Good morning. In today’s newsletter: Extreme heat highlights the need for another kind of climate investment; A.I. puts shadow libraries in the spotlight; and Aly Wagner, a co-founder of a new women’s soccer team, talks about the money in women’s sports. (Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here.)
As heat waves gripped three continents this week, venturing outside for even a few minutes in Phoenix, Rome or a town in northwest China at times meant risking heatstroke or worse. This weekend, about 80 million Americans are expected to experience a heat index — what the temperature feels like to the body — of at least 105 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
The extreme heat is prompting violent typhoons in Asia and flash floods in the United States. It’s taxing power grids, driving up health care costs and messing with tourists’ holidays. And it’s eventually going to impact everything — and the business of everything.
Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, the head of climate science at Climate Analytics, a policy institute in Berlin, said, “Most of our cities are not equipped to deal with these kinds of summers.”
“We’ll have to develop adaptation strategies” — and fast, he told DealBook.
The good news: Investors are spending big on climate projects. Global warming helps make periods of extreme heat more frequent, longer and more intense, and it will continue getting worse unless humans essentially stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, scientists say. Venture investing in climate tech has boomed since the post-Covid recovery began (though it fell, along with venture funding overall, in the first half of the year). And global public and private investment in climate finance, on projects ranging from decarbonizing architecture and transport to developing renewable energy initiatives, more than doubled from 2011 to 2021, to an estimated $850 billion, according to the Climate Policy Initiative, a nonprofit climate advocacy group. (It will top $1 trillion with the passage of the Biden administration’s sweeping climate bills, the European Union’s Green Deal and China’s low-carbon development initiatives announced in its latest five-year plan.)
“There’s been huge, huge progress” in developing green technologies and bringing down their costs, said Bella Tonkonogy, the U.S. director of Climate Policy Initiative whose funders include the Bloomberg Foundation and the German government.
The less good news: Addressing a source of the problem is no longer enough. The effects have arrived, and extreme heat has become the leading weather-related killer in much of the world. Some cities, homeowners and businesses are investing in low-cost hacks that can help make cities, which tend to absorb and re-emit heat more than natural landscapes, more bearable in the summer. Painting roofs white or another reflective color can cool structures down, making air conditioning units as much as 15 percent more energy-efficient, said Jane Gilbert, the chief heat officer of Miami-Dade County, Fla. Homes and businesses have to be retrofitted to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, and Miami-Dade has secured millions in federal funding for that plan. Planting trees also adds vital shade to reduce temperatures on city streets.
Only about 7 percent of climate finance is focused on adaptation efforts, according to the Climate Policy Initiative. But more investors are becoming interested, Ms. Tonkonogy said. Last year, the organization partnered with LightSmith Group, a private equity firm, on a $186 million climate fund designed to finance climate resilience projects that could help communities adapt to and withstand the kinds of the extreme weather events that have become so frequent this summer.
“The reason that people are investing more in climate adaptation is because they’re actually seeing the impacts of climate change,” Ms. Tonkonogy said. — Bernhard Warner
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Microsoft moves closer to sealing its $69 billion deal for Activision Blizzard. The F.T.C. withdrew its in-house case against the acquisition, and Britain’s antitrust regulator is reconsidering its decision to block the deal. Microsoft also signed a truce with Sony, one of the biggest opponents to the deal, by agreeing to keep Call of Duty on the Japanese firm’s PlayStation console for a decade after the acquisition closes.
BlackRock U-turn? The investment firm appointed Amin Nasser, the chief executive of Aramco, the Saudi oil giant, to its board. The decision was criticized by some as a hypocritical, given the public commitments made by Larry Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive, to E.S.G. principles and advoacy for decarbonization. But the U.S. company said Nasser understood “the global energy industry and the drivers of the shift towards a low carbon economy.”
A venture capital titan exits. Michael Moritz is set to leave Sequoia Capital, the venture capital firm, after a career as one of Silicon Valley’s most successful investors. The Welsh-American former journalist backed companies including Google, Yahoo, YouTube and PayPal, earning him a reputation for spotting businesses that go on to become global giants and profiting handsomely.
“Barbenheimer” shakes up the box office. The movie business is gearing up for what is expected to be one of its best weekends in years. The reason? Two very different movies that many people plan to see back-to-back: “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” Consumers have bought more than 200,000 tickets to watch the double-feature, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the industry lobby group.
