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Nations are poised to begin building an international carbon market, after finally adopting the relevant rules at the UN climate conference in Glasgow earlier this month.

Under the COP26 agreement, countries should soon be able to buy and sell UN-certified carbon credits from one another, and use them as a way to achieve greenhouse gas reduction pledges under the Paris climate agreement.

But some observers fear the rules include major loopholes that could make it appear as if nations are making more progress on emissions than they really are. Others warn that the agreement may accelerate the creation of carbon credits within separate voluntary offset markets, which are often criticized for overstating climate benefits as well.

Carbon credits, or offsets, are produced from projects that claim to prevent a ton of carbon dioxide emissions, or to pull the same amount out of the atmosphere. They’re typically awarded for practices such as halting deforestation, planting trees, and adopting certain soil management techniques.

A new supervisory body, which should begin holding meetings next year, will develop final methods to validate, monitor, and certify projects seeking to sell UN-accredited carbon credits. The Glasgow agreement will establish a separate process for countries to earn credit toward their Paris targets by cooperating with other nations on projects that lower climate emissions, such as funding renewable power plants in another country.

Experts disagree over how large the UN-backed market will become, what some of the new rules will actually do, and how much the details may change as the final methods are determined. But the process is “slowly, messily, ploddingly building out the infrastructure for more trading of carbon as a commodity,” says Jessica Green, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, who focuses on climate governance and carbon markets.

The US and European Union have stated that they don’t intend to rely on carbon credits to achieve their emissions goals under the Paris agreement. But countries including Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland have said they will apply carbon credits, according to Carbon Brief. In fact, Switzerland is already financing projects in Peru, Ghana, and Thailand in hopes of counting those initiatives toward its Paris target.

Most observers praise at least one key achievement at Glasgow: The rules largely will prevent double counting of climate progress. That means two nations trading carbon credits can’t both apply the climate gains toward their Paris goals. Only the nation that buys a credit, or holds onto one it generated, can.

Voluntary markets

But some experts fear there may still be ways that double counting could occur.

Offset project developers have long been able to generate and sell carbon credits through voluntary programs, like the ones managed by registries such as Verra or Gold Standard. Oil and gas companies, airlines, and tech giants are all buying increasing numbers of offsets through these sorts of programs as they strive to achieve net-zero emissions goals.

The UN’s new rules take a hands-off approach to these marketplaces, notes Danny Cullenward, policy director at CarbonPlan, a nonprofit that analyzes the integrity of carbon removal efforts.

That suggests that projects developers in, say, Brazil could earn money for the offsets sold through voluntary markets—while the nation itself could still apply those carbon gains toward its own emissions progress under the Paris accords. That means there could still be double counting between a country and a company both asserting that the same credits lowered their emissions, Cullenward says.

COP26 President Alok Sharma receives applause after delivering the closing speech at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

An additional problem is that studies and investigative stories have found that voluntary offset programs can overstate the levels of

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By: James Temple
Title: How a new global carbon market could exaggerate climate progress
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Published Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2021 10:00:00 +0000

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The Download: carbon-capturing super trees, and DeepMind’s sorting breakthrough




This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Inside the quest to engineer climate-saving “super trees”

Biotech startup Living Carbon is trying to design trees that grow faster and grab more carbon than their natural peers, as well as trees that resist rot, keeping that carbon out of the atmosphere.

In February, the startup planted the first forest in the United States that contains genetically engineered trees. But there’s still much we don’t know. How will these trees affect the rest of the forest? How far will their genes spread? And how good are they, really, at pulling more carbon from the atmosphere? Read the full story.

—Boyce Upholt

Google DeepMind’s game-playing AI just found another way to make code faster

The news: A year after DeepMind used a version of its game-playing AI AlphaZero to find new ways to speed up the calculation of a crucial piece of math, the AI research lab has pulled the same trick again—twice.

Using a new version of AlphaZero called AlphaDev, it has discovered how to sort items in a list up to 70% faster than the best existing method, and also found a way to speed up a key algorithm used in cryptography by 30%.

