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Amazon’s climate pollution is getting way worse

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Amazon’s greenhouse gas emissions ballooned big time last year despite the company’s efforts to sell itself as a leader in climate action. Its carbon dioxide emissions grew an eye-popping 18 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, according to its latest sustainability report.

Amazon generated 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, about as much pollution as 180 gas-fired power plants might pump out annually. This is the second year in a row that Amazon’s climate pollution has grown by double digits since it made a splashy climate pledge and started reporting its emissions publicly in 2019. Comparing that year to 2021, the company’s CO2 pollution has actually grown a whopping 40 percent.

Back in 2019, then-CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company planned to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions for its operations by 2040. Unfortunately, that kind of pledge allows companies to get away with some misleading carbon accounting. They can aim to reach “net-zero” emissions or claim to be “carbon-neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets that are supposed to cancel out the impact of their emissions through supposedly eco-friendly projects. That usually involves planting trees, protecting forests, or promoting clean energy. Those offsets, however, typically don’t result in real-world reductions in the planet-heating CO2 building up in our atmosphere.

Amazon co-founded an initiative called the “Climate Pledge” in 2019 to recruit other businesses to make similar commitments to reduce CO2 and “neutralize” leftover emissions with “credible” offsets. But a meaningful impact on the climate only comes from a company getting rid of the vast majority of its pollution, if not eliminating all of its emissions.

Amazon isn’t setting a good example of that — despite the company’s best PR efforts. To take the heat off its growing absolute carbon emissions, Amazon points to a more flattering number in its sustainability report. “The focus should not be solely on a company’s carbon footprint in terms of absolute carbon emissions, but also on whether it’s lowering its carbon intensity,” the report says.

Amazon says it reduced its “carbon intensity” by a small figure — 1.9 percent — meaning the emissions they produce for every dollar of merchandise sold fell slightly. But this metric can also be misleading because those reductions in carbon intensity are easily wiped out when the company’s business grows.

That’s exactly what’s happened at Amazon. “As we work to decarbonize our company, Amazon is growing rapidly. We have scaled our business at an unprecedented pace to help meet the needs of our customers through the pandemic,” the company says in its sustainability report. In other words, Amazon made a killing during the COVID-19 pandemic as e-commerce surged — and Amazon’s pollution grew along with its profits.

This all goes to show why it’s important to look at a company’s entire carbon footprint to see if it’s actually reducing emissions overall. To make things worse, the figures Amazon reports are likely an undercount of how much pollution the e-commerce giant is truly responsible for because — unlike some other companies, including Target — Amazon doesn’t include the emissions that come from making many of the products it sells.

And while keeping track of carbon dioxide emissions is important for tackling the climate crisis that’s supercharging devastating heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and other disasters — it doesn’t capture the full spectrum of problems associated with Amazon’s mushrooming warehouses and all those smiley-faced diesel trucks making deliveries. For years, many communities where Amazon builds warehouses have called the company out for bringing more smog, soot, and noise to their neighborhoods. This latest report shows that Amazon still has a long way to go to prevent all of the pollution it creates.

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Mickey 17, the next film from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, is out in 2024

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You’ll have to wait a bit to see Parasite director Bong Joon-ho’s next project. The sci-fi film, called Mickey 17, will hit theaters on March 29th, 2024. The news was revealed via the briefest of teaser trailers, which shows star Robert Pattinson hanging around shirtless in some kind of tube.

The film is based on the novel Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton, which is about a “disposable employee” out on a quest to colonize an icy new world for human habitation (no word yet on where all the extra Mickeys came from). In addition to Pattinson, the film stars Steven Yeun (Nope, Okja), Naomi Ackie (The Rise of Skywalker), Toni Collette (Knives Out), and Mark Ruffalo (everything with the incredible Hulk in it). Outside of the cast, Joon-ho is also working with some notable names behind the camera on this one, including production designer Fiona Crombie (Cruella), costume designer Catherine George (Okja, Snowpiercer), and Dan Glass, a visual effects supervisor known for his work on the Matrix movies.

It’ll likely be a while before we see a proper trailer for Mickey 17, though, as Warner Bros. says the film is currently in production.

