“year after year, satellites that monitor changes in forest cover find the same thing: The Amazon is shrinking. Between August 1, 2018, and July 31, 2021, more than 34,000 square km (8.4 million acres) disappeared from the Brazilian Amazon. That’s an area larger than the entire nation of Belgium, and a 52 percent increase compared to the previous three years.”
“In a cattle laundering scheme, ranchers move cattle from “dirty” ranches, which contribute to deforestation, to ranches that are “clean,” with no recent forest loss. By the time those cattle arrive at slaughterhouses, the path they’ve taken is obscured, as is the damage they’ve caused.”
“Most major meatpackers and slaughterhouses — which influence the entire beef supply chain — screen the cattle they buy for deforestation. Ranchers that sell to them, known as direct suppliers, provide the location of their farms. And the meatpacking companies hire consultants to check those locations for any recent forest loss, using data collected by satellites.
But this screening process misses a lot — perhaps even the majority of deforestation in the beef supply chain — undermining the integrity of their zero-deforestation pledges.”
“according to decade-old agreements, major meatpackers in Brazil can only buy clean cattle: cows that come from land without any recent deforestation. The problem is, there are several ways to make cattle look clean, even when they’re not.
The most common way is pretty simple and takes advantage of the complex beef supply chain. A single cow could travel through as many as 10 farms before it’s ultimately killed; it might be born on one, reared on another, and fattened on a third, all before reaching a slaughterhouse.”
“slaughterhouses only tend to assess their direct suppliers, the last stop on the cow’s journey.”
“If small teams of outside researchers can pinpoint the source of forest loss along supply chains, it seems as though giant corporations should be able to as well. Remember, it has been more than 10 years since they committed to source clean cattle.
While some experts fault meatpackers for not doing more, rooting out forest loss among indirect suppliers is actually quite challenging. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, who first figured out how to do this, spent years developing computer programs to download records stored in clunky government systems. They then have to clean them up, link key bits of data together, and run the analysis.
These records are not designed to make cattle supply chains traceable, they just happen to serve that function if you know what you’re doing. “It requires a lot of computational expertise,” Brandão said. It’s not like meatpacking companies are just ignoring deforestation right in front of their eyes.”
“there isn’t a huge incentive for meatpacking companies to solve this problem in the first place, some experts say. If they choose not to buy from any ranches linked to deforestation, they’ll have a much smaller supply”
“Ultimately, to put an end to cattle laundering, meat companies would need to monitor the movement of individual cows, Gibbs said. “If we wanted to end laundering, we would need animal-level traceability,” Gibbs said. “Until we keep track of the individual animals, some level of laundering will keep happening.””
“President Joe Biden signed a bona fide international climate treaty…one that was ratified in the Senate with bipartisan support in a 69-27 vote. Twenty-one Republicans supported ratification in September, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
“If fully implemented, the measure would avert upward of 0.5 degrees Celsius — almost 1 degree Fahrenheit — of warming by the end of the century. Keeping in mind that the Paris climate agreement aims to hold the rise in global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the Kigali Amendment would take a big step toward that goal. And it builds on one of the most successful efforts to prevent an environmental disaster in history.”
“Countries around the world convened to try to solve the problem, and in 1987, developed the Montreal Protocol. It was the first treaty to be ratified by every country in the world. Countries began to phase out CFCs entirely. And it worked. The ozone layer is on track to heal entirely. By 2065, the Montreal Protocol is estimated to have prevented 443 million skin cancer cases, 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone, according to the State Department.”
“There was an unanticipated problem as well. CFCs were replaced with another class of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in many applications. While HFCs aren’t as damaging to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases. The Kigali Amendment, drafted in 2016, aims to zero out HFCs as well.”
“why did so many Republicans back Kigali when they’ve criticized just about every other major international environmental agreement? Recall that many Republican lawmakers cheered when then-President Trump began the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord.
Part of the reason for Kigali’s success may be that conservative stalwarts Margaret Thatcher, a former chemist, and Ronald Reagan, a skin cancer survivor, were framers of the initial Montreal Protocol.
Another is that the amendment comes packaged with solutions. There are already climate-friendly refrigerants on the market, and appliance manufacturers are eager to deploy them. Some lawmakers see this as an opportunity to play to the US’s strengths.
“This amendment will give American manufacturers the ability to continue exporting sustainable coolants and the products that depend on them,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in a statement. “Not only does this create tens of thousands of jobs here at home, it protects our markets from becoming a dumping ground for China’s outdated products.””
“A 2011 study commissioned by the U.K.’s Environment Agency found that “the paper bag has to be used four or more times to reduce its global warming potential to below that of the conventional [plastic] bag.””
“Other factors include transportation and disposal. Two thousand single-use plastic bags weigh about 30 pounds, while 2,000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds. By one estimate, it takes seven trucks to transport the same number of paper bags as one truck loaded with plastic bags. Paper bags also take up more space in landfills.”
” A 2020 United Nations Environment Programme report looked at several life-cycle analyses published since 2010. “Paper bags contribute less to the impacts of littering,” it concluded, “but in most cases have a larger impact on the climate, eutrophication and acidification.””
