Something Doesn’t Add Up
March 5, 2021
It’s time to play… Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader (if that 5th grader read a TON of news). Test your knowledge of recent world news with this short quiz. Submissions must be made by 12pm EST Monday, 3/8. The winner, announced Wednesday, will win bragging rights for the week as well as a free Daily Pnut t-shirt.
“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.” — Barbara Ward
“In spite of our rather boastful talk about progress, and our pride in the gadgets of civilization, there is, I think, a growing suspicion — indeed, perhaps an uneasy certainty — that we have been sometimes a little too ingenious for our own good. ” — Rachel Carson
Net-Zero Plans Don’t Add Up
(Sean Gallup via Getty Images)
In June 2020, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched its “Race to Zero” emissions campaign. The campaign encourages countries, companies, and other entities to deliver structured net-zero greenhouse-gas emission pledges by the time the UNFCCC’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) begins in November 2021. (Acronyms galore!)
So far 127 countries — including the US, UK, EU, and China — have signed on, vowing that by mid-century their overall carbon emissions will be zero. Multinational energy companies are among the hundreds of businesses that have set similar “net zero” goals.
This might make you think the international community finally accepts — and wants to do something about — the scientific fact that global warming is manmade, and we need to quit adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. You would be mistaken.
Many countries and companies are, in fact, using “net zero” to justify expanding the production of fossil fuels. They’re doing this by changing their public narrative about the climate crisis, from denial to delusion, via highly questionable carbon accounting and circular reasoning. Here’s how.
Achieving their stated net-zero goals requires removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, also known as “negative emissions.” This can theoretically be done in a low-tech way — by planting trees and restoring forests — or in a high-tech way, like using chemicals to strip carbon from the air, then pumping it deep underground into safe geological storage.
Royal Dutch Shell released its net-zero plan that actually projects high oil and gas production to 2050 and beyond, which is magically removed with negative emissions. Last November, Canadian oil giant Enbridge committed to a target of net-zero emissions, after which it went ahead with blasting and bulldozing a new tar-sands pipeline through sensitive waters and Indigenous lands. If completed, the Line 3 pipeline would have the impact of opening 50 new coal-fired plants, or adding 38 million new gasoline vehicles to roads.
Overreliance on carbon removal is completely unrealistic. There’s far too little land to plant enough trees to counter today’s emissions, and large-scale tech-driven carbon removal methods don’t even exist yet. Fossil fuel emissions can’t be “offset” by non-emitting renewables either, as the climate adviser to England’s prime minister would have us believe.
This is not “net zero.” It’s doublespeak and cunning accounting. The energy industry is like a smoker who goes from one pack a day to two, and claims they’re quitting because they switched to filtered cigarettes. (Guardian)
What’s Catalyzing Catalytic Converter Thefts?
(Alessandro Di Ciommo via Getty Images)
- Rhodium is a metallic element used in an automobile’s catalytic converter. It’s unparalleled in its ability to remove the most toxic pollutants from vehicle exhaust. 80% of rhodium comes from South Africa, as a byproduct of that country’s platinum mining industry.
- Because rhodium is a byproduct of platinum, it’s only produced when mining platinum is profitable. A surplus of platinum has existed in South Africa for years, keeping prices so low there’s been no incentive to mine platinum, ergo rhodium isn’t being produced. At the same time demand for the metal has soared as countries in Europe, the Americas, and East Asia raise emission standards for new vehicles.
- The shortage has driven the price of rhodium to astronomical heights, currently 15 times more than the price of gold. But apparently not enough to restart platinum mining. And that explains why there’s been a huge rise in thefts of catalytic converters in the US in recent months. Keep a close eye on your car’s exhaust pipe. (WaPo, $)
A Hitman’s Latest Strike
- Dimitris Koufodinas, 63, is a convicted hitman for Greece’s deadliest terrorist group, and currently serving 11 life sentences in a Greek prison. Koufodinas demanded to be transferred to another prison, and when his demand was rejected, he began a hunger strike on January 8. He had successfully used hunger strikes before to get his way.
- This time the conservative government refused to give in to being “blackmailed,” perhaps because one of the 23 people Koufodinas’ left-wing terror group killed was the brother-in-law of the current Prime Minister. On Saturday, doctors signaled that Koufodinas’ health had seriously deteriorated. Shortly thereafter a spokesperson said the government would not permit “preferential treatment and violations of the law.”
- The government’s hard-line and Koufodinas’ deteriorating health has fueled a vehement political debate over the treatment of convicted terrorists, including a barrage of arson attacks and street protests in Athens this week. Koufodinas has never expressed remorse for his actions; even so, many judges and politicians don’t want to see him become a martyr. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- People wasting almost 1bn tonnes of food a year, UN report reveals (Guardian)
- Yemen’s Houthis claim missile attack on Saudi oil facility (WaPo, $)
- Western powers drop censure plan as Iran agrees to IAEA talks (Al Jazeera)
- ICC opens investigation into war crimes in Palestinian territories (Guardian)
- Interpol warns fake vaccines seized in China and South Africa are ‘tip of iceberg’ (Guardian)
- How big tech helps India target climate activists (Guardian)
- Dozens of migrants heading to Yemen thrown overboard, feared dead (Al Jazeera)
- Tsunami warning issued after quake strikes off New Zealand (Al Jazeera)
Congress Wants Their Powers Back
- The constitutional authority to declare war resides in Congress, but over time that authority has almost been abandoned. Authorizations for the use of military force in 1991 and again in 2002 gave a president the power to act unilaterally, and cleared the way for America’s prolonged conflict in Iraq.
