With Union Square’s new climate change clock counting down to the end of humanity as we know it, many of you may be wondering what in the world is going on. According to a Washington Post article, the clock was created by two artists called Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd and represents the exact amount of time until our planet’s carbon budget reaches total depletion, a little over 7 years from now. But are we really on the brink of an irreversible climate? And if we are, how do we stop the clock? One solution that’s been proposed is the Green New Deal.
In an effort to slow down the clock, Congress members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ed Markey, and Bernie Sanders among others announced plans for a “Green New Deal” in early 2019. In short, the “Green New Deal” aims to transition our society to 100% renewable, clean energy by 2030 and get us on track to a more durable climate model.
But, what is renewable energy? In simple terms, renewable energy/clean energy, according to NRDC, is energy that “comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished.” Some examples of renewable energy include wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy, biomass energy, and hydro energy.
Comparing Renewable Energy Sources
- Type of solar energy
- Uses wind turbines moved by wind to generate energy
- Can be installed on a small portion of ranch or farmland
- Is of no disturbance to the rancher or farmer
- Has to be built strategically, in high-wind location
- Turbine blades can be loud & a threat to birds
- Mostly in Texas, California, & other west coast states
- Uses solar panels that collect heat & light from the sun
- Does not have to be placed in warm places
- Consumes more energy/releases more CO2 than wind
- Panels can be pricey & hard to install depending on roof type
- Significantly reduce electricity costs over time
- Last around 25 years
- Popular in California
- Collects heat stored deep in the Earth
- Uses heat to make steam that becomes electricity
- Pumps can last up to 50 years, (2x more than solar panels)
- Independent of weather unlike solar or wind energy
- Very efficient, but can be expensive at first
- Uses electricity to keep pumps running & lots of water
- Can release sulfur dioxide and silica
- Large power plants can cause earthquakes
- Largely found on the west coast & Hawaii/Alaska
- Form of hydro energy
- Uses tidal turbines powered by ocean currents & tides
- Turbines are placed on seafloor, where tide is strongest
- Tides can be more accurately predicted than wind or sun
- More expensive than wind or solar energy
- Like wind, tidal turbines pose threat to organisms
- Change in water movement can impact marine life
- U.S. has no major tidal plants but has few small sites in low-risk places
- Comes from organisms that are or were once alive like corn & soy
- Organisms go through combustion & turn into electricity
- Can release CO, CO2, NO, & volatile organic compounds
- If algae are used, phosphorus is required as fertilizer
- If using crops, watch growing practices & forest impact
- Less efficient than solar energy
- North Dakota, Iowa, Mississippi, Georgia, & North Carolina are leading biomass areas– rich crop growth
- Similar to tidal energy since it uses water, but water is manually put in high location
- Building large, low dams can lead to earthquakes & floods
- Water is released to flow through electricity generator
- Like tidal energy, can disrupt migrant/breeding patterns
- Highly affected by droughts
- Main reservoirs release CO2 & CO from underwater plants decomposing
- Cheapest & most widespread renewable energy in U.S.
- Dams are mainly on the west coast
Although many businesses are investing in renewable energy, large-scale changes are occurring very slowly. According to CNN, 32% of the energy produced in the U.S. still comes from natural gas and 30% comes from coal–with renewable energy following at 20%. If we continue on this track, the climate clock has a very slim chance of slowing down unless the “Green New Deal” is passed.
The “Green New Deal” also speaks on preserving rainforests and other natural ecosystems to reduce atmospheric pollution and strengthen biodiversity. It hopes to provide high-paying jobs to millions of Americans and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout our society stemming from an increased technological budget.
Additionally, this plan ensures that it will prioritize worker and minority rights while educating communities most vulnerable to the climate crisis. It plans to give all people clean water and air, as well as quality food. It expects to work with the farmers to reduce emissions from the agricultural department.
Agriculture is the world’s largest water supply consumer, and huge methane contributor through cows, so improving its environmental impact is a challenge that may take years to solve fully. The deal also states that it will make trade deals in alignment with helping reverse the climate crisis.
So, what can you do to help? Well, before this deal gets passed, or if it simply does not pass, make sure to stay in touch with what is going on in our climate, switch to renewable energy if you can, make daily changes towards sustainability (you can find more tips on how to do this in some of our other articles), and we hope you enjoyed New York Climate Week!