IEA: Coronavirus ‘accelerating closure’ of ageing fossil-fuelled power plants

IEA: Coronavirus ‘accelerating closure’ of ageing fossil-fuelled power plants

Josh Gabbatiss, Carbon Brief, 27 May 2020

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This year will see the largest ever drop globally in both investment and consumer spending on energy as the coronavirus pandemic hits every major sector, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The crisis is accelerating the shutdown of older fossil-fuelled power plants and refineries, with the agency saying it could provide an opportunity to push the global energy sector onto a “more resilient, secure and sustainable path”.

In the latest edition of the World Energy Investment report, which Carbon Brief has covered in previous years, the IEA has gone beyond its usual remit of reviewing annual trends. 

Its analysis looks ahead to the coming year and estimates the impact of this year’s economic turmoil on energy investment, which was expected to grow by around 2% prior to Covid-19. It is now expected to drop by 20%, or almost $400bn.

Meanwhile, as demand and prices collapse, consumer spending on oil is expected to drop by more than $1tn, prompting a “historic switch” as spending on electricity exceeds oil for the first time.

Here, Carbon Brief has picked out some key charts to illustrate the economic repercussions of the pandemic across the energy sector.

Energy investment will drop by a fifth

The “baseline expectation” for 2020 is a global recession resulting from widespread lockdowns, according to the IEA. Last month, the agency estimated this will also lead to CO2 emissions dropping by 8% this year in the largest decline ever recorded.

Based on the latest investment data and project information, announcements from companies and governments, interviews with industry figures and its own analysis, the IEA concludes such a recession will see energy investment drop by a fifth. This can be seen in the chart below.

Energy investment is set to fall by a fifth in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fuel supply (red) includes all investments associated with the production and provision of fuels to consumers, consisting mainly of oil, gas and coal investments. Power sector (blue) includes spending on power-generation technologies, grids and storage. Energy end use and efficiency (yellow) includes the investment in efficiency improvements across all end-use sectors. Source: IEA
Energy investment is set to fall by a fifth in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fuel supply (red) includes all investments associated with the production and provision of fuels to consumers, consisting mainly of oil, gas and coal investments. Power sector (blue) includes spending on power-generation technologies, grids and storage. Energy end use and efficiency (yellow) includes the investment in efficiency improvements across all end-use sectors. Source: IEA

These estimates are based on assumptions about the duration of lockdowns and coronavirus recovery trajectories.

The IEA notes that “almost all” investment activity has been disrupted by these measures, as a result of restrictions to the movement of people, goods and equipment. 

However, the largest impacts are the result of declines in revenues due to falling demand and prices, with the clearest example coming from the oil sector. Analysis of daily data until mid-April suggests countries in full lockdown have seen energy demand drop by a quarter.

As a result, the agency also estimates that these factors, combined with a rise in cases of people not paying their energy bills, will see revenues going to both governments and industry fall by over $1tn this year.

Crisis ‘accelerating’ shift from low-efficiency technologies

Every year energy infrastructure is retired and replaced with new equipment. Typically, the replacement technologies will be cleaner and more efficient, although this is not always the case. 

The coronavirus crisis is expected to have an impact on this rate of turnover and, indeed, it is already contributing to the retirement of some older power plants and facilities, as the chart below illustrates.

The Covid-19 crisis is hastening the retirement (light blue) of some older plants and facilities, but also impacting consumer spending on new and more efficient technologies (dark blue), with the potential for a net decrease (yellow dot) in upstream oil-and-gas facilities. Source: IEA.
The Covid-19 crisis is hastening the retirement (light blue) of some older plants and facilities, but also impacting consumer spending on new and more efficient technologies (dark blue), with the potential for a net decrease (yellow dot) in upstream oil-and-gas facilities. Source: IEA.

The economic downturn and “surfeit of productive capacity in some areas” as overall demand plummets is already “accelerating” the closure and idling or inefficient technologies, including refineries and some coal-fired power plants.

However, the IEA warns that equally governments might respond to the pandemic by underinvesting in new technologies and remaining reliant on inefficient, older technology. The agency estimates efficiency investment could drop by 10-15% as spending is cut back.

The report warns that policymakers should keep these elements in mind and “combine economic recovery with energy and climate goals”. Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement that while the pandemic has brought lower emissions it has been “for all the wrong reasons”:

“The response of policymakers – and the extent to which energy and sustainability concerns are integrated into their recovery strategies – will be critical.”

Clean energy spending ‘relatively resilient’

The share of global energy spending going towards clean energy, including renewables as well as nuclear and efficiency improvements, has been flat-lining at around one-third for the past few years.

As the chart below shows, this is likely to change this year as clean energy’s share edges closer to two-fifths of overall spending.

Breakdown of clean energy investment by sector in USD (left x-axis), with the % overall share (right x-axis) of spending indicated by a grey line. Source: IEA.

Clean energy investment is expected to remain “relatively resilient” this year, with spending on renewable projects falling by a comparatively small 10%. 

However, according to the IEA, the main reason for clean energy increasing its share is that fossil fuels are set to take such a “heavy hit”. In absolute terms, spending on these technologies is “far below levels” required to accelerate energy transitions.

The agency notes that investment trends have long been “poorly aligned” with the world’s needs and are still set to fall short of the future it has outlined in its benchmark Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

Last year’s edition of the World Energy Investment report concluded that investment in low-carbon energy sources must more than double by 2030 if the world is to meet its Paris Agreement targets.

While the slowdown in clean energy spending is less significant, it still “risks undermining the much-needed transition to more resilient and sustainable energy systems,” according to Birol.

Power sector hit hard

International power investment is set to drop by 10% as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the agency. 

Virtually every component of the sector is expected to see a decline in investment, with hydro the only exception, as the chart below demonstrates.

Global investment in the power sector by technology, with figures from the previous three years and estimates for 2020 (yellow). Source: IEA.
Global investment in the power sector by technology, with figures from the previous three years and estimates for 2020 (yellow). Source: IEA.

Increases in residential electricity demand around the world during lockdown are being “far outweighed” by reductions in commercial and industrial operations, the agency reports. A 9% decline in spending on electricity networks this year is also expected.

The IEA says some parts of power investment are more exposed, specifically fossil fuel-based generation. 

Meanwhile, higher shares of renewables are being dispatched due to low operating costs and priority access to networks. Nevertheless, renewables are still taking a hit, particularly distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) as households and companies cut back on spending.

Technologies with a longer lead time, notably offshore wind and hydropower, are expected to do better despite some delays.

Electricity spending pulls ahead of oil

Oil accounts for most of the decline in revenues expected this year. Furthermore, in a “historic switch” consumer spending on electricity could exceed spending on oil for the first time ever. 

While power-sector revenues are expected to fall by $180bn, oil spending will likely drop by at least $1tn. This can be seen in the chart on the left below. Taken together, investment in oil and gas is expected to fall by almost a third in 2020. 