Why it matters: These algorithms are among the most common building blocks in software. Small speed-ups can make a huge difference, cutting costs and saving energy. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Instagram is fostering a vast child sex abuse network
The platform’s algorithms promote sickening content, too. (WSJ $) 
Meta has set up an investigatory task force in response to a new report. (WP $)

2 The Biden administration is delivering on its crypto-humbling promises
It looks an awful lot like part of its plan of being seen to be tough on tech. (Vox)
Crypto ads in the UK will have to carry new risk warnings. (The Guardian)

 3 Solar energy from space has been beamed to Earth
It could be a real milestone for renewable energy efforts. (WSJ $)
There’s a lot going on up in space these days. (The Atlantic $)

4 Sequoia Capital has created its own dedicated China firm
It demonstrates how even the massive venture capital firm is struggling to combine doing business with both the US and China. (FT $)

5 AI wants to optimize your job
But some workers worry it looks a whole lot like an extra layer of surveillance. (WP $)
OpenAI hasn’t even started training GPT-5 yet. (TechCrunch)
This startup is using AI to give workers a “productivity score.” (MIT Technology Review)

6 We can’t ignore the communities living on climate change’s front line 
But while the fate of the climate looks dire, disaster is not a foregone conclusion. (New Scientist $)
The UN just handed out an urgent climate to-do list. Here’s what it says. (MIT Technology Review)

7 What it’s like to try and get online in North Korea
Millions of its residents have never even seen a webpage. (Wired $)

8 Plant burgers have a tropical oil problem
Plant-based meat isn’t immune from environmental issues, even if it is broadly more climate-friendly. (Vox)
The world’s biggest beef supplier is building a lab-grown meat plant in Spain. (Bloomberg $)
Here’s what a lab-grown burger tastes like. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Robots are competing in dog agility competitions
It’ll be a while before they’re faster than our four-legged friends, though.(IEEE Spectrum)
This robot dog just taught itself to walk. (MIT Technology Review)

10 The internet has made our birthdays weird
Congratulatory emails from Uber and airlines… no thanks. (Rest of World)
It’s a sobering reminder that some platforms aren’t made to last. (Wired $)

Quote of the day

“The AI boom has brought the energy back into the Bay that was lost during covid.”

—Doug Fulop, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Oregon last year, explains why he and his partner are moving back to the newly-invigorated San Francisco to the New York Times.


The big story

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

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June 2022

Around a year and a half ago, Yann LeCun realized he had it wrong.

LeCun, who is chief scientist at Meta’s AI lab and a professor

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: carbon-capturing super trees, and DeepMind’s sorting breakthrough
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Published Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2023 12:10:00 +0000

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Effective infrastructure enables universal data intelligence



HV datainfrastructure 1200

Data volumes are exploding across organizations of all types. Research firm IDC projects the amount of global data to more than double between now and 2026, with enterprise data leading that growth — increasing twice as fast as consumer data. Accordingly, it is a business imperative to store, protect, and provide access to this growing volume of data, while finding new ways to derive value from it.

The surge in data volumes is driven by multiple factors: Historical data that companies have been collecting for years continues to pile up. New data types are proliferating, such as IoT (Internet of Things) sensor data, operational technology (OT) data, and customer experience data. Core business functions, such as supply chain, are becoming increasingly more data driven.

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As organizations transition to data-driven business models, they become keepers of immense and ever-growing amounts of data, which they must store, protect, and analyze. For many this is a sizable challenge: 80% of respondents to a survey by 451 Research said they work with more than 100 data sources. Their existing systems also struggle to keep pace: 30% of respondents said it takes their organization more than a week to go from data to insights.

Consequently, most organizations face a long list of data-related challenges. They must get their arms around a massive volume of data, ranging from historical to real-time. They need to determine what type of infrastructure modernization is required to process all that data, and then how to integrate that storage infrastructure with data services, workloads, and applications. And the questions continue: How do we apply automation, AI, and machine learning to data sets? How should we think about the cloud? And how do we take advantage of as-a-service models to deliver data-driven value to the business?

And above all, today’s economic conditions call for doing more with less. How can IT teams meet the business need for advanced data analytics when their budget growth is not keeping pace?

First steps toward data intelligence

Bharti Patel, senior vice president of product engineering at Hitachi Vantara, says businesses should aspire to offer seamless access to data and insights, what she calls “universal data intelligence.” That journey starts with getting a handle on the basics of data discovery and data classification and creating policies for how the organization handles different types of data.

“Thoughtfulness at the beginning of the journey is very important,” says Patel. To derive insights with business value, organizations first must get a handle on the data they have and are collecting. “People really don’t fully understand what value lies in their data; they don’t know where it resides or how to make the best use of it,” she says. “Your strategy about what data goes where—what goes to tape, what stays on-prem, what goes to cloud—is very important.”

To create that strategy, organizations need to define the purpose of their data: Is this data we’re storing simply for compliance purposes, with a low probability that we will ever need to retrieve it? Is this confidential data that must be stored on-premises, with multiple backups? Or is this data that needs to be accessed frequently and should be stored on high-performance NVMe (non-volatile memory express) systems?

