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[Ambassador report] Microsoft’s “Moonshot” Plan And The Geography Of Reparations (Free Report)

by Theodore Bechlivanis | 11-05-2020 05:38 Comments 14 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations



A few months ago, Microsoft announced “Moonshot”, a climate crisis plan that aims to not only make the tech giant carbon negative by 2030 but also negate the sum of its carbon emissions since its founding year by 2050. This put the software company at the forefront of the technocrat climate race, with firms like Amazon and Apple now lagging behind. Unsurprisingly, climate change has become pivotal to the circulation of capital, so Microsoft’s announcement was certainly meant to drive away investors from its competition’s more lackluster sustainability pledges. 


With a claim as unprecedented as it is bold, the “Moonshot” project was quick to attract criticism. Many doubt its feasibility, mostly on account of its scale and the nascent technology it relies on for its success. To fully develop that tech within the deadline they set for themselves, Microsoft will need to invest an immense amount of wealth, with little guarantee that it was obtained through sustainable avenues. Cue Microsoft’s extensive - and continuing - history of fossil fuel deals. 


Climate change is now more relevant to capital than ever before; it even led the agenda for the 2020 World Economic Forum. With technocrats vying for the reins of mitigation, Microsoft’s “Moonshot” is bound to cement the tech industry’s approach to climate change. But is it on the right track?


Corporate climate action is often an appeal to shareholders and the public. To do that, companies build upon our understanding of the current environmental crisis, which in turn depends on how that crisis is presented to us. That is typically done in numbers; how much excess CO2 gets released to the atmosphere, the expected temperature rise in the next few decades, or what portion of an animal population has been cleaved off the global biodiversity map. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change aren’t always quantifiable. 


While statistical data are crucial to our assessment of environmental damage, they only represent the tip of a complex iceberg of financial and sociopolitical relations. One of the most famous examples of this is the correlation between CO2 emissions and the GDP:


a graph showing the increase in CO2 emissions, energy consumption, and the GDP from 1950 to 2015

CO2 emissions seem to have increased in parallel with the GDP over the last few decades. Source: ourworldindata.org


The graph above shows that carbon dioxide pollution and economic growth have been increasing in parallel during the past decades, mostly due to heightened energy demand. This is a positive misrepresentation of how CO2 emissions have affected modern society, as well as an indication that the GDP might fail to capture the intricate relationship between the economy and the environment. 


The success of sustainability projects which fail to account for the full spectrum of interactions between humans and the environment is uncertain. It’s difficult for a company to remedy the financial concessions communities are forced to make due to climate insecurity, especially when its understanding of the crisis is based on statistics alone. This is where terms like inclusive wealth come in, which adds natural value to the definition of capital and underscores the role of biodiversity in successfully providing for our communities. Conversely, where pollution, urbanization, and ineffective land use jeopardize biodiversity, agriculture and food systems suffer, and local communities fall into poverty. This is a much more astute understanding of the environmental crisis as a qualitative problem.


Now, let’s take a more detailed look at “Moonshot”: in their original blog post back in January, Microsoft laid out a comprehensive action plan, including their deadlines for specific milestones and the policies they are going to implement to reach them. Some of these milestones include complete reliance on renewable energy by 2025, electrifying their international vehicle fleet, and ensuring transparency across all aspects of production and trade. Most importantly, however, the software company is going to make a sizable investment in carbon reduction technology, which they will utilize to achieve their 2050 goal of removing the sum of their CO2 emissions since 1975 and, to quote their announcement, addressing their “unpaid climate debt”.


This last pledge seems overly ambitious when the majority of the tech giant’s action plan consists of clearing out excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Even if the hard numbers of climate change - in the case of Moonshot, carbon dioxide emissions and electric consumption - are reversible, their effects on human health, local economies, and the cycle of poverty cannot be resolved without relevant interventions.


But most importantly, paying one’s climate debt is complicated because the climate crisis manifests differently around the world. Let’s look at the dreaded example of sea-level rise, which CO2 emissions are a primary cause of. Climate Central published an analysis that showed that by 2030, coastal regions are likely to experience damaging century floods, and by 2050, an estimated 275 million people will be living in flooded or submerged areas. But that’s not all: this will mostly affect Asian cities, with places like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Osaka facing the greatest number of displaced citizens. 


Some disparities have already started appearing in the present: in 2019, persistent floodwaters displaced countless Bangladeshis from their homes or fields. Meanwhile, less equitable, more polluted communities are more likely to suffer the effects of poor air and water quality than richer, less polluted ones. The evidence of climate change varying around the world is overwhelming. Climate action plans cannot afford not to be localized; particularly in the case of Microsoft, which purports to pay reparations for the environmental damage it has inflicted. 


