Bitcoin mining consumes 0.5% of all electricity used globally and 7 times Google’s total usage, new report says

A golden coin with the Bitcoin logo on it, sitting on top of a phone, which sits on top of a computer keyboard.
Bitcoin – represented here by a physical coin – uses a tremendous amount of electricity.

  • Bitcoin mining consumes roughly 0.5% of all energy consumption worldwide, according to the New York Times.
  • That’s roughly seven times more than Google’s total energy consumption per year, the report said.
  • Bitcoin’s negative environmental impact is expected to become a bigger issue as cryptocurrency gains more popularity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Bitcoin’s price has jumped nearly fivefold in the past year, but the rapid run-up is leading to significantly higher energy consumption for the popular cryptocurrency worldwide.

That’s largely because more people are competing to mine bitcoin – a process that involves solving complex mathematical problems that help verify digital currency transactions. Miners who solve these problems receive a share of bitcoin, and as more people who compete to mine them, the more energy it takes.

It’s difficult to measure exactly how much energy bitcoin mining consumes, but a new analysis by the New York Times shared some staggering data that puts the energy use in perspective:

  • Bitcoin mining consumes around 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually.
  • That’s more annual electricity use than all of Finland, which is a country of 5.5 million people.
  • That’s almost 0.5% of all electricity consumption worldwide, and a 10 times jump from just five years ago.
  • That’s about the same amount of electricity consumed in the state of Washington each year, and more than a third of electricity used for residential cooling in the US annually.
  • And it’s more than seven times the electricity used by all of Google’s global operations.

Given bitcoin’s massive price appreciation in recent years, it’s not hard to expect the electricity consumption to continue to grow. Bitcoin is now worth about $50,000, a roughly fivefold increase from last year. It was priced at around $500 in 2016.

With increased competition, bitcoin mining has become an industry of its own, requiring specialized machines, servers, and huge data centers with enough cooling capacity to keep the computers from overheating.

As noted, the internal mining process itself has become more complex; according to the New York Times, a single desktop computer could easily mine bitcoin back in 2011, when the cryptocurrency had little following. Now, it takes roughly “13 years of typical household electricity” to mine a single bitcoin.

A man stands at the end of a long corridor. The walls are packed with computers and wires, which are being used to mine bitcoin.
Some “bitcoin farms,” like this one in Moscow, have hundreds of computers mining bitcoin at the same time.

For those who have been following bitcoin and the broader cryptocurrency space, the environmental impact of mining has long been a problem to reckon with. Iran was rocked by power outages earlier this year that were partly blamed on bitcoin. In March, Bill Gates warned bitcoin was “not a great climate thing.” And U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called its energy use “staggering.”

In response, some asset managers are looking to address crypto’s environmental concerns. Michael Hanus, a senior managing director at the alternative investments platform RealBlocks, previously told Insider that asset managers are becoming increasingly aware of crypto’s sustainability issues.

Hanus made reference to ESG analysis, an investing philosophy that encourages firms to consider an investment’s environmental, social, and corporate governance impact. “A lot of managers, if you look at ESG, were originally focused on the ‘G,’ the governance aspects, in order to improve their portfolios. I think that’s shifting now, and there is additional emphasis on the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ of ESG,” Hanus said.

In other words, asset managers are trying to balance the possible negative environmental and social aspects of cryptocurrency with the money it can potentially earn investors.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A third of Gen Z says climate change is a top concern. A new report says the climate crisis is pushing young adults to pursue more sustainability-focused career paths.

Joe Biden climate change
Climate change protesters disrupt then-candidate Joe Biden during a campaign event in New Hampshire in 2019. The Sunrise Movement calls itself a youth movement focused on preventing climate change.

  • Gen Z is pursuing more climate-focused career paths than older generations, a new report found.
  • They are enrolling in more sustainability-focused college programs, The Guardian reported.
  • Addressing global climate change is a top concern to 37% of Gen Z, per Pew Research Center.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Young adults born in 1997 onward are graduating from college and entering the workforce as the Earth is experiencing some of its hottest years on record.

Studies show members of the cohort known as Generation Z are acutely aware of the disastrous effects of the warming planet, and Gen Z’ers are now pursuing career paths centered on addressing the climate crisis more so than older generations, according to a Monday report from The Guardian.

College officials told the outlet the number of students seeking out environmental-related degrees and careers is rising.

The report noted that the University of Southern California said in June it was launching a program aimed at instructing its 20,000 undergraduate students on “how their majors intersect with sustainability and the environment.”

The Guardian noted, too, that New York University’s environmental studies program has seen growth in enrollment. Christopher Schlottmann, the program’s global curriculum coordinator, told the publication that having some form of environmental specialization can help new graduates land jobs.