Both global end-use spending by consumers on energy (left) and estimated 2020 investment compared to 2019 show oil is expected to see the biggest decline in investment activity this year. Source: IEA.

The decline in aviation and road transport, which represent nearly 60% of oil demand, are responsible for this disproportionate decline.

Meanwhile, the impact on gas has so far been more moderate, but could fall further due to reduced demand in power and industry settings.

The report also highlights the global shale sector, which was already under pressure, as being particularly vulnerable. 

With investor confidence and access to capital in decline, the IEA predicts shale investment will halve in 2020 and notes the outlook for “highly leveraged shale players in the US” is now “bleak”.

Coal decline given a ‘floor’ by China

Coal is estimated to be the fuel hardest hit by the crisis after oil. Coal demand could drop by 8% this year, investment in coal supply is set to fall by a quarter and spending on new coal-fired plants is set to fall by around 11%.

However, any decline in coal’s fortunes may be curtailed by the recovery of demand for the fossil fuel in China. According to the IEA, investment activity there “may put a floor” under further reductions in coal-power investment this year.

The nation’s focus on coal is illustrated in the chart below, which shows final investment decisions (FIDs) dropping to their lowest levels in a decade, but China providing virtually all of them in the year so far.

Coal-fired power generation capacity (GW) subject to a final investment decision (FID), with China coloured in green. Source: IEA.
Coal-fired power generation capacity (GW) subject to a final investment decision (FID), with China coloured in green. Source: IEA.

Using data available so far, the IEA notes that approvals for new coal plants in the first quarter of 2020, were “running at twice the rate observed over 2019 as a whole”, primarily in China.

Electric vehicle sales rising as overall market contracts

Last year was a difficult time for the car industry, with total sales growth slowing in all major regions and turning negative in China and the US.

However, this “turbulent” period for the industry is “likely to appear mild” in comparison with 2020, according to the IEA. 

Lockdowns have already severely impacted sales and, across the year, the agency estimates a drop of around 15% – dramatic even compared to the 10% drop that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Negative trends in overall car sales can be seen in the right-hand chart below.

Global sales of electric passenger vehicles – cars, vans and small trucks – and market share, indicated by a red line (left chart). Total light-duty vehicle sales (right). Source: IEA.
Global sales of electric passenger vehicles – cars, vans and small trucks – and market share, indicated by a red line (left chart). Total light-duty vehicle sales (right). Source: IEA.

However, even though electric vehicle sales followed wider patterns and stalled in 2019 largely due to declining Chinese purchases, their overall market share continued to climb. 

This can be seen in the chart on the left, which shows that electric cars are expected to go against the broader trend in 2020. The IEA estimates that owing to policy support, particularly in Europe, electric vehicle sales will increase this year, as will their share of the market (indicated by the red line).

Battery storage spending fell as prices dropped

Investment in battery storage fell for the first time last year, as the chart below shows. Overall, spending on grid-scale and behind-the-meter batteries fell by 15%, with overall investment just above $4bn.

Investment in both grid-scale (left) and behind-the-meter battery storage (right). Source: IEA.
Investment in both grid-scale (left) and behind-the-meter battery storage (right). Source: IEA.

The IEA states this decline took place as costs for battery storage fell rapidly, a trend the agency attributes to maturing supply chains and markets, more efficient production and competition within the sector.

The report mentions fires at energy storage installations in South Korea and regulation uncertainty in China as some of the factors behind the decline in interest last year.

Declining behind-the-meter battery spending also reflects the distributed solar PV market, for which investment slowed last year in a trend expected to continue as consumer spending drops off due to coronavirus.

The agency notes that grid-scale battery investments are also expected to decline this year against the backdrop of a general decrease in power activity. 

However, it says this setback “is likely to be shortlived” due to the technology’s growing importance for system security and flexibility. 

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IEA: Coronavirus ‘accelerating closure’ of ageing fossil-fuelled power plants

Josh Gabbatiss, Carbon Brief, 27 May 2020

Published under a CC license. Carbon Brief welcomes the reproduction of unadapted material in full for non-commercial use, credited ‘Carbon Brief’ with a link to the article.

Q&A: Could climate change and biodiversity loss raise the risk of pandemics?

Q&A: Could climate change and biodiversity loss raise the risk of pandemics?

Daisy Dunne, Carbon Brief, 15 May 2020

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Across the world, millions of people have tested positive for Covid-19 – and countless more have seen their lifestyles completely transformed as a result of the virus.

It is not yet known exactly what triggered the current outbreak, but researchers suspect that the virus passed from bats to humans through an unknown intermediary animal, possibly a pangolin.

Politicians in the UK have called this pandemic a “once-in-a-century” crisis. But scientists have warned that the ongoing disturbance of species through human activities and climate change could be raising the risk of potentially pandemic-causing diseases passing from animals to humans.

The study of the “spillover” of disease from animals to humans has received renewed focus in light of the pandemic. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a major international collaboration of climate scientists – is now looking into how the influence of warming on such events could be included in its next major climate report due next year.

In this explainer, Carbon Brief examines what is known about how climate change and biodiversity disturbance, including habitat loss and human-animal conflict, could influence the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans.

How does an animal-to-human disease spillover turn to a pandemic?

When humans come into contact with other animals, they can pass harmful pathogens between one another. The passing of an infection or disease from a vertebrate animal to a human is known as a “zoonosis”, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (Vertebrate animals include mammals, birds and reptiles, but not insects, such as mosquitoes.)

Such diseases have a major impact on health, accounting for two-thirds of all human infectious diseases and three out of four newly emerging diseases.

Serious diseases that have spilled over from animals to humans include Ebola in Africa, Marburg in Europe (and subsequently in Africa),  Hendra virus in Australia and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Nipah virus in east Asia. Some have gone on to have a lasting, global impact, such as HIV/AIDS and swine flu (H1N1). The current Covid-19 pandemic was also most likely caused by a spillover.

The number of potentially harmful viruses circulating in mammal and bird populations that have not yet spilled over to humans is estimated to be up to 1.7m, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). (IPBES is an independent group of international researchers monitoring biodiversity issues).

The spillover of disease from animals to people can happen in many ways, including directly through animal bites, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal meat or products such as milk, or through contaminated water. Diseases can also spread indirectly if humans come into contact with a surface that has been contaminated by an infected animal. Both wild animals and livestock can pass on disease.

A mouse opossum (Marmosa sp.) raids the trash in Peru. Credit: Anton Sorokin / Alamy Stock Photo
A mouse opossum (Marmosa sp.) raids the trash in Peru. Credit: Anton Sorokin / Alamy Stock Photo

(Sometimes, transmission occurs through an intermediary species that can carry the disease without getting sick. Scientists suspect this is how the Covid-19 pandemic started.)

