Electric cars could be as cheap to manufacture as petrol ones by 2024, the latest freeze of Arctic sea ice on record, and plans for the world’s biggest bug farm
Picture of the week: Autumn in Victoria Park, London
Welcome to this week’s news roundup. As always we’ll be mixing it up - there’ll be some good news stories, some not so good news stories, and maybe some stories you won't have seen elsewhere!
Hope you enjoy!
“Household essentials including teabags and cereals will be sold via refillable containers at a trial sustainability Asda store. The new outlet - opened in Middleton, Leeds - also features loose and unwrapped produce, paper wrapping, and recycling points throughout. Asda hopes the store will encourage people to reduce, reuse and recycle - saving an estimated one million pieces of plastic from being used each year. Big brands are on board with the initiative, with products from PG Tips, Kellogg's, Radox and Persil among those that shoppers will be able to take home in their own refillable containers to cut down on waste.
Heinz products, alongside Asda's own brand canned products, will be sold without outer plastic packaging. There are also 53 fresh produce items which are being sold loose, as well as flowers wrapped in paper. Recycling points for shoppers will also be available for items that are more difficult to recycle, such as crisp packets, plastic toys, cosmetics packaging, and toothpaste tubes.”
“Electric cars will cost the same to make as conventional cars, with internal combustion engines, by 2024 and an acceleration in the shift away from fossil fuel vehicles may be imminent, according to new research. The extra cost of manufacturing battery electric cars versus their fossil fuel equivalents will diminish to just $1,900 (£1,470) per car by 2022, and disappear completely by 2024, according to research by the investment bank UBS. The research is based on detailed analysis of batteries from the seven largest manufacturers. Reaching cost parity with the internal combustion engine (ICE) is seen as a key milestone in the world’s transition away from burning fossil fuels. Big carmakers have been reluctant to shift production away from their profitable internal combustion engine models towards electric cars because of expensive batteries, which are almost exclusively made by east Asian companies such as South Korea’s LG Chem, Japan’s Panasonic and Chinese rival CATL. Batteries account for between a quarter and two-fifths of the cost of the entire vehicle.”
Buildings will be the most difficult innovation challenge of the climate crisis, Bill Gates has said. The Microsoft founder made the prediction during a “fireside chat” at the GeekWire Summit last week. While he supports renewable energy projects like solar and wind and the shift to electric vehicles, it is in the construction of new buildings where Mr Gates believes there is a big hurdle to overcome: Emissions from the manufacture of cement and steel. He said: “We don't have a way of making cement that doesn't involve substantial emissions.”
Industrial processes, like those used to make building materials, produce more than a fifth of global emissions. "Without innovation, there's no way. Fortunately, innovation, although it's hard to predict, across about 10 different areas, if we have those innovations, we can do very well," Mr Gates said. The billionaire was an early backer of Heliogen, a clean energy company looking at how solar power might achieve the high-temperatures needed to produce steel and cement.
The town that built back green (Washington Post)
After powerful tornadoes swept through Nashville earlier this year, killing 25 and leaving a trail of destruction for miles, one of the first calls officials made was to tiny Greensburg, population 900. A wind-swept farming community in southwestern Kansas, Greensburg rebuilt “green” after an EF5 tornado — the most violent — barreled through at more than 200 miles per hour and nearly wiped it off the map in 2007. A decade later, Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting.
The not so good:
“A hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is the largest and deepest it's been for 15 years. This is according to new research by the European Space Agency (ESA) which showed that the hole was 25 million sq km big - that's around 100 times the size of the UK. The ozone layer is part of the Earth's atmosphere, where ozone, a form of oxygen gas, is found. It is very important to humans, animals and plants on Earth because it acts like a kind of sun cream, protecting us from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation.
"Our observations show that the 2020 ozone hole has grown rapidly since mid-August, and covers most of the Antarctic continent - with its size well above average. What is also interesting to see is that the 2020 ozone hole is also one of the deepest and shows record-low ozone values," said Diego Loyola, from the German Aerospace Centre. These findings came from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite - which became the first satellite completely dedicated to monitoring changes to the ozone layer when it was launched in 2017.”
“For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October. The delayed annual freeze in the Laptev Sea has been caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, say climate scientists who warn of possible knock-on effects across the polar region. Ocean temperatures in the area recently climbed to more than 5C above average, following a record breaking heatwave and the unusually early decline of last winter’s sea ice. The trapped heat takes a long time to dissipate into the atmosphere, even at this time of the year when the sun creeps above the horizon for little more than an hour or two each day.”
And something a bit different:
Growing global demand for food is putting a squeeze on available land and one French startup says it has the answer: indoor insect farming. Ynsect raised $224 million from investors including Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition this month to build a second insect farm in Amiens in northern France. The company breeds mealworms that produce proteins for livestock, pet food and fertilisers, and will use the funds to build what it says will be the world’s largest insect farm. Due to open in early 2022, it will produce 100,000 tonnes of insect products such as flour and oil annually and conserve land use while creating 500 jobs. The 40-metre-tall plant spread over 40,000 square metres, will be “the highest vertical farm in the world and the first carbon-negative vertical farm in the world,” Ynsect CEO and co-founder Antoine Hubert told Reuters.