It would be easy to write about the latest climate-related disaster—such as the fiery infernos now burning up huge portions of drought-stricken Idaho and Colorado—and the actions needed to stop this climate chaos. However, in honor of Earth Day, let’s focus on the part of our “solutions cup” that’s half full instead of half empty.
We’ll start with a milestone in U.S. history: in March 2017, for the first time ever, 10 percent of all the electricity generated in the U.S. was from wind and solar power, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report. Overall, the percentage of U.S. electricity coming from wind and solar each year has risen from less than 1 percent a decade ago to about 7 percent today. Therefore, renewables are no longer an “alternative” energy, but a rapidly rising portion of our power system.
And while solar and wind are soaring, coal is taking a dive, reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That group predicts that within a few years, renewables will be cheaper than coal almost everywhere. Solar power, which was once very pricey, has become so cheap that the price alone will push both coal and natural gas out of the picture by 2040. The prediction is that by 2040, wind and solar will make up almost half of the world’s installed generation capacity (it’s 12 percent now), and 34 percent of all the power generated (now at 5 percent).
Many large corporations are also doing their part by going all out for solar in their operations. The top 10 companies using solar include corporate giants Target, Walmart, Apple, Amazon, and Kohl’s, with Target leading the way. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association explains that “large corporations have found that going solar not only benefits the environment, but also their bottom line, satisfying both shareholders and customers alike.”
And then there’s Tesla, which is building a giga-factory for batteries in Nevada, has developed all-electric semi trucks and solar shingles, and has led in the race to produce batteries for energy storage and electric cars. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, is also applying his microgrid technology in Puerto Rico, to help get that country back on the grid after Hurricane Maria destroyed about 80 percent of its high-power transmission lines.
But perhaps the most hopeful news is that the gap between what scientists know about global warming and what the public thinks about it is narrowing rapidly. The latest national survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication finds that as of March 2018, Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who don’t by 5 to 1. And their certainty has increased 12 percentage points in the past 3 years, so that now 49 percent of the public is extremely or very sure global warming is happening.
It is, after all, an activated public that demands—and, more often than not, gets—action from government. Witness the huge climate marches that, at least until Trump, stopped the building of the Keystone XL pipeline. The demonstrations continue, protesting the backward movement of the Trump administration, and are not likely to stop until they’ve succeeded in halting the practice of burning fossil fuels.
Fortunately, other parts of the federal government are more in touch with reality and are actively working toward a sustainable energy future. For instance, in the House of Representatives, a bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus was established in 2016, re-established in 2017, and rapidly grew from 6 Republicans and 9 Democrats after the November 2016 election to the 72 members it has today—36 from each party. Our District 25 Representative, Steve Knight, joined the Caucus in June of 2017, and should be congratulated for his proactive stance on climate.
Locally, the Santa Clarita City Council has called for national action to reduce carbon emissions, and Council members currently have before them the opportunity to join the Clean Power Alliance. This would allow the city to purchase more renewable energy at a lower cost while reducing carbon emissions, and they would be wise to jump at the opportunity. A little public nudging at city council meetings might facilitate that process.
The Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby is actively working to create even more good news by lobbying for national and local climate action and sponsoring educational activities. If you’d like to participate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our booth at Earth/Arbor Day on April 28-29 in Central Park.
Cher Gilmore is a member of the Santa Clarita Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and lives in Newhall.