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Svalbard glaciers lost their protective buffer in the mid-1980s and have been melting ever since
The archipelago of Svalbard, a land of ice and polar bears, is found midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. Its capital Longyearbyen on the main island of Spitsbergen is the world’s most northerly city, some 800 miles inside the Arctic Circle.Svalbard is also home to some of the Earth’s northernmost glaciers, which bury most of the archipelago’s surface under no less than 200 metres of thick ice. Taken together, Svalbard glaciers represent 6% of the worldwide glacier area outside the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica – if they totally melted, they would raise the sea level by 1.7cm.Because they are so far north, these glaciers are found at relatively low elevations, mostly below 450 metres above sea level compared to 800 metres or more elsewhere in the Arctic. Moreover, they are shaped like domes with steep sides and extensive flat interiors. These peculiar features make Svalbard glaciers highly vulnerable to climate warming, as we discovered in our research now published in Nature Communications.
Needle in a haystack: Patents that inspire agricultural innovation
Patent documents are underexploited resources—not only for understanding the evolution of agricultural technology but also for assisting governments, companies, and academic institutions in the inventive process. 1 1. Leonidas Aristodemou and Frank Tietze, “Citations as a measure of technological impact: A review of forward citation-based measures,” World Patent Information, June 2018, Volume 53, pp. 39–44. More than 40,000 patents related to agricultural inputs have been granted in the past ten years. We find that a rigorous patent-review process could aid agricultural-input companies in their pursuit of innovation.Agricultural innovation is increasingly important given the need to feed a growing global population—ten billion people by 2050, two billion more than today. 2 2. Craig Hanson et al., Creating a sustainable food future: A menu of solutions to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050, World Resources Institute, July 2019, Worldwide, agricultural production will face challenges, such as skyrocketing demand for crop calories 3 3. The future of food and agriculture—Alternative pathways to 2050, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018, and constraints on crop yields. 4 4. Elizabeth Ainsworth et al., “Genetic strategies for improving crop yields,” Nature, November 2019, Volume 575, pp. 109–18; “Science breakthroughs to advance food and agricultural research by 2030,” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2019, In addition to addressing global challenges, enhanced patenting may also lead to better corporate financial performance. Research has shown a positive correlation between granted patents and financial performance. 5 5. Kendall W. Artz et al., “A longitudinal study of the impact of R&D, patents, and product innovation on firm performance,” Journal of Product Innovation Management Volume 27, Number 5, pp. 725–40; Knut Blind et al., Patents and the financial performance of firms—An analysis based on stock market data, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI discussion paper, Innovation Systems and Policy Analysis series, Number 28, February 2011, We find similar indications within the agricultural-input sector, with high-patenting firms leading their low-patenting counterparts in three-year average earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margins by two percentage points. 6 6. Based on historical three-year EBITDA margins of the top and bottom ten corporations in the top 100 patenting entities. Most agricultural innovation has been geographically concentrated. In 2019, for instance, five regions accounted for 77 percent of the granted patents worldwide: China (45 percent), the United States (11 percent), European Patent Organization member states, Russia, and South Korea (7 percent each). While the United States holds the top spot in the relevance of innovation, China is expected to continue its dominance in the raw quantity of patents published. Moreover, 88 percent of agricultural-input patenting in the United States was associated with corporations, both foreign and domestic (Exhibit 1).
Becoming a Weather-Ready Nation
Posted by Marcel Veld
The United States National Weather Service (NWS), under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is one of the world’s leading providers of weather, water, and climate observations. Its work in the study of atmospheric and hydrologic phenomena informs the public, promotes security, supports economic management, and fosters resilience to extreme weather events. Working with academic partners and federal agencies, the organization plays a vital role in predicting weather phenomena from severe storms and hurricanes to floods, droughts, wildfires, and tsunamis. In 2010, the NWS launched a systematic effort, first to restructure its organization, budget, and communications, and then, via the “Evolve NWS” initiative, to adapt its strategy and develop a collaborative forecast process in support of its mission to protect life and property. A decade later, the organization has transformed from a weather-forecasting agency to a science-based service provider, meeting its mission through impact-based decision support services (IDSS) built from weather-forecasting data and expertise. This transformation has meant profound changes both for leadership and the public: NWS is now better able to serve the public by providing not only more consistently accurate predictions—which gives public-safety authorities the confidence to take action—but also recommendations and support on when and how to prepare for weather events. In a McKinsey interview, NWS Director Dr. Louis W. Uccellini discusses the transition and the NWS’s plan to create a Weather-Ready Nation.Louis Uccellini: It started with the realization over the past two decades or so that our forecast products were becoming reliable enough to support a wide range of decision making, such as how to prepare for a major storm, days in advance. Previously, the level of forecast capabilities was not good enough to predict extreme events with the needed accuracy many days in advance. So, the NWS established a team in 2010 and started talking about establishing a strategic goal to provide forecast information on impending extreme events—accurate forecasts, which could be used by decision makers in the public-safety arena, that would give them enough confidence to make the decisions required to save lives and protect property. That’s how we began thinking about extending beyond forecasts and warnings and how the idea of building a Weather-Ready Nation emerged. Furthermore, we quickly realized that this goal could be achieved through a holistic approach of providing impact-based decision support services, serving leaders in communities across the country to make better decisions based on weather, water, and climate information.
Earning the premium: A recipe for long-term SPAC success
Special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) have raised funds at substantial rates, attracting more and more high-profile investors. We reviewed the performance of recent SPACs—a mixed track record—and found a strategy that has produced success: SPACs that are led or co-led by operators rather than solely by investors tend to outperform throughout the deal cycle. One year after taking a target public, operator-led SPACs traded about 10 percent higher than their sector index and much better than other SPACs (a premium of about 40 percent). In this article, we review the changes that have placed SPACs at center stage, and we offer practical suggestions for sponsors that seek to deploy the operator’s edge.After some scandals in the 1990s and regulatory reforms in the 2000s, SPACs had a few moments of popularity. However, they generally remained small and developed a reputation as capital sources of last resort.In the past five years, however, SPACs have reemerged. In 2020, they have attracted unprecedented, market-shifting sums of capital: as of August 2020, SPACs that were actively seeking business combinations held about $60 billion of capital (across more than 100 SPACs) and made up 81 out of 111 US IPOs. 1 1. “2020 IPO market stats,” Renaissance Capital, August 31, 2020, In one month in 2020, SPACs raised more than they had in all of 2019. While private equity (PE) firms still hold vastly more capital, with an estimated $1.4 trillion in dry powder, many PE firms (or their alums) have also decided to raise SPACs.