As the world's leading climate scientists finalize the latest and most comprehensive report on climate change and ways to tackle it, a key question is: What is new? What has changed since the release of the UN climate panel's last Assessment Report (AR4) in 2007?
On the "solutions" side, the answer is pretty straightforward:
Nuclear power hasn't changed much. IPCC notes that nuclear capacity is declining globally and that, from safety to financial viability, nuclear power faces many barriers. "Carbon capture and storage" (CCS) isn't really breaking the mold either. Although the IPCC identifies a need and potential for future CCS-aided emission reductions, in reality, CCS isn't delivering and, since 2007, "studies have underscored a growing number of practical challenges to commercial investment in CCS."
The big news is the breakthrough in new renewable energy.
In just a few years, solar and wind technologies have grown so competitive and widespread that they are gradually reshaping common perceptions of climate change mitigation. "Saving the climate is too difficult and too costly" is becoming "We can do this!" Even in purely economic terms, renewable energy (RE) is set to gradually outcompete fossil fuels. According to the IPCC:
"Since AR4, many RE technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions, and a growing number of RE technologies have achieved a level of maturity to enable deployment at significant scale (robust evidence, high agreement)."
So, what does the mean in practice? Here are 10 quick facts:
1. There's now 15 times more solar power and three times more wind power in the world than in 2007.
2. The costs of solar and wind have declined profoundly. Renewables are increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity.
According to the IRENA, the price of onshore wind electricity has fallen 18 percent since 2009, with turbine costs falling nearly 30 percent since 2008, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in a wide and growing range of markets.
In places as diverse as Australia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, India and throughout the U.S., the cost of electricity production from onshore wind power now is on par with, or lower than, fossil fuels.
For solar, the speed of cost decline has been even more dramatic. Solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have fallen by 80 percent since 2008 (!) and are expected to keep dropping. Solar can now increasingly compete with conventional energy without subsidies.
In 2013, commercial solar power reached grid parity (i.e. the point at which it is comparable or cheaper to produce electricity with solar than purchase it from the grid) in Italy, Germany and Spain and will do so soon in Mexico and France.
3. Renewables are now mainstream: In the OECD countries, 80 percent of new electricity generation added between now and 2020 is expected to be renewable.
Source: IEA (2014) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.
In the non-OECD countries, conventional power still dominates, but renewables are already the largest new generation source. Given China's recent action to curb coal use and restrict new coal plants in some regions, the projection on new conventional generation may still change.
Source: IEA (2014) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report.
4. Individual countries are already reaching high shares of wind, solar and other renewables
- In Spain, wind power was the country's top source of electricity in 2013, ahead of nuclear, coal and gas. Renewables altogether supplied 42 percent of mainland Spain's electricity in 2013, and 50 percent in the first half of 2014.
- In Denmark, wind provided for 41 percent of the country's electricity consumption in the first half of 2014.
- In South Australia, wind farms produced enough electricity to meet a record 43 percent of the state's power needs during July 2014.
- In the Philippines, renewable energy—mainly geothermal—provides 30 percent of the country's electricity.
- In the U.S., the states of Iowa and South Dakota produced about 24 percent of their electricity with wind in 2012. Altogether nine US states were producing more than 10 percent of their electricity with wind.
- In India, the state of Tamil Nadu already gets 13 percent of its electricity from wind.
5. Any country can now reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively, says the International Energy Agency.
6. Renewable energy now provides 22 percent of the world's electricity.
By 2030, wind energy alone could produce a fifth of world's electricity.
7. Growth rates prove how fast renewables can be deployed and scaled up.
In just two years, Japan has installed 11 GW of solar energy. In terms of electricity, that equals more than two nuclear reactors (building a nuclear plant typically takes a decade or more). Furthermore, Japan has approved 72 GW of renewable energy projects, most of which are solar. This compares to about 16 nuclear reactors, or about 20 coal fired power plant units.
Last year, China installed as much new wind power as the rest of the world combined. This is as many solar panels as the US installed in the past decade. In four years, China aims to double its wind capacity and triple its solar capacity.
In just three years, Germany has increased its share of renewable energy in power from 17 percent to 24 percent. Solar alone produced 30 TWhs of electricity last year, which is equal to the output of about four German nuclear reactors.
Sub-Saharan Africa will add more wind, solar and geothermal energy in 2014 than in the past 14 years in total, while India aims to boost its solar PV capacity more than six-fold in less thank five years, by adding 15 GW by early 2019.