One Gen Z’er, 25-year-old Mimi Ausland who founded a company that aims to remove plastic from the ocean, told The Guardian: “I cannot imagine a career that isn’t connected to even just being a small part of a solution.”

Environmentalism is on the rise across industries

The interest reflects growing, mainstream recognition across industries that the planet is in dire need of sweeping commitments to mitigate climate change.

The Biden administration’s regulators have signaled that they will start more closely scrutinizing companies’ environmental commitments and disclosures, and global mutual fund assets labeled as sustainable hit a new record of $2.3 trillion in the second quarter, according to Morningstar data.

It is an increasingly in-demand specialization for industries like financial services. Banks including Citi, HSBC, and Barclays have sought out employees with sustainability expertise, Bloomberg News reported this spring.

Pew Research Center found in a report published in May that 76% of Gen Z respondents said addressing the climate crisis is one of their biggest social concerns, while 37% said it is a top concern.

The Guardian report also found that 32% of Gen Z respondents said they have taken at least one major environmental-related action in the last year – like “donating, volunteering, attending a rally, or contacting an elected official” – while 23% of Gen X and 21% of baby boomers reported participating in such actions in the last year.

“Once you learn how damaged the world’s ecosystems are, it’s not really something you can unsee,” Rachel Larrivee, a 23-year-old sustainability consultant based in Boston, told The Guardian. “To me, there’s no point in pursuing a career – or life for that matter – in any other area.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

If you feel that the world’s environment is doomed after the raging summer of hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, you could be suffering from ‘eco-anxiety’

man
A young man watches as flames rise and smoke billows from a forest during a wildfire near Gonfaron, France, on August 17, 2021.

  • Eco-anxiety is on the rise as more people become aware of how climate change will impact them.
  • Younger people are feeling particularly anxious about the world they’re inheriting, research shows.
  • Insider spoke to experts and people with eco-anxiety to find out more about their worries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jennie Ferrara’s husband brought home the newspaper one day because he thought the front-page story would interest his wife. Instead, it almost made her faint.

The year was 2008, and some of the leading oil companies in the world were announcing plans to extract more oil from Canada’s tar sands – a move that would prove detrimental to the environment.

Ferrara, who is originally from Texas but lives in Denmark, had felt pessimistic about the environment for many years, but the headline that day tipped her over the edge.

Read more: As denying climate change becomes impossible, fossil-fuel interests pivot to ‘carbon shaming’

“When I looked, just looked, at the front page, I practically went comatose,” Ferrara recalled to Insider.

“It feels like you’re suddenly zooming in on something, your body goes a bit numb and everything around you goes quiet … You lose all energy and question your will to live,” she said.

Ferrara was experiencing a form of so-called “eco-anxiety” – a term that’s officially been defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ​​as “the chronic fear of environmental doom.”

She is among a growing number of people who have found that the rapidly declining state of the planet is impacting their mental health.

New York City historic flooding
New York City historic flooding

According to the latest research, “eco-anxiety” is more present than ever.

A recent survey published by Yale University found that more than 40% of Americans felt “helpless” about the state of the planet. And according to a 2020 poll by the APA, more than half of Americans said they were somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on their own mental health.

The world is waking up to climate change

“We’ve seen a growing number of people who are feeling an emotional response to what’s happening by living in such a changing world,” Leslie Davenport, a climate psychology consultant and therapist based in Tacoma, Washington, told Insider.

Davenport said that part of the reason behind the rise of “eco-dread” is that more people are realizing “how much climate change is impacting us on a personal level.”

This summer alone, Hurricane Ida submerged entire homes in water, much of Germany was destroyed by historic flooding, and wildfires in southern Europe and North America displaced hundreds of people.

“It was easier in the past to keep climate change as somewhere off in the future, something happening somewhere else to somebody else … But now, as the effects are on the rise, our responses are on the rise too,” Davenport added.

As a climate psychology consultant, Davenport works with clients who experience a whole spectrum of reactions to climate change.

Some – like Ferrara – experience very strong physical sensations. They have difficulties breathing or feel like they’re having a heart attack, she said.

Others have more subtle symptoms – they cry randomly, can’t sleep at night, or often feel irritable and on edge.

wildfire
Fred Heldreth covers his face for protection from the holy fire smoke burning through Orange and Riverside county in Lake Elsinore, CA.

Her clients vary in age, although research shows that specifically younger generations feel distraught about the planet they’re inheriting.

A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll from 2019 found that 57 percent of American teenagers said that climate change made them feel scared, while 52 percent said it made them angry.

In 2019, climate activist Clover Hogan set up Force of Nature, which aims to tackle this. Her team teaches students aged 11-24 about the climate crisis to help them navigate their anxiety and realize their potential to get involved.

“At the end of the day, none of us are responsible or capable of solving the climate crisis alone. We’re not capable of changing it overnight. Yet what we are capable of changing overnight, is our mindset,” Hogan told Insider.