Out in the wild and in settings where humans and animals come into contact, these kinds of interactions happen regularly – and it is rare for one to end with a human being infected by a new disease, explains Dr David Redding, a research fellow at the Zoological Society of London. He tells Carbon Brief:

“There are lots of different factors that need to all overlap at the same time for there to be a contact that is both effective in terms of transferring a live pathogenic organism and then also for that very rare situation where that pathogen has an adaptation that allows it to invade our immune system.”

Even if a disease is effectively transmitted from an animal to a person, it is unlikely that they will then pass it on to someone else, he adds:

“I would say most – possibly 99% – of all diseases that are caused in that way can’t then be passed on. So we’ve got another ‘filter’ that dictates that people have to be infected in a particular way that allows them to shed viruses effectively to other people.”

This “virus shedding” can happen in various ways. Like other respiratory diseases, Covid-19 can be transmitted when a carrier coughs or sneezes in close proximity to another person. (Scientists are still debating whether the virus can also be passed on in other ways.)

The ability of the new pathogen to spread directly from person to person is a key ingredient for a disease to take hold in a population, Redding says. (Some animal-borne diseases require a vector to spread from person to person, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.)

An illness outbreak is said to become an “epidemic” when its impact on people in a single community or region is “clearly in excess of normal expectancy”, according to the WHO. The term “pandemic” describes the worldwide spread of a new disease. (When a disease is “endemic” it has a continuous presence in a population or area.) 

Since 1900, there have been pandemics at “intervals of several decades”, according to the WHO. The worst in this time period was Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people from 1918-19.

A group of people standing outdoors wearing masks over their mouths, probably taken during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Credit: Niday Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
A group of people standing outdoors wearing masks over their mouths, probably taken during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Credit: Niday Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Prior to Covid-19, every outbreak considered to be a pandemic by the WHO since 1900 has been caused by influenza, a virus that transmits from person to person. Some new strains of flu originate in animals, such as bird flu, but most new strains arise in human populations – and so would not be considered animal-borne.

There are many factors that can determine whether an outbreak reaches epidemic or pandemic status. These include human factors, such as preparedness and early action to prevent the illness from spreading, and also the traits of the pathogen itself, says Redding:

“The characteristics of the pathogen and its ability to spread are two key components in causing these rare events.”

For instance, if the pathogen causes very severe illness, the sufferer is less likely to be able to travel to a new place to pass on the disease, Redding says. This is also the case if the mortality rate is particularly high.

In contrast, if the disease causes mild to undetectable symptoms for at least some sufferers – as is the case with Covid-19 – it is more likely that people will inadvertently spread it to new places, he says.

This may go some way to explaining why previous serious animal-borne disease outbreaks have not reached pandemic status, Redding explains.

Members of a burial team prepare for a burial in Komende Luyama village. Eastern Sierra Leone was a hot spot for Ebola for several months, but eventually authorities managed to bring down infection rates to just a few cases per week. 17 October 2014 Credit: Tommy E Trenchard / Alamy Stock Photo
Members of a burial team prepare for a burial in Komende Luyama village. Eastern Sierra Leone was a hot spot for Ebola for several months, but eventually authorities managed to bring down infection rates to just a few cases per week. 17 October 2014 Credit: Tommy E Trenchard / Alamy Stock Photo

For example, Ebola – a disease initially spread to humans by fruit bats – has caused several serious epidemics in West Africa, but has not established itself on a worldwide scale. It has a mortality rate of around 50%. The mortality rate of Covid-19 is not yet known, though it is likely to be below 10%.

It is also worth noting that the likelihood of a disease turning to a pandemic has been heightened in recent decades by increased global connectivity, particularly through frequent air travel, Redding says:

“Plagues in the medieval times took years to spread across Asia. Whereas we look at today’s outbreaks and we can see that they can spread in hours.”

Overall, for a spillover event to turn into a pandemic, there must be a “perfect storm” of several complex factors all occurring at the same time – which, at present, does not happen very often, says Redding: “I think history shows us that these sort of large outbreaks happen a couple of times a century.”

Could climate change and biodiversity disturbance affect the risk of spillover?

Every new animal-borne disease starts with humans coming into contact with wildlife. And it is likely that climate change and the disturbance of biodiversity could play a role in shaping the frequency, timing and location of these meetings, says Prof Hans-Otto Poertner, head of biosciences at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and co-chair of the impacts chapter of the next major assessment report from the IPCC. He tells Carbon Brief:

“Climate change is clearly a factor that can influence these relationships. Climate change shapes the biogeographical distribution of species. If, in the future, we see species moving into areas where humans are prevalent, we could see new opportunities for pandemics to evolve.”

Research has shown that climate change is shifting where species live, both on land and in the ocean. This is because, as temperatures increase and rainfall levels change, some species are being forced to seek out new areas with climate conditions they are able to tolerate. (Species that are not able to adapt could face extinction.)

A review published in Science in 2017 looking into 40,000 species across the world found that around half are already on the move as a result of changing climate conditions.

In general, species are seeking cooler temperatures by moving towards the Earth’s poles. Land animals are moving polewards at an average rate of 10 miles per decade, whereas marine species are moving at a rate of 45 miles per decade, according to the review.

Dugong feeding in the seagrass bed, Dimakya Island, Palawan, Philippines. Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

However, the movement of animals is complicated by other factors, such as the changing availability of food, the shifting distribution of predators and changing patterns of human land-use, the review says. This makes it difficult to predict exactly where species will move to.

It is likely that the movement of species will have consequences for human health, says Prof Birgitta Evengard, a senior researcher of infectious diseases at Umea University in Sweden, who was one of the authors of the review. She tells Carbon Brief:

“When land-based animals move, they bring with them their [viruses] – and they will spread them.” 

So far, there has not been a great deal of research into how climate change-driven shifts to animal ranges could affect the chances of disease spillover on a global scale, says Poertner.

In one example, a research paper by Redding found that climate change could heighten the risk of new Ebola outbreaks in various parts of Africa by 2070.

This is because climate change could cause regions that are currently desert to become warmer and wetter, leading to the formation of the lush plants that bats use as a habitat. The movement of bats into these new areas could increase contact between them and humans, increasing the chances of disease spillover, the study found.

A fruit bat (flying fox) in Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka. Credit: paul kennedy / Alamy Stock Photo
A fruit bat (flying fox) in Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka. Credit: paul kennedy / Alamy Stock Photo

Another study found that climate change could enhance the risk of spillover of the Hendra virus, an animal-borne disease that can pass from flying foxes to humans through horses, which are also affected by the virus.

The virus was first identified when an outbreak broke out in Hendra, a suburb in Brisbane, Australia, in 1994. Since then, there have been at least eight separate outbreaks along the coast of northern Australia, according to the WHO. It has a mortality rate of 50-75%.

Recorded Hendra virus outbreaks in Australia. Source: WHO

The research found that climate change could cause the geographic range of flying foxes to expand southwards and further inland. “Spillover events could potentially increase farther south, and inland with climate change,” the authors say.

Elsewhere, a recent preprint – a preliminary study that has not yet completed peer review – suggests that climate change could drive substantial global increases in the passing of novel diseases from mammals to humans by 2070.

