Picture of a futuristic looking skyline.
Nov 10, 2021

Axios What's Next

Cities like Kansas City, San Diego and Austin aim to tackle climate change locally, frustrated by the slow pace of action at the national and global levels. Erica Pandey checks out their ambitions, below.

  • Today's What's Next photo was taken by Clifford A. Sobel on a major bridge in New York City.
  • Do you want a picture you took to be in this newsletter? Email it and tell us why it's worthy! whatsnext@axios.com.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 959 words ... 3½ minutes.

1 big thing: The climate fight hits cities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As world leaders meet in Glasgow at the United Nations climate summit — COP26 — to set the global agenda in the climate fight, cities are developing their own plans to stay resilient, Erica writes.

Why it matters: Cities are on the front lines of climate change, dealing with power outages, floods and fires — and they're often acting more swiftly than countries to combat the crisis.

  • The hesitancy we’ve seen at the state and federal level has only made it more urgent for us to act at the local level," says Brian Platt, city manager of Kansas City, Missouri.

What's happening: Cities around the U.S. are developing ambitious plans to slash their carbon footprints. Now, tens of billions of dollars in funding for climate-related projects from the newly passed infrastructure bill could supercharge those plans:

  • Kansas City is considering building a solar farm half the size of Manhattan on a stretch of undeveloped land next to its airport.
    • The farm would be one of the biggest in the country — with a capacity of about 300 megawatts — and could power all city buildings plus many residences and private buildings, Platt says.
    • The city wants to cut its reliance on coal, which powered 70% of Missouri's electricity in 2020.
  • San Diego just put out a plan to improve its climate resilience, which includes planting more trees, building more parks in low-income neighborhoods (for relief from extreme heat) and updating public transit systems to withstand rusting from floods.
    • "When I was growing up, our schools didn’t have air conditioning, and now they do," San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria tells Axios. "We're uniquely experiencing climate change as a coastal city in California. ... We must act."
    • Speaking from Glasgow, Gloria reflected on the promise dangled by the infrastructure legislation: "I have been in politics for 20-plus years, and these are numbers that I’ve not seen before."
  • Austin wants to put dollars toward electrifying the city's vehicle fleet and cutting transportation emissions.

The big picture: Local action is essential, says Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution. According to a Brookings analysis, 45 of the U.S.'s 100 biggest metro areas have pledged to cut carbon emissions.

  • But 2 in 3 of those 45 cities are lagging in their efforts, often because they haven't had enough money to implement their plans.

The bottom line: "There are local efforts happening, but they’re few and far between relative to the urgency and the scale of climate change," says Joseph Kane of the Brookings Institution. "It’s going to require all hands on deck."

Read the full story

2. Coming soon to Vegas: Driverless taxis

A self-driving Lyft car in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Motional.

Lyft plans to introduce an autonomous ride-hailing service in Sin City in 2023, working in conjunction with the driverless technology company Motional, the companies said Tuesday.

Why it matters: As Joann reported in late 2020, the plans by Lyft and Motional "represent a potential milestone in the commercial rollout of self-driving technology, which AV developers say will lead to safer, lower-cost transportation."

Go deeper: Lyft to offer self-driving taxis in several cities in 2023

3. Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans are so over Delta

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans are increasingly likely to believe returning to normal life is only a low to moderate risk as Delta cases plummet, writes Axios Vitals editor Tina Reed, citing the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

What they're saying: "Delta's over in the popular imagination," said Ipsos pollster and senior vice president Chris Jackson.

  • "People are starting to re-engage with their regular activities. They're not as worried about getting COVID," Jackson said.

By the numbers: The findings indicate a clear shift over time on Americans' attitudes about COVID.

  • For instance, 44% said returning to normal life is a large to moderate risk — down from 56% in mid-September and the lowest since the Delta surge began.
  • In addition, fewer people (38%) reported requirements by their state or local government to wear masks in all public places, down from 43% two weeks earlier and the lowest since early August.

Read the full story

4. The business of privacy is booming

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Investors and consumers are showing growing enthusiasm for privacy-focused alternatives to Google and Facebook amid renewed scrutiny over the real cost of their "free" services, Axios' Ina Fried and Sara Fischer write.

Yes, but: It's still hard to compete with the massive profit engines those companies have built.

Driving the news: A new privacy-oriented search engine, You.com, is entering public beta today and announcing it has landed $20 million in funding, led by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff with participation from Breyer Capital, Sound Ventures, Day One Ventures and others.

  • The company, run by former Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher, aims to stand out by delivering not just standard web results but also information from Twitter, Reddit and other services.
  • Users can choose which sources they prefer, as well as those they'd rather not see. The company has built a number of initial apps but plans to open up its service so that others can provide results for relevant queries.
  • Socher said the goal is to deliver both privacy and agency back to the consumer. "I think it is something really important for our information diets as a society," Socher told Axios.

Read the full article

5. Photo of the day

A rusting beam on the Manhattan Bridge, which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn in NYC. Photo: Clifford A. Sobel

What's Next: The promise of infrastructure repair

Clifford A. Sobel writes: "While stuck in traffic on the Manhattan Bridge, I grew alarmed at the terrible condition of the structure supporting me, wondering if search and rescue was in my future.

"I recall reading decades ago that engineers were seriously concerned about this particular bridge and others like it.

"I hope the passage of the big infrastructure bill in Washington means that problems like this finally get fixed."

Was this email forwarded to you? Get your daily dose of What's Next magic by signing up for our free newsletter here.