pledged, among other goals, to achieve “carbon neutrality by 2060.” It was China’s boldest promise yet on climate change.
The Times spoke to two dozen experts who said decisions made now would spell the difference between a difficult future and something far worse.
With environmental benefits and lower labor costs, mass timber has grown into a market that could rival steel and concrete in the construction industry.
A group of more than 60 donors is urging Joe Biden to renounce advisers with ties to the fossil fuel industry.
While BP and other European companies invest billions in renewable energy, Exxon and Chevron are committed to fossil fuels and betting on moonshots.
Battery prices are dropping faster than expected. Analysts are moving up projections of when an electric vehicle won’t need government incentives to be cheaper than a gasoline model.