Using modelling, the study maps where around 4,000 mammals species and the diseases they carry are likely to move to by 2070. It finds mammals are “predicted to aggregate at high elevations, in biodiversity hotspots, and in areas of high human population density in Asia and Africa, sharing novel viruses between 3,000 and 13,000 times”.

The authors add: “Most projected viral sharing is driven by diverse hyper-reservoirs (rodents and bats) and large-bodied predators (carnivores).”

It will be important for the IPCC to include the emerging evidence of how climate change could affect the passing of diseases from animals to humans in its next major assessment report, currently due for release in 2021-22, says Poertner:

“We expect to include aspects as they become apparent from the literature.”

The scale of the impact of climate change on wildlife is currently second only to the damage caused by human land-use change, including deforestation, other types of habitat loss and human-animal conflict.

In its first major assessment on biodiversity published in May 2019, IPBES reported that humans have “significantly altered” 75% of the land surface and 66% of the global ocean. During 2010-15, 32m hectares of natural or recovering forest were cleared by humans. This area is roughly equal to the size of Italy.

As a result of ongoing pressures on biodiversity, around one million species are currently threatened by extinction within decades, the report concluded.

The report noted that ongoing pressures on wildlife are likely to increase contact between animals and humans, altering the chances of disease spillover. In chapter three of the full report, the authors say:

“Complex links between increased human disturbance, land-use change, habitat loss/degradation and biodiversity loss have all been linked to increases in the prevalence and risk of zoonotic [animal-borne] disease for a variety of pathogens.”

However, research into how biodiversity disturbance could affect animal-borne disease risk at a global level has so far been limited, it notes:

“Causal mechanisms are only well known for a handful of infectious diseases and it is sometimes hard to pick apart the drivers of disease to isolate the direct effects of environmental change from other human actions.”

Research has shown that bushmeat huntingdeforestation and the trade of wildlife at markets can heighten the risk of diseases passing between animals and humans.

In 2018, a study warned of a possible link between deforestation in southeast Asia and a heightened risk of spillover of novel coronaviruses from bats to humans. The authors say:

“Owing to evolving land-use, bat populations are setting up in areas closer to human dwellings…This increases the risk of transmission of viruses through direct contact, domestic animal infection, or contamination by urine or faeces.”

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Q&A: Could climate change and biodiversity loss raise the risk of pandemics?

Daisy Dunne, Carbon Brief, 15 May 2020

Published under a CC license. You are welcome to reproduce unadapted material in full for non-commercial use, credited ‘Carbon Brief’ with a link to the article. 

your money, your life, your choice ・ Harvard invests in water

‘Because we believe its physical products are going to be in increasing demand in the global economy over the coming decades,”

Harvard Management Co., the Harvard University endowment manager, likes the natural-resources asset class.

In a warming planet, few resources will be more affected than water, as droughts, storms and changes in evaporation alter a flow critical for drinking, farming, and industry.

Even though there aren’t many ways to make financial investments in water, investors are starting to place bets.

“Buying arable land with access to it is one way.

“In California’s Central Coast, ‘the best property with the best water will sell for record-breaking prices,’ says JoAnn Wall, a real-estate appraiser specializing in vineyards, ‘and properties without adequate water will suffer in value.'”

The Harvard Management Co. has, since 2012, been buying agricultural land, with rights to sources of water, on California’s Central Coast. The idea was pitched to Harvard by agricultural investment advisory firm Grapevine Capital Partners LLC, founded by Matt Turrentine, formerly of his family’s Central Coast grape-brokerage business, and James Ontiveros, a local vineyard manager.

Harvard’s investing guidelines say respecting local resource rights are of increasing importance ‘in the coming decades as competition for scarce resources, such as arable land and water, intensifies due to increasing global population, climate change, and food consumption.’”

Investors who see agriculture as a proxy for betting on water include Michael Burry, a hedge-fund investor who wager against the U.S. housing market was chronicled in the book and movie ‘The Big Short.’ In a 2015 New York Magazine interview, Mr. Burry was quoted as saying: ‘What became clear to me is that food is the way to invest in water. That is, grow food in water-rich areas and transport it for sale in water-poor areas.'”

In California vineyards, the water-proxy math is compelling. When grapes are harvested, about 75% of their weight is water. Owning vineyards effectively turns water into revenue.”

Kat Taylor, an environmentalist and wife of hedge-fund billionaire and liberal activist Tom Steyer, resigned earlier this year from Harvard’s board of overseers in protest of the endowment’s investments in things such as fossil fuels and water holdings she says threaten the human right to water.

‘It may, in the short run, be about developing vineyard properties,’ she says of Harvard’s California investments. ‘In the long run, it was a claim on water.'”

See:

Harvard Amasses Vineyards – and Water. A bet on climate change in California gives it agricultural land and the rights below it,” Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal, 11 December 2018

In Drought-Stricken Central California, Harvard Hopes to Turn Water Into Wine,” Eli W. Burnes and William L. Wang, The Harvard Crimson, 13 April 2018

Michael Burry, Real-Life Market Genius From The Big Short, Thinks Another Financial Crisis Is Looming,” Jessica Pressler, New York Magazine, 28 December 2018

your money, your life, your choice ・ the painting that did not sell

The painting that did not sell.

While there may be a well-established “cartel of taste” (see Anna Louie Sussman’s article “Why You Can’t Always Buy a Work of Art Just Because You Have the Cash,” @artsy, 12 December 2018), market stakeholders can and sometimes do display independent judgment.

Gerhard Richter’s “Schädel” (oil on canvas), the first of a series of eight skull paintings painted in 1983, was held in the same collection for 30 years after a last public exhibition in 1988.

Based on a photograph taken by Richter himself, the painting demonstrates a “dialogue between painterly abstraction and photo-realist representation that had been simmering across separate stands of Richter’s practice for nearly two decades.”

This painting led the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale held at Christie’s London on 4 October 2018.

With an unpublished estimate, the painting was expected to sell for between £12 and £18 million (US$15 – US$23 million).

Bidding reached £11.5 million. The painting was not allowed to change hands.

Note also the instance of Edward Hopper’s 1972 painting, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” that sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 November. It closed narrowly, at what may have been a precisely agreed threshold of $80 million – with what appeared to be Christie’s bidding against itself to reach the sales price.

See:

Why You Can’t Always Buy a Work of Art Just Because You Have the Cash,” Anna Louie Sussman, Artsy, 12 December 2018

Seen for the first time in 30 years: Gerhard Richter’s ‘Schädel’ (‘Skull’),” Christie’s

Gerhard Richter ‘Skull’ to Headline Christie’s Sale in London,” Fang Block, Barron’s, 4 September 2018

Rare Richter’s a Bust, but Christie’s Moves $25.9 M. Bacon, $21 M. Fontana at London Sales,” Judd Tully, Artnews, 4 October 2018

 

your money, your life, your choice | fashion & CO2

It’s really about bringing everyone together as an industry, and instead of having a few people talk about it, it’s having everyone talk about it and the leaders… actually taking responsibility, putting our money where our mouth is and making an amazing change together.”

