Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Social media users slam Kylie Jenner for parading private jet

Kylie Jenner
FILE – Kylie Jenner appears at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 9, 2020. Jenner testified Monday, April 25, 2022, that she expressed concerns to her brother Rob Kardashian about his new girlfriend and soon-to-be reality TV co-star Blac Chyna, because she had heard Chyna had a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol and become violent. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Users on social media are slamming Kylie Jenner for her lack of climate consciousness after the 24-year-old recently posted a controversial photo of two private jets on her Instagram account.  

Accompanying the photo of the jets — one for the reality TV star and one for her partner, Travis Scott — was the caption: “You wanna take mine or yours?” The Washington Post reported.  

“The lack of awareness is honestly astonishing,” said one of 45,000 comments on Jenner’s post, which was shared on Friday. 

Users pointed out the environmental impacts of flying a luxury private aircraft while parts of Europe face devastating wildfires and scalding heat, the Post reported.  

Jenner was the latest celebrity to receive such criticism.  

Her older sister Kim Kardashian took some heat for polluting the planet by taking short trips on “Air Kim,” while actor Leonardo DiCaprio and the British royal family have also come under scrutiny, according to the Post.  

Meanwhile, the eldest Kardashian sibling, Kourtney, came under fire last week as one of many Los Angeles celebrities using more than their fair share of water. 

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. Subscribe here. 

Today we’ll start with an alarming weather in the U.S. West, followed by a look at what it will take to keep the Colorado River from going dry. Then we’ll see why your Amazon delivery today might have been delivered by an electric van.  

Pacific Northwest braces for ‘hazardous heat’  

The Pacific Northwest is facing a particularly grim outlook when it comes to brutal summer heat, federal weather experts said on Thursday.   

Dangerous outlook: Over the next two weeks, meteorologists are “favoring above normal temperatures at pretty high odds for much of the western part of the lower 48,” according to Jon Gottschalck, of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.  

  • The situation is expected to become especially dire for the Pacific Northwest, including Portland and Seattle, which could experience “hazardous heat,” Gottschalck warned during a U.S. Drought and Heat Webinar.  
  • The webinar was hosted by the National Integrated Drought Information System and National Integrated Heat Health Information System — branches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  

Record-breaking drought: Regional reservoirs are reaching record lows and wildfires began raging early in the season as the U.S. West encounters its driest megadrought in at least 1,200 years. The drought is driven by climate change.  

“It’s not looking like the situation is going to change in the near future,” said David Simeral, a research scientist at the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute and a national author for the U.S. Drought Monitor.   

“It’s looking like we are in the middle of a megadrought and the situation could possibly be continuing for some time into the near future,” he added.   

How expansive is the drought? At the moment, 73 percent of the Western U.S. is encountering drought, according to Simeral. 

  • Thirty percent of the West is in the most severe drought categories. 
  • Ninety-nine percent of California is experiencing drought, as is 87 percent of the Intermountain West.  

Cause for alarm: As the excessive heat conditions move into California’s Central Valley and into the Pacific Northwest over the next two weeks, these regions could experience “dangerous heat,” Gottschalck warned.  

The heat index — or what the temperature feels like to the human body — will likely be greater than 105 degrees, he explained.   

Slight relief for Southwest: On the other hand, Gottschalck countered, localized heavy rainfall associated with monsoon thunderstorms could provide some respite from Arizona into parts of southern Colorado.  

Health impacts of heat: Looking toward a future of continued drought and excessive heat conditions, the scientists expressed concern about the connected health outcomes that Americans are facing.  

“Extreme heat is the deadliest weather-related event in the United States,” said Sarah Kapnick, NOAA’s chief scientist.  

Kapnick noted, however, that “all heat related illnesses and deaths are avoidable,” by making use of early-warning systems and through cross-agency collaborations.  

To read the full story, please click here.   

Rethinking the ‘Law of the River’ 

Drastic consumption cuts and difficult decisions will be necessary to stabilize the Colorado River system amid a 23-year-long drought, regional experts argued in a new policy paper. 

The paper, published in Science on Thursday, dissects how lawmakers and agency administrators might save a cross-border resource that supplies water to more than 40 million people and irrigates nearly 5.7 million acres of agriculture. 

Inevitable impossibility: Stabilizing the system could occur by accelerating certain policy changes that right now might “seem like a political impossibility” but could become inevitable if current conditions continue, the authors stated. 

A grim reality: Scientists expect that by the end of this year, the combined storage of Lake Powell and Lake Mead — the two largest reservoirs in the U.S., which are fed by the river — will plunge to 25 percent of their capacity. 

  • Only 10 percent of the Colorado River’s natural flow, which is diverted entirely along its 1,400-mile course, now reaches Mexico.  
  • Rarely does the river ever get to the ocean, the authors noted in a statement accompanying their paper. 

Upending policy: But realizing a wetter future for the Colorado River system would require upending years of ingrained policy.  

Lawmakers will need to rethink the “institutional and political divisions” that have defined the so-called “Law of the River” and dictated water allocations for decades, according to the authors. 

