America's New Green Deal: Will Biden Ban Burgers?
President Joseph R. Biden's climate policy has recently triggered rumors in right-wing American media of a potential burger ban in America. Such speculations about beef ban have been categorically denied by Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, there are reasons to believe that the Biden focus on renewable energy alone will not be enough to achieve his ambitious targets. The current food production methods, particularly the beef industry, will also have to be fundamentally redesigned to meet Biden's climate goal of 50-52% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Other industrial processes that will need fundamental rethink to reduce emissions include production of cement, steel and plastics. Dealing with these challenges will require a lot of innovation and new technologies. It presents an opportunity for technology entrepreneurs to reshape the world yet again.
|Meatless Meat Products|
Impact of Meat Production:
Animal agriculture is a major contributor to climate change. Relatively large animals like buffaloes, cows and pigs are raised in huge numbers to cater to meat and dairy demand. These animals emit methane gas which is a powerful pollutant that is much more potent than carbon dioxide. Almost 15% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, with cattle making up about two-thirds of that. Livestock farming also requires a lot of land, a significant cause of deforestation in places like Brazil’s Amazon.
What is making the situation worse is that the demand for meat and dairy is rising in large developing countries like China, India and Pakistan. It is putting greater pressure on the environment and making it difficult to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
Several technology companies are working on plant-based and cell-based meats to offer a climate-friendly alternative to beef, chicken and pork. Plant-based meats from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are already producing and shipping in significant quantities.
Other technology companies are working on cell-based meats grown in large vats from real animal cells. These companies include San Francisco-based Eat Just and Berkeley-based Memphis Meats, just to name a few. In a recently published book entitled "Billion Dollar Burger", author Chase Purdy detailed his findings on lab-grown meats. Here is an except from the book:
"By harvesting animal cells and quite literally growing them into fat and muscle tissue inside industrial bioreactors, humans have figured out how to create the exact same meats we’ve eaten for more than half a million years. In doing so, those scientists hope to enable us to sidestep the need to slaughter billions of animals annually, and theoretically, in time, eliminate the need for an industrial farming system that pumps an alarming amount of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s warming atmosphere each year. Scientists agree that animal agriculture is responsible for about 14 percent of greenhouse greenhouse gas emissions. Fully wrapping our heads around the impact of the animal agriculture system we’ve always known is mind-bogglingly difficult. Lots of scientists attempt to measure the full environmental footprint of animal agriculture, and almost all of them have run into fierce sets of critics who challenge their methodologies and motives. Did the scientist measure the life cycle of a single animal and then multiply those data to represent its specific sector? Did they include data on the energy used to grow, manage, and transport the feed grain for cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals? How about factoring in deforestation to make room for grazing? Or the long impact of water pollution from nitrous oxide in manure?"
The focus of most of the governments' climate policies has so far been on switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. A quick look at common industrial processes like cement, steel and plastic production shows that these processes are major contributors to global warming. Cement and steel production each contributes 8% of global greenhouse emissions. All of these materials are essential for modern construction and manufacturing industries.
Cement production contributes greenhouse gases both directly through the production of carbon dioxide when calcium carbonate is thermally decomposed, producing lime and carbon dioxide, and also through the use of energy, particularly from the combustion of fossil fuels. Similarly, steel-making requires the use of coal to remove oxygen from iron oxide ore. This process emits large amounts of carbon dioxide. Plastics, extracted from oil, are used to make a huge range of products today. Extraction and transportation of oil and production of plastics all produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Changing the production processes of widely used materials like cement, plastics and steel poses a major technological challenge. Among the methods proposed for reducing carbon emissions from these processes is carbon capture...both point carbon capture and direct air capture. Here's an excerpt of Bill Gates' recent book entitled "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster" on climate-friendly industrial processes for cement, steel and plastics:
"One approach is to take recycled carbon dioxide—possibly captured during the process of making cement—and inject it back into the cement before it’s used at the construction site. The company that’s pursuing this idea has several dozen customers already, including Microsoft and McDonald’s; so far it’s only able to reduce emissions by around 10 percent, though it hopes to get to 33 percent eventually. Another, more theoretical approach involves making cement out of seawater and the carbon dioxide captured from power plants. The inventors behind this idea think it could ultimately cut emissions by more than 70 percent. Yet even if these approaches are successful, they won’t give us 100 percent carbon-free cement. For the foreseeable future, we’ll have to count on carbon capture and—if it becomes practical—direct air capture to grab the carbon emitted when we make cement. For pretty much all other materials, the first thing we need is plenty of reliable clean electricity. Electricity already accounts for about a quarter of all the energy used by the manufacturing sector worldwide; to power all these industrial processes, we need to both deploy the clean energy technology we already have and develop breakthroughs that let us generate and store lots of zero-carbon electricity inexpensively. And soon we’ll need even more power, as we pursue another way to reduce emissions: electrification, which is the technique of using electricity instead of fossil fuels for some industrial processes. For example, one very cool approach for steelmaking is to use clean electricity to replace coal. A company I’m following closely has developed a new process called molten oxide electrolysis: Instead of burning iron in a furnace with coke, you pass electricity through a cell that contains a mixture of liquid iron oxide and other ingredients. The electricity causes the iron oxide to break apart, leaving you with the pure iron you need for steel, and pure oxygen as a by-product. No carbon dioxide is produced at all. This technique is promising—it’s similar to a process we’ve been using for more than a century to purify aluminum—but like the other ideas for clean steel it hasn’t yet been proven to work at an industrial scale. Clean electricity would help us solve another problem too: making plastics. If enough pieces come together, plastics could one day become a carbon sink—a way to remove carbon rather than emit it. "
Climate change is a major challenge for humanity. It goes beyond energy production and consumption. Areas that account for bulk of greenhouse emissions include production of food, cement, plastics and steels. Dealing with these challenges will require a lot of innovation and new technologies. It presents an opportunity for technology entreprenrurs to reshape the world yet again.