Why do software companies only channel their wealth into tech solutions for climate change? The obvious answer is: it’s what they do. It might also be that researching and developing tech is within their investment comfort zone and has predictable payoff in terms of amassing capital and attracting shareholders. Or, more bleakly, scratching the surface of climate change and being rewarded for it is easier than addressing the inequities it comes with. 


The reality of ecological reparations is that they are not owed equally; like the current environmental crisis itself, reparations have their own unique geography. As we break into an era where climate inequity bolsters existing forms of systemic oppression, any sustainability project that fails to recognize this is doomed to further the divide between the afflicted and the unaffected.


Citations:


1. Brad Smith, "Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030", Jan. 16, 2020, blogs.microsoft.com


2. Nives Dolsak, Aseem Prakash, "The Climate Leadership Race: Microsoft's Climate Moonshot and Amazon's Climate Pledge", Jan. 17, 2020, Forbes


3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "The biodiversity that is crucial for our food and agriculture is disappearing by the day", Feb. 22, 2019, fao.org


4. "Management of natural assets is key to sustainable development: Inclusive wealth provides the way forward", Apr. 30, 2020, unenvironment.org

5. UN Environment, Inclusive Wealth Report 2018, Nov. 21, 2018, unenvironment.org

6. Josh Holder, Niko Kommenda, Jonathan Watts, "The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming", Nov. 3, 2017, theguardian.com

7. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice", www.niehs.nih.gov

8. Tim McDonnell, "Climate change creates a new migration crisis for Bangladesh", Jan. 24, 2019, National Geographic

14 Comments

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :
    Greetings Theodore
    I hope you are doing well
    Thank you so much for this report
    Green cheers
    Regards
    Asmita Gaire
    Posted 19-05-2020 16:05

Theodore  Bechlivanis

  • Theodore Bechlivanis says :
    Thank you Jasmine! I'm glad you found my report informative.
    Posted 17-05-2020 19:28

Jasmine Karki

  • Jasmine Karki says :
    Greetings
    I do hope you are all good ..

    Thank you so much for sharing this report with us!!
    It was awesome to go through it..
    Hope to learn more from you on upcoming days..

    Green cheers
    Regards
    Jasmine karki
    Posted 17-05-2020 15:59

Theodore  Bechlivanis

Samiksha Adhikari

  • Samiksha Adhikari says :
    Thanks for sharing this amazing content 'moonshot plan'. Well, keep writing more about new topics!!
    Posted 13-05-2020 18:35

Bal krishna Pandey

  • Bal krishna Pandey says :
    Hello Theodore Bechlivanis ,
    I hope you are doing well.
    thanks for this amazing content about Microsoft??s “Moonshot” Plan And The Geography Of Reparations i learned a lot of facts by this detail report.
    I hope to learn more from you
    keep inspiring fellow ambassadors
    green cheers
    staysafe
    Posted 13-05-2020 17:18

Manisha Pokhrel

Theodore  Bechlivanis

  • Theodore Bechlivanis says :
    Thank you, Pooja and Sonika! I'm glad you enjoyed my article.
    Posted 13-05-2020 02:20

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Theodore!

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about Microsoft??s “Moonshot” Plan And The Geography Of Reparations

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Regards,
    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 12-05-2020 12:34

Theodore  Bechlivanis

  • Theodore Bechlivanis says :
    Thank you for the kind words Taehyun! I hope I can keep delivering :)
    Posted 11-05-2020 23:40

Taehyun Mentor

  • Taehyun Mentor says :
    Hello Theodore Bechlivanis, this is mentor Taehyun!

    Thank you for introducing me to the interesting topic of moonshot project! It seems to be a new inspiration to many ambassadors by always writing articles with great care! It's nice to hear that companies with huge capital like Microsoft are working hard to prevent climate change, but it would be great if they could proceed based on the appropriate response for each climate change situation!

    Thank you for the report!

    Green cheers!
    Posted 11-05-2020 22:33

ALOK DHAKAL

  • ALOK DHAKAL says :
    Thanks for sharing about Moonshot Plan. The topic was new for me.
    Keep writing!!
    Posted 11-05-2020 15:17

Sonika Pariyar

  • Sonika Pariyar says :
    Hello Theodore!

    I hope you are fine and going great!

    Thanks for sharing about Moonshot Plan. I hadn't listen about it before.


    GREEN CHEERS FROM NEPAL!

    Regards,
    Sonika
    Posted 11-05-2020 13:32

Pooja Chaudhary

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