Stella McCartney, founder of eponymous fashion company and brand

Consumers, investors, and the fashion industry, when deciding how to spend and where to put their money, are demonstrating a commitment to changing lifestyle choices, changing behaviors, redefining value, reducing emissions of atmospheric CO2 and greenhouse gases, and mitigating human-induced climate change.

The broader textile, clothing and fashion industry have worked during 2018 to specify ways in which, drawing on methodologies from the Science-Based Targets Initiative, they can direct themselves towards a holistic commitment to climate action, achieving net-zero emissions of atmospheric CO2 and greenhouse gases by 2050, while expanding economic opportunity and driving economic competitiveness and innovation.

The apparel and footwear industries together accounted in 2016 for an estimated 8.1% of global climate impacts with emissions of 3,990 million metric tons CO2eq (including emissions generated by processes used for raw material extraction, raw material processing, manufacturing, assembly, packaging production, transportation/distribution, and end-of-life).

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation estimates that “if nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.”

It’s really about bringing everyone together as an industry, and instead of having a few people talk about it, it’s having everyone talk about it and the leaders… actually taking responsibility, putting our money where our mouth is and making an amazing change together.”

So observes Stella McCartney while attending an 11 December gala dinner hosted in London by Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. The gala was held to highlight fashion, climate change, climate change mitigation, and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Action, signed in early December.

There is no shortage of capital in the world that wants to go in this direction. The hearts and minds argument of the common man on the street, has been won. My feeling is that what the financial services business needs to do, is to be working with the real innovative companies of today,” said David Fass, Macquarie Group CEO for Europe the Middle East and Africa.

The founding signatories to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Action are: adidas, Aquitex, Arcteryx, Burberry Limited, Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc., H&M Group, Hakro Gmbh., Hugo Boss, Inditex, Kering Group, Lenzing AG, Levi Strauss & Co., Mammut Sports Group AG, Mantis World, Maersk, Otto Group, Pidigi S.P.A, PUMA SE, re:newcell, Schoeller Textiles AG, Peak Performance, PVH Corp., Salomon, Skunkfunk, SLN Textil, Stella McCartney, Sympatex Technologies, Target and Tropic Knits Group.

Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Action, excerpts:

· the Paris Agreement represents a global response to the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global average temperatures to rise at unprecedented rates

· goals agreed in the Paris Agreement translate to reaching climate neutrality [read: reduced to zero emissions of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases from sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, use, and end-of-life of materials and products; reduced to zero use of hydrocarbon-based sources of energy in operations, manufacturing, distribution, retail, transport, etc.] in the second half of the twenty-first century. The fashion industry, as a major global player, needs to take an active part in contributing to the realization of these goals

· all companies, within fashion, retail and textile global value chain, regardless of size and geography, have opportunities to take actions that will result in a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

· establish a closer dialogue with consumers to increase awareness about the GHG emissions caused in the use and end-of-life phases of products, building towards changed consumer behaviors that reduce environmental impacts and extend the useful life of products

· current solutions and business models will not be sufficient to deliver on the current climate agenda. Fashion industry needs to embrace a deeper, more systemic change and scale low-carbon solutions

· the fashion industry stakeholders have a role to play in reducing climate emissions resulting from their operations, with an awareness that the majority of climate impact within the industry lies in manufacturing of products and materials

· all companies, within fashion, retail and the textile global value chain, regardless of size and geography, have opportunities to take actions that will result in a measurable reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

· actions that reduce GHG emissions are consistent with, among other things, expanding economic opportunity, using resources more efficiently, driving economic competitiveness and innovation, and strengthening resilience

· responding to climate change requires action on both mitigation and adaptation

[Signatories agree to]

11. Establish a closer dialogue with consumers to increase awareness about the GHG emissions caused in the use and end-of-life phases of products, building towards changed consumer behaviors that reduce environmental impacts and extend the useful life of products;

12. Partner with the finance community and policymakers to catalyse scalable solutions for a low-carbon economy throughout the sector

Stella McCartney and friends hit Bloomberg and Vanity Fair gala dinner,” Stephanie Takyi, The Standard, 13 December 2018

Stella McCartney Slams Fast Fashion as a Threat to the Environment,” Lucca de Paoli, Bloomberg, 12 December 2018

Inside the Bloomberg Vanity Fair Climate Exchange,” VF X Bloomberg, 11 December 2018

Milestone Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action launched,” UNFCCC, 10 December 2018

About the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action,” UNFCCC

Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action,” UNFCC

Measuring Fashion, Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries Study,” Quantis, 2018

A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future,” November 2017, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation & Circular Fibers Initiative

Report: A positive vision for a system that works, and summons the creative power of the fashion industry to build it,” Ellen MacArthur Foundation

your money, your life, your choice | California, cars, CO2

California, in so many ways, could learn from the US Northeast. 

To reduce CO2 and and greenhouse gas emissions from cars, a continuing and increasing issue in California and elsewhere, cities need data—ways to accurately measure emissions, pinpoint sources, and monitor change over time; cities need to know how much CO2 they are producing and reducing.

A tool called ACES (Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System) was developed in response to the requirement for data by researchers at Boston University and Harvard. ACES offers finely-grained maps of CO2 emissions, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly.

As we know, per our atmosphere – the air, its particular mix of gaseous elements, and its temperatures, together vital to life, inclusive of human, animal, and plant – CO2 and other greenhouse gases are an issue, in many ways.

California has “targets” to meet by the year 2020 for limiting the greenhouse gases associated with the driving that people do on a daily basis. The approach to greenhouse gases associated with the driving that people do on a daily basis has a heightened level of complexity in California. Driving a car, rather than availing oneself of public transportation such as a subway, metro, or bus, is a norm that people are highly unwilling and actually afraid to examine and rethink. The many localities within the state have made limited investment in public transportation in significant part because taking such modes of transportation is largely considered to be beneath the dignity – whether personal, social, or professional – of and compromising to anybody with a sense of self esteem.

While the “hope” has been that climate emissions might be curbed largely by promoting regional planning of denser development along transit lines ( S.B. 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, a landmark 2008 deal, with the California legislature recognizing the critical role of integrated transportation, land use, and housing decisions to meet state climate goals), the California Air Resources Board 2018 Progress Report released in November documents that driving of cars has skyrocketed statewide during the years following the recession of 2008 – 2009 through 2016.

A “key finding of this report is that California is not on track to meet the greenhouse gas reductions expected under SB 375 for 2020, with emissions from statewide passenger vehicle travel per capita increasing and going in the wrong direction” (page 4) and “emissions from the transportation sector continuing to rise despite increases in fuel efficiency and decreases in the carbon content of fuel” (page 5).

