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Why we can’t count on carbon-sucking farms to slow climate change

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Corporations, politicians, and environmentalists have all embraced carbon farming as the feel-good climate solution of the moment.

Several leading Democratic presidential contenders highlighted the potential to alter farming practices to suck up more carbon dioxide in their climate plans. And the presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, declared last summer: “Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.”

Companies like BP, General Mills, Kellogg, Microsoft, and Shell have all announced plans or joined initiatives that will direct their suppliers to adopt the techniques or pay farmers who do so to obtain so-called offsets credits. These allow the businesses to claim credit for the carbon dioxide pulled out of the atmosphere, without cutting emissions from their own operations.

In addition, several venture capital-backed startups have set up soil offsets marketplaces that allow companies and nonprofits to purchase credits from farmers. Most notably that includes Indigo Agriculture, which has raised more than $850 million to date to build up its soil carbon business and other operations.

And now an influential California nonprofit, the Climate Action Reserve, is in the process of writing standards for soil carbon offsets, which would offer a stamp of approval likely to spur more people and businesses to buy these credits.

But there’s a big problem: there is little evidence that carbon farming works as well as promised.

The world’s farmlands do have the capacity to store billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the soil annually, according to a National Academies report last year. But there is still uncertainty concerning which farming techniques work, and to what degree, across different soil types, depths, topographies, crop varieties, climate conditions, and time periods.

It’s unclear whether the practices can be carried out over long periods and on a massive scale across the world’s farms without undercutting food production. And there are significant disagreements about what it will take to accurately measure and certify that farms are actually removing and storing increased amounts of carbon dioxide.

These uncertainties further complicate the well-documented challenges in setting up any reliable carbon offsets program. Studies have frequently found these systems can substantially overestimate reductions, as economic, environmental and political pressures all push toward issuing large numbers of offsets credits. The programs can also create opportunities for gamesmanship and greenwashing that undermine real progress on climate change, observers say.

As Climate Action Reserve looks to ramp up the use of these credits, some fear the group is on the verge of creating a standard that may well invite such behavior.

A carbon pump

The basic idea behind carbon farming, or regenerative agriculture, is that photosynthesis acts as a greenhouse gas pump, pulling CO2 from the air and converting it into sugars stored in leaves, stalks, and roots or excreted into soil. The hope is that farmers can increase the amount of carbon that is left behind in the fields, through practices like planting cover crops between harvests, and drilling seeds instead of continually upturning the soil through tilling.

But the process playing out in California highlights the challenges of establishing reliable standards that can be broadly applied. Such standards certify that the farmers getting paid to carry out the practices are in fact decreasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, lending confidence to people or businesses looking to purchase credits.

They’re essential to making offsets work, but hard to get right. Climate Action Reserve, which created the protocols that California largely adopted for the nation’s largest cap-and-trade program, released a draft “soil enrichment protocol” for public comment in April. It was scheduled to bring the standard before its board for a vote this month. But last week, the nonprofit announced a second public comment period after receiving numerous responses, several of which questioned whether the protocol will accurately measure additional levels of carbon uptake.

At least one argued that conflicts of interest may have swayed the process, because Indigo Agriculture contributed an unspecified amount of money, as well as “research and drafting support.” The company works with farmers to pool soil carbon credits that it then sells to corporations and nonprofits, so it has a clear stake in how the standards are set.

“A sponsored protocol development process raises concerns about the integrity of the proposed methods,” reads a response letter from CarbonPlan, a new nonprofit that evaluates the scientific rigor of carbon removal efforts. “That concern is particularly important because many of the critical methodological options in the draft protocol are not fully specified and are instead left open to the design and determination of project owners—presumably including the reserve’s financial sponsor, Indigo Ag.”

Indigo’s involvement in the process “prevented the workgroup from being able to set down what we thought would be a really rigorous set of constraints,” says Grayson Badgley, a postdoctoral fellow with the Black Rock Forest Consortium in Cornwall, New York, who served on the technical workgroup that provided advice on the process and signed the letter. “I felt like whatever set of constraints we proposed had to include what Indigo already wanted to do.”

