According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the amount of heat stored in the upper levels of the ocean reached an all-time high in 2019. This is a primary factor that contributes to the rise in sea levels. Furthermore, the world’s five warmest years have all occurred since 2015.1
On the heels of Davos — the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum — attendees are charged with the responsibility of responding quickly and effectively to a changing world. The good news is many of the participants are people with the power to make those changes: prime ministers and presidents, chief executive officers from around the world and heads of nongovernmental organizations. The first priority of the Davos agenda this year was mobilizing businesses to respond to the risks of climate change and protecting forest floors and ocean beds.2
While addressing climate change has traditionally involved imposing government regulations, there is a new perspective that looks at the problem in terms of opportunities. Worldwide investment in renewable energy surpassed $282 billion in 2019, which included wind, solar, waste-to-energy, geothermal, biofuels and small hydro.3 These are all industries that will be developing, investing and responding to demand for decades to come.
Some of the components that contribute to climate change can be part of the solution. For example, wind speeds around the world had been declining since the 1980s. However, recent changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns have actually served to reverse that trend. Today’s speedier winds will boost the energy production of a single turbine by about 37%.4
Lobbyists for the traditional energy industry have launched an initiative (Americans for Carbon Dividends) that promote a carbon tax on fossil fuel companies for their carbon emissions in concert with the elimination of unnecessary carbon regulations. The organization believes such a tax would cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2035 while enabling those corporations to innovate for a cleaner energy future.5
In 2018, California state lawmakers passed a bill mandating 100% climate-friendly electricity by 2045. Since then, investments have stepped up for the development of more geothermal plants, an emissions-free, renewable electricity source that uses naturally heated underground reservoirs to create steam and turn turbines (around the clock, not just when the sun is out). Last year, the Department of Energy reported that if technology improves, U.S. geothermal capacity could grow exponentially, to the point of generating up to 16% of the nation’s electricity.6
1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Jan. 15, 2020. “2019 was 2nd hottest year on record for Earth say NOAA, NASA.” https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
2 Peter Coy. Bloomberg. Jan. 17, 2020. “A Sense of Climate Urgency Takes Hold in Davos.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-17/a-sense-of-climate-urgency-takes-hold-in-davos. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
3 BloombergNEF. Jan. 16, 2020. “Late Surge in Offshore Wind Financings Helps 2019 Renewables Investment to Overtake 2018.” https://about.bnef.com/blog/late-surge-in-offshore-wind-financings-helps-2019-renewables-investment-to-overtake-2018/. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
4 Matt McGrath. BBC News. Nov. 18, 2019. “Renewable energy: Rise in global wind speed to boost green power.” https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50464551. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
5 Americans for Carbon Dividends. 2020. “The Solution.” https://www.afcd.org/the-solution/. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
6 Sammy Roth. Los Angeles Times. Jan. 22, 2020. “California needs clean energy after sundown. Is the answer under our feet?” https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-01-22/california-needs-clean-energy-after-sundown-geothermal-could-be-the-answer. Accessed Jan. 24, 2020.
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