Category: Business

Next-Gen Gaming Could Have Serious Environmental Impacts

by Arun

In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been ordered to shelter in their homes, causing them to seek other forms of entertainment. For many, this entertainment has come in the form of video games. However, with the increase in business from gaming companies comes some dangerous environmental implications in the form of e-waste. Moreover, with the release of futuristic Next-Gen hardware (highlighted by the release of Sony’s Playstation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X) that promise an unparalleled gaming experience with updated hardware, comes an even more magnified risk of environmental consequences.

Though gaming companies have made significant moves to reduce e-waste by offering free recycling and reducing their carbon footprint through manufacturing in environmentally-friendly manners, there seems to be an unrealized effect as a result of a sharp increase in gaming. According to WIRED, US gaming platforms “represent 34 terawatt-hours in energy usage, associated with carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to over 5 million cars.” Additionally, with the development of gaming ecosystems, specifically in the lines of the product vision of Microsoft, gaming hardware purchases seem to be on the rise – and could be increasingly common in US households.

The hardware that comes with these new Next-Gen consoles come with a large consumer upgrade market. With the large volume, the consoles – which consist of chips, circuit boards, and plastic – will have a large impact on the e-waste that will eventually end up in a landfill. The chips in the next-gen consoles will be smaller but will require much more energy. Additionally, with standard shipping and chemical treatments, the energy used by the consoles will be tremendous, ultimately leading to a large carbon footprint.

Though these consoles appear to have negative implications for the environment, it seems that the companies behind the product are committed to environmental sustainability. Both Microsoft and Sony have set goals to be carbon neutral and carbon negative, respectively, in the near future. This is in hopes of advancements of technology that will enable such outcomes, though there doesn’t seem to be a current solution to the problem.

Ultimately, the production and usage of next-gen consoles for the average consumer will not have a great bearing on the environment. However, like anything, these additions add up. Though as consumers, we are at the mercy of manufacturers, only time will tell whether manufacturers will be able to become carbon neutral and eliminate their impact on the environment in a way that benefits our planet and the consumer.

Image: https://www.tomsguide.com/face-off/ps5-vs-xbox-series-x

Amazon Mogul Jeff Bezos Silently Creates New Company to Fight Climate Change

by Daanyal Raja

Jeff Bezos, the current CEO of Amazon and its original founder, recently created a new company to implement his $10 billion pledge to fight climate change and global warming. The Amazon founder started Fellowship Ventures LLC, a limited liability company that applied for a trademark, with Bezos’ signature, for the “Bezos Earth Fund” in July.

Fellowship Ventures LLC is the largest and most significant philanthropic act by Bezos, who is currently the world’s richest man. However, ever since Bezos announced the pledge in mid-February, few details have been released to journalists and the public. In this case, details are extremely important, as they would answer questions ranging from over how much time Bezos will give the money to how it will be used. 

Furthermore, if Bezos does use Fellowship Ventures LLC to fulfill his pledge, transparency would be greatly limited since LLCs aren’t required to file tax documents that are available to the public. The LLC could also end up owning the “Bezos Earth Fund” name and have the donations go through a more transparent and structured method, such as a traditional philanthropic foundation.

Either way, Bezos and his team aren’t giving us any details for now. The Amazon founder did say he would begin making grants to climate change organizations and groups this summer, but we have yet to see anything. When Recode approached Amazon, the technology giant declined to comment on the Fellowship Ventures LLC. Moreover, the trademark for Fellowship Ventures was filed in Jamaica first, a tactic that is sometimes used by companies to prevent others from gaining information about their plans, according to trademark experts.

Billionaires, especially people like Jeff Bezos, who is worth almost $200 billion, have the potential to rid the world of many problems ranging from homelessness, world hunger, and climate change. Once people like Bezos donate and strive to make a progressive change that benefits us all, our planet will become a much better place. The actions of a few wealthy individuals have the ability to change the world for all of us, the least we can do is encourage them to do the right thing.

