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BlackRock Will Put Climate Change at Center of Investment Strategy

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Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, plans to announce Tuesday that his firm will make investment decisions with environmental sustainability as a core goal.

BlackRock is the largest in its field, with nearly $7 trillion under management, and this move will fundamentally shift its investing policy — and could reshape how corporate America does business and put pressure on other large money managers to follow suit.

Mr. Fink’s annual letter to the chief executives of the world’s largest companies is closely watched, and in the 2020 edition he said BlackRock would begin to exit certain investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk,” such as those in coal producers. His intent is to encourage every company, not just energy firms, to rethink their carbon footprints.

“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” Mr. Fink wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times. “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”

The firm, he wrote, would also introduce new funds that shun fossil fuel-oriented stocks, move more aggressively to vote against management teams that are not making progress on sustainability, and press companies to disclose plans “for operating under a scenario where the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees is fully realized.”

Mr. Fink has not always been the first to address social issues, but his annual letter — such as his dictum two years ago that companies needed to have a purpose beyond profits — has the influence to change the conversations inside boardrooms around the globe.

And now Mr. Fink is sounding an alarm on a crisis that he believes is the most profound in his 40 years in finance. “Even if only a fraction of the science is right today, this is a much more structural, long-term crisis,” he wrote.

A longtime Democrat, Mr. Fink insisted in an interview that the decision was strictly business. “We are fiduciaries,” he said. “Politics isn’t part of this.”

Climate activists staged several protests outside BlackRock’s offices last year, and Mr. Fink himself has received letters from members of Congress urging more action on climate-related investing. According to Ceres and FundVotes, a unit of Morningstar, BlackRock had among the worst voting records on climate issues.

In recent years, many companies and investors have committed to focusing on the environmental impact of business, but none of the largest investors in the country have been willing to make it a central component of their investment strategy.

In that context, Mr. Fink’s move is a watershed — one that could spur a national conversation among financiers and policymakers. However, it’s also possible that some of the most ardent climate activists will see it as falling short.

Even so, the new approach may put pressure on the other large money managers and financial firms in the United States — Vanguard, T. Rowe Price and JPMorgan Chase, among them — to articulate more ambitious strategies around sustainability.

When 631 investors from around the world, representing some $37 trillion in assets, signed a letter last month calling on governments to step up their efforts against climate change, the biggest American firms were conspicuously absent.

BlackRock’s decision may give C.E.O.s license to change their own companies’ strategy and focus more on sustainability, even if doing so cuts into short-term profits. Such a shift could also provide cover for banks and other financial institutions that finance carbon-emitting businesses to change their own policies.

Had Mr. Fink moved a decade ago to pull BlackRock’s funds out of companies that contribute to climate change, his clients would have been well served. In the past 10 years, through Friday, companies in the S&P 500 energy sector had gained just 2 percent in total. In the same period, the broader S&P 500 nearly tripled.

In an interview, Mr. Fink said the decision developed from conversations with “business leaders and how they’re thinking about it, talking to different scientists, reading different research.” Mr. Fink asked BlackRock to research the economic impacts of climate change; it found that they are already appearing in a meaningful way in the form of higher insurance premiums, for fires and floods, and expects cities to have to pay more for their bonds.

Wherever he goes, he said, he is bombarded with climate questions from investors, often to the exclusion of issues that until recently were once considered more important. “Climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock,” he wrote in his letter.

He wrote that he anticipated a major shift, much sooner than many might imagine, in the way money will be allocated.

“This dynamic will accelerate as the next generation takes the helm of government and business,” he wrote. “As trillions of dollars shift to millennials over the next few decades, as they become C.E.O.s and C.I.O.s, as they become the policymakers and heads of state, they will further reshape the world’s approach to sustainability.”

Still, Mr. Fink made plain that while he intends for the firm to consider climate risks, he would not pursue an across-the-board sale of energy companies that produce fossil fuels. Because of its shear size, BlackRock will remain one of the world’s largest investors in fossil-fuel companies.

“Despite recent rapid advances in technology, the science does not yet exist to replace many of today’s essential uses of hydrocarbons,” he wrote. “We need to be mindful of the economic, scientific, social and political realities of the energy transition.”

BlackRock manages money for countries across the globe as well as states and municipalities across the nation. It could face opposition for its new stance in areas that benefit from fossil fuels, like countries in the Middle East or states where oil has become a significant part of their economies.

Mr. Fink said that because much of the money BlackRock manages is invested in passive index funds like those that track the S&P 500, the firm was unable to simply sell shares in companies that it felt were not focused on sustainability. But he did say that the firm could do so in what are known as “actively managed funds,” in which BlackRock can choose which stocks are included.

