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UN climate boss settles for no cuts on emissions

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Amid an energy crisis in Europe and progress on helping climate victims, the new UN climate chief said he would be content with the lack of new emission-cutting measures emerging from the now-concluded climate talks in Egypt.

It could have been worse, UN Executive Secretary for Climate Simon Stiell said in an interview with The Associated Press. The talks have achieved the historic creation of a fund for poor nations that are victims of climate-related disasters, he said.

Progress made at last year’s Glasgow World Climate Summit has been maintained. “There was no backing down. As a result, what would be described as very undemanding. I would actually agree with that,” a weary Stiell said hours after Egypt’s climate talks ended in a final around-the-clock push.

“To say it… we stopped. Yeah, that’s not so great,” said Stiell. But he still likes the overall outcome of the first series of climate talks he oversaw, particularly the long-awaited compensation fund for non-warming nations.

Outside experts agree with Stiell that nothing has been done on the key issue of reducing emissions that cause climate change and disasters like floods in Pakistan.

“In the shadow of the energy crisis, there were no major new climate protection commitments at the conference,” said climate scientist Niklas Hohne, founder of the NewClimate Institute in Germany. “Glasgow a year ago was a small but important step in the right direction, with many new national goals and new international initiatives. None of that happened this year.”

This is despite the fact that more than 90 nations have repeatedly asked – many publicly – for the deal to phase out oil and gas. The Glasgow Accord calls for a phasing out of ‘unbridled coal’ – that is, burning coal that releases the carbon into the atmosphere rather than being captured in any way. Poor nations indicate that they rely more on coal, while oil and gas are used more in rich countries. These should also be phased out, they said. In his concluding words at the talks, Stiell himself called for an exit from oil and gas.

But the Egyptian Presidency never included the proposal, which came from India, in any of the decision documents. The country hosting and leading the climate talks has the power to make that decision.

Critics – including negotiators during the talks – have blasted the Egyptian presidency and its agenda setting. Environmental groups have repeatedly pointed to Egypt’s reliance on natural gas exports, its role as the operator of the Suez Canal’s oil trade and revenues from neighboring oil states. Oil and natural gas are both major contributors to climate change.

Next year’s climate negotiations will take place in the United Arab Emirates, a major oil power. Environmentalists and outside experts fear oil and gas exit language won’t get a fair shake up next year either.

Asked about the wisdom that fossil fuel exporting countries host and control climate talks, Stiell said, “They’re part of the problem, but they’re also part of the solution. It’s an incomplete picture,” he said.

“The world economy is certainly still based on oil and gas. And that’s the challenge,” said Stiell.

Climate Analytics CEO Bill Hare, a climate scientist, called this a serious problem.

“The massive presence of oil and gas interests at the COP undermines the integrity of the UN climate process and could slowly erode its legitimacy,” Hare said. “The suspected influence of oil states and oil and gas lobbyists on the Egyptian presidency is unhealthy to say the least.”

E3G analyst Alex Scott said Egypt showed “a sense of willful ignorance” by not considering a document calling for an oil and gas phase-out. The Petro-States’ hold on the presidency is happening off-site and “is the right question,” she said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the president of the climate talks, did not answer a shouted question on Sunday about the oil and gas phase-out.

Stiell said countries would have to keep coming back and pressuring each other to include language calling for an oil and gas phase-out. That has worked for the most important achievement of this year – the establishment of a fund for poor nations that are victims of climate catastrophes.

But even that took more than 30 years.

While critics blasted Egypt, citing the impact of fossil fuel interests on the lack of action to reduce emissions, also known as mitigation, Stiell attributed the inaction to other things going on.

He said there were complaints that last year’s climate talks were too mitigation-oriented and that this year’s talks have restored the balance.

“You can’t do too much mitigation!” Hohne replied in an email. The global goal of limiting temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times “remains in intensive care if conditions worsen. The conference met the minimum requirements, but that is far from enough.”

But getting the climate fund was a great and all-consuming achievement, said Stiell. Before taking over the post of UN climate chief this summer, he was cabinet minister for the small island nation of Grenada.

“It’s a 30-year discussion,” said Stiell. “I’ve been involved with this for ten years as a Grenadian minister and I’ve heard that ‘this is not possible’ and that ‘this is impossible’.”

Mohamed Adow of environmental group Powershift Africa agreed. “COP27 was a surprise precisely because for once the needs of the vulnerable were really listened to,” he said.

Looking back, Stiell said he still had high hopes.

“So progress: incremental, small, insufficient. There is still a lot to do,” said Stiell, summing up the efforts to combat climate change. “We are still in the middle of crisis mode.”

Follow AP’s climate and environmental reporting at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental reporting is supported by several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Neuralink Shows Sake the Monkey Typing With Its Brain Chip

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Neuralink, Elon Musk’s start-up that hopes to get our brains to connect directly to computers, demonstrated on Wednesday how a monkey named Sake could type using just its mind to create a virtual keyboard Taxes.

The monkey didn’t know how to spell, but he could follow the keys, which Neuralink lit up yellow on the screen. An N1 chip embedded in the monkey’s skull registered brain activity to control how the monkey moved a cursor across the screen.

It’s a step beyond the mind pong game Neuralink showed off in 2021, but so far it’s still just listening for neural activity. After all, the company also wants to send signals to the brain. This will enable the first two medical use cases: helping the blind see and helping the paraplegic walk.

“We’re confident that someone who has no other interface to the outside world would be able to better control their phone than someone who has working hands,” Musk said Neuralink’s “Show and Tell” event. “Sake, the monkey only moves the cursor with its mind.”


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Elon Musk releases Monkey Typing’s latest Neuralink demo


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Musk has some credibility when it comes to disruptive technology, with his electric vehicle company Tesla fundamentally changing cars and his SpaceX outfit transforming access to space with reusable rockets. But his reputation as a tech genius has taken a hit with that Chaos on Twitter after his $44 billion acquisition. So does Musk’s Boring Company, which aims to innovate car transportation with tunnels has not yet kept its promises.

Neuralink doesn’t look any easier than social networks. Connecting computer hardware to our own wetware presents enormous technical, regulatory and ethical challenges.

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Get a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse for your Mac and save $39

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ICA Miami and other museums continue to collect and display NFTs even as the market sinks, arguing digital art has a long history and valuations are unimportant (Farah Nayeri/New York Times)

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Farah Nayeri / New York Times:

The ICA Miami and other museums continue to collect and display NFTs even as the market falls, arguing that digital art has a long history and reviews are unimportant– ICA Miami owns some, and MFA Boston and others are selling them to reach new audiences “in a world where Instagram and Siri are rampant.”

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