Top air quality officials in California state they currently have no way to fully assess whether regions from San Diego to Sacramento are on track to meet 2020 targets for reigning in greenhouse gases associated with daily driving. While “greenhouse gas emissions considered under the SB 375 program reflect carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions only from light-duty passenger vehicles” (page 21, footnote 22), the California Air Resources Board 2018 Progress Report states, “SB 375 passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions reductions cannot be directly measured because greenhouse gas emissions come from many sources” (page 21).

Air board officials said that while they tracked the key metric of vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, available statewide through fuel sales, that same information wasn’t available regionally. Without that, officials say there is no consistent way to extrapolate greenhouse gas emissions from driving for each region.

There’s no unifying way to bring it all together and say ‘You’re at this particular performance metric,’” said Nicole Dolney, chief of the air board’s transportation planning branch. “Our hope was that we would have VMT data that we could rely on, but it wasn’t there.”

So what might California learn from ACES?

For cities to cut down CO2, they need to know how much they are producing and reducing. Most cities get rough estimates with “carbon calculators” that account for the size and population of a city, electricity used, and an estimate of how many cars zip (or crawl) through the city streets.

“The calculation would be fine except for all those cars. Cars are the hardest part of the emissions equation to quantify. They are moving all the time at different speeds, and there are different cars on the road at different times of day.”

“There are other factors to consider. There’s the make of the car, of course: a Toyota Prius gives off less CO2 than a Chevy Silverado. There’s also the speed; most cars give off the least CO2 when cruising in a “sweet spot” between 40 and 60 miles per hour.”

(Conor Gately, co-developer of ACES; PhD, Geography and Environment, Boston University, 2016; lead author on a study examining cities, traffic, and CO2, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in April 2015.)

ACES (Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System) has been developed by Lucy Hutyra of Boston University and Conor Gately, now a postdoctoral associate working jointly at Boston University and Harvard. A tool for measuring and mapping CO2 emissions, ACES offers finely-grained maps of CO2 emissions, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly, is relevant and could be helpful to the cities and the state of California.

Cities have the political will to change emissions, and they have policy levers to pull,” says Lucy Hutyra, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) associate professor of Earth and environment. And because cities are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the United Nations, their actions matter. But to take effective action, cities need data—ways to accurately measure emissions, pinpoint sources, and monitor change over time. And so Hutyra and her colleague Conor Gately have developed a tool called ACES, for Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System, that offers the finest-grained maps of CO2 emissions in the Northeastern US to date, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly. The tool, funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System and detailed in the October 12, 2017, issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres, could provide valuable data to cities nationwide.

‘The goal was to take the finest grained, most local data possible and build a ‘bottom-up’ inventory,” says Gately. The research team started by divvying up the sources of emissions on a giant whiteboard. “We did every sector of emissions of CO2,” he says. “Roads, residential buildings, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, power plants, airports, marine ports, shipping, and railway.” The group searched for data from 2011, scouring every source they could find: city and country records, household fuel estimates, EPA databases, hundreds of traffic sensors located around New England. All of these data, when combined with the amount of fossil fuels consumed in the region (gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, coal and natural gas for power generation), allowed the team to calculate CO2 emissions for all of the major sources. The team then calculated emissions for every hour of the year.

Gately, working with a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is now expanding ACES to cover the entire continental United States and meeting with government, scientific, and policy stakeholders to help create a core set of methods and data products.”

DARTE might also be helpful. DARTE, the Database of Road Transportation Emissions (Conor Gately, Lucy Hutyra, Ian Sue Wing) is available for free download from the Harvard Dataverse

Funded by grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE), Gately has developed a more precise way to tally CO2 emissions from vehicles. He used 33 years of traffic data to build the Database of Road Transportation Emissions (DARTE), which displays CO2 data for the contiguous US on a finer scale than ever before—a one-kilometer grid. (He hopes to add Alaska and Hawaii later.) Available for free download, DARTE could change the way cities and states measure greenhouse gas emissions.

The science is coming together to bring us very fine measurements in a way never possible before,” says Lucy Hutyra, an assistant professor of earth and environment and a coauthor on the PNAS study. Hutyra says that DARTE complements NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, which is collecting global data on atmospheric carbon dioxide. “We need good bottom-up data to match what we’re measuring looking down from space. That’s what we need to really advance greenhouse gas policies.”

See:

2018 Progress Report: California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act,” California Air Resources Board, November 2018

Regions across California likely off the hook for 2020 caps on greenhouse-gas emissions from driving,” Joshua Emerson Smith, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 November 2018

Poor forest management: Trump oversimplifies state’s fire problem,” Readers React, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 November 2018

A Fine-Tuned Map for CO2,” Barbara Moran, Boston University Research, 26 October 2017

A New Map for Greenhouse Gas,” Barbara Moran, Boston University Research, 10 April 2015

Gately, Conor, K.; Hutyra, Lucy, R.; Sue Wing, Ian, 2015, “Cities, traffic, and CO2: A multi-decadal assessment of trends, drivers, and scaling relationships“, https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/28999, Harvard Dataverse, V6

 

your money, your life, your choice | extra-virgin olive oil

While the olive tree was first domesticated in the Eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, the earliest written mention of olive oil that we have on record is on cuneiform tablets of the twenty-fourth century BC at Ebla (in today’s Syria, about 55 km southwest of Aleppo).

Olive oil took a central place in Greek sports, performed in the nude. Nigel Kennell, a specialist in ancient history at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, links that centrality to the rise of bronze statuary in the sixth century B.C. “A tanned athlete, shining in the summer sun, covered with oil, would really resemble a statue of the gods.”

Olives were a cash crop in the Roman Empire by the first century AD, olive oil was traded internationally. The family of Septimus Severus, emperor of Rome from 193 to 211 AD, traded olive oil from Leptis Magna, a city in the Tripolitania region of North Africa (now Libya). Emperor Septimus Severus was the first to introduce regular free distribution of olive oil in Rome.

Today, demand for high-quality olive oil is on the rise. As of 2012, the American market, the largest outside Europe, was worth about $1.5 billion and growing at a rate of about 10% per year.

Over a five-year projection period of 2017-2022, the global olive oil market is projected to reach approximately US$11 billion by end-2022.

So, what is olive oil? What is meant by “extra-virgin” olive oil?

The olive is a “dupe.” A dupe is a stone fruit with a pit, like a cherry.

The olives are harvested at the moment of the invaiatura, when they begin to turn from green to black; ideally they are picked by hand and milled within hours, to minimize oxidation and enzymatic reactions, which leave unpleasant tastes and odors in the oil.

There are approximately seven hundred olive varieties, or cultivars, whose distinctive tastes and aromas are evident in oils that are made properly, just as different grape varietals are expressed in fine wines.

Slippery Business, The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller, The New Yorker, 13 August 2007

The best olive oils are unlike most vegetable oils that are extracted in a refinery from seeds or nuts, using solvents, heat, and intense pressure.

More like fresh-squeezed fruit juice, the best olive oils are made using a simple hydraulic press or centrifuge.