He adds that several representatives from Indigo were on most of the calls he participated in during the process.

In an email to MIT Technology Review, Indigo said that it also hired several other members of the workgroup for projects in the past, but added “those individuals have remained impartial through the working group process.” It didn’t disclose their names to the publication, though the company said it provided such a list to Climate Action Reserve.

One of the chief concerns about the proposed protocol is that it allows project owners to select their own methods for calculating how credits are earned, so long as the model has been reviewed by “a recognized, competent organization” and meets several other criteria.

The issue is that much of the soil carbon research to date finds that carbon uptake differs widely across soil types and other conditions, not just from region to region, but from plot to plot. So it’s difficult to develop any model “that can account for this inherent variability,” and requires them all to be rigorously tested and reviewed, says Jane Zelikova, chief scientist at the Carbon180 think tank, who also signed the letter. She argues that any modeling must be supplemented with thorough and randomized soil sampling, across fields, at varying depths and over time.

The draft protocol does require sampling at the­ beginning and every five years thereafter, at least initially. But critics say there are loopholes that could skew the findings, including that the protocol only requires monitoring for the first 30 of the 100 years the offset is supposed to remain in effect, and allows project owners to pick and pay for their own third-parties to conduct the work. For companies that pool soil carbon credits from thousands of farmers, which could eventually include Indigo, less than 1% of the actual sites may need to be verified through physical site visits by a third party, according to CarbonPlan’s reading of the proposal.

Craig Ebert, president of Climate Action Reserve, says that, as a nonprofit, the organization has to rely on outside funding to conduct its work. He declined to disclose how much money Indigo provided, as did the company itself.

But he stresses that the funding didn’t give the company any undue influence over the process, and that they were just one of many stakeholders who provided feedback on the proposals throughout.

“We know they want to sell carbon credits, but they’re only going to be able to sell credits that have a net environmental value,” he says.

“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is pay farmers for another commodity that they’re not getting paid for now, which is sustainable agriculture practices that build up carbon,” he says.

Indigo defended sponsoring the process, noting that other organizations that later submitted projects under an earlier Climate Action Reserve protocol had done so as well. It added that questions about specific methods in the carbon farming process were widely debated among all members in the workgroup.

“Through Indigo’s research and industry expertise, we saw tremendous potential in a soil enrichment protocol developed in a rigorous fashion with multi-stakeholder involvement,” the company said.

Robert Parkhurst, owner of environmental consulting firm Sierra View Consulting and another member of the technical group, says Indigo’s involvement isn’t unusual in such a process and didn’t affect this one in a negative way.

“We need a place to sequester all of that carbon and here is a logical place to explore to do that,” he says.

Other problems

It’s critical to get these standards right, otherwise carbon farming could overstate any progress on climate change–or even allow greater greenhouse gas emissions.

Studies have found that some of the proposed practices can reduce yields in certain circumstances, which could encourage farmers to clear more land for agriculture. If so, the carbon released in the process of razing forests or grasslands could release far more carbon than was captured by the initial soil sequestration efforts.

Similarly, if a farmer was already carrying out some of these practices, and stopped and restarted to take advantage of the opportunity to sell credits, then they didn’t actually take additional steps to reduce emissions.

And if they only conduct these practices for a few years and stop, then some or all of the carbon gains could be wiped out. In fact, some research finds that if no-till farmers plow their fields every few years, as most do, it may eliminate most of the earlier carbon gains, as researchers at World Resources Institute noted in a recent post and in a response letter to Climate Action Reserve.

Some researchers believe the sheer variability of soil carbon uptake means that relying on it for offsets may be inherently unworkable. The better approach could simply be to pay farmers directly to carry out practices to improve soil health and reduce environmental impacts, while thinking of any additional carbon storage as a welcome co-benefit–but not one that’s strictly relied upon to balance out another organization’s greenhouse gas pollution.

“Trying to precisely quantify carbon offsets is almost an impossibly hard problem and one where the deck is stacked against quality outcomes,” says Danny Cullenward, a lecturer at Stanford Law School and policy director of CarbonPlan. “I find it hard to believe we’re going to do a perfect job on this. But that’s what offsets require, because they allow higher emissions elsewhere.”