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That’s significant, given the fact that the influential agency is not an environmental group but an international organization that advises world capitals on energy policy. Formed after the oil crises of the 1970s, the agency’s reports and forecasts are frequently cited by energy companies and investors as a basis for long-term planning.
“It’s a huge shift in messaging if they’re saying there’s no need to invest in new fossil fuel supply,” said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at Oil Change International, an environmental advocacy group.
Several major economies, including the United States and the European Union, have recently pledged to zero out their emissions responsible for global warming by midcentury. But many world leaders have not yet come to grips with the extraordinary transformation of the global energy system that is required to do so, the agency warned.
“The sheer magnitude of changes needed to get to net zero emissions by 2050 is still not fully understood by many governments and investors,” Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, said in an interview.
Net zero emissions doesn’t mean countries would stop emitting carbon dioxide altogether. Instead, they would need to sharply reduce most of the carbon dioxide generated by power plants, factories and vehicles. Any emissions that could not be fully erased would be offset, such as by forests or artificial technologies that can pull carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere.
To reach that goal of net zero worldwide by 2050, every nation would need to move much faster and more aggressively away from fossil fuels than they are currently doing, the report found.
For instance, the annual pace of installations for solar panels and wind turbines worldwide would have to quadruple by 2030, the agency said. For the solar industry, that would mean building the equivalent of what is currently the world’s largest solar farm every day for the next decade.
For now, the world remains off course. Last month, the agency warned that global carbon dioxide emissions were expected to rise at their second-fastest pace ever in 2021 as countries recovered from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and global coal burning neared a high, led by a surge of industrial activity in Asia.
“We’re seeing more governments around the world make net-zero pledges, which is very good news,” Mr. Birol said. “But there’s still a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality.”
Brazil was the largest beef exporter in the world in 2020 followed by Australia, the United States, India and Argentina. (Pakistan ranks 14)
Ranking Of Countries That Export The Most Beef
Brazil was the largest beef exporter in the world in 2020 followed by Australia, the United States, India and Argentina. (Beef exports in India include carabeef).
Four (4) countries exported more than 1 million metric tons of beef in 2020: Brazil, Australia, the United States and India.
Brazil, Australia, the United States and India accounted for roughly 61% of the world's beef exports.
China has flown 28 warplanes into Taiwan-controlled airspace, the biggest sortie of its kind since the Taiwanese government began publishing information about the frequent incursions last year.
The flights are widely seen as part of an effort by Beijing to dial up pressure on Taiwan, a self-governed democracy of about 24 million people off the Chinese coast that the Chinese government considers a part of China.
Taiwan's defense ministry said it scrambled planes, deployed missile defense systems and issued radio warnings as the Chinese planes entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone to the south of the island on Monday.
China describes such flights as routine. Large sorties have often followed actions by Taiwan or the United States that Beijing disapproves of.
Monday's incursion came a day after NATO leaders expressed concern about China as a growing security threat. A day earlier, leaders of the Group of Seven nations meeting in Europe pledged to work together against China's "non-market" economic policies and criticized China over human rights.
China's foreign ministry decried both statements.
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World Leaders Are Meeting To Tackle Climate Change And Pandemic Recovery
World Leaders Are Meeting To Tackle Climate Change And Pandemic Recovery
China has reacted to criticism with warplanes
In April, China sent 25 military planes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone after the State Department said it was making it easier for U.S. officials to meet Taiwanese officials.
And last August, China flew planes across the midway line between Taiwan and the mainland when Taiwan hosted then-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The latest flights included 20 Chinese fighter jets, four H-6 bombers (a variant of which is nuclear capable), several early warning planes and an anti-submarine aircraft, according to Taiwan's defense ministry.