“If we can change the way that we think about the issues, if we can change the way that we respond to those emotions and rather than running away from them, hold space for them and think about the power of them to create change, the more empowered and agency we are going to feel.”

California climate strike
Protesters are seen during a climate change demonstration shouting slogans while holding placards in Los Angeles, CA.

Ferrara has dealt with her climate-induced fears by channeling them into her own forms of activism.

In 2011, she started a blog called “Climate Worrier, made numerous podcasts about eco-anxiety, and is now teaching school children in Denmark about the climate and saving urban trees.

Apart from a few exceptions, she has stopped flying and said she hasn’t gotten a physical reaction from reading news headlines in years.

“We need to be careful and open and kind when we are talking about the climate crisis and climate anxiety because we’re often made to think that the problem lies with the individual, which makes it seem as though it’s the individual’s problem to fix,” she said. “It is not.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Welcome to your new planet: There’s no such thing as a local disaster

Flooding from Hurricane Ida
Waves crash against the New Canal Lighthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 29, 2021.

  • In the last year, I’ve found myself face-to-face with a hurricane and two wildfires.
  • This is what our planet is like now: The effects of climate change are inescapable, no matter where you live.
  • Any extreme weather event can have impacts far from its epicenter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

While the remnants of Hurricane Ida tore through New York City on Wednesday, my phone lit up as concerned friends asked if I was safe. Thankfully, no floodwater entered my Manhattan apartment building – but I thought seriously about the question.

Last year, I was evacuated not once, but twice from my family home in Southern California due to wildfires. I was living there at the time, so I prepared to say goodbye to the structure I had known for almost 30 years as a trail of flames on the hillside inched ominously in my direction. The sooty air burned my eyes. I could smell the smoke through my three-layer mask.

This is what it’s like now: No matter what part of a coast you’re on or which state you live in, the effects of climate change are inescapable. Phrases like “flood zone” or “fire territory” are becoming somewhat meaningless, since it’s no longer the case that flooding occurs exclusively in coast-heavy states like Florida or that wildfire smoke affects only people in the West.

This summer in particular has demonstrated what climate scientists have warned about for decades: There’s no such thing as a local disaster. Extreme weather events are interconnected.

Hurricane Ida is the obvious recent example: It strengthened in the Gulf and made landfall in New Orleans, yet its devastating power crippled New York three days later. Then there are the wildfires in California and Oregon, which have darkened skies and led to air-quality warnings in New York City and Boston. Even Arctic warming affects weather in the US: A study published Friday found that this accelerated warming makes winters more extreme in North America – and even likely played a role in the cold front that toppled Texas’s energy grid in February.

The situation will get worse.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that warming will continue to some extent over the next two to three decades, regardless of how much emissions drop. Some consequences of human-driven emissions – such as rising seas, disappearing glaciers, extreme heat, floods, drought, and tropical storms – are already irreversible for centuries to millennia.

“Things that used to be super rare are going to happen more commonly,” Genevieve Guenther, director of the volunteer organization End Climate Silence, told me. “Natural disasters are not going to happen and then fade from historical memory. They’re going to be relentless and they’re going to be global.”

The ripple effects of climate change aren’t always visible

Hurricane Ida, New Orleans
Residents leave a partially flooded area in LaPlace, Louisiana during Hurricane Ida.

We’ve all heard the warnings about climate change “hotspots.” Miami could be underwater by the end of the century if sea levels rise at least 10 feet. More than a million California homes are in high-risk fire areas. And a hurricane is likely to strike within 50 nautical miles of New Orleans once every seven years.

But it’s tempting for people who don’t live in these locations to dismiss the threats.

Until recently, Guenther said, climate disasters “were understood, even by insurance agencies, as acts of God that came out of nowhere and then went away again.”

When I spoke to her on Friday, a chunk of her ceiling had recently caved in from Ida. She’d meant to fix a leak before the storm, she said, but never got around to it. Even to climate activist, she added, it was an important lesson: Prepare for extreme weather. Don’t think you have the luxury to procrastinate.

And don’t expect a major weather event to stay confined to one area. Ida may have flooded New Orleans and cut its power, but it has killed more than 60 people across eight states – Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

What’s more, not all damage from these events will be visible right away. Floods from hurricanes, for example, can promote mold growth inside homes and release chemicals into the air, water, and soil, causing spikes in air pollution and potentially exposing people to contaminated food and drinking water. Together, these hazards can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases among residents of affected areas, as well as rescue and repair workers.

Fire and drought have far-reaching effects, too

Dixie Fire in California.
The Dixie Fire torches homes in Indian Falls, California on July 25, 2021.

