The Download: India’s deadly heatwaves, and the need for carbon removal

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

No power, no fans, no AC: The villagers fighting to survive India’s deadly heatwaves

The residents of Nagla Tulai, a farming village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, have always had to endure hot summers, but the past few years of punishingly cruel heat have tested their strength. This May it hit 49°C (120°F), the highest India has recorded in 122 years. Since then, local news reports have attributed more than 50 deaths to the record-breaking heat.

At the end of April, when the daytime temperature crossed 45°C (113°F), most residents of Nagla Tulai sought succor in the winds blowing outdoors. It’s one of the few Indian villages yet to be electrified. That means no fans, no coolers, and no air conditioners for its 150-odd households.

The men in the village have been forced into working no more than two hours a day in a bid to avoid the sun at its hottest. As temperatures intensify each year, they’re worried they’ll have no choice but to leave Nagla Tulai in search of employment in cities; jobs that won’t pay enough for them to take their families with them.

We need to draw down carbon—not just stop emitting it

The news: The UN’s climate panel has warned that the world will need to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, on top of rapid emissions cuts, to pull the planet back from increasingly dangerous warming levels. Researchers and startups are working on a variety of methods, including building greenhouse-gas-sucking factories and using minerals to lock up carbon.

Contentious plans: Carbon removal has become a touchy topic—there are real concerns that the growing focus on lowering levels of the greenhouse gas could encourage governments and businesses to delay or even avoid the most obvious and direct way of addressing climate change: preventing emissions from reaching the atmosphere in the first place.

A complicated solution: Experts warn that unfortunately, after decades of delay, there are now few paths to meeting climate change goals that don’t require both slashing emissions today and building the capacity to suck up vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the future. Read the full story.

By Zeke Hausfather, climate research lead at Stripe Climate, and a contributing author to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, and Jane Flegal, market development and policy lead at Stripe Climate.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The Large Hadron Collider will roar back to life today
CERN scientists are hoping to discover more insights into how the universe works. (NPR)
+ It’s 10 years since the Higgs boson particle was discovered. (Economist $)

2 An updated covid vaccine is due in the fall
The problem is, we need them now. (NYT $)
+ The risk of reinfection is forcing health experts to rethink booster jabs. (FT $)

3 AI could help remedy discrimination against Black homebuyers 
By evaluating how a $25,000 reparation grant could bolster housing deposits. (New Scientist)

4 It’s time to end the stigma around menstrual blood
Some scientists and doctors shy away from studying it, even though it could give us valuable insight into women’s health. (Undark)
+ What if you could diagnose diseases with a tampon? (MIT Technology Review)

5 NASA’s probe is on its way to the moon 🌕
It’s on course to reach the moon by November. (Gizmodo)
+ The agency’s also been working on a detailed map of Mars. (Input)

6 Rising inflation means we can’t afford to upgrade our computers
Which, coupled with the crypto crash, doesn’t bode well for semiconductor makers. (WSJ $)

7 Conservative radio stations are peddling misinformation 📻
Pundits are repeating the same false claims accusing the Democrats of cheating in the 2020 Presidential election. (NYT $)

8 Subtitling hit TV shows is really, really hard
Clumsy translations can mistranslate crucial moments for an unwitting audience. (CNET)
+ Better captioning online stands to benefit everyone. (MIT Technology Review)

9 The internet really wants a magnet-propelled car
Unfortunately, physics doesn’t agree. (Wired $)

10 A mummified baby wooly mammoth has been uncovered in the Yukon
She may have coexisted with the ancestors of today’s First Nations Peoples. (Gizmodo)
+ Researchers are divided over how a winged pterosaur was able to fly. (Ars Technica)

The big story

Climate change means the US must start building big things again

January 2020

The US has become terrible at building big things, and negligent in even maintaining existing infrastructure. Major portions of the nation’s highways, bridges, water pipes, ports, railways, and electric transmission lines were constructed more than half a century ago, and in many cases they are falling apart.

That all bodes terribly for the country’s ability to grapple with the coming dangers of climate change, because it is fundamentally an infrastructure problem. To prepare for the climate dangers it now can’t avoid, the US also needs to bolster coastal protections, reengineer waste and water systems, reinforce transportation infrastructure, and relocate homes and businesses away from expanding flood and fire zones. Given the staggering cost of adapting for the climate and tight timelines, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it can’t afford to take decades to build—much less not build—a single project. Read the full story.

—James Temple

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Wordle too gentle for you? Word Fight pits you against friends to guess the mystery word.
+ This clip gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘happy as a clam’.
+ I’m a sucker for a striking album cover. Here are some of the best.
+ I wonder if bands ever tire of the encore charade.
+ The UK is on a wholesome mission to map its ancient trees.

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