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In Phoenix, a Taiwanese Chip Giant Builds a Hedge Against China

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Intel, which hopes to introduce its own new production processes over the next two years, took issue with TSMC’s suggestions that its technology in Arizona will be the most advanced in the United States in 2024. “I would disagree with that point of view,” said Ann Kelleher, the executive vice president who heads Intel’s manufacturing technology development.

State and local officials in Arizona have already agreed to offer financial incentives for the first phase of TSMC’s construction, and the company is expected to apply for federal grants for both phases under the CHIPS Act.

Mr. Chatterji, the White House adviser, estimated that the two new TSMC factories in Arizona, once operating at full capacity, could by themselves fulfill U.S. demands for such advanced chips. But Handel Jones, an analyst who heads International Business Strategies, said TSMC’s factories in Taiwan would still be needed, both because of their production capacity and because they will be making more advanced technology by 2026.

TSMC operates four factories in Taiwan that each can process up to 100,000 semiconductor wafers each month. In Arizona, TSMC initially said the first factory could process 20,000 wafers a month. It now estimates that the two factories’ combined output will be 50,000 a month, or 600,000 a year.

But even relatively small operations in the United States can become important, industry executives said, particularly for individual customers like Apple or for the production of particularly crucial chips in emergencies.

By adding more advanced production technology in the United States, TSMC “would help address vulnerabilities associated with the shortage of semiconductors evident over the past few years,” said Bob LeFort, president of the U.S. arm of Infineon, a big German chip maker.

TSMC’s move is also a sign that the CHIPS Act is having an impact on the plans of big companies, helping to not only spur their spending but galvanize investments by companies that supply them with production tools and materials.

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink is reportedly facing a federal probe on animal welfare grounds

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Neuralink, the brain implant company founded by Elon Musk, is reportedly facing a federal probe over the treatment of animals used in its experiments. Reuters reports that a probe was recently opened by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspector general and focuses on potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A spokesperson for the USDA inspector general declined to comment to Reuters on its report.

Although Reuters says it’s unclear how wide-ranging the probe is, the news agency details a range of concerns over animal welfare raised in interviews with more than 20 current and former Neuralink employees. These include reports that, in one experiment, 25 out of 60 pigs allegedly had the wrong size of device installed as part of a study, while on another occasion, two separate pigs had devices installed on the wrong vertebra, leading to one needing to be euthanized to end its suffering. 

Staffers are reportedly pushed to meet ambitious deadlines

Neuralink’s aim is to develop ways for the human brain to interface directly with computers to help treat a range of neurological conditions and even help paralyzed people walk. So far, the company has made a number of public demonstrations of its technology being used by animals, including showing a monkey playing Pong with its brain and another typing on a computer using an implant.

It is common for animals used in scientific tests to be killed after experiments are completed so that their autopsies can provide further data. But current and former Neuralink employees interviewed by Reuters said that testing mistakes can lead to excess deaths by requiring tests to be repeated. They can also make the resulting data less accurate. Reuters reports that Neuralink has killed around 1,500 animals since 2018.

None of this is firm evidence of wrongdoing (and Reuters notes that Neuralink has passed all USDA inspections), but employees have reportedly raised concerns internally that Musk’s drive for quick progress has created an environment filled with what Reuters calls “under-prepared and over-stressed staffers scrambling to meet deadlines.” Musk’s attempts to motivate employees to work faster reportedly include telling staff to imagine they have a bomb strapped to their heads. Reuters says the CEO also wrote in an email in February this year, “In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!”

Publicly, Musk has been bullish about the potential for Neuralink to start human trials in the near future. At a recent event, the Tesla and now Twitter CEO said that he hoped to install the device in a human’s head within the next six months. Musk previously said he hoped to start human trials in 2020 and then in 2022.

Neuralink has faced criticism for its treatment of animals before. Earlier this year, a nonprofit called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which is against the use of animals in medical experiments, alleged that, in a study funded by Neuralink, scientists at the University of California, Davis treated monkeys involved in one of its experiments inhumanely. Neuralink responded to the allegations, saying that “the facilities and care at UC Davis did and continue to meet federally mandated standards.” 

Neuralink did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment. Reuters’ report is well worth reading in its entirety. 

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