BlackRock also plans to offer new passive funds — including target-date funds that are based on a person’s age and are meant to be used to prepare for retirement — that will not include fossil fuel companies. Investors will be able to choose these instead of more traditional funds. To the extent that fossil fuel companies are in an index, BlackRock plans to push them to consider their eventual transition to renewable energy. Mr. Fink said the company would vote against them if they are not moving fast enough.

“We will be increasingly disposed to vote against management and board directors when companies are not making sufficient progress on sustainability-related disclosures and the business practices and plans underlying them,” he wrote.

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GTI launching a hydrogen technology center

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GTI, a research, development and training organization focused on natural gas and energy markets, is launching a hydrogen technology center.

GTI focuses its R&D efforts on the generation of clean hydrogen using hydrocarbon fuels that incorporate carbon capture and/or carbon sequestration in a cost-effective manner. These technology efforts are directed at both large-scale hydrogen production using natural gas feedstock, and smaller distributed hydrogen production for transportation or remote power generation using either gaseous or liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

GTI has partnered with government and private industry to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate technologies that further the use of hydrogen as a transportation fuel by delivering infrastructure, vehicle, engine, fuel dispensing, and system solutions for clean transportation fuel cell vehicles.

GTI hydrogen fueling site at UT Austin.


GTI has leveraged its expertise with natural gas pipeline infrastructure to assess the impacts of injecting hydrogen into the North American natural gas pipeline infrastructure network. This and component performance work looks at material compatibility in the pipeline delivery infrastructure as well as the ability for end-use equipment to utilize hydrogen blended with natural gas.

GTI has expertise in new storage and conversion technologies with materials development and testing. Using functional materials to store hydrogen and methane can increase gas storage capacities at lower and safe pressures. Key elements of GTI storage projects have focused on hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

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Best shower filters for 2020: How they work and why you should get one

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If you already own a Brita filter to get rid of contaminants and sediment in your drinking water, you might want to consider doing the same thing for your shower water.

I’m willing to bet you’ve heard plenty of the concerns about heavy metals, asbestos, chlorine and other chemicals in our drinking water — and many of these worries are well-founded. Even cities in developed countries, including the US, struggle with polluted or toxic water, posing a serious health risk to the people who live there.

We don’t want to throw cold water on your at-home spa day, but as it turns out, a lot of these contaminants can be harmful in your bath water too. The good news? You can buy a shower filter for a relatively low price to protect yourself and your family from all the chemicals and metals in water.

Even if you’re confident that your water is quite safe to drink, a lot of people report that using a shower filter gives them healthier hair, softer skin, and helps fix all sorts of cosmetic annoyances.

You’d be surprised at the dirty contaminants hiding in your shower water.


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Lead and chlorine in drinking water

Even if your water smells and tastes fine, harmful chemicals could be lurking inside. Water pollutants fall into different categories, but the main ones of concern in your shower water are toxic metals, chlorine (used as a disinfectant) and the byproducts that chlorine creates with other chemicals in the water.

The main toxic metals that often hide in water are arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, which all made the WHO’s top 10 list of “chemicals of major health concern.”

Lead is often deemed as the biggest offender — water slowly corrodes the lead in home plumbing systems, and the toxic metal seeps into the water. Children are at a particularly high risk and have been reported to absorb up to 50% of their lead through drinking water. Even at relatively low levels, WHO reports that lead exposure can cause irreversible neurological issues. This is why water quality must always be a consideration.

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The lead from degrading plumbing can get into drinking water, causing all sorts of public health issues.


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Another main issue is connected to the chlorine that’s used as a disinfectant in our drinking water. The major health concern is actually the byproducts that are created when chlorine reacts with natural organic matter in the water, creating harmful chemicals called THMs. You’ve probably heard of chloroform, which is just one common THM, and high levels of THMs act as a carcinogen.

One study found that people absorbed more THMs from a 10-minute hot shower than from drinking a liter of water, so if you’re concerned about this, a shower filtration system that is actively removing chlorine can be helpful.

Are there toxic metals in your household water?

I hope I haven’t scared you into never touching your household water again. Many countries, including the United States, have a comprehensive set of guidelines to make sure that the harmful chemicals in your water, and your overall water quality, are being examined and regulated.

In the US, the EPA has legally enforceable standards for all different types of pollutants in your drinking water, as well as secondary concerns that may cause skin irritation or affect your hair. Your local water supplier should produce a new Consumer Confidence Report each year, and the EPA has a public database to easily look up the most recent report for your area. You can read the report and check if there are any worrisome pollutant levels in your water, but you can also rest safe in the knowledge that if any contaminants are over their legal limit, your area will certainly be notified.

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If you use public drinking water in your home, you can rest assured that it’s passing all sorts of safety tests.


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If you’re especially worried about lead, one easy way to mitigate that risk is to simply run the tap water a few minutes before using it. The most dangerous amounts of lead accumulate when the water has been sitting in your home’s pipes overnight, so if you flush that immediate water out, you’ll be in better shape.

