Exploring the Fourth Wave of Environmental Innovation
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December 5, 2019 
Bill Gates's big climate bet
File this one under ‘fascinating, promising’: Heliogen, a start-up backed by Bill Gates, just announced a breakthrough that combines artificial intelligence and mirrors to create a solar oven capable of generating temperatures roughly a quarter of what you’d find on the surface of the sun. It works by using a host of sophisticated technology to train a field of mirrors reflecting solar beams onto one single spot. Such a focus (pun intended) has the potential one day to offer a carbon-free power source to high emitting industrial processes like cement and steel manufacturing.
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The new era of data-driven methane management

Reducing methane emissions is essential to fighting climate change, and BPX Energy (BP’s U.S. onshore oil and gas division) is bringing leading edge technology to the fight with impressive results. By moving to a largely drone-based leak detection program, BPX increased the number of wells surveyed in a given day by as much as 900% and reduced the cost per well inspected by 90%. “Minimizing methane emissions is the right thing to do — for the environment and our business,” Brian Pugh, chief innovation officer at BPX, explained in an interview discussing technology innovation, the role of methane regulations and creating a data-driven culture.  
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A traveler-supported case for higher airfares
A new EDF and University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business study found travelers would be willing to pay more for airline tickets if it meant that the additional cost went toward addressing the flight’s carbon emissions. The presentation of the extra charge mattered: a “carbon offset” made the increase more palatable than a “carbon tax,” and respondents were more inclined to accept the extra charge when it was directed at fuel producers.
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Analyzing the EV sales slump
Reports over the summer showed a slight global downturn in sales of electric vehicles, but analysis from the University of Houston suggests the current slump in electric vehicle sales does not necessarily indicate a change in trend. Growth isn’t always linear, and considerable variation is to be expected. Also worth noting: “Even if 2019 sales prove flat to 2018, the growth rate since 2013 will still average an impressive 25% per year.”
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Is it possible to be profitable and virtuous?
The answer to this headline’s rhetorical question is a resounding yes, in our opinion and experience. Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, is under pressure from consumers and investors alike to prove it can join the ranks of the profitable and virtuous. They’re not alone. “Studies support the idea that profit and sustainability are compatible over the long run,” Jack Ewing writes in a New York Times story profiling Nestlé’s efforts and progress.
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How VR can help people better understand climate change
“How do you show people and convince them of a future that has never been?” asks NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin. One way is to help them visualize the future through virtual reality. Juliano Calil of Middlebury Institute of International Studies helped create a VR program to bring immediacy and a sense of realness to conversations around sea level rise. Current versions of the program immerse users in a realistic simulation of how bad it could get in a particular area. Calil hopes future versions include visualizations showing how adaptive measures can mitigate the impacts.
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