In today's On the News segment: Climate change is no longer a problem of the distant future; while our lawmakers bicker over the facts of climate change, college students around our nation are getting busy working on solutions; the world's largest solar plant is officially operational, and it's located right here in the United States; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of....science & green news.....
You need to know this. Climate change is no longer a problem of the distant future. A new, in-depth report called the National Climate Assessment says that the effects of rising temperatures are real, they're serious, and they're already happening. The report was released last week by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, and it was put together by more than 250 scientists and experts. According to their report, scientists used long-term, independent records from numerous sources, like satellites, weather stations, and ocean buoys, to confirm what many of us have been saying for years. The report states, "Our nation, like the rest of the world, is warming, precipitation patterns are changing, sea level is rising, and some types of extreme weather events are increasing." In fact, recent weather around our nation, like the California drought, Colorado snow in May, tornadoes in the midwest, and torrential rain in the East, are all examples of the extreme weather this report is talking about. Economist Gary Yohe, who vice-chairs the NCA Committee, said that "one major take-home message [from this report] is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed." He added, "It is here and happening, and we are not cherrypicking or fearmongering." Yet again, the experts are making it clear that we have to take immediate action to address the climate crisis. However, rather than debating solutions, many in Congress continue to argue about the basic facts. We can't afford to wait until the climate-deniers accept reality. We need to remind our lawmakers that they work for us, and demand that they advance some bold action on climate change. The time for debate has passed, and it's time to get serious about protecting our planet, and our species.
While our lawmakers bicker over the facts of climate change, college students around our nation are getting busy working on solutions. A large-scale student campaign has pushed Stanford University to divest its $18.7 billion dollar endowment from coal. About a year ago, the group, known as Fossil Free Stanford, petitioned their university to move investments out of funds that include fossil-fuel extraction companies. And last week, the students' hard work finally paid off when Stanford's Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing announced their recommendation that the university divest from all coal stock. The chairman of the Stanford Board of Trustees, Steven Denning, said, "We believe this action provides leadership on a critical matter facing our world..." In addition, Stanford's announcement serves as an inspiration for students at colleges, like Harvard and Washington University, who are also working to get their schools to divest from fossil fuels. Stanford's announcement proves it is possible to influence these decisions, and that students have a say in how their universities invest.
The world's largest solar plant is officially operational, and it's located right here in the United States. Recently, NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar unveiled the new 290-million-Watt project, which will generate enough electricity to power 230,000 homes. The solar plant is located on 2,400 acres of land in Arizona, and it has the power to reduce annual carbon emissions by more than 300 tons. And, this plant is one of many that will soon be providing clean energy to American homes. Peter Davidson, the executive director of the Loans Programs Office, wrote a blog post for the Department of Energy about the new plant. He wrote, "We aren't done yet. By the end of next year, we expect all five solar PV plants in our portfolio to be completed with a combined capacity of 1,510 million Watts [of power]..." Davidson explained that just a few years ago, these massive solar plants seemed more "aspirational than attainable," but they are quickly becoming reality. Solar plants are a great investment for our nation. They eliminate the need for fossil fuels and create tons of green energy jobs. It's clear that we now have the ability to eliminate our addiction to fossil fuels, and it's time we get busy building even more green energy plants.
If you find yourself yawning a lot lately, lack of sleep or oxygen may not be the cause. According to new research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, yawns are actually a way to cool down our brains. In order to test their theory, researchers compared the yawning frequency of people outdoors during summer and winder months in Vienna, Austria. Then, they compared those results with an identical study from Arizona. They discovered that people yawn more often during warmer months, and found that yawns were even less contagious in cooler temperatures. In addition, the study found that yawning isn't effective at cooling down our brain when ambient temperatures are as hot – or hotter – than our bodies. So, next time you can't stop yawning, you may want to try cooling off instead of napping.
And finally... Tesla is on its way to creating 6,500 new American jobs. That company wants to open a new so-called gigafactory to produce batteries for its cars and solar systems. So far, Telsa has raised about half of the $5 billion dollars needed to open the factory, and when that one's done they'll start working on the next. They're looking at locations in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas as a possible site for their new plant, which will produce 500,000 lithium-ion battery packs a year. The electric car manufacturer wants to increase their market share by introducing an affordable electric car for the masses, which means that they'll need a whole lot of batteries to power their vehicles. Tesla's current Model S sedan sells for about $70,000, but a large part of that price comes from the cost of the car's battery. By producing more batteries and lowering the cost through economies of scale, Tesla hopes to put electric vehicles within reach of average workers. Once again, we see good science is good business, and it's also a great way to create green, middle-class jobs.
And that's the way it is for the week of May 12, 2014 - I'm Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.