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Remember Texas during February's Freeze?

Here is a taste of what the Elite Rulers of the World like Bill Gates have planned...

Avoiding a climate lockdown

The world is approaching a tipping point on climate change, when protecting the future of civilisation will require dramatic interventions.

As Covid-19 spread earlier this year, governments introduced lockdowns to prevent a public-health emergency from spinning out of control. In the near future, the world may need to resort to lockdowns again—this time to tackle a climate emergency.

Shifting Arctic ice, raging wildfires in western US states and elsewhere, and methane leaks in the North Sea are all warning signs that we are approaching a tipping point on climate change, when protecting the future of civilisation will require dramatic interventions.

Under a ‘climate lockdown’, governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling. To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.

Interconnected crises

Many think of the climate crisis as distinct from the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic. But the three crises—and their solutions—are interconnected.

Covid-19 is itself a consequence of environmental degradation: one recent study dubbed it ‘the disease of the Anthropocene’. Moreover, climate change will exacerbate the social and economic problems highlighted by the pandemic. These include governments’ diminishing capacity to address public-health crises, the private sector’s limited ability to withstand sustained economic disruption and pervasive social inequality. 

These shortcomings reflect the distorted values underlying our priorities. For example, we demand the most from ‘essential workers’ (including nurses, supermarket workers and delivery drivers) while paying them the least. Without fundamental change, climate change will worsen such problems.

The climate crisis is also a public-health crisis. Global warming will cause drinking water to degrade and enable pollution-linked respiratory diseases to thrive. According to some projections, 3.5 billion people globally will live in unbearable heat by 2070.

Green transformation

Addressing this triple crisis requires reorienting corporate governance, finance, policy and energy systems toward a green economic transformation. To achieve this, three obstacles must be removed: business that is shareholder-driven instead of stakeholder-driven, finance that is used in inadequate and inappropriate ways and government that is based on outdated economic thinking and faulty assumptions.

Corporate governance must now reflect stakeholders’ needs instead of shareholders’ whims. Building an inclusive, sustainable economy depends on productive co-operation among the public and private sectors and civil society. This means firms need to listen to trade unions and workers’ collectives, community groups, consumer advocates and others.

Likewise, government assistance to business must be less about subsidies, guarantees and bailouts, and more about building partnerships. This means attaching strict conditions to any corporate bailouts to ensure that taxpayer money is put to productive use and generates long-term public value, not short-term private profits.

Conditioned bailouts

In the current crisis, for example, the French government conditioned its bailouts for Renault and Air France-KLM on emission-reduction commitments. France, Belgium, Denmark and Poland denied state aid to any company domiciled in an EU-designated tax haven, and barred large recipients from paying dividends or buying back their own shares until 2021. Likewise, US corporations receiving government loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were prohibited from using the funds for share buybacks.

These conditions are a start, but are not ambitious enough, either from a climate perspective or in economic terms. The magnitude of government assistance packages does not match firms’ requirements, and the conditions are not always legally binding: for example, the Air France emissions policy applies only to short domestic flights.

Far more is needed to achieve a green and sustainable recovery. For example, governments might use the tax code to discourage firms from using certain materials. They might also introduce job guarantees at company or national level so that human capital is not wasted or eroded. This would help the youngest and oldest workers, who have disproportionately suffered job losses owing to the pandemic, and reduce the likely economic shocks in disadvantaged regions already suffering industrial decline.

Fixing finance

Finance needs fixing, too. During the 2008 global financial crisis, governments flooded markets with liquidity. But, because they did not direct it toward good investment opportunities, much of that funding ended up back in a financial sector unfit for purpose.

The current crisis presents an opportunity to harness finance in productive ways to drive long-term growth. Patient long-term finance is key, because a 3-5-year investment cycle doesn’t match the long lifespan of a wind turbine (more than 25 years) or encourage the innovation needed in e-mobility, natural-capital development (such as rewilding programmes) and green infrastructure.

Some governments have already launched sustainable growth initiatives. New Zealand has developed a budget based on ‘wellbeing’ metrics, rather than gross domestic product, to align public spending with broader objectives, while Scotland has established the mission-oriented Scottish National Investment Bank.

Along with steering finance toward a green transition, we need to hold the financial sector accountable for its often-destructive environmental impact. The Dutch central bank estimates that Dutch financial institutions’ biodiversity footprint represents a loss of over 58,000 square kilometres of pristine nature—an area 1.4 times larger than the Netherlands.

