"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it." — Robert Swan. This quote is true and it means that we must all be involved in the solution of the climate crisis.
Maybe it is just me, but I find it encouraging that I am currently finding more positive items to report than negative. I hope that means we are turning the corner and the world is heading in the right direction on the climate crisis.
1. In 2023, 55 percent of Germany's power came from renewables — an increase of 6.6 percent. Europe’s biggest national economy has a goal of 80 percent green energy by 2030. Also, Reuters reports that across Europe wind power surpassed coal for the first time last year.
2. Batteries will play a key role in the transition away from carbon based energy. The pace of change in battery price and performance keeps confounding experts. Their continued rapid growth signals a seismic shift in the energy system to come. Based on information supplied by Bill McKibben, following are current battery facts.
a. Investment in battery factories today ($45 billion in 2022) is considerably higher than investment in solar and wind factories combined ($33 billion).
b. The first battery gigafactory opened in 2016, and now dozens are under construction. According to Benchmark Minerals, there are now 240 operational battery gigafactories across the world, and this is set to increase to over 400 by 2030.
c There are more than sufficient battery mineral resources available for the entire energy transition. Reaching net zero will only take one quarter of today’s lithium, one-third of nickel and a quarter of known cobalt resources.
Also, there have been three very large lithium deposits recently discovered in Utah and California.
In addition, there are almost daily new reports of improvements in battery technology which will continue to lower costs and improve performance.
3. The world added 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than in 2022 –and that means there is a chance of meeting the goal set by governments at the COP28 climate change conference of tripling global renewable capacity by 2030.
4. One year ago, Caltech's Space Solar Power Demonstrator launched into space to demonstrate making space solar power a reality. The test demonstrated the ability to beam power from space. Now, with the mission concluded, engineers are celebrating the test's successes and are learning important lessons that will help chart the future of space solar power.
5. The Qcells solar panel plant in Georgia announced a massive deal to supply Microsoft with 12 gigawatts of solar modules over eight years. That’s enough energy to power more than 1.8 million homes. It will help Microsoft meet its goal of being carbon negative by 2030. Meanwhile, the military is about to install solar panels on the roof of the Pentagon. Solar manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are already on pace to more than triple from about 35,000 in 2023 to 120,000 by 2033.
6. China has set a target of 1,200 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar capacity by 2030, but a new Global Energy Monitor report says the country is set to meet the goal five years early. China’s proposed wind capacity is about one-fifth of the global total, and its solar capacity is three times that of the United States. However, with coal still the country’s main energy source, China still has a way to go in its quest to decarbonize the energy sector.
7. In a recent “action item” I asked that you request the government halt approval of all new liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals. It is great to report that the White House has confirmed that all new licenses for LNG export terminals are hereby halted until it is decided if they’re in the “public interest”. This is the biggest check any president has ever applied to the fossil fuel industry and is the strongest move against dirty energy in American history.
1. Solar farms may become large enough to affect the weather around them and ultimately the climate as a whole. A solar panel is dark-colored and thus absorbs much more heat than reflective desert sand. If millions of the panels are installed in the Sahara, simulations show this new heat source would rearrange global climate patterns, shifting rainfall away from the tropics and leading to the desert becoming greener again.
2. The United States endured a record number of billion dollar weather and climate disasters (28) in 2023. The United States has averaged 8.5 such disasters per year since 1980. But over the past five years, the annual average has more than doubled to 20.4 events.
3. 2023 was the hottest year on record globally setting records for both land and ocean water temperatures. According to Dr. James Hansen it is clear that the world will soon pass through the 1.5°C ceiling that was set as a goal for global warming, and is headed much higher, unless steps are taken to affect Earth’s energy imbalance.
4. Millions of people in the Amazon have been affected by an “exceptional” drought. There are drinking water shortages, failed crops and power cuts as hydroelectric plants dried up. The drought also worsened wildfires and high water temperatures were linked to a mass mortality of river life, including the deaths of more than 150 endangered pink river dolphins in a single week.
It is getting to be election time again. It is more important than ever to elect people at all levels of government who understand the climate crisis and who will take positive action. Perhaps the most important action we can take is to elect government officials who will help solve this existential problem.