Africa’s $20 Billion Gas Investment Backed By 7 Countries

by Anshul Dash

The country of Mozambique has recently declared a project to extract, liquefy, and export gas. The project is worth $20 billion and has been backed up by seven countries: The US, Japan, The UK, Italy, The Netherlands, South Africa, and Vietnam. In addition to these countries, The African Development Bank and 19 other commercial lenders are also contributing to the project.

The project has been seen as a significant achievement from oil tycoons such as Total, a French oil major that acquired a 26.5% stake in the project last year. However, climate analysts view the project differently, stating that increased production and export of fossil fuels conflict with international climate goals. Governments are reportedly planning to extract 47% more gas by 2040 than what is being collected now. Total and other investors are planning to develop two gas fields in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique. They are also planning to build a plant capable of liquifying 13.1 million tons a year for export.

Residents in the area hoped jobs and investment would come along with the gas discovery. Instead, they are now facing an Islamic insurgency. This insurgency has resulted in 600 deaths since 2017, with gas workers being primary targets. Families have been evicted from their homes and land without compensation while watching well-paid jobs go to people of higher status. However, Total denies that there was any forced eviction and states that the Islamic insurgency is not related to gas development. 

A lot of attention has come from the support of the UK. The UK’s decision to back up the project has led many to realize that it is contradicting the government’s mission to be the host of the UN Climate Summit, Cop26, in November 2021. According to the business secretary and Cop26 president Alok Sharma, “[Their] aim is to ramp up ambition towards a climate-resilient, zero-carbon economy.” At last month’s London Climate Action Week, Sharma requested all countries to make deeper emissions cuts by 2030 and aim for net-zero emissions. Sharma clarified his request by saying “we must… make sure that climate risk is factored into every single investment decision taken around the world.”

Joe Biden’s 2 Trillion Dollar Clean Energy Plan for the Future

by Saarang Kashyap

On Tuesday, July 14, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden proposed a $2 trillion clean energy and climate change package, a plan that would overhaul transportation, electricity, and heavy industry. Some of the action items include making the entire electricity sector 100 percent carbon-free by 2035, retrofitting four million buildings over four years, building 500,000 EV recharging stations, and funding for researching a variety of carbon capture and storage as well as advanced nuclear power technologies.

As stated in OilPrice, “The package is significantly more aggressive than the one Biden proposed earlier this year during the primary, which called for $1.7 trillion over ten years, with a goal of reaching net-zero emission by 2050.” Moreover, there is a lot of focus on environmental justice, with the introduction of an additional plan in recognition of the shift in the political landscape in the wake of the George Floyd protests.

Biden mentions that his ambitious plan will require millions of construction, skilled trades, and engineering workers to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy. These jobs will create pathways for young people and for older workers shifting to new professions, and for people from all backgrounds and all communities. He also affirmed that these jobs are filled by diverse, local, well-trained workers — including women and people of colorby requiring federally funded projects to prioritize Project Labor and Community Workforce Agreements and employ workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs.

There has been some opposition to this plan, mainly in the form of President Trump, who The Hill reports “mocked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s climate plan Wednesday during a speech unveiling an environmental regulation rollback. Trump’s comments came in an Atlanta speech announcing a rollback to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), weakening a bedrock environmental law in order to speed permitting for pipelines, oil and gas drilling, highways, and other infrastructure.” As election day comes faster than ever, many will have the chance to vote in favor of or against Joe Biden’s plan. Only time will tell if his ambitious idea will be implemented.

Sydney Successfully Shifts to 100% Renewable Energy

by Nakul

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, has officially shifted to 100% renewable energy, the city announced on July 1st. 

How Did Such a Large City Implement Such a Massive Energy Plan?

