Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

World leaders are pondering unprecedented moves to combat global warming by speeding up the transition to clean tech — but they're also learning more about the potential downsides of those changes.

Why it matters: The changes will be needed to avoid the most dire climate scenarios. But there are potential environmental, human rights, and geopolitical risks to shifting how we get around, the way the electric grid operates, and how everything from cement is made to buildings are constructed.

What they're saying: "It's important to recognize that decarbonizing our economy will not be small and beautiful; replacing all of our fossil fuel infrastructure with clean energy will be big and messy," Zeke Hausfather, director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, told Axios via email.

  • "Getting to net-zero [emissions] by 2050 will require building a huge amount of new things incredibly quickly, and will entail lots of conflicts with some traditional environmental priorities."

The big picture: Perhaps the best-known problem companies and countries are facing is how to source the critical minerals needed for batteries that will be used to power electric cars, planes, energy storage devices, and more.

  • Mining for these minerals on land — including cobalt, lithium, manganese and graphite — can cause pollution and are often unsafe. In some places, like in China and the Congo, it can involve forced or child labor.
  • Efforts are underway to consider how to mine the seabed for rare Earth minerals, but here too, there's potential for environmental destruction — in this case, a danger to sea life.
  • The minerals are needed for electric vehicle batteries, but they're also in demand for other critical projects. These include the construction of vast arrays of wind turbines and solar photovoltaic farms.

Cleanly and ethically producing batteries is far from the only challenge facing countries as they move to decarbonize.

  • Other technologies also threaten biodiversity by extracting resources and taking up large amounts of land — including biomass energy with carbon capture and storage, known as BECCS. This involves extracting energy from biomass, such as certain crops grown for this purpose, and capturing and storing the carbon.
  • Mining for critical minerals is also more energy intensive than mining for bulk metals — which means they could actually increase carbon emissions as demand grows.
  • Right now we're hurtling toward an economy that will be far more dependent on a steady supply of these materials, but they're not evenly distributed worldwide, presenting geopolitical challenges. For example, the vast majority of the world's supply of refined cobalt comes from China, and China produces the most rare Earth minerals overall.
  • The U.S. is trying to mine more rare Earth minerals domestically or secure additional supplies abroad.

How it works: Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation has increased by 50%, according to an IEA report published in May.

  • The IEA found that a scenario in which the world reaches net zero carbon emissions by 2050 "would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today."

What's next: The IEA warned that there need to be "broad and sustained efforts" to improve the environmental and social performance of mineral supply chains.

  • The report also recommends more recycling programs and stronger environmental and human rights standards that help steer economic rewards to responsible suppliers.

The bottom line: The decisions we make now to invest in new clean energy technologies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will dictate how much warming-related disruption and damage we endure, and any associated clean tech complications we will experience during the next several decades.

  • Ultimately, the concerns related to the energy transition pale in comparison to the far-reaching harms that would be caused by letting human-caused global warming to continue to escalate.

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2021 - Economy & Business

Report: Climate change is an "emerging threat" to U.S. economic stability

A firefighter watches an airplane drop fire retardant ahead of the Alisal fire near Goleta, California, on Oct. 13. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A top U.S. financial coordinating organization took several steps on Thursday to manage the growing risks that climate change poses to the U.S. financial system.

Why it matters: While the Biden administration has been taking an all-of-government approach to climate change, like factoring climate risk into planning at the Treasury Department, today's moves by the politically independent Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) carry significant weight.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
45 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.

Defense taking steps to mitigate civilian harm after botched airstrikes

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive Thursday to improve the U.S. military's approach to civilian harm mitigation and response, calling it a "strategic and a moral imperative."

Why it matters: The Pentagon has faced criticism for years for amassing civilian casualties in its missions, especially in the Middle East. New York Times investigations have found systemic failures in efforts to prevent civilian deaths, as well as a cover-up of a 2019 airstrike that killed dozens of women and children in Syria.