The world is going solar. According to new data released by the Fraunhofer Institute, in the first half of 2014, renewable energy, like solar power, accounted for almost 31 percent of all electricity produced in Germany. In fact, solar power generation was up 28 percent during the first half of 2014, compared to the same time last year.
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For the first time ever in Germany—the cloudiest country in western Europe—solar power and other forms of renewable energy created more energy and electricity production than dirty coal. And, in June, Germany set a solar power record, using solar power to generate 50 percent of overall electricity demand for part of a day.
While Germany is relying heavily on renewable energy today to help fight global warming and climate change, it has had a pretty standard energy evolution. In the 18th century, Germany was burning wood. In the 19th century, it was burning coal. In the 20th century, it was burning oil. Today it’s getting electricity from solar and renewables.
That’s a typical evolution for a developed country (that’s not controlled by the financial interests of Big Oil). But what if the dozens of developing countries across the globe, that are still stuck in the 18th century and that still rely on burning wood for energy, jumped directly to renewable energy and leapfrogged the whole carbon cycle?
Can you imagine how that would transform the fight against global warming and climate change? Well, that’s exactly what’s going on right now in rural India.
Right now, there are nearly 400 million people across India without electricity, with the majority of those people living in rural areas of the country. They’re forced to rely on candles, kerosene and burning wood to light their homes and to do basic things like cooking. The stunning lack of reliable energy production in one of the world’s fastest growing countries led the new Indian Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, to call for every home across India to be able to run at least one light bulb by 2019 with the help of solar power. He didn’t call for more coal to be burned, or for more oil wells to be dug. He called for solar power.
That’s where companies like Simpa Energy come in. Simpa Energy offers Indians a pay-as-you-go model for solar power, allowing even the poorest Indians in the most rural of areas to have access to clean, green solar power. Simpa Energy customers use their cell phones (which even the poorest of the population have) to purchase a pre-paid code from Simpa, which they then type into a box connected to a solar panel array on their house. Instantly, their home lights up, and they have access to clean and green energy for cooking, cleaning, reading and anything else.
Right now, Simpa Energy, which was started just three years ago, has nearly 2,000 customers (a customer being one household) and that number is growing by the day. The company projects that its solar power will be reaching 75,000 people across India by the end of this year. But Simpa isn’t the only company bringing affordable solar power to India.
Companies like OMC Power are building “mini” solar power plants in communities across India that are capable of powering large cell phone towers, and are marketing battery-powered LED lanterns. OMC delivers those lanterns to its customers each day, and comes back the following morning to collect the lanterns, and recharge them using the mini solar power plants. This service costs Indians just $2 per month.
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And there are still other companies that are distributing smaller solar power generators and systems—some that are pocket-sized—across India. A recent report by the International Energy Agency found that it would only cost $48 billion a year to provide universal access to modern energy (renewable forms of energy) to poor people across the world. And, that same report found that there needs to be a $12 billion per year additional investment in mini-grid renewables, like the solar power systems that are expanding across India.
Speaking about the financial challenges facing solar and other forms of renewable energy going forward, Rupesh Shah, a vice president at Simpa Enegy, told Think Progress that, “We’re at a certain scale now that we require a different level of investment. We were able to get by in the first couple of years with grants and things like that, but now we need more commercial capital.”
And Justin Guay, associate director of the International Climate Program with the Sierra Club, said, “What is desperately needed is public institutions to step in and provide loan guarantees and other forms of risk-taking capital that can help unlock the investment that’s required to really take this from a relatively distributed, small-scale approach to something that really takes on energy poverty and is able to eliminate this problem once and for all.”
The bottom-line is that solar power and other renewable forms of energy are the energy of today and of the future, in both developed and developing nations. Not coal. Not oil. Not natural gas. And as the richest country in the world, we need to finally embrace that fact, and lead the world in investing more in these clean and green energies that will be powering our country into the future.
Each year, Big Oil receives $500 billion in government subsidies. Can you imagine what would happen if that $500 billion went to investing in developing renewable sources of energy instead? Despite what Big Oil executives and their cronies in Washington might say, going green isn’t just a choice. It’s reality.
It’s the only option we have if we want to save the human race from a climate disaster. So, let’s start treating it like that, by investing in a secure energy future for America, and the rest of the world.
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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