The effects of fires are similarly widespread: Smoke can rise high into the atmosphere, where winds may carry it for thousands of miles, effectively blanketing entire continents. That smoke fills the air with microscopic particles that have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and premature death.

In early August, Salt Lake City, Utah, had the worst air quality of any major city in the world – more than three times the federal health standard. The smoke came from Northern California, where wildfires had ignited several weeks earlier.

Drought, too, has far-reaching health consequences.

From April to May, global food prices rose nearly 5% – the fastest monthly rate in more than a decade – due in large part to a La Niña climate pattern. The phenomenon produces dry spells in some parts of the world and flooding in others, which can destroy crops. That, in turn, leads the agricultural sector to charge more for products. Though only certain areas of the world were affected, rising food prices contribute to hunger and food insecurity all over the globe.

“The climate system is a system, so a thing that happens in one location will have knock-off effects in other locations,” Guenther said.

My apartment may not have flooded this time. My family home is still standing. But I’m not safe. None of us is.

Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed reporting.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff rules out a full return to work, says the pandemic will linger, and urges climate action in a new interview. Here are the 8 best quotes.

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, wearing a sports coat jacket and in front of a blue background on a stage, extends his hands forward during a talk.
Marc Benioff.

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff expects a permanent shift to remote work for some employees.
  • The billionaire executive warned of more COVID-19 variants and touted vaccines and testing.
  • Benioff also underscored the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff predicted a permanent shift to remote work, warned the pandemic will continue indefinitely, and underlined the importance of vaccines and testing in a Yahoo Finance interview this week.

The billionaire owner of Time magazine also trumpeted Roblox, urged executives to cultivate equality and sustainability at their companies, and called for greater measures to combat the climate crisis.

Here are Benioff’s eight best quotes from the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:

1. “We’re not all coming back. About 15% of employees worldwide have come back to the office. Right now a lot of people are working and succeeding at home. They wanna continue to work at home, and that should be just all right with CEOs if their employees are productive.”

2. “I started Salesforce in an apartment in San Francisco. Today, I would start it on Slack and that is because my digital space is more important than my physical space. I need to bring everyone together.”

3. “Vaccines are extremely important. For our Salesforce employees, if they wanna come back in the office, they have to be vaccinated. Testing is also a critical part of making all of this work.”

4. “Roblox is a vision for the future of digital interactions. You’re creating custom worlds, you’re creating custom applications, but they’re all built on a consistent metaverse platform.”

5. “In this new world, if you’re not cultivating a beginner’s mind as a CEO, you’re making a mistake. It’s one of the reasons why we paid $27 billion for Slack – because we knew every company was gonna have to have a digital HQ. It was a must-have, not a want.”

6. “We’re in a pandemic world. This is a forever virus. We’re only on the Delta variant – that’s only the fourth Greek letter. There’s more Greek letters to come, there’s more variants to come.”

7. “CEOs need to be focused on their culture, their values, what is really important to them. Where is trust, where is safety, where are you with equality, where are you with sustainability? These are the core values of a corporation today.”

8. “We cannot run companies the way they are. Have you noticed the world is on fire? There’s fires everywhere, we’re in a sustainability crisis. We need to sequester 100 gigatons of carbon, we need to energize an ecopreneur revolution, we need to accelerate the Fortune 500 to net zero, and we need to plant a trillion trees.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The arguments for firing Jay Powell are tiresome and stupid

federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell announces a half percentage point interest rate cut during a speech on March 3, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s term is coming to an end.
  • Some progressives are pushing President Joe Biden not to renominate Powell for a second term.
  • But Powell has been an adept, pro-worker Fed chair and all the reasons to oppose his renomination are bad.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Reserve has a number of functions and responsibilities, but the most important thing the central bank does is set monetary policy. I feel weird even needing to write that sentence, but given the increasingly tedious arguments I’m seeing for replacing current Chairman Jerome Powell, apparently some people need a reminder.

The problem for Powell’s opponents is that he has done a truly excellent job leading monetary policymaking during his tenure – both in crafting an effective response to the COVID-driven economic crisis that prevented it from snowballing into a financial crisis, and in implementing a longer-run shift of the Fed’s priorities to tolerate more inflation and focus more on promoting full employment and wage growth.

A lot of progressive commentators recognize how good this record is, which is why Powell, a Republican, enjoys quite a bit of progressive support for his reappointment, and why President Biden, a Democrat, will probably nominate him for another term. Powell’s progressive support comes especially from the parts of the movement with close ties to organized labor, which has good reason to be clear-eyed about pro-worker Fed policies being the key issue in choosing a chair.