8. Leading investment banks are advising investors to go renewable.
Here's where the renewables breakthrough is truly visible: annual new investments into clean energy have doubled since 2006/2007, with 16 percent growth recorded so far for this year.
Leading investment banks are advising investors to go renewables.
Citi declared in March this year that the Age of Renewables is Beginning. Renewables are increasingly competitive with natural gas in the US, while nuclear and coal is pretty much out of the game already.
Deutsche Bank considers solar to be competitive without subsidies now in at least 19 markets globally. They also see prices declining further in 2014. HSBC analysts suggest wind energy is now cost competitive with new coal energy in India, and solar will reach parity around 2016-18.
UBS analysts, according to the Guardian, suggest that big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years! Technological advances, like electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies are turning dirty power plants into dinosaurs faster than expected.
9. Renewable energy delivers for communities and builds resilience.
Not having access to electricity means missing out on many opportunities in life. This is still reality for about 1.3 billion people in the world. But now, renewable energy is making energy access more achievable. Its technologies are by now significantly cheaper than diesel or kerosene- based systems, and cheaper than extending the grid in areas with low populations and per capita energy demand.
Local, clean solutions, like microgrids running on solar, give poorer smaller communities control over their own energy destiny. The systems are relatively cheap to maintain and the people living off of their own renewably sourced electricity are not beholden to volatile fossil fuel prices or the unsustainable demands of the massive energy conglomerates.
10. 100% renewable energy is the way to go.
Renewable energy can meet all our energy needs. As the IPCC finds, the technical potential ismuch higher than all global energy demands.
100% renewable energy is what communities, regions, cities—even megacities—and companies are already making a reality through courageous actions and targets.
Sydney, the most populated city in Australia, is going to switch to 100 percent renewable energy in electricity, heating and cooling by 2030. The colder cities are on board too: three Nordic capitals (Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen) have all set goals for 100 % renewable energy, whileReykjavik is meeting it already.
Germany's windy state of Schleswig-Holstein will probably achieve 100% renewable electricity already this year, while Cape Verde, an Island country in Africa, aims to get there by 2020. In Denmark, the whole country aims to meet all its heat and power with 100% renewables in just 20 years and all energy, transport included, by 2050.
Going 100% renewables is a smart business decision too, says leading businesses, including BT, Commerzbank, H&M, Ikea KPN, Mars, Nestle, Philips and Swiss Re. They are campaigning for a goal that by 2020, 100 of the world's largest companies will have committed to 100% renewable power.
Renewable sustainable energy sources are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Every day there are more and more examples of it being used and improved upon across our fragile planet.
Yet, clean energy hasn't won just yet. The powerful fossil fuel industry with their allies are fighting back hard, with the help of hundreds of billions of government subsidies they are still enjoyingannually.
This raises the question: where do you want to be? Stuck in the dark ages of fossil fuels, or basking in the sun and wind of a clean energy future?
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.
- Protecting Mangroves Can Prevent Billions of Dollars in Global ... ›
- Could the 'Mangrove Effect' Save Coasts From Sea Level Rise ... ›
Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?
- 5 Things to Know About Earth's Warming Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Bioluminescent Waves Mesmerize California Beachgoers, Surfers ... ›
- NOAA: 2020 Could Be Warmest Year on Record - EcoWatch ›
- On June 8, We Celebrate Our Oceans, Our Future - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Things to Know About the State of Our Oceans for World Oceans Day ›
By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
- As Protests Rage, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice ... ›
- First-Ever Black Birders Week Tackles Racism Outdoors - EcoWatch ›
- 15 EcoWatch Stories on Environmental and Racial Injustice ... ›
- Take a Hike Day Is Around the Bend. What's Your Dream Hike ... ›
By John Letzing
This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."
The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
World Economic Forum
- Black and Hispanic Americans Suffer Disproportionate Coronavirus ... ›
- Native American Tribes' Pandemic Response Is Hindered by ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
World Environment Day: A Time to Consider the Planet We’ll Return To, and Decide How to Care for It Going Forward
It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.
Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.
DAN medical experts explained the difference between normal lungs, on the left, and "very serious lungs caused by COVID-19," on the right. Matias Nochetto / Divers Alert Network (DAN)
- How the COVID-19 Coronavirus Attacks the Entire Body - EcoWatch ›
- What Does 'Recovered From Coronavirus' Mean? - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›