Carbon farming’s darling status could also distract the food sector and other industries from more direct and reliable ways of cutting greenhouse gase

“By 2050, we need to produce more food at the same time we’re going to have to stop deforestation and drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions,” says Richard Waite, senior research associate with World Resources Institute’s food program. “So we’re concerned to see an overreliance on this one solution, when there’s a whole spectrum of things that can be done from farm to fork.”

No bonus points

Carbon farming is seductive. It’s a natural-sounding solution that appeals to environmentalists, supports family farms, buys corporations out of the climate doghouse, and creates new markets for organizations seizing the role of referee. What’s not to love?

But that means policymakers and standard setters have to be all the more careful to resist wishful thinking, and establish rigorous rules and processes.

By midcentury, the world may need to remove as much as 10 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, to prevent the planet from reaching 2˚ C, according to the National Academies study. So it is essential to explore all of our options for doing so, whether it’s farms, trees or carbon removal machines.

But it also means these techniques and offsets systems need to work. They need to accurately measure the levels of emissions that are being pulled out of the air, and permanently stored.

If they don’t, it means we’re allowing companies to buy certificates that enable them to keep polluting, on the false promise that emissions are declining an equal amount somewhere else in the world.

The climate system doesn’t award bonus points for that. If the actual emissions in the actual atmosphere continue to climb, temperatures will continue to follow.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Hawaii Tech Company MobileGrindz Offers Restaurants an Alternative to Food Service Tech Platforms

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MobileGrindz offers enhanced benefits and lower cost than other food ordering platforms

Honolulu, Aug 2, 2020 – MobileGrindz, a Hawaii based Technology company, has announced the upcoming debut of their foodservice platform that aims to redefine the way food ordering systems and restaurants work together. This venture, spearheaded by Hawaii Local and Black Entrepreneur Lyron Foster, aims to bring additional job opportunities to Hawaii.

With food delivery apps continuing to gain popularity – more than 20% of smartphone users are expected to use food delivery apps by 2021 – restaurants are looking for better ways to offer such services while also boosting their bottom line. 

Many food ordering platforms charge restaurants up to 20% of their orders, which tends to undercut sales severely and adversely affect restaurants. MobileGrindz wants to offer a better solution for restaurants. With their platform, a flat technology fee is charged per month instead of a percentage of sales. This fee structure intends to help businesses better control their costs, make more money, and remain competitive. 

The MobileGrindz team isn’t stopping there. They are working to help restaurants earn more sales in general. One way they are doing this is by offering completely custom and free mobile apps for iOS and Android. This will allow restaurants’ customers to place orders and track their deliveries seamlessly.

Unlike most competitors on the market today, MobileGrindz will offer native apps for restaurants that will let them set up geo-based triggers for promotions that target foot traffic. In addition, this will allow restaurants to offer push notifications which restaurants can utilize to keep their customers informed of special offers and discounts. 

MobileGrindz will also eliminate third party funds disbursements by integrating third-party payment gateways, including Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, and others. The inclusion of additional payment gateways will allow restaurants to easily process payments independently and receive revenue more quickly.

The MobileGrindz team says that they will begin on-boarding early adoption users in mid-August, with a general launch of the platform slated for September 1, 2020.

More information can be found at https://www.mobilegrindz.com/

About MobileGrindz

MobileGrindz offers a cost-effective alternative to food ordering platforms for restaurants, helping them better promote their businesses while saving money. 

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Lyron Foster, CEO

MobileGrindz

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Source : MobileGrindz LLCCategories : Business , Food , Mobile , Restaurants , RetailTags : COVID19 , Restaurants , Food , Delivery , Mobile Order , Food Service , Food Delivery , MobileGrindz , Hawaii , Lyron Foster

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Being a Black Entrepreneur in the United States. Learn lessons from Lyron Foster

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Lyron Foster
Lyron has encountered discrimination and other business setbacks. But with determination, successful entrepreneurship in the United States is possible.