And even those who oppose Powell mostly admit he has succeeded at the central bank’s core mission, which has led to them to contend the choice of a Fed chair is not primarily about monetary policy. They characterize his monetary policies as areas of consensus that any Democrat-appointed Fed chair could and would continue, while doing better on whatever niche issues the critics care about. (Or, if you want to be creative like Berkeley economist Brad DeLong, you can simply invent the idea that Powell secretly disagrees with the monetary policies he’s implemented for the last four years and will become totally different if reappointed.)

The truth is that the Fed’s monetary policy achievements under Powell have been real and large, are not automatic, and are fragile. You need someone with a commitment to pro-worker monetary policy at the head of the bank in the face of concerns about rising inflation. Who better than Powell himself, who has demonstrated both a commitment to the policy and an ability to gather political support for it and get it implemented?

You risk workers’ livelihoods by being blasé about monetary policy

Before we get to the niche issues, let’s talk about why Powell’s progressive critics are wrong to be so confident about the durability of his monetary policies.

One, they overstate the extent of the consensus in favor of the new, more-inflation-tolerant framework. Inflation is currently well above target, and calls for tightening to stave off inflation are getting louder. Members of the Federal Open Market Committee cannot even agree on what it means that the Fed now targets “average” inflation, or on how long the Fed should wait to raise interest rates in the face of rising prices. So the question of how much of an inflation overshoot the Fed will accept in order to boost the labor market is an open one – one where the left’s preferred candidates to replace Powell could end up favoring tighter, less worker-friendly policy.

For example, Mark Carney, the former Bank of England governor who is The American Prospect editor David Dayen’s choice to replace Powell, told David Wessel of the Brookings Institution in June that the “balance of risks” has shifted toward the possibility of too much inflation, a remark that caused Wessel to observe that Carney would be on the hawkish side of the FOMC, were he to sit on it.

Then there is the issue of political support for unconventional monetary policy.

Powell’s new policies are controversial, and his political skill has been necessary to sell them

People who have drawn the baffling conclusion that Powell’s monetary policy actions reflect a broad consensus that any Fed chair could have followed may been fooled by the fact that Powell makes the politics look easy. Powell has worked assiduously to build respectful relationships on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, and the personal trust he has built has quieted political criticism and given the Fed more room to operate. (In just the first six months of this year, Powell took meetings with 33 senators.) It also helps that Powell is a moderate Republican with a staid, bankerly image – he has overseen a bold shift in monetary policy and yet he does not come off as a radical to anyone.

If you fire Powell and replace him with a Democrat, many of the policy issues Powell has successfully depoliticized will become politicized. Republican calls for tighter money will get louder under a new chair, and they’ll be more listened to – including by the ideologically diverse FOMC the new chair would need to get to agree to a monetary policy agenda.

That’s all reason to worry that even a new chair with solidly dovish views would end up making more hawkish policy than Powell would.

Bank regulation is less important than monetary policy, and the Fed is just one of many bank regulators

Okay, so what about the other issues? The bank regulation-focused Powell critics are upset about certain moves in recent years they consider to have been too easy on banks, such as letting them resume share buybacks after the financial markets had stabilized but before the COVID pandemic was over.

Bank regulation used to be a top-tier economic policy issue. Banks and households both took on too much leverage in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis, and risky lending was a key factor that created a terrible global recession. But policy improvements, including the Dodd-Frank law, have greatly improved the financial condition of banks. Household finances are also currently unusually strong. And of course, the Fed’s bold monetary policy actions were themselves an important policy for promoting soundness of the financial system, because they made it possible for firms to roll over debt instead of defaulting.

Wall Street
Chinese career agencies promise to help students land top-tier internships

This overall environment of stability and soundness is why people whose personal brand is financial regulation have to hype the corporate debt markets so much: the most economically salient places for there to be too much leverage in the economy look fine, and you have to start looking under the cushions for sources of leverage-driven financial instability.

This is simply not a leading economic risk facing the country, especially in comparison to the risk that the Fed might choke off the labor market recovery by tightening monetary policy too soon. And the risks in this area can be addressed by other regulators, including the Fed’s own vice chair for supervision, a position that will be open for Biden to fill later this year.

The Fed is not a climate policy organ

As Matt Yglesias writes, there are a lot of professional activists, particularly in the climate change space, who seem to view their job as complaining about whatever the Democratic party is doing. If Democrats want Powell renominated, that must be a mistake, and there must be something more left-wing that can be found to do. This has led to a lot of Rube Goldberg thinking about how the Fed is supposed to be driving climate policy (as a reminder, we are talking about the central bank, not the EPA).

california wildfires approaching homes

There are some perfectly worthy proposals about how the Fed should consider climate related risks when evaluating the soundness of the financial system, but the idea that this would constitute a significant climate change policy is wrong. As the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal notes, you can improve banks’ resiliency against climate change without doing anything at all about climate change itself – all you have to do is change what sort of investments are financed where.

