Creating the Energy Future We Need

February 22, 2017

Creating the Energy Future We Need

wind power ca 54 ed_0.jpg

Using the natural air flow of wind, wind turbines mechanically power generators for electricity. This is one of many renewable and clean means of meeting our energy needs with no greenhouse gas emissions. Photo credit: © Richard Murphy, PhD - Ocean Futures Society

It was not long ago I expressed my delight about the growing momentum in ocean conservation and the direction our global community was beginning to take towards realizing the significance between the quality of our lives and the quality of our environment. After the recent United States presidential election, many people may be concerned and anxious about the future of our planet and the uncertain path we are headed. I want to remind us all that the future belongs to no one alone, but to all of us together. The momentum in protecting our common home and our ocean planet will only grow stronger as we continue to come together. Our efforts to protect, restore, and enhance the quality of life on our planet must continue now, more than ever.

In the face of adversary, our species is a remarkable adapter. When confronted with issues of urgency, we mobilize rapidly to overcome challenges. This is evident throughout history. Often, this mobilization has come in the midst of imminent war. Today, we face a different kind of war; it is a battle for a habitable planet and our right to live in a healthy environment. Climate change is already happening due to human emission of greenhouse gases. The consequences will disrupt every aspect of our lives, threatening the ability of our planet to sustain us.

The recent election of President Donald Trump is disheartening for the environment for many reasons. During his campaign, he repeatedly spoke about supporting more oil and gas drilling on public lands, the oceans and the Arctic. He has promised to bring back the coal industry. He wants to eliminate, or render ineffective, the Environmental Protection Agency. He has stated he plans to remove the United States from the historic Paris Agreement – the first agreement in history where every nation in the world came together to address the serious threat of climate change and pledge to make voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He has denied, in the face of overwhelming evidence, the existence of human accelerated climate change.

PV post ranch 44_0.JPG

Renewable energy capacity is rising around the world because it is a wise, smart investment in the future of our energy. Photovoltaic panels harness the energy from the sun and now, after hydro and wind power, the third most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity. Photo credit: © Richard Murphy, PhD - Ocean Futures Society

Sadly, his understanding about energy, the economy and the environment are misguided. We cannot continue down a path of unsustainable extraction of fossil fuels knowing the impact it has on our climate and the livelihoods of people around the world. Not only is the planet showing signs of distress through turbulent weather and chaotic climactic events, but the path down fossil fuels is longer the most economical. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of all new electricity generation in the United States came from renewable resources. Renewable energy from the sun, winds, waters and geothermal earth are becoming more affordable and accessible, while coal and fossil fuels are no longer becoming the cheapest source of energy. This new green growth in clean energy is generating jobs for millions and growing economies around the world.

The global movement for clean energy cannot be stopped. Renewable energy capacity is rising around the world because it is a wise, smart investment in the future of our energy. In China, renewable energy is growing faster than fossil fuels and has become the world’s largest producer of solar power. Renewable energy investments around the world have doubled that of new coal or gas generation. For the first time this year, developing countries spent more money on renewable energy than developed nations. In the recent climate talks at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, more than 45 nations, many of which are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, have committed to switching to 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible. The world is moving forward, and the actions of the United States to continue building a renewable energy future is a critical part of the solution.

These undeniable truths about energy use and the movement towards renewables is important, but they are not always enough. As demonstrated by the United States election and societal discontent around the world, many people are dissatisfied with the status quo and the current state of our planet. Yet as the quality of our planet continues to degrade from environmental exploitation and a changing climate due to fossil fuels, the issues we face will only worsen. Time is of the essence. As we damage the ability of our climate to stabilize itself, we loose the ability of nature to come to our aid. It is those who do not understand the full implications of climate change and the negative affects it will have on our lives that we must reach out to the most. I urge everyone to talk to family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. It is time we have real conversations about what we value and the kind of world we want to live in. Our planet, and our futures, can no longer wait.

In times like these, when there is much uncertainty about the direction of our planet, I am reminded again of nature. The complexity of life we see before us today is a result of ever changing and often turbulent times. Even in the natural world where ecosystems have evolved to produce an exuberance of diversity, like forests and coral reefs, they must occasionally face a time of disturbance and regrowth. Some forests depend on infrequent forest fires to maintain ecosystem health and vitally. Likewise hurricanes and even predatory sea star outbreaks can be good for long term reef health. After such infrequent shocks the communities can rebuild with an increase in diversity and vitality. In times like these, I am reminded that our human family too faces turbulent times. These shocks can be opportunities to rebuild. It is our actions now that determine how we overcome the challenges before us. We are a species with the capacity to mobilize and change. There is no better time than now to create the energy future we need.

Warm regards,


Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society
with Jaclyn Mandoske