Why you should buy a shower filter

If concerns about nasty chemicals in your water have already prompted you to filter your drinking water, you may want to do the same for your shower as well. Although your shower water is monitored to be safe in the short term, long-term exposure to heavy metals and chlorine is still a risk, especially for the very young and elderly.

Even if your water quality is perfectly safe, your hair and skin might still benefit from filtered shower water. For some people, the minerals and metals in their shower water wreaks havoc on their hair. Water with high concentrations of minerals is known as “hard water,” and it runs through the pipes in many people’s homes. Not sure if you have hard water? This USGS map can help.

Although it’s technically safe for consumption, you can easily find plenty of people who say that hard water wrecks their skin and hair, and that buying a shower filter alleviated sensitive skin, acne, frizzy hair and even eye irritation. Even more people say that a shower filter helped with itchy and dull skin, and flaky scalps.

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If you’ve ever experienced red, cracky skin, chlorine may be making it worse.


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It turns out that the reported effects of hard water on your skin are backed up by science. The specific minerals in hard water make it hard for soaps and shampoos to lather and do their job, so that icky feeling on your skin might actually be that it’s not getting quite as clean. 

A lot of the hair and skin irritation has to do with the fact that soap and hard water react to form “scum”, the white sticky layer left behind on your skin after soaping up. Have you ever noticed the white residue that builds up on your faucets that’s hard to clean? It’s the product of calcium and magnesium in your water, and that same residue is building up on your skin too. The scum clogs your pores and can cover the strands of your hair so that conditioner can’t do its work, making sensitive skin and high-maintenance hair worse.

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Hard water causes white gunk that piles up on your faucet.


Thrifty Fun

It’s not just the metals and minerals in water that dry out your skin. Anyone who’s spent time in a chlorinated pool knows how the chemical seems to draw all the moisture out from your body, leaving you with crunchy hair and red skin. The residual chlorine in shower water can create the same problems but on a much smaller scale, leaving you with skin that just can’t get quite as soft as you’d like. Keep in mind that the chlorine in water is hard to remove, so you’ll want to make sure the filter you buy is capable of removing chlorine.

How to choose the best shower filter for your home

Different types of filters work better to remove different types of contaminants and sediment, so you’ll want to check out what’s in your water and decide what’s most important for you when you’re looking for the best shower filter, whether that’s flow rate, water softening, shower filtration, or gallons of usage. Another thing to keep in mind is that while the initial purchase might not be that expensive, you’ll typically need to replace the filter or filter cartridge every six months. So, you should factor replacement filters and replacement cartridges into the cost too while looking at your shower filter budget.

Without further ado, here are all the shower filters to fit all shower types.

Sonaki

Activated carbon filters are the most effective choice for your shower head, and since this one is an inline model, you won’t need to buy a separate shower spray. The granular activated carbon removes bacteria, chlorine, chloramine (another disinfectant sometimes used), heavy metals, rust, and any other byproducts, so you can shower knowing that you’re safe. Plus, it’ll soften your filtered shower water so you can get softer hair than ever.

QwenchPure

KDF filters are made out of copper and zinc, two elements that create a small electrical-chemical charge between them. While it may seem counterintuitive to put more metal in your shower, a KDF filter is great for dissolving mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and even chlorine. You won’t notice the electric charge in your shower, but the heavy metals sure will. This one too can be installed with any shower head, and will act partly as a water softener, getting rid of the hardness in your water.

Read more: Smart showers, smart toilets and smart sinks: Should you put your plumbing online?

Aqua Earth

A Vitamin C filter removes chlorine and chloramine fluoride by neutralizing it, but it won’t affect many other contaminants. If you have confidence in the safety of your water but chlorine gives you dry skin, a Vitamin C filter is a great way to go. The Vitamin C filter can also be attached to any shower head you already have.

Suncoo

At less than $10, this is the best shower filter if you’re operating on a tight budget. It mainly gets rid of chlorine, but the stainless steel mesh filter can dissolve some heavy metals as well. So if better skin and healthier hair are your main concerns when you take a hot shower, it’s a great choice. It comes in a chrome finish and with an extra filter cartridge. And, once again, this filter fits onto any shower head you currently use.

Reverse Osmosis Revolution

If the thought of pollutants in your household system is concerning to you or you live in an area that has contaminated water, you may want to consider whole house water filtration systems. This model has three water filtration layers — one with a micron sediment layer, another with granular activated carbon and a final carbon block filter, ensuring that just about everything harmful will be taken out of your water. So, you can enjoy using tap water from every faucet in your house without worry.

This article was originally published last year and is updated periodically.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Weekly tech news #2 | isro , poco new phone, mi new phone, mi router, jio upi, realme.

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