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Race to Net Zero

Your weekly CogX briefing on green tech and the future of energy
The week's developments in green tech & energy policy, explained | 06.01.24

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The Panama Canal, now starved by extreme droughts, offers startling proof of how profoundly climate change can disrupt global trade flows. As water levels drop, vessel transits through this critical shipping lane have been sharply restricted. But even as emergency measures are taken, fixing the climate-battered canal will take years and cost billions — if it's at all possible.


Elsewhere, startups and VCs anticipate 2024 to be a pivotal year for AI to accelerate climate action and boost renewable energy growth. However, its true impact may well hinge on how effectively these technologies integrate with market demand. Plus, banks continue their green pivot, generating over $3 billion from sustainable financing for the second consecutive year.


We hope you enjoy these stories and more below.



CogX Must Reads

 


Top Stories


🚢 Climate crisis threatens the Panama Canal. Prolonged drought and infrastructure issues caused severe delays at the Panama Canal in 2023. With water levels plummeting, fixing the problem could take many years — and cost billions.


🤖 Can AI accelerate climate action? In 2024, startup founders and VCs anticipate AI to significantly improve emissions tracking and boost renewable energy growth. Effective climate action, experts warn, will hinge on coordinated global policies and tech investments.



The cost of global damage from natural disasters


Since the 1980s, the cost of global damage from natural disasters has skyrocketed, disproportionately affecting low-income countries with severe economic losses. But while COP28 has delivered some positive steps in the form of a new climate disaster fund, more action is needed.



 

Climate Change


🐋 Toxic smoke is likely poisoning Killer Whales. A new study found killer whales are being exposed to harmful pollutants from wildfires and fossil fuels. The rise in climate-driven wildfires is leading to increased contamination of marine life, posing a significant threat to orca populations.


🥤 Consumer reports finds plastic chemicals in food. A recent study found 99% of food products contained "plasticizers", a chemical used to make plastic more durable. Experts are urging regulators to reassess the safety of plastics in food production, citing potential health risks.


🌍 2023's global disaster costs: Thunderstorms and earthquakes in 2023 led to $250 billion in global damages, a new study finds. Despite there being no mega-disasters in developed countries, the year recorded “extremely high” damages, signalling a rising trend in weather-related events.

 

Stat of the week 


By 2025, over


250 million tonnes


of plastic will likely enter the oceans. (Ocean Conservancy)


 

Green Tech


🔋 New AI-found material could slash lithium reliance by 70%, study shows. Microsoft researchers have harnessed AI and supercomputing to rapidly screen potential battery materials. Their top discovery, N2116 — a solid-state electrolyte — shows promise as a viable alternative to lithium.


⚡ UK’s wind energy boom: In December, wind energy in the UK reached a historic high, accounting for 41% of power generation and surpassing gas. While this marked a significant stride towards the UK's net zero emissions target, there is growing concern about the increasing dependence on intermittent energy sources.


 

 

 In case you missed it


Data scientist Hannah Ritchie analyses the latest environmental data and trends, unpacking the nuances behind sustainability progress and examining how society can urgently accelerate the transition to a livable world.




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