Last year was a big year for progress in the U.S. power sector. Renewable energy provided nearly 17% of the country’s electricity, up from 13.7% in 2015. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. opened off the coast of Rhode Island. And most significantly, carbon emissions from the power sector continued to decline and reached the lowest levels in nearly 25 years.
We have heard the term “clean coal” for years, mostly from politicians and in coal company advertising. The concept sounds good: burn coal but don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions. While there have been various small-scale tests of technologies to accomplish this, it has not actually been a viable option for the power industry.
Americans toss out an almost unbelievable $161 billion worth of food every year. There are numerous efforts underway to address this problem, but they are mostly at the local level or in the business sector. To date, we have no national- or international-level policies that tackle the issue. In this regard, Europe is way ahead of us.
Last year was not the hottest year on record in the United States; it was only the second hottest. 2012 was the hottest because of some searing heat waves that summer. However, 2016 marked 20 above-average temperature years in a row. The five hottest years recorded have all happened since 1998. Every state had a temperature ranking at least in the top seven and both Georgia and Alaska had their hottest years ever. While it was only the second hottest year on record in the U.S., last year was the hottest year for the entire world.
A year ago, nearly 200 countries signed an agreement, known as the Paris Accord, to fight climate change by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They each promised to reduce their carbon output as soon as possible, and to do their best to keep global warming well below 2-degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Jellyfish are fascinating in appearance but generally are nothing but trouble. Their stings can ruin a tropical vacation but they can cause far more damage than that.
There are many good reasons why we should be making the transition from fossil fuel energy sources but the one that is likely to be the most persuasive is strictly economic. It has long been said that the renewable energy future will truly arrive when installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas, or other options.
With the forthcoming administration change, it appears that the federal government is likely to start backing away from tackling climate change and may even be obstructive towards efforts to mitigate the growing problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
Wind turbines have been getting bigger and bigger over the years. The reason is that bigger blades produce more power and give much more bang for the buck. A big part of the plummeting price of wind power is the increasing amount of power produced by each turbine.
China and the United States today produce nearly half of the world’s carbon emissions, so the fight against global climate change depends greatly upon what actions the two countries take. China has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past twenty years from a largely rural society to one that is far more urbanized and far more energy intensive. In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate was negotiated, China was only responsible for 14% of global CO2 emissions. It then surpassed the US on that front in less than 10 years and now accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s emissions.
Global climate change is typically referred to as global warming and that name implies that things are getting warmer all the time. Well, the planet as a whole is, as measured by the planet-wide mean temperature, which continues to rise over time.
The Arctic used to be pretty much a pristine wilderness populated only by fairly small numbers of indigenous residents living environmentally benign lifestyles. The disruptive elements of modern civilization were not much of a factor. Because of the changing climate, this is no longer true.
By some estimates, Americans waste as much as 40% of food that is produced. None of the reasons are anything to be proud of, but one of the most frustrating is the confusing array of food date labels that are supposed to tell us whether the food we purchased should be eaten.
Americans comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, but we use almost 20% of its energy. This is a problem from many perspectives and it is one that we are at least trying to solve.
Coastal floodplains across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States are at the leading edge of climate change’s effect on what were largely freshwater ecosystems. Because of the low elevation and flat or gently sloping characteristics of coastal forests in these areas, they are among the most vulnerable globally to saltwater intrusion.
Offshore wind power can supply a significant amount of energy to our hungry grid. In many places in Europe, it is doing just that. Here in US, it is just starting to be used in some places in the Northeast, with the first small offshore wind farm coming on line off the coast of Rhode Island.
The U.S. has just turned on its first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island. In the meantime, offshore wind continues to grow by leaps and bounds in Europe. Wind energy in the European Union accounts for 12% of its electricity supply. Until 2011, offshore wind comprised only 5-10% of the newly-installed wind energy capacity; now it about one third of the new installations.
Forests are a vital part of biodiversity and are one of the planet’s most important natural repositories for carbon dioxide. They are also continually under attack by multiple forces: more mouths to feed, more wood needed to burn and build with, more paper to manufacture, and more land needed to graze cattle.
The use of plastics has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and production of plastics is expected to double again in the next 20 years. According to Eco Watch, the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic every year. And nearly one-third of all discarded plastic is not properly disposed of or recycled.
By some estimates, America’s oceans could provide enough electric power to meet a quarter of the country’s energy needs. Despite this, until recently the contribution to the U.S. electric grid from marine energy has been exactly zero.