We know our planet is in deep trouble — but that’s not what this particular Earth Day post is about. This is about what we can do to improve our state of affairs, and the technologies and initiatives that can help us along the way.
Make no mistake, there’s a lot to be unhappy about when it comes to climate change, global emissions, and so forth. It would probably be easier to do a doom-and-gloom post about negative trends, and the ways we’re failing.
But for this one Earth Day post, at least, we’re choosing to focus on the reasons for optimism. To accentuate the positive, through a number of articles we’ve written over the past few months. This is about the progress we’re making to improve the planet, and the efforts that may lead us to a brighter future.
Virtually everyone agrees we need to deploy renewable energy at a faster rate, and most Americans support proposals that would “dramatically” reduce fossil fuels. The conditions are optimal for rapid deployment — a recent study showed that it would be cheaper to build new wind and solar projects than it would be to continually run nearly 3/4 of all existing US coal plants.
Growth is happening: renewable energy now makes up a third of global power capacity, with solar capacity alone increasing by 24% globally in 2018.
The potential is there. A new report claims the planet can reach 100% renewable energy across all sectors by 2050, and it would be less expensive than our current energy system globally.
And it would make a difference — the combo of renewable energy and deep electrification on its own could meet 75% of the necessary reductions to energy-related emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In the US, renewable electricity generation has more than doubled since 2008. Over the past six years, solar capacity in major US cities has more than doubled. Clean energy jobs now outnumber fossil fuel jobs in the US 3-to-1.
In addition to larger solar and wind farms being announced seemingly every month, there are other promising projects, like the smart energy “system of the future” in the Orkney Islands of Scotland — a solar company believes a similar solar-based project could get Los Angeles to 100% clean energy — and a groundbreaking wind/solar/storage project in Oregon.
We’re long past people wondering if electric cars will be a part of the future — 3 in 4 US drivers believe EVs are “the future of driving,” and EV registrations in the US doubled from 2017 to 2018. Canadian drivers want electric cars to make up the majority of new cars, and they expect it.
In Norway, they’re already there. Pushed by the Tesla Model 3, more than half (58%) of all new car sales in Norway last month were all-electric vehicles.
People are sharing the benefits firsthand, and not just through driver surveys. New York City released maintenance costs for its city fleet last month, showing a “dramatic” difference in costs between its electric cars and ICE cars.
Electric buses are also making their mark. China dominates the electric bus market, and its e-buses are displacing global oil demand at a higher rate than electric cars thus far. But the size of electric bus orders are increasing in other countries, as well — such as France and the US.
People Who Care
People have to care a great deal to make any worthwhile progress in mitigating climate change and improving the planet for future generations. Luckily, many of them do.
Much of it has started with the youth, who want a livable planet in the future, and have shown they mean business by continually striking for the climate. Adults are starting to follow their lead.
In the US, the Green New Deal has spurred conversation as climate issues have shown increased prominence in the news in recent months.
US states and cities haven’t been waiting to take action either, whether through the US Climate Alliance, or by setting their own goals for renewable energy, with more to follow.
Investors are also putting the pressure on, whether by divesting in fossil fuels, or pushing for emissions cuts. And though there’s reason for skepticism, energy companies are making more of an effort in embracing positive climate solutions than they’ve ever made before.
Some groups are exploring other ways to mitigate climate change, including natural solutions. Others are looking into the potential of other technologies like solar geoengineering and direct air carbon capture.
Feel free to share your own reasons for optimism in the comments below.
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