It’s no secret that, thanks to global warming and climate change, Antarctic sea ice is melting at unprecedented levels.
But just how unprecedented are those levels?
According to new research and a 1,000 year Antarctic Peninsula climate reconstruction, summer ice melting in the region has increased ten-fold, and most of that melting occurred in the mid-20th century.
Researchers arrived at these startling findings by examining a 1000-foot-long ice core.
Ice cores possess layers that give information on periods of thawing and freezing. Like the rings of a tree, ice core layers reveal seasons and years, and are able to give scientists an in-depth look at the history of that cold region.
By studying the ice core, scientists determined that summer ice melting at the specific region in the Antarctic where the core was taken from is higher than at any other time over the past 1,000 years.
It’s clear that global warming and climate change are hitting one of the most pristine places on Earth with unprecedented speed, and it’s only going to get worse if we continue to do nothing to curb the biggest threat this planet has ever faced.
Fortunately, one way we can start doing more to curb climate change is by making a major push to rely more on solar power.
Solar power is one of the most truly renewable and green forms of energy on the planet. More importantly, solar power does not create greenhouse gases, like oil, gas, and coal powered energy systems do.
And while America might be lagging behind, some countries across the globe fully understand the benefits of solar power, and are using solar power more and more to power their electric grid.
That’s where Germany comes in.
Germany is the world’s top photovoltaic installer.
In 2011, solar power accounted for about 3% of the country’s total electricity.
The nation has set goals to produce 35% of its total electricity from solar power by 2020, and 50% of its total electricity from solar power by 2050.
I was in Germany recently, and it was nearly impossible not to find a city where the houses aren’t dotted with solar panels.
And, take a train ride through the German countryside, and you’ll see dozens of solar power plants.
Then there’s Portugal.
That nation’s electricity network operator just announced that renewable energy, like solar power, supplied 70 percent of total consumption in the first quarter of this year.
Germany and Portugal are wealthy nations, and can afford to invest money on solar power and other sources of renewable energy.
But, even countries substantially poorer than Germany are turning to solar power, using this renewable source of energy in to help power neighborhoods and communities.
In India, local solar power charging stations are popping up in some of the country’s worst slums and smallest villages.
Millions of Indians own cell phones, but live in homes that have no access to electricity.
As a result, they have to find new sources of energy to power their devices.
That’s where Pollinate Energy comes in.
Pollinate Energy, an Indian social enterprise NGO has, in just the past five months, sold 400 private solar systems to Indian slum dwellers in Bangalore, one of the country’s largest, and poorest, cities.
These private solar systems are often no larger than the palm of your hand, yet they are becoming tools for survival in the world’s most overpopulated country.
And, they pay for themselves in just 6 months, which is a big selling point for people who are making just 3 or 4 dollars per day.
Meanwhile, back here in the United States, the world’s wealthiest nation, solar power isn’t growing at anything close to the rate it is in other countries.
And that might have something to do with America’s utility companies.
Utility companies in this country are deathly afraid of solar power, because it means homes, offices and buildings could go off the electric grid and become energy self-sufficient.
The centralized power industry hasn’t figured out a way to own the sunshine that hits the roof of your home or office.
So, from a utility’s point of view, every kilowatt-hour of rooftop solar power is a kilowatt-hour of reduced demand for that utility’s product, and a direct hit to the utility’s bottom line.
The same is true of energy conservation, which is why utilities are often hostile to the idea of energy efficiency.
And if you don’t believe me, just ask the Edison Electric Institute, the trade and lobbying group for U.S. investor-owned utility companies.
The group recently released a report in which they openly expressed their fear of a day when Americans would no longer have to rely on utility companies for power, and we could generate it ourselves.
The report states that, “While we would expect customers to remain on the grid until a fully viable and economic distributed non-variable resource is available, one can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent. To put this into perspective, who would have believed 10 years ago that traditional wire line telephone customers could economically ‘cut the cord?'”
But, what’s more important here? Worrying about the wallets of utility company executives, or actively working to slow the devastating effects of climate change?
Now’s the time to embrace clean and green solar power. It’s time that houses in the U.S. were dotted with solar panels on their roofs, and that commercial buildings had mini solar power plants in their parking lots.
If palm sized solar panels can catch on in the slums of India, than solar power can catch on in the wealthiest nation in the world.
It’s time to save the environment, become sustainable and go solar!