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Renewables Beat Coal in the U.S. for the First Time This April
That potential is now being realized. The U.S. generated more electricity from renewable sources than from coal for the first time ever this April, The Guardian reported Wednesday.
Data from the Energy Information Administration showed that wind, solar and hydroelectric generated nearly 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power in April, while coal only generated 60 million, Bloomberg News reported. That's 23 percent of total electricity from renewables vs. 20 percent from coal, according to The Guardian.
"The fate of coal has been sealed, the market has spoken," University of Texas energy expert Michael Webber told The Guardian. "The trend is irreversible now, the decline of coal is unstoppable despite Donald Trump's rhetoric."
President Trump had promised to boost coal and, under his watch, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked to ease regulations impacting the industry, most recently by replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Even so, at least 50 coal plants have shut since Trump took office in 2017, The Guardian reported.
Coal, which supplied more electricity than any other fuel source a decade ago, has been losing both to natural gas and to wind and solar farms, Bloomberg News reported. Bloomberg NEF estimates that half the world's power could come from clean sources by 2050.
Coal will likely pull ahead of renewable sources again, since some coal plants were down for routine maintenance in April, Bloomberg News noted. The Guardian also reported that there was low energy demand this April, as well as an increase in wind power. A report from Fitch said that coal would surpass renewable energy overall through 2028, but the EIA predicts more months in which the renewable sources will pull ahead.
However, as coal declines, some utilities are shifting to gas, also a fossil fuel. Energy companies are planning to build at least 150 new gas plants and thousands of miles of pipelines in the coming years, The New York Times reported.
"Gas infrastructure that's built today is going to be with us for 30 years," Rice University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Daniel Cohan told The New York Times. "But if you look at scenarios that take climate change seriously, that say we need to get to net zero emissions by 2050, that's not going to be compatible with gas plants that don't capture their carbon."
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Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan's second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.
A number of supermarkets across the country have voluntarily issued a recall on sushi, salads and spring rolls distributed by Fuji Food Products due to a possible listeria contamination, as CBS News reported.
If you read a lot of news about the climate crisis, you probably have encountered lots of numbers: We can save hundreds of millions of people from poverty by 2050 by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but policies currently in place put us on track for a more than three degree increase; sea levels could rise three feet by 2100 if emissions aren't reduced.
Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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