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6 Reasons for Hope: The Benefits Are Clear

Renewable Energy
6 Reasons for Hope: The Benefits Are Clear

Even as the reality of the climate crisis becomes more apparent and urgent by the day, we choose hope. We know we can solve this crisis and we're optimistic about the future. And you should be too.

Below, check out the second in our four-blog "Reasons for Hope" series. (If you missed the first, you can find it here).


There's another reason support for clean energy and other climate solutions is growing around the world: The benefits are there to see for anyone with eyes. From helping fight poverty to helping clean up the air we breathe, the real-world results of shifting to renewables are just too positive and powerful to ignore.

Check out six ways the crystal clear benefits of clean energy are changing minds around the world below.

1. Renewables Are Reducing Global Poverty and Expanding Energy Access

Currently, nearly one-sixth of the world's population lacks access to electricity, mostly in rural areas of the developing world unable to connect to power grids. But with solar panels, batteries, LED lights and efficient appliances getting more affordable all the time and entrepreneurs developing new approaches both to technology and support for rural communities, it shouldn't be for long. Fortune magazine, for example, has hailed off-grid solar in Africa as "tomorrow's hot market." Meanwhile, Tesla is deploying energy storage for solar power to Puerto Rico as the island works to recover from Hurricane Maria, and projects in Bangladesh, Peru and rural villages of India are bringing electricity where there was once none—all through the power of the sun.

2. Clean Energy Saves Lives and Makes the World More Secure

With a warming climate come the challenges of ensuring food and water security for millions, sometimes spurring human migrations and further destabilizing vulnerable countries. But when we embrace clean energy, as militaries around the world are doing, the benefits can be big. Not only is making the shift cutting costs, but it's actually making our world more secure. Now that's something worth fighting for.

3. Clean Energy Improves Public Health

It's simple: burning fossil fuels pollutes our air, water and land, and exposure to this pollution can result in deadly illnesses. Harnessing the power of the sun, wind and water .. well ... it doesn't pollute our precious resources. With clean energy, we can all breathe (and drink and farm) easier.

4. We're Protecting the Forests and the Trees

Deforestation accounts for approximately 15 percent of global emissions—that's about the same as transportation. But countries like Brazil and India are creating policies to drastically reduce deforestation as key parts of their strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and meeting their commitments in the Paris agreement. When we protect forests, which store hundreds of billions of metric tons of carbon worldwide, we're keeping that carbon where it belongs.

We speak for the trees, and we say thanks!

5. Climate-Smart Agriculture is Growing

According to the IPCC, agriculture, forestry (including deforestation), and other land use accounts for roughly 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but the good news is this: We're getting smarter about how we farm. Some studies and trial programs have suggested that adopting more sustainable agricultural management techniques could drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, while providing our booming world population with fresh, healthy food grown in a sustainable soil ecosystem.

6. Clean Energy is Creating Jobs

We've got some very good news—last year, the renewable energy industry put 9.8 million people worldwide to work. And by 2030, if we double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, the sector could employ more than 24 million people. In the U.S. alone, solar energy is the top employer in the U.S. electric power generation sector, accounting for 43 percent of the total jobs in the field, and is creating jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy.

You don't have to take our word for it. An April 2017 headline in the New York Times said it all: Today's Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

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