Upon first glance, it may seem extremely confusing how a large city could shift to such an eco-friendly energy plan so efficiently. It is important to note, however, that Sydney has always taken steps to address the dangerous effects of climate change in the energy sector. In 2007, it went carbon neutral, and in 2011, it became the first Australian city to be certified as such. Additionally, in 2016, it announced a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70%. In accordance with these green initiatives, in October of 2019, the city announced an estimated $60 million deal with several Australian renewable energy companies, which it would invest in and buy energy from.. Currently, the city plans to generate its energy from 3 renewable sources: 2 large solar farms and 1 large wind farm. Bob Hayward, a representative of Shoalhaven Solar Farm, one of the companies part of the deal, explained: “Shoalhaven Solar Farm could not have become operational without the City’s investment. By partnering with this project, we’re creating local jobs and helping the renewables sector grow”. This is indeed true: amid this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, millions of jobs have been lost, and by investing in local companies and energy farms, Sydney is undoubtedly providing hundreds of jobs to the community. In fact, a recent report by CleanTechnica revealed that in Australia itself, renewable energy companies would indirectly produce 3 times as many jobs as fossil fuel companies.

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore was naturally proud of the achievement. She stated, “We are in the middle of a climate emergency. If we are to reduce emissions and grow the green power sector, all levels of government must urgently transition to renewable energy. Cities are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions.”

While Sydney is the first Australian city (and one of the world’s first cities) to completely move to renewable energy sources, it is not far fetched to think that many other cities will do the same in the future.

Major Food Companies Nestle and PepsiCo Continue to Heavily Contribute to Plastic Pollution

by Nakul, Sudhit

Recently, many reports have come out describing the ways in which global food and drink companies like PepsiCo, Nestle and Coca-Cola have contributed to climate change. They were found dumping and burning half a million tonnes of plastic in countries like China, India, Mexico, and Nigeria every year. This occurs at a very high rate as these countries lack adequate frameworks to handle such amounts of waste. 

According to The Burning Question report, the waste relates to about 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is the same as about 2 million cars in the UK. Furthermore, another report done by TearFund, concluded that between half and one million people die every year in developing countries due to waste related diseases.

Naturally, these major companies that heavily contributed to plastic pollution faced heavy backlash from the general public. Expert Richard Gower of Tearfund (which published The Burning Question report) stated that governments around the world ought to “press companies to pull hard on all levers to stop plastic pollution — reducing their plastic footprint and investing in schemes to collect and recycle their plastic.” Gower also urged the public to apply “similar pressure” on violating companies by demanding immediate change. Several other non-profit organizations also protested the unjust actions of companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo through unique, effective methods – for example, Canadian non-profit organization Youth Climate Strike Canada held an online strike this past Saturday, where it raised awareness of this pollution issue mainly through social media platforms and likewise successfully encouraged others to raise awareness.

Overall, the flippant, environmentally dismissive actions performed by these several big-name companies is definitely alarming. The fact that these organizations have continually polluted the Earth without restriction is definitely a major issue that heavily contributes to the current climate crisis. By conducting investigative research such as Tearfund to inform the public of the hazards posed by such massive pollution along with raising awareness of the many issues regarding climate change, we, as citizens, can take important steps towards gradually mitigating the current climate crisis.

Amazon Renames NHL Stadium “Climate Pledge Arena” to Remind that Urgent Climate Action is Necessary

by Nakul

The National Hockey League (NHL) is set to welcome a new expansion team for the 2021-2022 season, based in Seattle, Washington. While the team is yet to be named, its stadium’s name has recently been decided; previously, the stadium was known as the ‘KeyArena’, but this changed when technology and e-commerce giant Amazon ⁠— whose headquarters lie in Seattle ⁠— acquired the naming rights for the stadium. The company, in accordance with its green initiative announced last year, has decided to name the stadium the ‘Climate Pledge Arena’.

Why did Amazon name a billion-dollar arena after climate change?

