6 Ways You Can Tell the Global Shift to Renewable Energy Has Arrived
We've said it before but it bears repeating: the global shift to clean energy is on today. Not 10 years from now. Not 50 years from now. Today.
We're already seeing the benefits too in a whole host of sectors. And those below are just for starters. Which highlights why—with the Paris agreement about to go into effect and momentum building for action across the planet—it's critical for those of us committed to creating a sustainable future to support world leaders working to drop dirty fossil fuels and expand clean solutions today. Read on to learn more.
1. Renewables are Reducing Global Poverty and Expanding Energy Access
Currently, nearly one-fifth of the world's population lacks access to electricity, most in rural areas of the developing world unable to connect to power grids. But with solar, 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, last year hailed off-grid solar in Africa as "tomorrow's hot market." Meanwhile, 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 it cutting costs, this choice is actually making our world more secure. Now that's something worth fighting for.
3. Clean Energy Helps Improve Public Health
It's simple: Burning fossil fuels pollutes our air, water and land, 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 Protect Forests and Reduce Deforestation
Clearing the planet's forests accounts for approximately 15 percent of global emissions—that's about the same, if not slightly more, than 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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, forestry 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 reduce global greenhouse gas emissions more than40 percent. Plows at the ready…
6. Clean Energy is Creating Jobs
Jobs: They're a hot topic in the U.S. election and the same is true in political discussions around the world. We've got good news—just last year, 8.1 million people worldwide were employed in the renewable energy industry. And by 2030, if we double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, the sector could employ 24 million people. In the U.S. alone, solar energy already employs 77 percent more workers than the coal mining industry. That's huge.
Help Make Climate Solutions a Reality
It's been said before: now is the time to stop talking about the climate crisis and start solving it. We're already seeing the massive benefits of climate solutions: the time is now to implement them worldwide. Add your name below to support leaders making climate solutions a reality today.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.