The Biden administration issued guidance to states on Tuesday that it said will ensure the country’s largest-ever investment in water infrastructure doesn’t bypass disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental hazards like pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s guidance memo applies to $43 billion in the infrastructure bill for making drinking water cleaner, improving sewage treatment and replacing lead pipes. The agency said the memo helps the Biden Administration meet its goal of addressing environmental needs in communities that often have high rates of poverty and unemployment.
The money will be distributed over five years and boost programs that give states and territories broad discretion in funding water projects — but with some parameters on how the money should be used. For example, the memo said nearly half of the $15 billion for lead pipe replacements must go to disadvantaged communities.
With the last vestiges of a three-week occupation gradually clearing out of downtown Ottawa, and at least one key convoy organizer showing up in court wearing an “I [heart] Oil and Gas” hoodie, a former federal environment minister is pointing to parallels between two of the urgent, science-based issues the country faces—the pandemic and the climate emergency.
“On the negative side, we’re seeing the role of disinformation. We see it on climate. We’ve seen it about vaccines,” said Catherine McKenna, who served as environment and climate minister from 2015 to 2019 and took waves of vitriolic abuse for her efforts.
“Folks may be wondering why I’m tweeting up a storm about what’s going on in Ottawa,” she told The Energy Mix in an interview last week. “It’s because I worry about democracy. We’re not going to get climate action unless we have a government that represents the people who are demanding that action.”
The Winter Olympics is an adrenaline rush as athletes fly down snow-covered ski slopes, luge tracks and over the ice at breakneck speeds and with grace.
When the first Olympic Winter Games were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, all 16 events took place outdoors. The athletes relied on natural snow for ski runs and freezing temperatures for ice rinks.
Nearly a century later, in 2022, the world watched skiers race down runs of 100% human-made snow near Beijing. Luge tracks and ski jumps have their own refrigeration, and four of the original events are now held indoors: Figure skaters, speed skaters, curlers and hockey teams all compete in climate-controlled buildings.
Innovation made the 2022 Winter Games possible in Beijing, but snowmaking can go only so far in a warming climate.
As global temperatures rise, what will the Winter Games look like in another century? Will they even be possible?
Former host cities that would be too warm
The average daytime temperature of Winter Games host cities in February has increased steadily since those first events in Chamonix, rising from 33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 C) in the 1920s-1950s to 46 F (7.8 C) in the early 21st century.
They found that by midcentury, four former host cities – Chamonix; Sochi, Russia; Grenoble, France; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – would no longer have a reliable climate for hosting the Games, even under the United Nations’ best-case scenario for climate change, which assumes the world quickly cuts its greenhouse gas emissions. If the world continues burning fossil fuels at high rates, Squaw Valley, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, would join that list.
By the 2080s, the scientists found, the climates in 11 of 21 former venues would be too unreliable to host the Winter Olympics’ outdoor events; among them were Turin, Italy; Nagano, Japan; and Innsbruck, Austria.
These venues would all be susceptible to problems associated with snowmaking.
Of the 15 Winter Games sports today, seven are affected by temperature and snow: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping and snowboarding. And three are affected by temperature and humidity: bobsled, luge and skeleton.
Today, initiatives are exploring ways to make skiing possible year-round with indoor skiing facilities. Ski Dubai, open since 2005, has five ski runs on a hill the height of a 25-story building inside a resort attached to a shopping mall.
But making snow and keeping it cold requires energy and water – and both become issues in a warming world. Water becomes more scarce in many areas. And energy, if it means more fossil fuel use, further contributes to climate change.
The Summer Games also face challenges. Hot temperatures and high humidity can make competing in the summer difficult, but these sports have more flexibility than winter sports.
For example, changing the timing of typical summer events to another season can help alleviate excessive temperatures. The 2022 World Cup, normally a summer event, is scheduled for November so Qatar can host it.
What makes adaptation more difficult for the Winter Games is the necessity of snow or ice for all of the events.
People are thrilled by the athletic feats, like Jean-Claude Killy winning all three Alpine skiing events in 1968, and stories of perseverance, like the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team competing beyond all expectation.
Since Sustainability is a topic on all retailers’ minds, I thought it would be helpful to put the whole subject into perspective with some eye-opening data from a recent report First Insight produced in partnership with the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. First Insight published a similarly themed report in early 2020, and the changes in consumer thinking that have transpired in just a few years are nothing short of remarkable. The brands and retailers who begin to integrate these generational preferences now will be the ones best prepared for the future.
Since 2019, as more Gen Zers have matured into young adults, their collective voice has become a greater force within the world at large. This demographic cohort comprises young people born after 1997, meaning that the oldest members of this generation turn 25 this year. Also known as the “Tik Tok” generation, they are profoundly committed to making choices that align with their values. Often these choices put the health of the planet first, and include cutting down on consumption, reducing one’s carbon footprint, supporting small batch producers and local businesses, participating in the circular economy, and purchasing previously owned—not new—items. No generation before them has shown the same widespread commitment to any societal issue since the Boomers were protesting the Vietnam war in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Retailers and brands need to pay close attention, because by 2031, Bank of America predicts that Gen Z’s income will surpass that of their next older generation, Millennials, and they will become “the most disruptive generation ever.”
REMADE aims to make a circular economy happen—and soon. In December 2021, the institute awarded $33.2 million to 23 new research projects. Three of those teams include advanced manufacturing experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). According to the REMADE Institute, these 23 projects could eliminate carbon emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 5.2 million cars.
For their three projects, NREL researchers will help create a new college-level course, collect better data to understand barriers to recycling, and develop best practices for recycling solar panels.
Around the world, supply chains are under stress – from pandemic shutdowns, labor shortages, political crises, and more – which means more food is at risk of going to waste. ReFED is gathering a panel of experts, including Linda Dunn from Georgetown University’s Supply Chain Management Program, Eric Woods from Sysco, and Dana Yost from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, to discuss what can be done to address these challenges.
Scientists have produced a map showing where the world’s major food crops should be grown to maximise yield and minimise environmental impact. This would capture large amounts of carbon, increase biodiversity, and cut agricultural use of freshwater to zero.