Upon first glance, one would have naturally expected Amazon to name the stadium after itself, a conventional, intelligible promotional action. However, many were surprised to hear the news of what the corporation actually named the stadium. Following continued criticism and demand by employees for Amazon to adopt a more eco-friendly means of production, Jeff Bezos and co. announced, in September of 2019, their decision to invest $2 billion in a plan involving the use of advanced technologies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the company has the ambitious goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2040. Bezos himself announced in February his own fund to combat climate change, the ‘Bezos Earth Fund’, which he put $10 billion of his personal wealth into. As for the stadium itself, it is undergoing renovation evaluated at around $900 million to better fit its eco-friendly name. Bezos announced on Instagram this past Thursday that the stadium will be “the first net-zero carbon certified arena in the world, [will] generate zero waste from operations and events, and [will] use reclaimed rainwater in the ice system to create the greenest ice in the NHL”. These unprecedented operations undoubtedly sound gratifying. Hopefully, Amazon’s steps to alter its energy use and promote the issue of climate change will inspire others to take similar actions.

Aside from hockey, the stadium, with a seating capacity of 18,000, will also serve as the home court of WNBA team Seattle Storm.

The fact that one of the world’s largest companies is acknowledging climate change as a harrowing issue and is taking steps to actually combat the phenomenon is great news for activists, but more importantly, the environment. Although Amazon has been involved in controversy regarding its excessive use of non-renewable resources, ultimately, it is important to acknowledge the changes the company is making.

Amazon Rainforest on Green Trajectory after Receiving Unlikely Support from Factory Investors

by Ritvik Dutta

The Amazon Rainforest is home to about 10 million different species and comprises 2.124 million square miles of dense rainforest. Making up approximately 30% of South America’s landmass, the Amazon is a diverse ecosystem that produces roughly 20% of the world’s oxygen and has earned the esteemed nickname, “The Lungs of the Earth.” Unfortunately, however, all of the aforementioned statistics are slated to decrease due to the ever-increasing commercial damage to the essential rainforest. Due to the lack of effort made by the Brazilian government to regulate the deforestation that was taking place, the rainforest has started to receive activism from unlikely sources.

Recently, many Brazilian companies have been met with major backlash from their investors who claim that the companies are not taking any further action to reduce the ongoing devastating destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. This ravaging eradication of the world’s largest rainforest has been recently brought to mass attention due to the large surge of wildfires that started in January of 2019 and are still currently ongoing. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) in 2019, it was determined that between July 2018 and July 2019, 3800 square miles of rainforest were removed, the highest amount of rainforest destroyed in a span of 12 months since 2008. This statistic is directly influenced by the incumbency of Brazilian President Jair Boslonaro, who was elected into office in October 2018. During his regime, he has continually rejected foreign aid meant to reduce the rate of deforestation. Even today, he continues to avoid the diplomatic pressure exerted by foreign powers, which stem from late 2019.

Back in September 2019, a board of 230 investors came together to urge the Brazilian government and companies to take action on the forest fires. Of those 230, Storebrand, AP7, KLP, DNB Asset Management, Robeco, Nordea Asset Management, and LGIM were recently interviewed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In these interviews, the heads of the companies came to an agreement that they would push divestment of Brazilian companies if they do not start to make progress. More specifically, LGIM is pushing Brazilian meatpacking companies like JBS for “robust climate targets and land-use policies, with inaction potentially leading to voting sanctions and targeted divestments,” said Yasmine Svan, senior sustainability analyst at LGIM, in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

In the end, the investors’ efforts seem to be working. Some Brazillian companies like JBS have already released statements in which they promise to eliminate any current processes that threaten the further deforestation of the Amazon from their supply chain. However, the efforts of these investors are heavily constrained under the might of the Brazilian government, which looks to hold on to the Amazon Rainforest as a reservoir for natural resources.

Fossil Fuel Use Bounces Back Rapidly Following Ease of Lockdown Restrictions in Several Nations

by Nakul

As several countries gradually continue to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, they have eased numerous lockdown restrictions, both on civilians and companies. In order to compensate for the massive economic losses suffered during the lockdown period, many sectors are being pushed to combat these losses currently. One such sector is the energy industry: with fossil fuels taking a big hit, many companies have been permitted to sidestep guidelines in order to abate losses. However, the rate at which fossil fuels are being burned is surprising many scientists. 

