Climate

The IPCC to humanity: We can’t wait for carbon dioxide removal to save us

The latest climate report, dubbed an “atlas of human suffering,” also warns that we need to cut carbon with the tools we have rather than waiting for a silver bullet.

Sign that says "There is no Planet B"

The IPCC's report shows we need to act right now.

Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Do you like having a habitable climate? If so, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a few tips on how to keep it that way.

The world’s leading body of climate scientists dropped its latest report on Monday. There’s no shortage of bad news in it, including the fact that current climate policies could still result in up to nearly 30% of all species being wiped off the face of the Earth, and up to $12.7 trillion (yes, that’s a T) in coastal assets is at risk of inundation by the end of this century under a middle-of-the-road scenario. As your friendly climate correspondent, I would normally keep going down that road. But not today, Satan.

Instead, I want to talk about the good parts of the IPCC. Well, “good.” The report shows that we still have a choice to address climate change. Importantly, it lays out that we also have the technology needed right now — and that if we wait for some silver bullet that venture capital is increasingly investing in, we could face serious harm.

This iteration of the IPCC focuses on how to adapt our entire world for a new climate. That includes the energy system. It finds that we can not just reduce the impacts of climate change by investing in renewable and decentralized energy systems by cutting carbon pollution, but we can also reduce society’s vulnerability to climate change.

There are already myriad examples to point to, from Puerto Ricans with rooftop solar who had power after Hurricane Maria to some Tesla owners using their cars to stay warm during last year’s Texas blackouts. (Both those disasters also show the vulnerabilities of a fossil fuel-powered grid.) These types of distributed power systems are just the tip of the iceberg. The IPCC also references microgrids, basically self-contained grids that can power neighborhoods, as another tool that can keep the lights on and reduce air pollution, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

These are not exactly splashy solutions, though no shade to solar panels. Instead, we’ve seen an increasing interest, particularly among venture capitalists, in carbon dioxide removal. The full 3,675-page report notes that all the scenarios the IPCC runs where we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — a target that’s crucial to the continued existence of small island states and millions of other people around the world — require some form of carbon dioxide removal to stabilize the climate. However, the report warns of “trade-offs” and the risk of maladaptation if we put too many eggs in the carbon removal basket.

There are lots of ways to suck carbon dioxide from the sky. Planting trees and growing kelp are some of the more natural ways to do it. Other options focus on new, unproven technologies that pull the climate pollutant from the air. While we need to figure out how to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at scale, the report shows there are a few pitfalls.

Marc Benioff has pushed the idea of planting 1 trillion trees. I love forests as much as the next person — I was a freaking park ranger — but figuring out where to put those trees is a whole other story. Tree planting at the scale needed to reduce carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere could mean turning farmland into forests, which would have an impact on food security. If the past is any prologue, it’s not like the world has a great track record of ensuring burdens are shouldered equitably, meaning that a tree-planting program could fall on the Global South.

There are also questions on what exactly all those trees would look like; would it be a monocrop focused solely on sucking up carbon dioxide that kills local biodiversity? Would local communities get a say in what gets planted? These are big questions, ones the world needs to collectively answer before pursuing what’s essentially a planetary terraforming experiment.

Any kind of solution like that is years — if not decades — away. The report also shows we need to act right now, and that doing so with the technology we have will pay dividends by reducing the effects of climate change and improving resilience to the more violent weather already in the pipeline.

The real world offers a similar lesson. Oil and gas have become a central discussion as the world grapples with the Russian war against Ukraine. Europe is hooked on Russian gas, and sanctions against the petrostate have so far skirted the industry. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels isn’t just good for the climate; it can also help improve resiliency and curtail the power of Russia and other authoritarian states that have oil-dependent economies. As if we needed another reason to kick fossil fuels to the curb.

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

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Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

While there remains debate among economists about whether we are officially in a full-blown recession, the signs are certainly there. Like most executives right now, the outlook concerns me.

In any case, businesses aren’t waiting for the official pronouncement. They’re already bracing for impact as U.S. inflation and interest rates soar. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 — the highest increase since November 1981 — and the Federal Reserve is targeting an interest rate of 3% by the end of this year.

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Nancy Sansom

Nancy Sansom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Versapay, the leader in Collaborative AR. In this role, she leads marketing, demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, events, brand, content marketing and communications. She has more than 20 years of experience running successful product and marketing organizations in high-growth software companies focused on HCM and financial technology. Prior to joining Versapay, Nancy served on the senior leadership teams at PlanSource, Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter.

Policy

SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Enterprise

These two AWS vets think they can finally solve enterprise blockchain

Vendia, founded by Tim Wagner and Shruthi Rao, wants to help companies build real-time, decentralized data applications. Its product allows enterprises to more easily share code and data across clouds, regions, companies, accounts, and technology stacks.

“We have this thesis here: Cloud was always the missing ingredient in blockchain, and Vendia added it in,” Wagner (right) told Protocol of his and Shruthi Rao's company.

Photo: Vendia

The promise of an enterprise blockchain was not lost on CIOs — the idea that a database or an API could keep corporate data consistent with their business partners, be it their upstream supply chains, downstream logistics, or financial partners.

But while it was one of the most anticipated and hyped technologies in recent memory, blockchain also has been one of the most failed technologies in terms of enterprise pilots and implementations, according to Vendia CEO Tim Wagner.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Fintech

Kraken's CEO got tired of being in finance

Jesse Powell tells Protocol the bureaucratic obligations of running a financial services business contributed to his decision to step back from his role as CEO of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kraken is going through a major leadership change after what has been a tough year for the crypto powerhouse, and for departing CEO Jesse Powell.

The crypto market is still struggling to recover from a major crash, although Kraken appears to have navigated the crisis better than other rivals. Despite his exchange’s apparent success, Powell found himself in the hot seat over allegations published in The New York Times that he made insensitive comments on gender and race that sparked heated conversations within the company.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

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