Entrepreneurial state

Because markets will not lead a green revolution on their own, government policy must steer them in that direction. This will require an entrepreneurial state that innovates, takes risks and invests alongside the private sector. Policy-makers should therefore redesign procurement contracts to move away from low-cost investments by incumbent suppliers, and create mechanisms that ‘crowd in’ innovation from multiple actors to achieve public green goals. 

Governments should also take a portfolio approach to innovation and investment. In the United Kingdom and the United States, wider industrial policy continues to support the information-technology revolution. Similarly, the EU’s recently launched European Green Deal, industrial strategy and Just Transition mechanism are acting as the motor and compass for the €750 billion Next Generation EU recovery fund.

The window for launching a climate revolution—and achieving an inclusive recovery from Covid-19 in the process—is rapidly closing. We need to move quickly if we want to transform the future of work, transport and energy use, and make the concept of a ‘green good life‘ a reality for generations to come. One way or the other, radical change is inevitable; our task is to ensure that we achieve the change we want—while we still have the choice.

Republication forbidden: copyright Project Syndicate 2020, ‘Avoiding a climate lockdown

About Mariana Mazzucato

Mariana Mazzucato is professor of the economics of innovation and public value and director of the University College London Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She is the author of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, shortlisted for the Financial Times—McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award.

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Scientists Warn That Filling The Sahara With Solar Panels Is A Bad Idea

By Irina Slav - Feb 23, 2021, 5:00 PM CST

Two years ago, a team of Finnish scientists estimated that the world needs to get 69 percent of its primary energy from solar farms in order to achieve its ambitious net-zero goal.
That, the scientists said, would necessitate the construction of many more solar farms than are currently planned. And consensus has it that the Sahara would be the perfect place for a few giant solar farms. However, the consensus appears to be wrong, according to two researchers.

Zhengyao Lu from Sweden’s Lund University and Benjamin Smith from Western Sydney University warned in a recent paper that turning the Sahara into a giant solar farm will have negative consequences for the global climate because of the way solar panels work.

Everyone knows the basics: photovoltaic panels absorb the energy of the sun. But just a step beyond these basics, we are reminded of the efficiency factor of solar panels, or the rate, at which it converts the energy it absorbs into electricity. The average to date is between 15 and 20 percent. So, 15-20 percent of the light solar panels absorb, they convert into electricity. The rest appears to be the problem, according to Lu and Smith.

The energy that solar panels cannot convert into electricity gets released back into the environment in the form of heat, the climate researchers explain. And because solar panels are darker than sand, they absorb—and therefore release—a lot more heat than sand in the Sahara does, because sand is a lot more reflective than solar panels.

This returned heat would create a much sharper difference between the Sahara and the oceans around it. This difference, Lu and Smith explain, will bring more rain to the Sahara as it reduces the surface pressure of the air and boosts the rate of moist air rising and condensing. More rain will ultimately turn the Sahara into a lush green area once again. But that’s not the boon it may sound like.

Any tampering with the Earth’s climate patterns, however good the intentions, tends to have destructive consequences. Turning the Sahara into a solar hub, even with just 20 percent of its surface covered with solar panels, will also end up having adverse effects on the global climate, according to the two researchers.

Related: Even Bill Gates Is Struggling To Go Completely Green

The thing to bear in mind is that everything in nature is interconnected, and this is as true of ecosystems as it is of climate patterns. Saharan sand, carried on wind streams, for example, brings nutrients to the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean. Even more importantly, the excessive heat generated in the desert by solar panels will change air flows and ocean circulation, according to Lu and Smith, which will, in turn, affect rain patterns.

Ultimately, the research suggests that covering even a fifth of the Sahara with solar panels will result in higher global temperatures, albeit the increase will be below 1 percent if that’s any consolation. Yet it will be unevenly distributed, Lu and Smith note, with polar regions affected more than tropical regions, exposing more sea as the ice melts, and attracting more heat as water is darker than ice and absorbs more water. In the end, the effects begin to sound like a vicious circle.

The study, which used computer modeling for its conclusions, should be a wake-up call for the most radical part of the renewable energy lobby that continues to argue that covering the earth with solar panels will save it. The truth is that human activity, whatever it is, invariably affects natural processes and patterns, and this effect is rarely positive.

Turning the Sahara into a giant solar farm sounds like it makes perfect sense only on the face of it. We might be much better off with agrivoltaics: combining farming and solar power to the benefit of all involved, with solar having a much lower if any, environmental footprint than it would in the Sahara.