A.I. brings shadow libraries into the spotlight
Large language models, or L.L.M.s, the artificial intelligence systems that power tools like ChatGPT, are developed using enormous libraries of text. Books are considered especially useful training material, because they’re lengthy and (hopefully) well-written. But authors are starting to push back against their work being used this way.
This week, more than 9,000 authors, including Margaret Atwood and James Patterson, called on tech executives to stop training their tools on writers’ work without compensation.
That campaign has cast a spotlight on an arcane part of the internet: so-called shadow libraries, like Library Genesis, Z-Library or Bibliotik, that are obscure repositories storing millions of titles, in many cases without permission — and are often used as A.I. training data.
A.I. companies have acknowledged in research papers that they rely on shadow libraries. OpenAI’s GPT-1 was trained on BookCorpus, which has over 7,000 unpublished titles scraped from the self-publishing platform Smashwords.
To train GPT-3, OpenAI said that about 16 percent of the data it used came from two “internet-based books corpora” that it called “Books1” and “Books2.” According to a lawsuit by the comedian Sarah Silverman and two other authors against OpenAI, Books2 is most likely a “flagrantly illegal” shadow library.
These sites have been under scrutiny for some time. The Authors Guild, which organized the authors’ open letter to tech executives, cited studies in 2016 and 2017 that suggested text piracy depressed legitimate book sales by as much as 14 percent.
Efforts to shut down these sites have floundered. Last year, the F.B.I., with help from the Authors Guild, charged two people accused of running Z-Library with copyright infringement, fraud and money laundering. But afterward, some of these sites were moved to the dark web and torrent sites, making it harder to trace them. And because many of these sites are run outside the United States and anonymously, actually punishing the operators is a tall task.
Tech companies are becoming more tight-lipped about the data used to train their systems. This week, Meta researchers published a paper on Llama 2, the company’s L.L.M., that described using only a “new mix of data from publicly available sources.” In a research paper on GPT-4 published in March, OpenAI explicitly noted that it wasn’t revealing anything about how it trained the L.L.M., citing “the competitive landscape” and “safety considerations.”
A soccer star and co-founder on the money in women’s sports
The Women’s World Cup kicked off in New Zealand this week against a backdrop of booming investor interest in women’s sports. As women’s leagues draw record crowds, and larger (if not equal) sponsorships, investors are pouring money into an industry they say has been under-marketed and underinvested in — betting on growth as social media and streaming make the prime time spotlight less singularly powerful.
Aly Wagner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helped raise a record $53 million from funds, led by Sixth Street, for Bay FC, a new Bay Area soccer team, this year. DealBook spoke with her from New Zealand, where she is the lead analyst of the Women’s World Cup at Fox, about the business case behind these investments. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Sponsorship dollars still aren’t equal. Why is that?
There’s just a lot more assets and a lot more teams that you can partner with on the men’s side than you can on the women’s side.
But the other part of it is that women’s sports have been an undervalued asset for way too long. It’s a massive opportunity for a lot of these brands to now have great visibility for target markets at probably a discount from what you would get on the men’s side.
Two prior efforts to launch new women’s teams in the Bay Area folded. Why will Bay FC, which you co-founded, succeed?
Because, while it was incredible what some of the previous iterations of professional women’s football did in the Bay Area, that really wasn’t a business proposition. It wasn’t looked at as there was going to be R.O.I. and that this was something valuable and worth holding onto as a long-term asset. This was looked at as a moral cause.
And yet, media rights still lag far behind. Apple recently signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal with Major League Soccer. The National Women’s Soccer League’s deal with CBS, which was signed in 2020, was worth $4.5 million over three years. How important is parity to R.O.I.?
Media is massive. It’s one of the biggest levers you can pull in terms of the revenue for the different clubs. What’s interesting about our timing, though, is the media game itself is changing. Would you want to be equal from Day 1? Sure. But what is equal? M.L.S. has been around for how many years? How many eyeballs do they put on their sport? They went behind a paywall. Has that been challenging? Probably.
As the media game changes, I think we can get really creative, and because we’re a new league, we can be nimble in that regard.
Alex Ohanian called underinvestment in women’s sport “a legacy of gross business incompetence.” Is it simply sexism, or something more nuanced?
Culturally, we’re all raised with certain narratives — some of them conscious, some of them unconscious. I think the biggest hurdle that we’ve had to overcome is just that a lot of the world believes in seeing things before they believe them. Men were playing sports long before women were at a competitive level, right? And long before it became an investment opportunity. And so we were just behind in that evolution.
Thanks for reading! We’ll see you Monday.
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