Automakers are starting to understand the climate future

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If you want to meet an expert who understands where the world is heading, may I introduce a bushy-bearded Australian coal miner who appears anonymously in a video shared by the Sydney Morning messenger Last week. He is sitting behind the wheel of a borrowed Tesla when a man in the backseat asks him to ‘crash’ it. As hard as it gets. The man throws his fist on the accelerator, is immediately pushed back into his seat and laughs. “Damn, I want it, eh?” said the man. “It’s just instant. Like, damn, ”the driver replies, beaming. (Watch it, you will feel happier afterwards).

Many of the changes needed to get us on the right climate path are going to meet resistance, but it starts to look like getting people to accept EVs may not be one of them. Elon Musk did a pioneering job, but the Tesla was mostly a niche product, with the niche being the first to embrace cool things that live along the coastlines. (Life in Muskworld is getting a little silly: Last month it started touting a model with ten rocket boosters that will go from zero to sixty in 1.1 seconds, which seems like a really bad idea.) became very real, however, with the announcement last month of an electric version of the Ford F-150 pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the United States every year since the Reagan administration and the motor vehicle most popular of all time. In seven days, the company had reported seventy thousand preorders and inventory had jumped eight percent.

Having spent most of my life in rural America, where the F-150 is ubiquitous, I can tell you why this is going to be successful. It is not the acceleration; it’s the caps. The electric version will essentially be a battery on wheels. The “electric frunk” (where the motor was located) has several outlets, useful for any power tools you might need if you’re not near another power source – if you’re building a house, say – and replace the noise, smelly and dangerous gas generators that no one likes. You say most pickup drivers aren’t, in fact, home builders? That’s right, most Americans don’t need a pickup at all. But look at any truck ad and see who it features. Once blue collar America approves the electric approach, the suburbs will follow suit. We need more than just electric cars, of course: buses and bikes, not to mention the tracks for these bikes, are crucial. But since, today, public transit accounts for about one percent of passenger kilometers traveled, the new pickup paradigm seems essential.

And, in any event, the automakers seem very much in the game. Ford last week announced it was cutting $ 30 billion in new spending on electric vehicles; General Motors has already said it will be nothing but electric by 2035. In contrast, the banking industry seems determined to have it both ways, trying to make money from fossil fuels and of a renewable future. Late last month, President Biden issued an executive order on financial climate risk that begins by noting that “the failure of financial institutions to appropriately and adequately consider and measure these physical and transitional risks threatens the competitiveness of US businesses and markets, lifelong economies. and the pensions of American workers and families, and the ability of American financial institutions to serve communities. This failure has been visible on many fronts in recent days. Deutsche Bank has presented a detailed plan to reduce its carbon emissions, for example by reducing “the fuel consumption of its company car fleet in Germany (around 5,400 cars) by 30% by 2025”.

That sounds good, but, as activists from the German environmental and human rights organization Urgewald have pointed out, such proposals “are also embarrassing testimony to the fact that the bank’s design in terms of sustainability is stuck in the 90s. The measures are easy to integrate and do not harm anyone. However, neither will they have a significant impact “- not, say, like the bank’s plan to coordinate the IPO of oil and gas group Wintershall, which plans to increase its production by 30%. fossil fuels. by 2023. Closer to home, the world’s largest fossil fuel financier, JPMorgan Chase, announced plans reduce not the amount of carbon that its loans release from the ground but rather the “carbon intensity” of its portfolio. This would allow it to continue to lend to companies that wish to continue producing the same amount of oil and would also allow it to significantly increase the amount of natural gas they pump; gas is a little less carbon intensive than oil, so this increase would go through this loophole. At a House Financial Services Committee hearing last week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did his best to eliminate this blatant greenwashing, and Jamie Dimon, the CEO of Chase, appeared to say that the bank is also working to reduce absolute emissions from its portfolio, but at the moment the plans are under wraps. If you’re wondering how much that matters: A new report shows that the carbon produced by UK bankers’ loans alone would make it, if they were a country, the ninth emitter on the planet.

This is good news of a kind that is suddenly in abeyance: the fallout from the various court rulings and shareholder votes at the end of May is less a plan for the future than a mere recognition that something needs to change. Sticks are stuck in hornet nests, and there are screams from the industry and its friends. (Check out the fifteen GOP state treasurers threatening to withdraw state funds from banks that do not lend to the oil industry.) But, at least for now, the delighted laughter of a miner driving an EV muffles the noise.

Pass the microphone

Ana Teresa Fernández, artist born in Mexico and now based in San Francisco, specializes in what she calls “social sculpture”. I was struck by his recent project “On the Horizon”: transparent tubes, erected on the beach and filled with salt water, which attempt to show passers-by what the six-foot elevation of the level of the sea would actually look like. sea ​​that scientists are projecting. But all of her work is fascinating, and I was grateful that she agreed to answer a few questions. (Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Explain those remarkable tubes that you installed on the beach. Where did this thought come from and what was the reaction?

In 2017, I was invited to speak at the Art + Environment conference at the Nevada Museum of Art, where I first discovered this information: “Sea level will rise 6 feet into the 50’s. coming years. This news struck my guts first, then continued to resonate with me. I know we hear numbers, but often we don’t feel what it means. This is where I got the idea of ​​trying to hang six feet of water in an attempt to create a visceral experience. First of all, how can we suspend so much water? Second, how do you get it to rise from the shore? And how do you create it in a way that makes people want to know more? This is how “À l’Horizon” was born. After I made the first design of the ten-inch-wide, six-foot-tall Plexi tube, I partnered with Doniece Sandoval, the founder of LavaMae, to fundraise to create an interactive experience by making sixteen of these tubes. “On the horizon” would be mobile and transported to different shores and threatened coasts.

While refining the design, we tested a single tube at different ranges. Each time, people were immediately drawn to her. When we tested it out at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, a group of five little girls whirled, danced and played around for an hour, inundating us with questions. When we explained that it was the height of our future coastline, their mouths were gaping. When their parents approached us, it was the girls who answered their questions about the play. It was then that we knew that this play was intergenerational.

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