Swift action needed: “Various consumptive use strategies can stabilize the system,” the researchers, from Utah State University, Colorado State University and the University of Oxford, said in a statement.  

“However, these measures must be applied swiftly,” they continued. “Although these concessions by both basins may seem unthinkable at present, they will be necessary if recent conditions persist.” 

To see what measures the authors have proposed, please click here for the full story. 

Amazon begins electric-powered deliveries 

Amazon customers in over a dozen U.S. cities today received packages delivered by the e-commerce company’s new line of custom electric vans. 

The vans — which are manufactured by electric vehicle startup Rivian — mark the beginning of an ambitious scale-up of Amazon’s electric fleet, the company announced. 

They are also an important step toward Amazon’s net zero goals — and toward van manufacturer Rivian’s attempts to follow Tesla as a major new carmaker. 

  • The vans are currently operating in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Nashville, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle and St. Louis, with Amazon promising deliveries in 100 cities by the end of the year. 
  • The company intends to have thousands of the vans on the road by 2023 — and 100,000 electric vans on the road by 2030. 

Meeting an urgent need: Decarbonizing deliveries is a big part of Amazon’s attempts to meet its promises to reach net-zero emissions across its operations by 2040, according to a company statement

  • Growing use of e-commerce is choking city streets with traffic and airways with pollution, a 2020 report from the World Economic Forum found. 
  • That’s part of a broader trend, in which corporate fleets operated by companies like Amazon and FedEx are going electric far faster than ordinary consumers, Axios reported. 

Fleets driving change: The purchasing decisions of delivery companies will play an outsized role in the electric revolution, Axios noted. 

The agency had initially planned to buy a fleet that was 90 percent fossil fuel powered, spurring a wave of lawsuits and popular protest, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

 
Scaling up is hard to do 

The enormous order for a single large corporate fleet is a potential lifesaver for Rivian if it can meet it, The New York Times reported. 

  • Like most automakers, Rivian is facing serious supply issues that have hampered its ability to increase production, according to the Times. 
  • Rivian also announced the possibility of layoffs in an email last week, TechCrunch reported. 

Amazon is hedging its bets: The e-commerce company is less ambitious about the order than Rivian is. 

  • Amazon’s 2030 estimate for when it expects the Rivian order to be complete is five years later than Rivian’s own estimate of 2025, which it offered in a November filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. 
  • Rivian stock slumped in January after Amazon announced it would also buy vans from Chrysler-parent company Stellantis amid questions about Rivian supply chains, CNBC reported. 

Changing tack: Former Rivian-investor Ford Motor Company — which lost billions when the startup’s value fell in early 2021 — is having its own electric challenges, Car and Driver reported. 

  • The company aims to cut 8,000 jobs in its Blue Division, which builds internal combustion engine powered cars, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. 
  • With all of Ford’s divisions losing money, the layoffs will allow the company to redirect funds and focus to producing vehicles like the F-150 Lightning electric pickup, Electrek reported. 

Biden’s heat office remains unfunded amid crisis 

A Biden administration office created to help the healthcare system face heat waves still has neither budget nor permanent staff, NBC reported.  

That’s symptomatic of the larger confusion around the White House’s response to the heat crisis, activists and Democratic leaders charge. 

Empty seats: While the Biden administration only requested $3 million to hire eight employees for the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, Congress hasn’t come through, NBC reported. 

  • “Our hospitals are, for the most part, not completely ready,” Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine told NBC. 
  •  “The health threats associated with climate change are very serious, and they’re growing.” 

Emergency but not “emergency”: On Wednesday, the president called climate change an “emergency” but stopped short of making a formal declaration, our colleagues Rachel Frazin and Morgan Chalfant reported. 

  • Such a declaration would release funds and empower broader federal action to curtail emissions and enable climate adaptation, Politico reported. 
  • “Today, Biden said that climate change is an emergency, but we are sick of watching this administration fail to treat it as such,” Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. 

Thursday Threats 

Wildlife edition: Trash offers a fragrant temptation for polar bears, disease threatens animals’ survival smarts and birds losing features that make them unique. 

With ice in decline, polar bears sniff out trash 

  • Polar bears are raiding garbage dumps as climate change melts their icy habitat and drives their traditional foods into decline, The Conversation reported. Unsecured trash means easy calories, but puts the bears at risk of both poisoning and deadly confrontations with people, The Conversation noted. 

Disease-induced brain fog threatens animal adaptation 

  • Disease can make animals worse at learning, memory and making decisions, according to a study in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. That threatens their ability to survive in the changing worlds created by climate change and urbanization “where problem solving may be particularly important,” the authors wrote in a statement. 

Birds losing features that make them unique 

Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you tomorrow.  

VIEW THE FULL EDITION HERE

Tags Amazon Climate change Colorado River drought Electric car fleet excessive heat warnings Kim Kardashian Kylie Jenner Kylie Jenner Leonardo DiCaprio Pacific North West polar bears private jets reality TV water shortage wildfires wildlife threats
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