Housing people in homes made from wood instead of steel and concrete could save more than 100 billion tonnes of carbon emissions while preserving enough cropland to feed a booming population, research suggested Tuesday.
More than half of people globally currently live in cities and this proportion is set to rise markedly by 2050.
According to some estimates, the infrastructure needed to accommodate up to 10 billion people by mid-century could exceed that constructed since the dawn of the industrial era.
That places a huge emphasis on emissions from construction, one of the most polluting sectors and historically one of the trickiest to decarbonise.
Were all new construction projects carried out using steel and concrete, that could claim up to 60 percent of Earth’s remaining carbon budget for 2C of warming — that is, how much pollution the global economy can produce and still stay within the Paris Agreement temperature guardrail.
Scientists in Germany and Taiwan wanted to see how much carbon could be saved if firms switched to wood to build new homes instead.
They used an open-source land use model to simulate four different building scenarios: one with conventional materials like cement and steel, and three with additional demand for timber.
They also analysed how additional high wood demand could be satisfied, where it could be produced, and the impacts new tree plantations might have on biodiversity and crop production.
They found that housing people in timber homes could avoid more than 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2100 — that’s around 10 percent of the remaining 2C carbon budget, equivalent to nearly three years of global emissions.
Wood is known to be the least carbon-intensive building material as trees absorb CO2 as they grow, explained the study lead author Abhijeet Mishra, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
“Production of engineered wood releases much less CO2 than production of steel and cement,” he said. “Engineered wood also stores carbon, making timber cities a unique long-term carbon sink.”
He said that engineered wood was the ideal material for constructing “mid-rise” buildings — between four and 12 stories — to house growing urban populations.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that around 140 million hectares — an area larger than Peru — would be needed to grow new trees to meet the increased demand under the timber-led building scenario.
But the team calculated that these new plantations could be established on existing areas of harvest forest, and so not impact food supply by eating into crop land.
“We need farm land to grow food for the people –- using it to grow trees could potentially cause competition for the limited land resources,” said co-author Florian Humpenoder, from PIK.
The authors concluded that planting the necessary additional plantations was possible but would require “strong governance and careful planning” from governments in order to limit their impact on biodiversity.
Apple wins 728-mn-euro cut to France antitrust fine
A French court on Thursday slashed more than 700 million euros from a record 1.1-billion-euro fine imposed on US tech giant Apple in 2020, sources close to the case told AFP.
France’s competition authority levied the fine — its biggest ever — after concluding that the firm squeezed independent sellers of Apple products as it tried to push buyers towards its own stores and preferred retailers.
But the Paris appeal court revised the decision and knocked 728 million from the fine, meaning Apple still faces having to pay 370 million euros.
Apple says the fine is unfair and told AFP the whole complaint should be quashed.
“We consider that the decision should have been annulled in its entirety and plan to appeal to the French supreme court,” the firm told AFP in a statement.
“The decision concerns practices that go back more than 10 years and that even the French competition authority has recognised as no longer being in force.”
The initial case was made up of three linked complaints — one was dismissed by the appeals court and two were upheld.
Sources close to the case, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the amounts and the details of the decision.
The Paris appeals court told AFP the ruling would be made public on Friday.
Former Uber security chief convicted in hack cover-up: reports
A jury on Wednesday found Uber’s former security chief guilty of federal crimes for covering up a massive hack that compromised personal information of users and drivers, according to US media reports.
Joseph Sullivan was found guilty of obstructing the work of the Federal Trade Commission and of failing to let authorities know about a crime when he hid a 2016 hack instead of reporting it, according to news outlets.
Sullivan could be sentenced to prison time.
Sullivan sought to pay off the hackers by funneling money through a “bug bounty” program that rewards developers for revealing security vulnerabilities without doing any harm, according to the criminal complaint.
Uber paid the hackers $100,000 in bitcoin cryptocurrency in December 2016, and Sullivan wanted them to sign non-disclosure agreements promising to keep mum about the affair, prosecutors said.
Sullivan was Uber chief security officer from April 2015 to November 2017.
The criminal complaint maintains that Sullivan deceived Uber’s new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, appointed in mid-2017 to replace Travis Kalanick, about the breach.
“Silicon Valley is not the Wild West,” US Attorney David Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a statement when the charges were filed.
“We will not tolerate corporate cover-ups. We will not tolerate illegal hush money payments.”
Two members of the Uber information security team who “led the response” that included not alerting users about the data breach were let go from the San Francisco-based company, according to Khosrowshahi.
The Uber chief said he had learned that outsiders broke into a cloud-based server used by the company for data and downloaded a significant amount of information.
Stolen files included names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers for millions of riders, and the names and driver license information of some 600,000 drivers, according to Uber.
Co-founder and ousted chief Kalanick was advised of the breach shortly after it was discovered, but it was not made public until Khosrowshahi learned of the incident, according to an AFP source.
Uber did not respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
Casey Ellis, founder and CTO at Bugcrowd, a San Francisco-based leader in crowd-sourced cybersecurity, said, “It’s a significant precedent that has already sent shockwaves through the CISO (chief information security officer) community.”
“It highlights the personal liability involved in being a CISO in a dynamic policy, legal, and attacker environment.”
Musk says Twitter has refused to suspend litigation on buyout
Elon Musk asked a US judge Thursday to suspend Twitter’s lawsuit over their troubled takeover negotiations after the embattled social media company balked at the Tesla’s chief’s demand to freeze the litigation.
Musk’s request comes two days after he revived his takeover plan. The unpredictable billionaire’s July withdrawal from the $44-billion transaction prompted Twitter to sue Musk over breach of contract in a Delaware court.
A trial is scheduled to start on October 17.
“There is no need for an expedited trial to order Defendants to do what they are already doing and this action is now moot,” said a filing prepared by Musk attorneys that alluded to his latest offer.
“Yet, Twitter will not take yes for an answer. Astonishingly they have insisted on proceeding with this litigation, recklessly putting the deal at risk and gambling with their stockholders interests.”
Musk on Tuesday sent a letter to Twitter reviving the $54.20-per-share offer under the condition that the Delaware court halt action in the lawsuit against him.
Twitter said Tuesday it expects to close the buyout deal at the $54.20 price in a statement that did not address Musk’s demands over freezing the litigation.
On Wednesday, Delaware Judge Kathaleen McCormick said she still planned to go ahead with the trial, noting that neither party had asked for a suspension.
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