Economy

Big investors target Asia utilities in wake of Exxon, Shell successes

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

As much as 10% of the world’s giant sequoia trees were destroyed by a single wildfire that swept through California’s Sequoia National Forest last summer, a new draft report from the National Park Service shows. Satellite images were used to show the damage done to the ancient trees by the Castle Fire, which burned 273 square miles in the Sequoia National Park, above. “The loss of 7,500 to 10,600 large giant sequoias, many of which are likely thousands of years old, is devastating,” the study’s lead author, Christy Brigham, chief of resources management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, told CNN. “These trees are irreplaceable in our lifetimes.” Sequoias are among the most efficient plants at sequestering carbon. They evolved to withstand low intensity fires and in fact rely on them to release seeds from their pinecones.

The devastating impact of climate change, in this case through wildfires, is dramatically illustrated in the photo and map above, with thousands of ancient Sequoia trees destroyed last year in California.

An equally striking image was conveyed over the weekend to the finance ministers at their G7 meeting a half-world away in Cornwall, England. As the ministers debated whether to impose stricter climate reporting mandates in their countries, research from Oxfam and Swiss Re was presented showing that on current global warming trajectories, the world’s economy will lose almost 10% a year in GDP within 30 years.

To put that in perspective, it would be the equivalent economic impact of two global Covid pandemics — every year.

Emerging markets such as India, Brazil and South Korea could lose as much as 25% of their economic output. While Germany, Canada and the U.S. would suffer less, the report said. That’s if you don’t count the sequoias, of course.

While the finance ministers made headway in addressing issues such as the impact of environmental crime on climate change, and the money laundering that goes with it, they stopped short of a rigid mandate on climate reporting for banks and companies. Instead, they gave it a nod and a shove down the road, indicating support that such a deal would be more powerful if announced at COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

Perhaps, but with that type of economic impact, there’s no time to waste. Even if you’re a thousand-year-old tree.

More insights below. . . .

Monday’s subscriber insights: A sampling of our best analysis

. . . . Investor pressure on energy companies has begun to pay dividends in the U.S. and Europe, but not so much in Asia, where utilities are responsible for about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Now a new group of global asset managers, flush from success in moving Exxon and Shell toward transition, has drawn up a target list of who to go after first. Read more here. . . .

. . . . The race for expanded battery power to run the world’s expanding fleet of electric vehicles is starting to generate a new issue — how to recycle the batteries once they’re done. More than 8 million tons of battery scrap is forecast by 2040, making recycling as important an opportunity as EVs themselves. Read more here. . . .

Editor’s picks: Hot blueberries, Toyota’s new climate fund, and United’s new supersonic jets

Warming threatens Maine’s blueberries

Maine’s blueberry fields are warming more quickly than other parts of the state, scientists say, and as a result, the berry crop and farmers face greater risks. The Associated Press reports the rising temperatures have decreased water, according to a group of scientists who are affiliated with the University of Maine. Some 40 years of data show a 1.1°C. increase in average temperature, but the blueberry fields of Down East Maine experienced an increase of 1.3°C. Lack of water could result in smaller crop sizes and blueberries that are less likely to survive to be harvested, researchers said.

Toyota launches $150 million climate venture fund

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) has created a $150 million global venture fund it says will strengthen its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality. The Toyota Ventures Climate Fund, according to a company statement, will “invest in promising early-stage companies around the world that are eagerly working on solutions to drive innovation in carbon neutrality.” The fund will be managed by the team at Toyota AI Ventures, which is changing its name to Toyota Ventures, or TV, and the company plans to grow assets under management to $500 million. Toyota Ventures will serve as the fund manager of the new climate fund on behalf of Toyota.

United buying 15 ultrafast planes from start-up Boom Supersonic

United (UAL) is buying 15 of Boom Supersonic’s Overture airliners, with an option for an additional 35 aircraft, the airline said. The companies said Overture is expected to be the first large commercial aircraft to be net-zero carbon from day one, optimized to run on 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). It is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and carry passengers by 2029. United and Boom will also work together to accelerate production of greater supplies of SAF. Boom Supersonic says passenger service is scheduled to start in 2029 with a plane that could fly at Mach 1.7 and cut some flight times in half.

Data driven: Seaside life

. . . . Ocean-based tourism and recreation has contributed approximately $124 billion in gross domestic product to the national economy each year. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tourism and recreation support a wide range of businesses in the nation’s shore-adjacent zip codes, from restaurants, hotels, aquariums, and marinas to boat manufacturers and sporting goods stores. While many of these businesses were devastated by the pandemic, tourists are returning and doors are reopening. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management says the ocean-based tourism and recreation sector has historically employed more Americans than the entire real estate industry, as well as more people than building construction and telecommunications combined. This is National Ocean Month. Check out data, news and ways to celebrate our oceans. . . .

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