Making water from icebergs

Last week, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden got a D-minus on a climate crisis report card ranking Democratic presidential candidates, courtesy of Greenpeace. This week, he called the issue an existential threat and proposed achieving 100% clean energy and net-zero emissions by 2050 as part of a $5 trillion climate plan that would be paid for by undoing the Republican tax cuts signed by President Donald Trump, which largely went to corporations. —Josh Petri
“It’s not as glamorous as a battery, but it’s a tried and true technology.”
—Neena Kuzmich, project manager for a pumped-hydro storage facility in California. The system of reservoirs and turbines can store energy during the day and then crank out electricity for 900,000 homes, using water and gravity.
Top stories
The Carpoffs ran a solar company that did so well it counted Warren Buffett as an investor. They owned more than 90 cars and a professional baseball team. But it was all built on an alleged fraud. Oil companies thought they could pivot to plastics when the world weaned itself off fossil fuels. The global crackdown on plastic trash is now making that plan appear overly optimistic. A few airline carriers are making an effort to shrink their carbon footprint with biofuel, offsets and by generating a lot less trash.  There’s an ugly side to the makeup aisle, and its killing the planet. The industry is a huge source of plastic refuse, but it’s finally waking up to its role in the global environmental crisis.

Nicholas Sloane is a marine-salvage master. He’s survived two helicopter crashes, fought off armed pirates (twice) and recently spent 2½ years overseeing the almost $1 billion refloating of the Costa Concordia, the infamous cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Tuscany, killing 32 passengers. Now he’s working on a big idea of his own: Harnessing and towing an enormous Antarctic iceberg to South Africa and converting it into municipal water.

What we’ve been reading
Thousands of heat-related deaths could be avoided in major U.S. cities each year if rising global temperatures are curbed, according to a major new study. New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia are set to experience the largest number of heat-related deaths in the coming years.  It’s not often that we describe think-tank research as “harrowing,” but here goes. A new analysis describes the climate crisis as an “existential threat to human civilization” and lays out a scenario in which it all collapses in the next 30 years. Earth is full of natural wonders under threat: melting glaciers, dying coral reefs, cities slipping into the ocean. To be human in 2019 is to fight two competing instincts. One, to see these wonders before the disappear. The other, to feel massive guilt because by traveling to them, you are speeding their destruction.