As SBS News explains, “in April, fossil fuel combustion was roughly 17 percent lower than they were in 2019, as governments ordered people to stay home, employees stopped driving to work, factories idled, and airlines grounded their flights… by mid-June, as countries eased their lockdowns, emissions had ticked up to just 5 percent below the 2019 average.” In many countries, current carbon emissions have already matched the amount before the beginning of the pandemic.

However, there is some good news for climate change activists: experts estimate that 2020 emission levels will be 4-7 percent lower than that of 2019. This would be a historic period — as scientists Rob Jackson puts it — “A 5 percent change in global emissions is enormous, we haven’t seen a drop like that since at least World War II.” 

While the effects of the pandemic on energy use may have provided us with an opportunity to improve our methods of energy consumption overall, ultimately, this seems unlikely on a global stage. Worldwide, economies have been hit hard, and a rapid financial revival is imperative for almost all nations — the easiest way to achieve this would be through permitting non-renewable, less green techniques that would undoubtedly provide immediate economic benefits, but would also negatively impact the climate in the long run. While many cities have taken steps to implement eco-friendly modes of energy use and transportation — like Paris and Milan, who have introduced more bike lanes — these are just small steps that may be outweighed by the bigger picture. As Professor David Victor states, “Many governments are scrambling to recover economically and not paying as much attention to the environment.”

Thus, the seemingly reduced threat of the virus in many nations has led to an ease of numerous restrictions, allowing for the swift return of many non-renewable sources of energy. While this may pose a benefit upon first glance, the dire economic states of many nations will need to be addressed, therefore permitting increased fossil fuel use.

European Union Contradicts Original Climate Plan, Significantly Weakens Restrictions on Aviation

by Nakul

The COVID-19 pandemic has single-handedly enervated countless global industries, with overall consumption levels drastically decreasing. One specific sector negatively impacted by the outbreak of the virus is the aircraft industry, with a total projected loss of over $310 billion dollars. To address these economic losses, the  International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the EU to ease its limits on carbon emissions, specifically regarding the 2016-adopted approach known as Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia). Removing baselines and completely adjusting the already weak Corsia in order to permit increased gas emissions to benefit aircraft companies will undoubtedly allow for greater pollution. In fact, a study done by German institute Öko-Institut revealed that airlines could remain free to pollute without restriction for the next three to six years, and that the EU’s decision  could significantly reduce airline obligations, by about 25-75% – just by 2035. Additionally, these lenient emission guidelines could save airlines as much as $15 billion on important climate protection costs, such as carbon credits. The primary justification provided by IATA for the reduction of restrictions is predictable: the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, the organization stated that the limitations of Corsia were “an inappropriate economic burden on the [aviation] sector” due to the losses suffered by the industry following significant decreases in global traveling. Aviation expert Jo Dardenne agreed “that the aviation sector is clearly using the COVID-19 crisis” to its advantage. 

Public response to the EU’s decision was largely negative. Gilles Dufrasne of Carbon Watch explained, “This could be the final blow for Corsia. It was always a ridiculously weak system, but now it is becoming essentially meaningless. Airlines are just let off the hook one more time.” French MEP Pascal Canfin agreed, exclaiming that “the EU should be leading on emission regulation, not watering down the ambition.” In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), numerous non-profit organizations such as WWF and the Climate Neutral Group supported the preservation of Corsia’s guidelines, explaining, “It is important to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis is not a catalyst for ad hoc changes that would hinder a sustainable global recovery. CORSIA is an important mechanism for carbon markets around the world.”

Outside Europe, the United States and the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission have supported the EU’s decision.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has negatively impacted most major industries, with the aircraft sector potentially being hit the hardest. However, is reducing climate protection restrictions the answer?