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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
As world leaders waffle on policies to head off the extraordinary climate change threat, the retail sector — America’s largest private employer — is moving on its own to cut back its environmental harm.
Why it matters: E-commerce and retail giants pump out emissions and pollution through mass manufacturing, incessant speedy shipping and uncurbed waste. Per one estimate, the fashion industry alone will burn up a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050.
By the numbers:
The latest: Amazon — the biggest retailer on the planet, delivering more than 10 billion packages a year — came out last week with an ambitious climate plan to hit carbon neutrality by 2040, 10 years earlier than the Paris Climate Accord's goal. Its moves could have a ripple effect.
Other retailers have made commitments to curb impact as well.
The bottom line: The retail industry still has a long way to go in reducing its environmental impact, experts say. But companies are realizing that "to stay relevant requires action on sustainability," says Berkley Rothmeier of the climate advocacy group Business for Social Responsibility. "There is huge pressure for the private sector to get ahead of risk, and please employees and customers."
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The U.S. has the upper hand in pivotal emerging technologies like AI and quantum computing, in part because American universities and companies boast world-class talent. But experts say its dominance could soon slip, Kaveh and I report.
Why it matters: The country that reigns in AI, 5G or quantum cryptography will likely have a huge military and economic advantage over its adversaries for years to come and will get to shape the technologies as they are implemented the world over.
A new report from the Council on Foreign Relations identifies the areas in which China is rapidly closing the gap with the U.S. "Slowing down China is not enough," says Adam Segal, an expert on emerging technologies and national security at CFR. "The U.S. needs to do significantly more at home."
What to watch: The U.S. needs to pull in scientists from around the globe to compete, Segal says. "China is producing 3 times as many STEM graduates at the undergrad level."
An Amazon Echo. Photo: Joby Sessions/T3 Magazine/Future/Getty Images
Silicon Valley's tech giants are battling to take over your house, betting that the company that puts the most speakers, cameras and devices into customers' homes will reap massive profits from the troves of data collected.
The latest: Today, Amazon pulled even further ahead of its Big Tech brethren in this race, launching a slew of new smart products that are equipped with Alexa, its digital assistant.
Among the additions...
Why it matters: Amazon is rapidly building up the ways in which it can surveil its customers — listening to them, watching them, following them, keeping track of what they cook, and even figuring out how they feel.
Worth noting: The retail giant says it is keeping privacy concerns in mind. You can now ask Alexa to delete certain data, Axios' Ina Fried reports.
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photos via Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
Boris Johnson speaks at the UN. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented quite an alarming, dystopian view of the future during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Here are some delightful quotes, via The Guardian.
“In the future, voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object: your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese.”
“A future Alexa will pretend to take orders. But this Alexa will be watching you, clucking her tongue and stamping her foot.”
“AI — what will it mean? Helpful robots washing and caring for an aging population? Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?"
“What will synthetic biology stand for — restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the tissues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables?”