Lyron Foster is a very determined and prolific entrepeneur. Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t as easy as one thinks it to be. The journey is full of many challenges, roadblocks, hurdles, and can even turn into failures. However, people who are determined enough, overcome these challenges and establish themselves as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs create new business while bearing most of the risks and enjoying the rewards, at the same time. Such people innovate as they become a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business procedures. Entrepreneurs play a key role in the economy where they use their skills to bring new ideas into the market. If their ideas are successful, they are awarded profits, fame, and continued growth opportunities. Lyron Foster is one such successful entrepreneur who has made a name for himself in the business world. He is the CEO of Code Armada, along with 87 other technology brands across 4 countries. He was also the co-founder/CTO of Hostgator.com. He is a renowned serial entrepreneur, author, investor, coder, and technologist.

Lyron had always been interested in technology. According to his family, he had always possessed a natural aptitude for it. He started programming at the age of 12 and started experimenting with Slackware Linux at the age of 13. Over the years, he mastered the skills required to become a technologist. He was only 21 years old when he got his first real “technology” job at BurstNet working as a Linux Engineer. Soon he emerged as a successful technologist, having mastered all the skills. His passion for technology remained constant throughout his life.

Apart from being a successful technologist, Lyron is largely known for his serial entrepreneurship. As a serial entrepreneur, Lyron is continuously coming up with new ideas and starting new businesses. A serial entrepreneur often comes up with an idea and works on setting things up. Once things get started, they give the responsibility to someone else and move on to a new idea and a new venture. Throughout his career, some of the most memorable experiences had to be focused on his business failures and successes. He has often been lucky enough to found or co-found some of the most amazing ventures, such as Code Armada and Hostgator.  However, he has also had the misfortune of experiencing multiple business failures first hand. But Lyron never let this get to him as he learned from his mistakes and always performed better later on. He has learned lots from both his successes and failures. To this date, he has founded or co-founded over 87 businesses across 4 countries.

Despite experiencing multiple business failures, Lyron Foster has never given up and continues to thrive. His peerless determination rivals that of some of the biggest names in business.

One of his most successful business has been HostGator. HostGator was founded in a dorm room at Florida Atlantic University. HostGator has now grown into a leading provider of Shared, Reseller, VPS, and Dedicated web hosting. It is headquartered in Houston and Austin, Texas, with several international offices throughout the globe. Whether you are looking for a personal website hosting plan or a business website hosting plan, HostGator is the perfect solution for it. Their powerful website hosting services do not only help people achieve their overall website goals, but also provides them with the confidence they need in knowing that they have been with a reliable and secure website hosting platform. HostGator is the easiest website hosting platforms to use where Lyron served as the CTO for HostGator.

Currently, Lyron has extended his services to Code Armada, where he serves as the CEO of the company. The Code Armada is a leading US Based Technology Services & Staffing Solutions provider. They train and nurture the world’s top IT talent and then put them to work for businesses around the globe. Lyron has been successfully provided IT talent to the world.

Despite being such a busy man, Lyron finds time for his personal life as he showcases it on his Instagram. He can be seen sharing pictures of his delicious food, his friends and family, and his adventures around town.

For more information, people can follow him on Twitter at @LyronFoster or on Instagram at @lfoster96720.

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Exploiting wormable flaw on unpatched Windows devices is about to get easier

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Exploiting wormable flaw on unpatched Windows devices is about to get easier

Enlarge (credit: Windows)

A researcher has published exploit code for a Microsoft Windows vulnerability that, when left unpatched, has the potential to spread from computer to computer with no user interaction.

So-called wormable security flaws are among the most severe, because the exploit of one vulnerable computer can start a chain reaction that rapidly spreads to hundreds of thousands, millions, or tens of millions of other vulnerable machines. The WannaCry and NotPetya exploits of 2017, which caused worldwide losses in the billions and tens of billions of dollars respectively, owe their success to CVE-2017-0144, the tracking number for an earlier wormable Windows vulnerability.

Also key to the destruction was reliable code developed by and later stolen from the National Security Agency and finally published online. Microsoft patched the flaw in March 2017, two months before the first exploit took hold.

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