Many of the people now telling us that bank capital requirements can significantly affect fossil fuel-related behavior in the real economy are the same people who spent the last decade-plus telling us that higher bank capital requirements won’t much affect the real economy. They were right the first time.

And if the Fed implemented policies that really did move the needle on carbon emissions, those policies would necessarily conflict with the Fed’s mandate to promote maximum employment. The climate-focused critics won’t say this in so many words. But Erik Gerding admitted to the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer that he objects to the Fed’s low-interest-rate policies – a cornerstone of the Fed’s pro-worker efforts – on the grounds that they encourage carbon-intensive cryptocurrency mining.

Think about that for a second: Low interest rates only encourage crypto speculation because they have been good for asset prices in general. The crypto bubble (and I do believe it’s a bubble) is part of the overall bullish environment for investment that has businesses growing and investing and hiring, which is what’s been creating relatively positive conditions for workers.

Trying to pop the crypto bubble with higher rates in an attempt to curtail carbon emissions would also discourage investment overall, cooling the labor market and possibly causing a recession. If that’s what you want, you oppose full employment. And if it’s not what you want, then you’re just fiddling around the edges with bank regulations that will have little effect on either climate or the real economy.

Finally, let’s be real about the politics of climate change: If you run around telling people the Fed’s full employment policies are actually, secretly climate policies, you’re only going to undermine support for full employment policies. Climate policy is best done through Secret Congress; announcing that the Fed is now a climate-policy organ is the opposite of that.

Monetary policy doesn’t care whether you think it’s interesting

If I sound contemptuous of the people who want Powell fired, that’s because I am. He led by far the most effective policy response to COVID of any US government agency and significantly improved the framework for monetary policymaking in the US and now they want to put those policies at risk by getting rid of him. I think these attacks can only be explained as a matter of emotional impulses.

As I noted at the top, progressive figures who conceive of their project as fighting for workers have generally gotten Powell right. You see this with Bill Spriggs of the AFL-CIO, or Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research: they have strongly endorsed Powell’s reappointment.

The thinkers who have gotten Powell wrong are the ones who conceive of their project as fighting against powerful forces, and as a result are constitutionally incapable of caring about monetary policy, because monetary policy does not provide an adequate villain to oppose.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee July 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.

With bank regulation, you can fight reckless and greedy Wall Street fat cats. On climate change, you get to stand up to big oil and gas companies. A worker-focused monetary policy produces very large benefits for ordinary people without defeating any obvious opponent. It does not provide that emotional oomph that drove many left activists to get involved with policy in the first place.

Sure, you can identify hedge-fund managers who grumble that the Fed’s actions to boost the economy are creating inflation and making it hard for them to find corporations willing to borrow money at 15% interest. But the same companies that are forced to pay higher wages and offer better conditions to attract workers in a tight market also enjoy strong consumer demand and an environment with attractive opportunities to invest and grow.

You only need to look at the stock market alongside the wage and job growth data to see that a hot economy is good for workers and owners alike – and a lot of people on the left clearly just don’t find it emotionally satisfying to focus on an economic policy that does not pit the rich against the masses.

And I understand why people prefer emotionally satisfying arguments to arguments about monetary policy, which is admittedly a boring subject. But it’s a pretty dumb thing to gloss over when you’re picking the head of a central bank.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Property owners are paying up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to lift their homes above flood zones during dangerous hurricane season

An elevated house rests on newly constructed pillings nearly a year after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy
An elevated house rests on newly constructed pilings nearly a year after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, which cost an estimated $70 billion in damages.

  • Companies that lift houses and build sea walls to protect homes from flooding are busier than ever.
  • 2020 set a new record with 22 extreme weather events costing over $1 billion in damages each.
  • “That’s all we do. Everything is seawall construction and raising houses,” one company told Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In many coastal communities along the East Coast, houses large and small stand 15 feet in the air on concrete or wooden pilings. The view: gorgeous beaches and deadly flood zones.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed over 600,000 homes and killed more than 200 people, costing approximately $70 billion in damages. Last year, climate disasters in the US set a new record with 22 extreme weather events costing over $1 billion each.

Since Hurricane Sandy, construction companies along the East Coast have been busy fortifying oceanfront buildings against storms that experts say are only getting stronger as a result of climate change.

“That’s all we do. We’re always on the water,” Kevin Braza, owner of K.E. Braza Construction in Connecticut, told Insider. “We haven’t taken any jobs off the beach, to be honest with you. Everything is seawall construction and raising houses.”

Wolfe House & Building Movers said house-lifting costs can range anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000 for larger buildings – and that’s excluding foundation and utility work.

According to Braza, almost all of his clients own properties worth at least one million dollars, with one sea wall project coming with a price tag of approximately $2 million.

“Believe it or not, the million-dollar-plus homes are people’s summer homes, which is crazy,” he said. “In the summertime, they don’t want us on the beach, and now in the fall when this hurricane season comes around, people are really freaking out.”

