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North America’s Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

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North America's Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

North America’s Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

If you live on the west coast of North America, it’s likely that you’ve felt a bit smoked out, lately.

Wildfires in British Columbia, Canada are already the worst in the province’s history, while California has had a particularly rough season with human deaths, evacuations, and billions of dollars of damage.

Oregon has one confirmed death from a wildfire in mid-July, and Washington hasn’t gotten off easy, either. On July 31, 2018 a state of emergency was declared in the Evergreen State.

Visualizing Wildfires From Space

Today’s image comes to us from NASA, and it shows aerosols around the world including those originating from volcanoes, desert dust, cloud cover, sea-salt – and of course, smoke.

Here’s the same image with labels, indicating black carbon on the west coast of the continent:

Wildfires, hurricanes, and slash and burning

The wildfires are just as visible as the massive slash-and-burning occurring in Central Africa, hurricanes and typhoons, and even the dust swirling up from the Sahara, the world’s largest desert.

Here’s a visualization of the fires in North America, with some extra zoom:

North America smoke

It’s clear from this image that smoke isn’t just affecting the coast – in fact, experts say it has been travelling as far as Ireland, in lesser concentrations of course.

Other Visuals

While we thought the visualization above was the most striking, there are countless of other examples from the last month that show the extent of wildfires and smoke on the west coast.

Here’s another shot from NASA from a few weeks ago, during peak wildfire season in California and Oregon:

And here’s an image of Seattle and Vancouver from mid-August, when smoke from Canadian fires was so bad in those cities that it was like “inhaling seven cigarettes” per day:

Air Quality

Future Forecast

As we roll into September, the worst of the wildfire season is over.

Unfortunately, it’s already been the worst in British Columbia’s history. Here are the 10 worst fire seasons graphed since 1950, based on square kilometers burned:

BC Wildfires
Data as of Aug 29, 2018, and from the BC Forest Service

While this year has been an anomaly, it may also be a preview of what’s to come. One recent report out of California said that the number of wildfires over 25,000 acres is likely to increase by 50% leading up to 2050.

Is this the new normal?

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Automotive

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

Cities are drivers of growth and prosperity, but also the main contributors of pollution. Can hydrogen fuel the growth of cities with clean power?

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In the modern context, cities create somewhat of a paradox.

While cities are the main drivers for improving the lives of people and entire nations, they also tend to be the main contributors of pollution and CO2 emissions.

How can we encourage this growth, while also making city energy use sustainable?

Resolving the Paradox

Today’s infographic comes to us from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and it outlines hydrogen technology as a sustainable fuel for keeping urban economic engines running effectively for the future.

The Hydrogen City: How Hydrogen Can Help to Achieve Zero Emissions

The Urban Economic Engine

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and according to U.N. estimates, that number will grow to 6.7 billion by 2050 – or about 68% of the global population.

Simultaneously, it is projected that developing economies such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth.

Development leads to urbanization which leads to increased economic activity:

The difficulty in this will be achieving a balance between growth and sustainability.

Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to produce 80% of global GDP.

Further, it’s projected by the McKinsey Global Institute that the economic output of the 600 largest cities and urban regions globally could grow $30 trillion by the year 2050, comprising for two-thirds of all economic growth.

With this growth will come increased demand for energy and C02 emissions.

The Hydrogen Fueled City

Hydrogen, along with fuel cell technology, may provide a flexible energy solution that could replace the many ways fossils fuels are used today for heat, power, and transportation.

When used, it creates water vapor and oxygen, instead of harmful smog in congested urban areas.

According to the Hydrogen Council, by 2050, hydrogen could each year generate:

  • 1,500 TWh of electricity
  • 10% of the heat and power required by households
  • Power for a fleet of 400 million cars

The infrastructure requirements for hydrogen make it easy to distribute at scale. Meanwhile, for heat and power, low concentrations of hydrogen can be blended into natural gas networks with ease.

Hydrogen can play a role in improving the resilience of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, by being an energy carrier. By taking surplus electricity to generate hydrogen through electrolysis, energy can be stored for later use.

In short, hydrogen has the potential to provide the clean energy needed to keep cities running and growing while working towards zero emissions.

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Environment

Mapped: The Countries With the Most Sustainable Corporate Giants

The world’s most sustainable corporations have a monumental impact on social and environmental issues. See where they are located in this visualization.

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Mapped: The Countries With the Most Sustainable Corporate Giants

From plastic-filled oceans to unequal pay, sustainability is a hot topic these days. Many people are wondering how we’ll move the needle on these important issues, and the business world is being pressured to take action.

Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.

— Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager

Which of the world’s largest companies are stepping up to the plate on these issues?

The Global 100 Index

Today’s visualization pulls data from Corporate Knight’s 2019 Global 100 report, which ranks the most sustainable corporations in the world.

Any public company with revenue of at least $1B USD is screened for various factors such as sufficient sustainability reporting. The resulting corporations are scored on an industry-specific mix of performance metrics in the following areas:

  • Resource Management
  • Employee Management
  • Financial Management
  • Clean Revenue
  • Supplier Performance

The final ranking represents the top companies from each sector, with the number from each sector based on the relative size of its market capitalization.

Sustainable Corporations by Country

Here’s all the countries that had companies on the list:

CountryNumber of Companies on the Global 100
United States22
France11
Japan8
Finland7
United Kingdom7
Canada6
Germany5
Brazil4
Denmark4
Sweden4
South Korea3
Spain3
Australia2
Belgium2
Italy2
Netherlands2
Singapore2
Switzerland2
Taiwan2
Austria1
Ireland1

The U.S. tops the list with 22 companies – far more than any other country. European countries also dominate the list and have 51 companies on the G100 overall. Notably, the populous countries of India and China have no representation on the list.

The Top 10 Companies

So, which individual companies made the list? Here’s a snapshot of the star players:

RankCompanyCountryIndustryOverall Score
1Chr. Hansen Holding A/SDenmarkFood or other Chemical Agents82.99%
2Kering SAFranceApparel and Accessories81.55%
3Neste CorporationFinlandPetroleum Refineries80.92%
4ØrstedDenmarkWholesale Power80.13%
5GlaxoSmithKline plcUnited KingdomBiopharmaceuticals79.41%
6Prologis, Inc.United StatesReal Estate Investment Trusts79.12%
7UmicoreBelgiumPrimary Metals Products79.05%
8Banco do Brasil S.A.BrazilBanks78.15%
9Shinhan Financial Group Co.South KoreaBanks77.75%
10Taiwan SemiconductorTaiwanSemiconductor Equipment77.71%

Chr. Hansen Holding A/S leapt from #66 in 2018 to the top spot this year. According to CEO Mauricio Graber, the company develops “cultures, enzymes, probiotics and natural colors for a rich variety of foods, confectionery, beverages, dietary supplements and even animal feed.”

A staggering 82% of Chr. Hansen’s revenue contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals. The company is using good bacteria to reduce antibiotic use, crop pesticides, and food waste. Over the last three years, the company has reduced yogurt waste by 400,000 tonnes.

What’s in it for Companies?

While societal pressure is certainly one motivating factor, Harvard Business Review notes that corporate sustainability has many benefits:

  • Drives competitive advantage through stakeholder engagement
  • Improves risk management
  • Fosters innovation
  • Improves financial performance
  • Builds customer loyalty
  • Attracts and engages employees

It’s clear that sustainability is a strong differentiator in the business community. The world’s largest – and smartest – companies are leading the charge towards a greener, more equitable future.

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