Extra-virgin olive oil, that must be totally unprocessed, is the highest-quality olive oil. During the physical extraction process, extra-virgin olive oil must be kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Extra-virgin olive oil must, further, meet strict chemical criteria as defined by the International Olive Oil Council and adopted by the European Union and USDA, and have flavor and aroma as determined by a certified tasting panel.

According to E.U. law, extra-virgin oil must be made exclusively by physical means (by a press or a centrifuge) and meet thirty-two chemical requirements, including having “free acidity” of no more than 0.8 per cent. (In olive oil, free acidity is an indicator of decomposition.)

According to the E.U. regulations, extra-virgin oil must have appreciable levels of pepperiness, bitterness, and fruitiness, and must be free of sixteen official taste flaws such as “musty,” “fusty,” “cucumber,” and “grubby.”

The next lower grade of olive oil is virgin oil. Virgin oil must have no more than two percent of free acidity. Oil that has a greater percentage of free acidity is classified as lampante.

New milling technologies—stainless steel mills, high-speed centrifuges, temperature- and oxygen-controlled storage tanks—are making it possible to produce the best extra-virgin olive oils in history: fresh, complex, and every bit as varied as wine varietals. (There are about seven hundred different kinds of olives.)

Olive Oil’s Dark Side,” Sally Errico, The New Yorker, 7 February 2012

There’s also massive output of low-grade olive oils. Some producers are selling these as extra-virgin olive oil even though these low-grade oils do not meet the requirements of the extra-virgin grade. (E.U. and U.S. trade standards require extra-virgin olive oil to be free of sensory defects, and these oils are deeply flawed.) This is creating a downward pressure on olive oil quality.

Given that so many “extra-virgin” oils are actually inferior oils cut with other products, where should the average shopper buy his oil?

Ideally, at a mill, where you can see the fresh olives turned into oil, and get to know the miller—in an industry where the label means so little, personal trust in the people who have made and sold it is important. Barring this, try to visit a store where you can taste before you buy; an increasing number of olive-oil specialty stores exists throughout America, even in small towns and unexpected corners of the country. In a conventional retail store, certain characteristics of labelling and bottling suggest (though they don’t guarantee) high quality: a harvest date (as opposed to a meaningless “best by” date), a specific place of production and producer, mention of the cultivar of olives used, dark glass bottles (light degrades olive oil), a D.O.P. seal on European oils, and a California Olive Oil Council seal on oil made in the U.S.

Olive Oil’s Dark Side,” Sally Errico, The New Yorker, 7 February 2012

Here are some helpful guides to selecting olive oil:

How to Buy Great Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller

About Olive Oil,” Olive Oil Lovers

See:

How to Buy Great Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller

About Olive Oil,” Olive Oil Lovers

Olive Oil Market Revenue to Approach US$ 11 Bn by 2022 despite Dire Supply-Demand-Pricing Setback, Unleashes the New Intelligence Study by Fact.MR,” Globe News Wire, 18 October 2018

Olive Oil’s Dark Side,” Sally Errico, The New Yorker, 7 February 2012

Slippery Business, The Trade in Adulterated Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller, The New Yorker, 13 August 2007

Besnard G, Khadari B, Navascues M, Fernandez-Mazuecos M, El Bakkali A, Arrigo N, Baali-Cherif D, Brunini-Bronzini de Caraffa V, Santoni S, Vargas P, Savolainen V. 2013, “The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the Northern Levant,” Proc R Soc B 280: 20122833. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2833

your money, your health, your life | the olive

The olive (botanical name “Olea europaea”, meaning “European olive”) is a species of evergreen tree or shrub in the family of Oleaceae in the order of Lamiales. The tree is typically short and squat, seldom taller than 26 – 49 feet (8 – 15 meters). The trunk is gnarled and twisted.

With a sturdy and extensive root system, the olive tree can tolerate drought well, live for centuries, and remain productive for long periods if pruned correctly and regularly.

Hundreds of cultivars (assemblage of plants selected for desirable characters that are maintained during plant propagation) of the olive tree are known.

Many olive cultivars are self-sterile (self-incompatible; when a pollen grain produced in a plant reaches a stigma of the same plant or another plant with a similar genotype, the process of pollen germination, pollen-tube growth, ovule fertilization and embryo development is halted at one of its stages and consequently no seeds are produced). Olive trees are generally planted in pairs with a single primary cultivar and a secondary cultivar selected for its ability to fertilize the primary one.

Only a few olive varieties can be used to cross-pollinate. Olive trees are, then, propagated by various other methods, including grafting (in Greece grafting the cultivated tree on the wild tree is a common practice) and budding (asexual reproduction; in Italy, for instance, embryonic buds, which form small swellings on the stems, are excised and planted under the soil surface).

With common ancestors that go way (way) back, long before written history (“the most recent common ancestor of each Mediterranean lineage dates back to the Middle or Upper Pleistocene: 139 100 BP for E1 (95% CI: 49 200–482 100), 284 300 BP for E2 (95% CI: 84 400–948 100) and 143 700 BP for E3 (95% CI: 37 100–542 700″), the olive tree was first domesticated in the Eastern Mediterranean between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago, according to research published in February 2013 in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences): “The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the northern Levant.”

We can say there were probably several steps, and it probably starts in the Levant,” or the area that today includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, said study co-author Gillaume Besnard, an archaeobotanist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France. “People selected new cultivars everywhere, but that was a secondary diversification later.”

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are based on the genetic analysis of nearly 1,900 samples from around the Mediterranean Sea. The study reveals that domesticated olives, which are larger and juicier than wild varieties, were probably first cultivated from wild olive trees at the frontier between Turkey and Syria.

Tia Ghose, “The Origins of the Olive Tree Revealed,” LiveScience, 5 February 2013

The cradle of primary domestication of the olive tree is located in the northeastern Levant, where populations currently contain substantial genetic diversity, although not the highest in the Mediterranean basin (i.e. the Strait of Gibraltar [13,43]). This paradox can be explained by the fact that advanced civilizations emerged in the north Levant, such as the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B [51,52], and that they had enough genetic resources to succeed in domesticating a self-incompatible tree. The domestication of the olive tree appears to have been a long and continuous process that involved numerous genetic exchanges between the cultivated trees and wild gene pools, as already reported for other crops [53]. The first domesticated gene pool of olive was more likely to have spread with agriculture, first to the whole Levant and Cyprus [54] before being progressively disseminated to the western Mediterranean. Genetic evidence for multi-local origins of cultivars previously reported by several authors [612,55] may be explained by secondary domestication events involving crosses between newly introduced cultivars and local oleasters across the entire Mediterranean.