- Now President Biden’s decision to launch airstrikes in Syria last week, without first seeking congressional approval, has so frustrated lawmakers that two senators from opposite sides of the aisle — Tim Kaine (D-Va) and Todd Young (R-In) — have introduced bipartisan legislation this week that would repeal those decades-old authorizations for the use of military force in the Middle East.
- Escalating tensions between the US and Iran, whose proxies in the region have long targeted American outposts, have many lawmakers concerned about the potential for a tit-for-tat use of military force that could result in a full-blown war. (Politico)
Open, But Maybe Not Welcoming
- Even as schools are reopening, Asian and Asian American families are choosing to keep their children learning from home at disproportionately high rates. From Chicago to New York City, Minneapolis to San Francisco, far fewer Asian and Asian American students are showing up for in-person learning than their White counterparts.
- Many parents say they’re worried about elderly parents in cramped, multigenerational households, distrustful of promised safety measures, and afraid their children will face racist harassment at school. Still others say they’re pleased with online learning and simply see no reason to risk the health of their family.
- Mya Baker of education nonprofit TNTP, which works with school districts across the country to boost achievement among low-income and minority students, says the academic consequences could be devastating. This is especially true in communities of immigrant and refugee Asian families, she said, who are often overlooked due to the pervasiveness of the “model minority myth.”
- “Everyone makes assumptions that, ‘Oh, Asian kids are doing better with virtual learning.’ The reality is we’re talking about families living in multigenerational households, families where English is not spoken at home, so we’re increasing barriers for those students who are already not performing well.”
- Asian Americans of every sort have reported rising instances of harassment after President Trump used racist language to describe the coronavirus. In 2020 there were 122 incidents of anti-Asian American hate crimes in 16 of the country’s most populous cities, an increase of almost 150% over 2019. In New York City, where Asian Americans make up an estimated 16% of the population, escalating threats and random violence have risen so exponentially many are afraid to step outside their apartments. (WaPo, $)
Additional USA News
- House Democrats passed HR 1, their massive voting rights bill (Vox)
- Did Record Gun Sales Cause A Spike In Gun Crime? (NPR)
- Facebook lifts ban on US political advertising (ArsTechnica)
- House Approves Police Reform Bill Named After George Floyd (NPR). The bill is what you get when you put “defund the police” through the Congressional sausage maker.
- We asked governors what they want from Biden. Here’s what they told us. (Politico)
- Below average: US infrastructure gets C- from engineers (Al Jazeera)
- New York to allow weddings for up to 150 – but no dancing outside your zone (Guardian)
- Senate Democrats, White House Agree To Tighter Income Limits For Stimulus Checks (NPR)
- Californians on universal basic income paid off debt and got full-time jobs (Guardian)
Full Speed Ahead
- Most internet users would not define broadband speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads as “high-speed.” Yet that’s been the federal government’s definition for the past six years. In 2020 the pandemic so fueled network loads that now in 2021, with a new push for infrastructure spending, a bipartisan group of senators has called for quadrupling base high-speed broadband delivery speeds: to 100 Mbps for downloads and 100 Mbps for uploads.
- The current base speeds for high-speed broadband aren’t nearly enough for a moderately sized family working from home. Zoom recommends 3.8 Mbps upload speeds for just one 1080p video, and the shift to remote schooling and work has forced many families to run multiple simultaneous streams.
- Senators Michael Bennett (D-Co), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Angus King (I-Me), and Rob Portman (R-Oh) have written to the FCC and other agencies about the issue. “Going forward, we should make every effort to spend limited federal dollars on broadband networks capable of providing sufficient download and upload speeds and quality,” the letter said. “There is no reason federal funding to rural areas should not support the type of speeds used by households in typical well-served urban and suburban areas.”
- The FCC had initially established the 25/3 standard in 2015 during the Obama administration; it was an upgrade from 4/1. Subscribers were only considered “served” if they had access to both 25/3 wired broadband and mobile connectivity.
- President Trump nominated Ajit Pai to be the FCC chairman in January 2017, where he remained until January 2021. In 2018 Pai suggested lowering the broadband standard, saying America’s broadband deployment problem would be met as long as everyone had access to either fast home internet OR cellular internet service with download speeds of at least 10 Mbps.
- This would have been the first-ever reduction in the FCC standard for consumers to be considered “served” with broadband Internet. Pai earned a well-deserved avalanche of negative media attention for suggesting a mobile broadband benchmark of 10 Mbps should be sufficient to mark consumers as “served” in the semi-annual Broadband Progress Report. (Verge, Ars Technica)
Additional Weekend Reads
- SpaceX lands Starship prototype for the first time — and then it blows up (Verge)
- Senators call on FCC to quadruple base high-speed internet speeds (Verge)
- His Books Inspired Lovestruck Teens to Put Locks on Bridges (NYT, $)
- Artificial intelligence research continues to grow as China overtakes US in AI journal citations (Verge)
- Microsoft Teams will soon let you pretend to be a news reporter during meetings (Verge)
- NFTs, explained: what they are, and why they’re suddenly worth millions (Verge). Would you pay $170,000 for an image of a cartoon kitten?
- This Baby Black-Footed Ferret Clone From Colorado Is Hoping To Save Her Species (CPR)
- The Immortality Key: Brian Muraresku on the psychedelic roots of Christianity (Vox)
- Google’s going on a diet: Google’s third-party cookie ban, explained (Recode)
Please consider making a donation to Daily Pnut, an independently operated and bootstrapped publication. Many thanks to everyone who already supports us!
' title="RECOMMENDED FOR YOU"]