In today’s On the News segment: According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, within five years, one quarter of all the world’s energy will be generated by renewable sources; the Union of Concerned Scientists is worried about the political pressure that is undermining scientific research; a Scottish company has figured out how to transform waste from whiskey-making into an energy source; and more.
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Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this. Within five years, one quarter of all the world’s energy will be generated by renewable sources. That’s the finding of a new report from the International Energy Agency, and it’s being hailed as “a remarkable shift in a very limited period of time.” In 2014 alone, almost half of all the new power capacity came from clean energy sources like wind and solar. And, in developed nations, renewables account for nearly all of the new additions to power capacity. That fact on its own is pretty astounding. And, it’s enough to prove that making the switch to all-renewable energy is actually possible, regardless of what we hear from the fossil fuel industry. According to this new report, “Even in a lower fossil fuel price environment, the policy drivers for renewable electricity – energy diversification, local pollution, and de-carbonization aims, remain robust.” In other words, even where oil, gas, and coal may be cheaper, there are other factors that drive the demand for clean energy. Although Republican lawmakers often point to major polluters like China and India as a an excuse to avoid acting on climate change, it is actually those same countries that are leading the world in the expansion of renewable energy sources. While we continue to elect people who refuse to admit that global warming is real, the rest of the world is doing something to address the climate crisis. Faith Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said, “Renewables are poised to seize the crucial top spot in global power supply growth, but this is hardly the time for complacency.” She added, “Governments must remove the question marks over renewables if these technologies are to achieve their full potential, and put our energy system on a more secure, sustainable path.” This report makes it very clear that going to 100 percent clean, renewable energy is possible. The only question left is whether we have the will to fight for an all-renewable future.
Modern-day medical professionals often reject ancient remedies, but that may change after they learn about one of the latest winners of the Nobel Prize. In the 1960s, Chinese researcher Youyou Tu discovered a naturally-based compound, which became vital in the treatment of malaria. Although Western doctors didn’t start accepting the treatment until the 1980s, the compound has saved millions of lives in the decades since that discovery. These days, most doctors and medical staff take the treatment for granted, but they may be surprised to learn that the medicine did not come from any high-tech laboratory. During their work back in the ’60s, Youyou Tu and her team collected hundreds of herbs and extracts mentioned in ancient Chinese literature. According to the Nobel Prize committee, “Tu revisited the ancient literature and discovered clues that guided her in her quest to successfully extract the active component…” Thankfully for the millions of malaria patients around the world, Youyou Tu recognized the value in the ancient texts, and she wasn’t afraid to follow her theories. The value and importance of modern medicine is immeasurable, but it’s great news that this story may encourage doctors to take a second look at the treatments used in an earlier time.
A few weeks ago, General Mills told Congress that they couldn’t make Wheaties if global warming made it harder for them to get wheat. Now, other food producers are joining that company to demand action on climate change, so they can make their products in the future. Last week, ten of the world’s biggest food companies signed on to an open letter to Congress. They said, “The challenge presented by climate change will require all of us – government, civil society, and business – to do more with less.” They explained, “For companies like ours, that means producing more food on less land using fewer natural resources. If we don’t take action now, we risk not only today’s livelihoods, but those of future generations.” And, considering these are our biggest food producers, their livelihood has a pretty direct link with our future survival. Republicans in Congress may not listen to us, but hopefully they will take heed of the food industry’s warnings before it’s too late.
The Union of Concerned Scientists say that they’re worried about the political pressure that is undermining scientific research. According to a new report from that group, scientists in all of our governmental agencies feel that political interests get in the way of their research. One of the study’s authors wrote, “Many scientists told us that scientific decisions were being swayed by politics or that political influence inhibited their ability to carry out agency missions.” That means that agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have to balance the political ideology of their bosses and colleagues with the need to protect the public from bad food or deadly diseases. Those are jobs far too important to be impacted by political pressure. The report suggests that more training may help reduce the political influence, and more transparency could help scientists keep politics out of their findings. These functions are far too important to be swayed by ideology, and scientists shouldn’t have to consider the political environment just to do their jobs.
And finally … Leave it to the Scots to figure out how to turn whiskey into energy. That’s exactly what a professor in Scotland has done, and now his firm will build a facility to produce one million liters of this new biofuel. Martin Tangney’s company, appropriately called Celtic Renewables, figured out how to transform waste from whiskey-making into an energy source. So, the UK government has award him with 11 million euros to continue his research and development of the new fuel. On their website, Celtic Renewables said, “Biofuels are essential in de-carbonizing the transport sector and demand for liquid fuel will continue to soar worldwide.” As only 10 percent of the plant material used in making whiskey ends up in the final product, Mr. Tangney will use the rest to make a fuel similar to ethanol. We’re still a long way off from whiskey-fueled cars on the roadway, but Celtic Renewables is about to find out if this is the biofuel of the future.
And that’s the way it is for the week of October 12, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.