Climate clocks, Nikola sets back EVs, and AT&T's severe weather tool

Welcome to Callaway Climate Insights, and happy Climate Week. Lots of action, so please enjoy, comment, and share.

The Metronome in Union Square has been converted by the Climate Clock Project to display the estimated time remaining, at current rates of emissions, to burn through our carbon budget — the amount of CO₂ that can still be released into the atmosphere while limiting global warming to 1.5°C. above pre-industrial levels. Photo: Zack Winestine.

“Whatever you do, don’t build a climate clock.” That’s the advice given to me by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist last year as I was laying the groundwork for Callaway Climate Insights. Clocks add needless tension and drama to an already pressing problem, he argued. Well, someone didn’t get the message.

Climate Week opened this week in New York with the Climate Clock Project on display in Union Square, giving us a little more than seven years before we hit our Paris-imposed carbon emissions limits. As the clock ticked, the predictable surge in climate pledges this time of year came fast and furious. Walmart, Morgan Stanley, Amazon, and earlier Tuesday, the Big Four accounting firms.

The pledges serve to remind us that boardrooms are considering ESG strategies, but without action they are just press releases. The accounting framework established by the Big Four is useful in that it advances the effort to cut through the hodgepodge of ESG reporting standards and identify a single standard. But it is still voluntary, and subject to legal obstacles in various countries.

Still, corporate buy-in matters. It is a signal that shareholders are being heard, and if followed up by action — a big if — it will result in more money finding its way to these stocks and businesses. Measuring the pace of their results, rather than how much time we have left, is the new priority. Both clocks are ticking.

More insights below. . . .

And don’t forget to contact me directly if you have suggestions or ideas at

AT&T expanding pilot of new climate risk tool nationwide

AT&T is working to monitor power outages and their effects. Photo: AT&T.

. . . . Data overlay: After paying recovery costs from severe weather incidents of about $1 billion over the past few years on its network infrastructure, AT&T (T) is getting serious about its climate commitment. The company is expanding use of a new software tool, which overlays its data on where its network is with government data on projected floods, fires, rising seas, and other climate change impacts. Shannon Carroll, head of global environmental sustainability at AT&T, explained to David Callaway that the company has been piloting the tool in four southeastern states, but that it will now take it to every corner of its U.S. operations.

The new assignment for the Climate Change Analysis Tool (CCAT) was part of a broad new set of climate pledges AT&T made last week to make its network carbon neutral by 2035. Carroll said the data it gleans from the CCAT will be made public so that everybody can benefit from its projections. . . .

Read the full story

Nikola shares on edge of collapse after founder resigns

. . . . Electric disco: When you have no revenue, no product, and then, suddenly, no founder and chairman, you might think you have no value. But shares of Nikola Corp. still clung to market value of more than $10.8 billion on Tuesday, even though it was half that of a two weeks ago when the electric vehicle company signed a groundbreaking deal with General Motors (GM).

Now former GM vice chairman Stephen Girsky is left to pick up the pieces after founder Trevor Milton (above) was forced to resign following a short-seller’s allegations of fraud and false statements about the company’s prospects. The scandal casts a pall over the nascent electric vehicle industry and indeed, the entire ESG space, which promises to invest in climate solutions.

Industry leader Tesla (TSLA) shares have withstood the Nikola selling so far, though they were down as much as 6% Tuesday after Chief Executive Elon Musk warned the company’s high-profile “Battery Day” would not feature the introduction of a proprietary battery operation. Nikola and Tesla are not connected, though Milton was sufficiently enamored of Musk to choose his company’s name from the same 19th century energy scientist, Nikola Tesla. For now, Nicola investors will pin their hopes on whether Girsky and team can find a way forward. But the shares are one GM press release away from the abyss. . . .

. . . . Big Tech: Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN) laid out a chunk of its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund on electric vehicle maker Rivian, which does manufacturer electric trucks and SUVs, as part of its first wave of investments from the fund in climate solution companies. Other recipients include CarbonCure Technologies, highlighted here in a Callaway Climate Insights story in July.

Also getting a share of the Amazon fund, carbon capture company Pachama, battery recycler Redwood Materials, and electric motor maker Turntide Technologies.

Data driven: Winter is coming

Above, a range tech at work in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Photo: U.S. Intermountain Forest Service.

According to the National Weather Service, it’s already getting chilly. The lowest low temperature for the contiguous United States over the weekend was 16°F. at Copper Basin Idaho, near the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

News briefs: Walmart, Novartis put money behind climate pledges

Editor’s picks:

  • Walmart pledges zero emissions by 2040

  • Novartis prices $2 billion sustainability-linked bond

  • Price tag per ton of carbon: $100,000

Read all the news briefs

Latest findings: New research, studies and sharks

Ocearch’s Expedition Nova Scotia 2020

Ocearch’s advanced white shark research team is back to the Canadian coast for Expedition Nova Scotia 2020, the group’s 39th expedition, to build on the groundbreaking work started in 2018. Ocearch’s two previous expeditions to the area exposed Nova Scotia as a hotspot for white sharks and now the new expedition will aim to increase the sample size of tagged and sampled sharks to develop the understanding of white shark biology, physiology, health, behavior and more. The expedition is scheduled to continue through Oct. 6, with expedition chief scientist Nigel Hussey of the University of Windsor, 35 principal investigators, 21 projects, and the support of 24 research organizations. Read the full science brief here and check out Ocearch’s projects, blog, or just track your favorite shark here.

More research . . . .