What is left of a house at 705 Front Street on Union Beach, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Residents who lived near the water found many of their homes are either gone or condemned.
What is left of a house on Union Beach, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Residents who lived near the water found many of their homes are either gone or condemned.

Beyond individual homeowners, Braza said his company’s main clients are beach associations where hundreds of members pay for neighborhood sea walls or dock and jetty repairs.

Even though the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to late November, Braza said requests like these surge during the early fall months.

After a summer riddled with extreme flooding, homeowners are rushing to prevent future damages – but nobody wants excavators on their private beaches during June and July, he said.

One of the largest financial incentives for lifting homes above projected flood zones is FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. “Elevation certificates” that show an at-risk property has been lifted above the floodplain can drastically decrease insurance costs.

“They change the flood zone heights every year,” Braza told Insider. “If they’re telling you that your house isn’t going to be there in 10 or 15 years, people freak out.”

Wolfe’s Mike Brovont has been working in the house-lifting business for over two decades. He said the states with the highest demand for house lifting that Wolfe operates in are Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland.

“The year or two after a big storm there’s always an increasing demand,” he told Insider. “I haven’t seen a lot of people that are lifting due to rising sea levels. I think that’s still a slow enough thing that … people aren’t really worried as far as the immediate danger.”

Braza said he thinks climate change has played a role in the surge in demand – he said he gets new requests every other day.

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Armyworms can turn green lawns into brown wastelands seemingly overnight – here’s how to prevent and treat an infestation

FILE PICTURE: An armyworm is seen on corn crop by night at a village in Menghai county in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China, July 12, 2019.  REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
Armyworms can devastate a lawn quickly. Here’s how to prevent that from happening.

  • Armyworms turned one woman’s manicured green lawn into a dry, brown field in two days.
  • The pests are common in the Southeast and are invading new regions like the Northeast and Midwest.
  • The worms are worse than they’ve been in 20 years, but here’s how you can prevent and deal with this nuisance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Within two days of armyworms invading her yard, Julie Kocher’s plush green lawn, which she said used to feel like a soft carpet to walk on, turned into a withered swathe of brown grass that looked like it had either caught on fire or hadn’t been watered in weeks.

Armyworms got their name from the way hordes of the insects infest and decimate green lawns and crop fields seemingly overnight – and the problem might be worse this year than any other in the past two decades, according to Michael Goatley, a Virginia Tech professor.

Though Kocher treated the inch-long worms in her yard with bottles of insecticides, she could still see the pests wriggling and flopping around when she was weeding, and when she mowed the lawn, a black slime splattered over her shoes – presumably the armyworms’ pulverized bodies.

The 1.5 inch-long caterpillars can devastate green fields of grass and crops quickly, and pesticides become ineffective once the worms are over a half-inch long, so it’s critical to recognize and treat any infestation immediately. Here are some ways you can defend your property from these pests, according to an entomologist, a professor, and a representative from a lawn-care company.

Take steps to prevent armyworms:

  • Monitor your lawn regularly for patches of brown grass, tips of grass blades that have been eaten, and birds picking at your yard (birds love eating the worms, and patches of brown grass are one of the first signs of armyworm damage), Jeff Herman, editor-in-chief of the lawn-care company LawnStarter, told Insider.
  • Mix soap with water and pour it over a small swathe of your lawn to check if there are caterpillars in your yard. The bugs should rise to the top if your yard has been infested.
  • Mow and water your lawn regularly, which makes the grass less attractive to the pests.
  • Remove grassy weeds and thatch to make your yard inhospitable for the insects’ eggs and larvae.
  • Goatley recommends shutting off outdoor lights by your house at night to avoid attracting moths, which lay eggs that turn into armyworms.

What to do if you have an armyworm infestation:

  • Terri Billeisen, an entomologist at North Carolina State University, recommends using a liquid pesticide from this list to kill larval-stage caterpillars.
  • Herman recommends using any insecticide with halofenozide that lists armyworms among the insects it targets.
  • Goatley recommends using bifenthrin, which retails at $25 a bottle and can be bought at home and garden stores, or the more effective Acelepryn, which costs around $100. While bifenthrin will kill caterpillars, Goatley said Acelepryn remains effective for a longer period of time and stops damage immediately.
  • Goatley said the grass can recover on its own as long as the growing point at the base of the grass shoot is undamaged. But in other cases, people may have to re-sod, re-seed and aerate any dead patches that the worms left behind.
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Shifting from fossil fuels to other assets is a growing investing strategy. How hard is it to make the switch?

A field of solar panels facing to the left are shown in front of two dozen wind turbines, as the sun starts to set in the background.
Investors buying ESG funds might not be helping this solar farm as much as they think.