Besnard G, Khadari B, Navascues M, Fernandez-Mazuecos M, El Bakkali A, Arrigo N, Baali-Cherif D, Brunini-Bronzini de Caraffa V, Santoni S, Vargas P, Savolainen V. 2013 “The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the northern Levant“. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122833. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2833

To unravel the history of the olive tree, the team took 1,263 wild and 534 cultivated olive tree samples from throughout the Mediterranean and analyzed genetic material from the trees’ chloroplasts, the green plant structures where photosynthesis takes place. Because chloroplast DNA is passed from one tree to the descendant trees that spring up around it, the DNA can reveal local changes in plant lineages, study co-author Gillaume Besnard, an archaeobotanist at the National Center for Scientific Research, said.

The researchers then reconstructed a genetic tree to show how the plant dispersed. The team found that the thin, small and bitter wild fruit first gave way to oil-rich, larger olives on the border between Turkey and Syria.

After that first cultivation, modern-day domesticated olives came mostly from three hotspots: the Near East (including Cyprus), the Aegean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. They were then gradually spread throughout the Mediterranean with the rise of civilization.

Tia Ghose, “The Origins of the Olive Tree Revealed,” LiveScience, 5 February 2013

See:

Besnard G, Khadari B, Navascues M, Fernandez-Mazuecos M, El Bakkali A, Arrigo N, Baali-Cherif D, Brunini-Bronzini de Caraffa V, Santoni S, Vargas P, Savolainen V. 2013 “The complex history of the olive tree: from Late Quaternary diversification of Mediterranean lineages to primary domestication in the northern Levant“. Proc R Soc B 280: 20122833. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2833

Author for correspondence:

G. Besnard
e-mail: guillaume.besnard@univ-tlse3.fr

Electronic supplementary material is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.2833 or via http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org.

Tia Ghose, “The Origins of the Olive Tree Revealed,” LiveScience, 5 February 2013

Olive,” Wikipedia

Budding,” Wikipedia

Plant Propagation,” Wikipedia

Self-incompatibility,” Wikipedia

it’s your money, your life, your health | olive oil

For years I’ve cooked with olive oil, dipped bread in olive oil, “drizzled” olive oil onto asparagus, and enjoyed olive oil infused with garlic or rosemary. More recently I’ve begun to use (what is labeled as organic, extra virgin) olive oil as a moisturizer. For use on my face I’ll even squeeze a few drops of juice from an organic lime into the olive oil.

So, what is olive oil and what is its story? Why is olive oil said to be so conducive to good health? This, I am learning, is a long, robust, multi-faceted, and global story with many players, a story that we will examine in small steps.

It is helpful to remember why, in the first place, we “eat.”

We are all sophisticated systems of systems and systems of players, finely evolved, precisely calibrated to the relationships between ourselves and our environments.

Through eating we bring chemical compounds of biological origin (and increasingly, in some cases, of synthetic origin) into our systems and ultimately into our blood (a finely tuned transport system) and from our blood into our cells (of which we each have billions and billions, chugging away and doing their work, each cell precisely calibrated to its particular environment and task) so that they can do their work.

Through breathing we bring atmospheric chemical elements and compounds, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen, into our lungs, and from our lungs into our blood and from our blood into our cells.

Some of the compounds ingested through our food and breathed in through our air interact to better effect with our cells, some less so, towards the optimal performance of the systems of systems and systems of players that we all are, each individually.

Fortunately, nature’s wizardry has evolved a sense of “taste.” Much of the food that contains the chemical compounds that are beneficial to our cells tastes good. We enjoy eating it. Some of the food, however, that tastes good does not lead to optimal performance. In today’s world it is important to consult our taste buds and the label and do our due diligence.

An observation published in an earlier post, about risk and the system of systems that is the built environment, is pertinent:

“You owe it to yourself to call on every dispassionate expert you can find and grab all available data on any risk you are taking on.”

You’re Buying a Home? Have You Considered Climate Change?”, Ron Lieber, The New York Times, 2 December 2016

Determine your goals, identify pathways towards them, identify risks, “grab” data, proceed with your due diligence, and eat (and breathe, another story) well.

As we proceed along our journey of exploration and learning we’ll investigate and discuss olives and olive oil. Come future posts we’ll examine a variety of foods including peanuts, peanut butter, coffee (a bean), blueberries, and grapes.

See:

You’re Buying a Home? Have You Considered Climate Change?”, Ron Lieber, The New York Times, 2 December 2016

 

Amazon selects New York & Arlington, VA for HQ2 ・people, mass transit, sustainability

Amazon has selected New York City (the Long Island City neighborhood of the borough of Queens) and Arlington,Virginia (the Crystal City neighborhood, across the Potomac from Washington, DC) for its HQ2.

In agreements with the local and state governments, Amazon stipulates that the two locations will house at least 25,000 employees each. The new sites will require $5 billion in construction and other investments.

Direct access to rail, train, subway/metro, bus routes (mass transit) at site has been a core preference of Amazon, stipulated in the Amazon HQ2 RFP.

Significantly, Amazon’s HQ2 RFP stipulates that it will develop HQ2 with a dedication to sustainability:

Sustainability: Amazon is committed to sustainability efforts. Amazon’s buildings in its current Seattle campus are sustainable and energy efficient. The buildings’ interiors feature salvaged and locally sourced woods, energy efficient lighting, composting and recycling alternatives as well as public plazas and pockets of green space. Twenty of the buildings in our Seattle campus were built using LEED standards. Additionally, Amazon’s newest buildings use a ‘District Energy’ system that utilizes recycled heat from a nearby non-Amazon data center to heat millions of square feet of office space – a system that is about 4x more efficient than traditional heating. This system is designed to allow Amazon to warm just over 4 million square feet of office space on Amazon’s four-block campus, saving 80 million kilowatt hours over 20 years, or about 4 million kilowatt-hours a year. We also invest in large solar and wind operations and were the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S. in 2016.

Amazon will develop HQ2 with a dedication to sustainability.

Of the cities selected, Emily Badger of The New York Times observes:

Tech companies feed on highly educated and specialized workers, specifically dense clusters of them where workers and companies interacting with one another are more likely to produce new ideas. Washington and New York, as it turns out, are two of the most highly educated regions in the country, with already large pools of tech workers.

Drop a big Amazon headquarters into Washington or New York, and economists expect the 50,000 workers there to be more productive than if the same 50,000 jobs were dropped into Indianapolis. Simply putting them in New York, near so many other tech workers, increases the likelihood that Amazon invents more services, connects to more markets, makes more money.

Those added benefits are so strong, economists say, that it’s worth it to companies like Amazon to pay more — a lot more — for office space and employee salaries in New York City.

‘If you are in the business of making new things — whether it’s a new product, or a new way of delivering things, or a new service — and it’s something that is unique, and it keeps changing and it needs updating, the most important factor of all is human capital,” said Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s not like making soap, or like making textiles.’”

See:

Amazon HQ2 RFP

Amazon Announces New York and Virginia as HQ2 Picks,” Karen Weise, Technology | The New York Times, 13 November 2018

In Superstar Cities, the Rich Get Richer, and They Get Amazon,” Emily Badger, The New York Times, 7 November 2018