Organizations must also prioritize data analytics initiatives to find the right balance between quick-hit projects that deliver limited benefit against more ambitious endeavors that could take longer but deliver more value in the long run.

Patel says it’s vitally important that organizations establish clear lines of communication between business and IT leaders. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to identifying the most pressing business needs, agreeing on a priority list, and making sure that deliverables from the data analytics teams are presented in a way the business can put to use.

Infrastructure modernization

As data growth accelerates and data strategies are refined, organizations are under pressure to modernize their data infrastructure in a way that is cost-effective, secure, scalable, socially responsible, and compliant with regulations.

Organizations with legacy infrastructures often own hardware from multiple vendors,

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By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: Effective infrastructure enables universal data intelligence
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Published Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2023 14:00:00 +0000

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The Download: covid’s origin drama, and TikTok’s uncertain future



This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Newly-revealed coronavirus data has reignited a debate over the virus’s origins

This week, we’ve seen the resurgence of a debate that has been swirling since the start of the pandemic—where did the virus that causes covid-19 come from?

For the most part, scientists have maintained that the virus probably jumped from an animal to a human at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan at some point in late 2019. But some claim that the virus leaped from humans to animals, rather than the other way around. And many continue to claim that the virus somehow leaked from a nearby laboratory that was studying coronaviruses in bats.

Data collected in 2020—and kept from public view since then—potentially adds weight to the animal theory. It highlights a potential suspect: the raccoon dog. But exactly how much weight it adds depends on who you ask. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly biotech newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

Read more of MIT Technology Review’s covid reporting:

+ Our senior biotech editor Antonio Regalado investigated the origins of the coronavirus behind covid-19 in his five-part podcast series Curious Coincidence.

Meet the scientist at the center of the covid lab leak controversy. Shi Zhengli has spent years at the Wuhan Institute of Virology researching coronaviruses that live in bats. Her work has come under fire as the world tries to understand where covid-19 came from. Read the full story.

+ This scientist now believes covid started in Wuhan’s wet market. Here’s why. Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, believes that a spillover of the virus from animals at the Huanan Seafood market was almost certainly behind the origin of the pandemic. Read the full story.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 TikTok’s future in the US is hanging in the balance
Banning it is a colossal challenge, and officials still lack the legal authority to do so. (WP $)
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by a congressional committee. (FT $)
He told lawmakers the company would earn their trust. (WSJ $)
Meanwhile, TikTok paid for influencers to travel to DC to lobby its cause. (Wired $)

2 A crypto fugitive has been arrested in Montenegro
Do Kwon has been on the run since TerraUSD stablecoin collapsed last year. (WSJ $)
Want to mine Bitcoin? Get yourself to Texas. (Reuters)
What’s next for crypto. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Twitter’s getting rid of its legacy blue checks
On the entirely serious date of April 1. (The Verge)+ The platform’s still an unattractive prospect for advertisers. (Vox)

4 Chatbots are having tough conversations for us
ChatGPT is adept at writing scripts for sensitive talks with kids and colleagues. (NYT $)
OpenAI has given ChatGPT access to the web’s live data. (The Verge)
How Character.AI became a billion-dollar unicorn. (WSJ $)
The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Jack Dorsey’s Block has been accused of fraudulent transactions
The payments company denied it, and claims it inflated its users numbers, too.(FT $)
Dorsey doesn’t have a track record of caring about this kind of thing. (The Information $)

6 Homeowners associations are secretly installing surveillance systems
The system tracks license plates and follows residents’ movements. (The Intercept)

7 Inside the tricky ethics of using DNA to solve crimes
A new database could help to protect users’ privacy. (Wired $)|
The citizen scientist who finds killers from her couch. (MIT Technology Review)

8 There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the climate
Healthier, more sustainable diets are a good place to start. (Scientific American)
Taking stock of our climate past, present, and future. (MIT Technology Review)

9 TikTok keeps hectoring us
It seems we just can’t get enough of being aggressively told what to do. (Vox)

10 Don’t get scammed by a deepfake
CallerID can’t be trusted to protect you from rogue AI calls. (Gizmodo)

Quote of the day

“Wait, I need content.”

—TikTok fashion creator Kristine Thompson refuses to miss a content opportunity during a trip to the US Capitol to lobby against a potential TikTok ban, she tells the New York Times.

The big story

This sci-fi blockchain game could help create a metaverse that no one owns

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: covid’s origin drama, and TikTok’s uncertain future
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Published Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2023 12:40:02 +0000

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