  • Investors who participate in the divestment movement have capital for other assets.
  • A growing array of assets offer metrics, ESG, to assess financial performance and overall effect.
  • ESG is a fraction of activity in global capital markets, and there’s concern over ESG claims.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Insider Sustainability

Last week, we covered why it’s difficult for investors to quit the coal-mining industry, even as more companies sell off their assets. Many investors are moving away from regularly providing capital to coal, one of the major fossil-fuel industries responsible for carbon emissions. This withdrawal is known as the divestment movement.

Some people might not think of themselves as investors, but the title includes anyone with a pension or an independent retirement account managed by a large financial-services company such as Vanguard or Fidelity. If an investor or investment firm participates in the divestment movement and sells off their fossil-fuel assets, they still need to find places to put that capital and continue to generate positive returns. Investing clients are relying on these funds to generate more than what they put in to achieve financial goals, such as having enough money for retirement.

Global climate strikes, such as Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future, have drawn significant attention to the growing amount of carbon emissions, as well as to the need for governments and corporations to act. An investment strategy that considers social and environmental benefits, in addition to an asset’s ability to generate returns, is known as socially responsible investing.

The rise of ESG

Investment firms have set up funds specifically focused on companies that consider the environment, social justice, and good corporate governance, or ESG, in their daily operations. Sustainability goals or reduced carbon emissions for the future are considered to be ESG factors, and investment in companies that make these plans explicit have become mainstream and are worth a lot of money. Last year, $51.1 billion flowed into US sustainable funds, and a 2020 survey found that “almost half of investors are currently investing in ESG products,” almost twice as many compared to 2019. In April, the investment-management company BlackRock raised $1.25 billion for its new US Carbon Transition Readiness Fund, the largest launch of an exchange-traded fund ever.

Reasons for skepticism and concern

Critics say the growth in ESG assets might look impressive, but companies in the business of producing clean energy or reducing carbon emissions aren’t getting a windfall in new funding.

“About 85% of the growth in assets managed by sustainable mutual funds and ETFs is attributable to fund rebrandings – existing funds that formally modified their strategies to use sustainable approaches,” Henry Shilling, the founder and director of research at Sustainable Research and Analysis LLC, told CNBC. “It’s not net new money.”

Unlike a solar-panel farm or a hydroelectric dam, whose power output is quickly measured, it’s also difficult to compare ESG investments or evaluate their effects. There are differences in definitions and a lack of clarity about environmental and social credentials, which can lead to larger problems. One investment company, DWS Group, is being investigated by US and German authorities over allegations that it exaggerated claims for some of its ESG-labeled investment products, Bloomberg News reported.

The investment industry’s ongoing pressure for high returns in short periods means widespread internal changes will be difficult, said Tariq Fancy, the first global chief investment officer of sustainable investing at BlackRock. Fancy recently wrote a 40-page essay about his experience and believed governments could make the biggest effect on carbon emissions through new regulations, not the growth in sale of ESG investments. “I don’t think there’s any way to fix that in the way we need it to, at the magnitude we need it to, without government intervention,” Fancy told Insider, citing the example of carbon taxes.

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Droughts have killed the most people in the world’s worst natural disasters over the last 50 years

Empty boat docks sit on dry land at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, currently at 37% of its normal capacity, in Folsom, Calif., Saturday, May 22, 2021.
Empty boat docks sit on dry land at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, currently at 37% of its normal capacity, in Folsom, Calif., Saturday, May 22, 2021.

  • Droughts killed the most people of the world’s most deadly weather-related disasters, the UN said.
  • A new report released Tuesday highlights an increase in weather-related disasters but fewer deaths.
  • More than 90% of deaths occured in developing countries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Droughts are the leading cause of death from the world’s worst disasters in the last 50 years, according to a report the World Meteorological Organization released on Tuesday.

The UN agency’s report, which considered more than 11,000 weather disasters over the past half-century, highlighted four specific droughts that occured in eastern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s as the leading killers. In all, droughts killed 650,000 people. The next biggest cause of death from disasters was storms, with more than 575,000 deaths.

Disasters related to weather, climate, or water hazards happen five times more often now than they did in the 1970s, but the deaths they cause have decreased significantly, the report said.

The 1970s and 1980s saw an average of 170 deaths per day, which fell to 90 in the 1990s. In the 2010s, there were 40 deaths per day related to weather disasters.

More than 90% of the deaths occurred in developing counties, the report said.

Meanwhile, economic damage stemming from these disasters has increased seven-fold over the last 50 years, according to the report. The six costliest disasters were all the result of hurricanes in the US, racking up more than $517 billion in economic losses combined.

“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America. We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms.”

He said the global community has become better at saving lives due to improved multi-hazard early warning systems, despite only half of the 193-member countries of the WMO actually having these systems.

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