A defense ministry graphic showed that the planes followed a similar route to previous flights, flying to the southeast between the southern tip Taiwan and the Pratas Islands, which Taipei controls. Some then turned northeast, flying on the far side of the island before backtracking and heading home.
Hong Kong's Tiananmen Square Vigil Is Banned As Authorities Arrest Organizers
Hong Kong's Tiananmen Square Vigil Is Banned As Authorities Arrest Organizers
The G-7 statement last week also mentioned Taiwan by name, emphasizing the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. That prompted Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to tweet her thanks.
"#Taiwan is dedicated to maintaining a free & open Indo-Pacific, & will continue to work with our global partners to ensure regional security," she said.
The Biden administration has pledged closer ties with Taiwan, even though the two do not have formal diplomatic relations. The State Department has urged Beijing to stop efforts to intimidate the island and instead to engage in dialogue.
In the Opinion video above, Kunal Kamra, an enormously popular stand-up comedian in India, puts all jokes aside and takes a serious look at his government’s handling of the pandemic. His assessment is withering: He accuses the nation’s leadership, especially an overconfident Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of putting political vanity before common sense and opening the door to a devastating resurgence of coronavirus infections that have devastated the country.
India has been struggling for weeks amid this second wave, which has sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands and overwhelmed the nation’s health care system. At the peak of the crisis, new infections numbered about 400,000 a day, a record-breaking pace.
Since then, the daily counts of infections and deaths have dropped. But Mr. Kamra says that had Mr. Modi and other political leaders responded more quickly and more effectively, a lot of lives and heartache would have been spared.
“My people are needlessly dying,” Mr. Kamra says. “Our government has blood on its hands.”
Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are among titans chasing almost Iimitless energy source
Sam Altman became a tech sensation this year as the CEO of OpenAI, the artificial-intelligence startup that seems pulled from science fiction.
But Mr. Altman, who has been among Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors for more than a decade, has placed one of the biggest bets of his career on a company that might be even more futuristic: a nuclear-fusion startup called Helion Energy Inc.
He is one of a number of tech founders and billionaires who hope to harness the process that powers the sun and stars to deliver almost limitless energy. Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Bill Gates and Marc Benioff are among those betting that the decadeslong goal of building fusion reactors is now within years of being reality.
Mr. Benioff calls fusion a “tremendous dream.”
“It’s the holy grail. It’s the mythical unicorn,” said Mr. Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce Inc., who invested in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinout called Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which aims to create compact power plants. Mr. Gates is also an investor.
Fusion has long been seen as a clean-energy alternative to sources that burn fossil fuels and release greenhouse gases. Other technologies and applications being developed in the race for fusion power include powerful magnets, better lasers or radiation therapy for cancer research.
Fusion, Mr. Benioff added, “has no limits if you can get it to work.”
Developers mostly in the U.S., Canada and Europe have been riding a wave of momentum since August 2021, when scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory came close to achieving more energy in a fusion reaction than was put in with lasers, a goal known as net gain.
Many grew to believe that a breakthrough was imminent. It came in December when the national lab achieved net gain for the first time.
Nuclear fusion occurs when two light atomic nuclei merge to form a single heavier one. That process releases huge amounts of energy, no carbon emissions and limited radioactivity, but companies would have to sustain fusion reactions and engineer a way to turn that energy into net power.
The old saw about fusion is that it is a mirage years away and always will be. It is a long-shot bet even with the high-risk world of venture funding.
Mr. Benioff said he was persuaded by Vinod Khosla, the Sun Microsystems co-founder who was an early investor in private fusion, historically the province of academia and national labs.
Mr. Khosla’s interest hinged on the ability to build a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet. He spent 15 months on due diligence and hired three teams to evaluate the design before investing.
He thinks that several fusion designs should be tested and is investing in another firm, Realta Fusion, a spinout from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Even if one of them can work, the planet is much better off is how I look at it,” he said.
As an investor, Mr. Khosla sees fusion this way: “Financially either you lose one times your money or you can make a thousand times your money,” Mr. Khosla said. “That’s the math of fusion.”
Industrial firms, major oil companies and sovereign-wealth funds are backing efforts along with the Department of Defense, which is in search of a toaster-sized power system for satellite propulsion.
“There’s a reasonable probability at least one, maybe two companies will demonstrate fusion conditions in this decade,” said Ernest Moniz, who is the chief executive of the nonprofit research group Energy Futures Initiative and a former U.S. Energy Secretary.
Mr. Moniz, a physicist, said that improvements in large-scale machine learning have sped experiments and helped several companies achieve or approach the extreme temperatures and pressures needed for fusion reactions.