By Irina Slav for


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Carbon Dioxide: A $550-Billion Opportunity

By Irina Slav - Feb 24, 2021, 3:00 PM CST

Anyone would be forgiven for being shocked when they see the words ‘carbon’ and ‘opportunity’ in one sentence. Carbon, after all, or rather carbon-oxygen compounds, are the ultimate enemy of the planet. It is something to be eliminated, not utilized.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition to being an essential element for photosynthesis and as such an essential element for all organic life on the planet, carbon has many other uses. It is these uses that are opening up an opportunity that could develop into a $550-billion market by 2040, according to Lux Research.

There are six areas in which carbon dioxide is used, and each is a potential growth area for the chemical. Building materials, chemicals, carbon additives such as nanotubes and graphene, fuels, polymers, and proteins are each such an area.

The biggest growth would come from the building materials sector, according to Lux. This industry would account for as much as 86 percent of the total carbon utilization market, not least because it would be easy to boost CO2 utilization in the making of building materials such as cement or cure concrete by direct CO2 injection. The only challenge, really, is regulatory constraints of the wider use of CO2 in the industry, which the researchers expect to ease after 2030.

The production of fuels, additives, and chemicals is naturally another growth area. With technology available to turn carbon dioxide back into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, this is one promising direction of utilizing the greenhouse gas. There is a lot of promise in graphene as well, though it has yet to materialize. Carbon dioxide will help with that, given that graphene is a layer of carbon atoms.

In this area, however, according to Lux, regulatory support is needed and technological innovation. The former shouldn’t be a problem as carbon dioxide-derived fuels will effectively reduce the world’s demand for more crude oil to make fuels. The latter, the innovation, should easily gain the support of investors of various sorts as the end goal of carbon utilization is removing carbon from the atmosphere—a goal in line with the environmental agenda.

Related Video: Goldman Calls $70 Oil in Q2, But Jet Fuel Is The Joker

But to utilize the carbon dioxide, one first needs to capture it. There are three points along CO2’s life where this can be done: before combustion—typically at or near the wellhead—after combustion—think coal-fired power plants with CC systems—and directly from the atmosphere.

The direct air capture idea is a very appealing one—if we could just suck out the CO2 that is trapping heat from the Sun in our atmosphere, we would solve all our climate problems. Indeed this has already been proposed: just build a lot of direct air capture machines and start sucking. Only it is extremely expensive, and our climate change fight bill is already well in the trillions.

Post-combustion carbon capture is also rather expensive and needs to become cheaper to reach the stage of mass adoption. There are separate projects, however, such as Ur One Inc.’s technology for capturing carbon dioxide from flue gas at a cost of some $5 per ton and turning it into solid carbon that fetches three-digit prices per 100 grams. The tech is still in the lab, but it could be one of the carbon capture technologies of the future.

Elon Musk recently announced a $100-million prize up for grabs by anyone who proposes a solution to the world’s carbon dioxide problem. Capture is certainly part of the solution, but storage may not be the best—as in, most sustainable—next step. Instead, the utilization of the gas could—and should—become the priority.

It won’t be that hard, either. Lux projects that global carbon demand is on the rise and will stay there thanks to the growing demand for urea—one of the most widely used artificial fertilizers and animal feed additives—and to enhanced oil recovery. But the building materials industry is ripe for more CO2 utilization: CO2 can be turned into solid form and used as cement aggregate (aggregates are various forms of particulate matter that make up the bulk of concrete). It can also be injected in wet concrete to speed up curing.

The other big growth market for CO2 utilization is synthetic fuels. Sadly, this growth market will take a while to unfold. Porsche recently said it was investing $24 million in what are commonly called e-fuels, to replace the hydrocarbons used normally in internal combustion engines. E-fuels combine hydrogen and CO2, but in order to be as low-emission as possible, the hydrogen needs to be made through electrolysis using solar or wind power. This is a prohibitively expensive technology still, making synthetic fuels too expensive as well.

Yet, according to Lux researchers, with the right amount of regulatory support and massive backing from the aviation industry—a huge consumer of fuel—things can change. Right now, to be fair, the aviation industry is in no state to back—financially, that is—anything but this could change too as people start flying again. For all its bad rap, carbon dioxide has a natural place in the low-emission economy of the future. The carbon market is a real and growing one. Given the right conditions, it could even swing into a deficit at some point.

By Irina Slav for

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