“California policy makers are seemingly getting serious about solving the state’s housing crisis by passing a bevy of laws that ease restrictions on new development. But the benefits of this deregulation are often undone by environmental lawsuits, and there’s evidence that the problem is getting worse.
In 2020, almost 48,000 new housing units were targeted with lawsuits, according to a new report from the law firm Holland & Knight. That’s roughly 50 percent of the 110,784 annual housing units the state has built on average over the past six years.
Two-thirds of these anti-housing lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) allege that new residential development violates state targets on reducing greenhouse gases and vehicle miles traveled.
“CEQA has indeed become a population control (aka reduction) statute,” writes the report’s author Jennifer Hernandez. “California is losing people, and the people being expelled are our families, our kids and grandkids, our favorite young teacher, our most compassionate nurse, our lifeline electricians and carpenters, our first responders, and our future caregivers.”
CEQA, passed in 1970, requires that governments study and mitigate the environmental impacts of new developments they have discretion over. The law also gives third parties the ability to sue governments for approving projects without allegedly studying them enough or requiring sufficient mitigation of their environmental effects.
That setup has made the law a go-to tool for anti-development Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) activists, who can hold up new projects for years with (often very flimsy) CEQA lawsuits. Despite its original purpose of protecting the environment, CEQA enables reams of litigations targeting everything from new apartments to new solar panels.”
“The report notes that the impact of CEQA lawsuits on new housing is probably greater than the mere 47,999 that have been explicitly challenged. These legal challenges also target upzoning measures that would allow developers to propose more housing.
That’s helped to keep California’s housing production numbers flat over the past few years, despite the passage of nearly 80 laws aimed at boosting housing production or bringing housing costs down.”
“The IEA predicts that within the next three decades, two-thirds of the world’s homes could have air conditioners. About half of these units will be installed in just three countries: India, China, and Indonesia. The extent to which these new air conditioners will exacerbate climate change hinges on replacing the cooling tech we currently use with something better. Right now, ideas range from retrofitting our windows to more far-out concepts, like rooftop panels that reflect sunlight and emit heat into space. To succeed, however, the world will need to boost the efficiency of the appliances we already have — as quickly as possible — and invest in new tech that could avoid some of AC’s primary problems.
The AC’s noxious environmental impact stems from its core technology: vapor compression. This tech involves several components, but it generally works by converting a refrigerant that’s stored inside an AC from a liquid to a gas, which allows it to absorb heat, removing it from a room. Vapor compression uses an immense amount of electricity on the hottest days, and there are growing concerns that the technology might eventually overwhelm the grid’s capacity to provide power. And hydrofluorocarbons, the chemical refrigerants that many ACs use to soak up heat, are greenhouse gases that trap lots of heat in our atmosphere when leaked into the air. The challenge is that, for now, vapor compression ACs are still a critical tool during deadly heat waves, especially for high-risk populations, young children, older adults, and people with certain health conditions.
Technology to build cleaner, more efficient air conditioners does exist. Two major AC manufacturers, Daikin and Gree Electric Appliances, shared the top award at last year’s Global Cooling Prize, an international competition focused on designing climate-friendly AC tech. Both companies created ACs with higher internal performance that used less environmentally damaging refrigerants; the new units could reduce their impact on the climate by five times. These models aren’t yet on the market — Gree plans to start selling its prototype in 2025, and Daikin told Recode that it hopes to use the new technology in future products — but the IEA estimates that using more efficient ACs could cut cooling’s environmental impact by half.
Another strategy is to double down on heat pumps, which are air conditioners that also work in reverse, using vapor compression to absorb and move heat into a home, instead of releasing it outside. Heat pumps usually cost several thousand dollars”
“heat pumps are not the easiest appliance to install, especially for renters, who don’t necessarily have the money or ability to invest in bulky HVAC systems.”
“While many of these technological breakthroughs are promising, the movement to revolutionize air conditioning still faces some major challenges. Right now, AC manufacturers primarily focus on meeting minimum performance standards, rather than competing for higher levels of efficiency. Consumers also tend to buy air conditioners based on their sticker price, not an AC’s overall impact on their energy bills. And even though there are a growing number of AC-focused startups, the industry is still dominated by a small handful of large companies, all of which primarily focus on far-from-ideal vapor compression tech.”
“if better, more affordable AC doesn’t come to market fast enough — especially for the vast number of people in developing countries who will buy these appliances in the coming decades — significantly worse air conditioners will take their place, warming the planet even faster.”
“Farms cover roughly 40 percent of the country, and they’ve replaced countless ecosystems with vast fields of soybeans, corn, and cattle. Agriculture also accounts for about 11 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The biggest chunk of money — roughly $8.5 billion — goes toward a program run by the US Department of Agriculture called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It pays for projects that restore the ecosystem or reduce emissions on farmland.
Farmers often use the money to buy and plant cover crops. These are plants, such as clover, radishes, or rye, that are rooted in fields that might otherwise be fallow to improve the health of the soil and prevent erosion. The idea is that the ground is always “covered” with something.
Cover crops also have a range of other superpowers, said Rob Myers, director of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture at the University of Missouri. During a drought, for example, they can lock moisture in the soil; during a flood, meanwhile, they help water more easily penetrate the ground.”