Rapid cost declines made renewable energy the United States’ cheapest available source of new electricity, without subsidies, in 2017. In many parts of the U.S., building new wind is cheaper than running existing coal, while nuclear and natural gas aren’t far behind. As renewable energy costs continue their relentless decline, they keep pushing fossil fuels further from profitability – and neither trend is slowing down.
This dynamic is apparent in the decade spanning 2008-2017, where nearly all retired U.S. power plants were fossil fuel generation, and was capped by utilities announcing 27 coal plant closures totaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts coal closures will continue through 2020, potentially setting an all-time annual record in 2018.
Vancouver, British Columbia, has aggressive aspirations for sustainability. Its goal is to be entirely powered by clean energy by 2050 — not just electricity, but transportation and heating as well. (I talked to city manager Sadhu Johnston about it in July 2016.)
As part of that effort, the city adopted the goal of 50 percent “sustainable mode share” by 2020 — half of all trips in the city taken by walking, biking, or transit rather than automobile.Fun fact: The city hit that target in 2015, five years early.
The video above, by Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms, tells the story of how it happened. As Brent Toderian, a former Vancouver chief planner (who I interviewed at length in June), explains in the film, the city’s success traces all the way back to the 1960s and ’70s, when the extraordinarily prescient citizens of Vancouver rejected a plan to build a network of urban freeways through the city.
I have long been a proponent of streetlights, thinking that they reduce crime. Lately, I’ve been reconsidering my position, especially once I saw the stunning astrophotography my friend Rowland has been doing.
Dark skies are natural. Artificial street lighting is by definition not natural, and its increasing prevalence has repercussions that we are only beginning to understand.
I am now starting to think that, like air conditioning, electric light is meant for the indoors.
A central aim of the “lighting revolution” (the transition to solid-state lighting technology) is decreased energy consumption. This could be undermined by a rebound effect of increased use in response to lowered cost of light. We use the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed for night lights to show that from 2012 to 2016, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2.2% per year, with a total radiance growth of 1.8% per year. Continuously lit areas brightened at a rate of 2.2% per year. Large differences in national growth rates were observed, with lighting remaining stable or decreasing in only a few countries. These data are not consistent with global scale energy reductions but rather indicate increased light pollution, with corresponding negative consequences for flora, fauna, and human well-being.
Wikimedia photo by Oleg Volk, www.olegvolk.net
The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.
The story of the new environmental lawsuit that Hallie is participating in (along with two other teens) ran on the front page of the News and Observer today. Pretty cool to see that.
This is at least the second time she’s been featured on the N&O’s front page, if not the third. The first time was when she was still a guest of the WakeMed NICU.
News broke today that Hallie is trying again, this time with friends, to get North Carolina’s environment back on track. Go, Hallie!
Hallie Turner was 13 years old when she stood outside a Wake County courtroom telling media crews with cameras trained on her that she planned to continue to fight for action on climate change despite her unsuccessful attempt to sue North Carolina over its environmental rules.
Now 15, Hallie is trying again to get the state Department of Environmental Quality and the state Environmental Management Commission to adopt a rule calling for a sharp reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next three decades. This time, two other North Carolina teens — Emily Liu, 16, of Chapel Hill, and Arya Pontula, a Raleigh 17-year-old, will join Hallie in petitioning the commission.
With the help of Ryke Longest at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Our Children’s Trust, a Oregon-based nonprofit focused on climate change, the teens hope to persuade the state to adopt a rule ensuring that by 2050 carbon dioxide emissions would be down to zero.
“It would be a future in which you would not be burning fossil fuels to power your homes,” Longest said on Monday, the day before the teens plan to file their petition.
It’s sad to read of the devastation to the El Yunque rainforest. It is a national treasure.
LUQUILLO, P.R. — When you looked up, you could once see nothing but the lush, emerald canopy of tabonuco and sierra palm trees covering El Yunque National Forest.
That was before Hurricane Maria obliterated the only tropical rain forest in the United States forest system. Left behind was a scene so bare that on a recent visit, it was possible to see the concrete skyline of San Juan about 30 miles west — a previously unimaginable sight.
El Yunque, pronounced Jun-kay, has been an enormous source of pride in Puerto Rico and one of the main drivers of the island’s tourism industry. The 28,000-acre forest on the eastern part of the island has over 240 species of trees; 23 of those are found nowhere else. Over 50 bird species live among the forest’s crags and waterfalls.
But sunlight now reaches cavities of the forest that have not felt a ray of light in decades, bringing with it a scorching heat.“Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system,” said Grizelle González, a project leader at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, part of United States Department of Agriculture. “The whole forest is completely defoliated.”
Terrifying commentary on climate change.
It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.
Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.
It’s low risk but low-risk doesn’t generate clicks. 🙂
Hundreds of earthquakes have hit Yellowstone National Park in the space of a week, according to experts.
A total of 464 quakes have been recorded over the past week at Yellowstone, which sits above one of the world’s most dangerous supervolcanoes.
This is the highest number of earthquakes at the park within a single week in the past five years.The recent activity has raised fears that the supervolcano is about to blow.
If it were to erupt, the Yellowstone supervolcano would be one thousand times as powerful as the 1980 Mount St Helens eruption, experts claim – although they say the risk is ‘low’.
A recent scientific discovery has drastically changed our view of the global carbon cycle and identified a new significant risk. Researchers have discovered a giant lake or reservoir made up of molten carbon sitting below the western US.
The molten carbon (primarily in the form of carbonate) reservoir could drastically and immediately change the global climate for over a decade if it were to be released. Thankfully there is little risk in the near future of this happening. The carbon sits 217 miles beneath the surface of the Earth in the upper mantle and has no immediate pathway to the surface. In total the lake covers approximately 700,000 square miles, approximately the size of Mexico. This has redefined how much carbon scientists believe sits locked away in the Earth’s mantle and its interaction with surface and atmospheric carbon.