As the old Chinese proverb goes, “We live in interesting times”. And 2017 has certainly been no exception. We are seeing transformations in our political, social, and technological landscapes that are perhaps unprecedented in our lifetimes.
Given the country in which I reside, it is of course tempting to focus my comments on the political transformation we are experiencing here in the U.S., and the impact of our political changes on the global community. But I won’t dwell on this, other than to say that I cannot ever recall a President who has been so determined to erase the memory of his predecessor by completely undoing all of his legislative and executive accomplishments. One of the most visible of these actions has been to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. The infusion of climate deniers into our Executive Branch is already having dramatic impacts on educational and science programs throughout the country, and how our federal agencies are presenting (or rather, removing) climate change information from their web sites. I could go on and on, but…
We are also facing global social changes, in both negative and positive ways. There are, in many cases, deepening divides across populations based on political and religious beliefs, as well as economic inequalities. But we also see a significantconnectiveness across civilizations, thanks to the likes of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and professional networks such as those borne by LinkedIn and Research Gate. It is now feasible for a citizen virtually anywhere in the world to communicate with and learn about the political and cultural happenings of far-away societies. Low-cost international air travel makes any destination in the world easily accessible from any other location within a day’s travel time and at most two to three airline connections. Despite recent news reports of issues associated with this growth in social media related to “fake news” (which contributes to our social divides), I see these globalizing forces as a positive development for all societies by making knowledge more accessible to more people.
But what I wanted to focus on in my year-end message is the technological transformations that are improving lives everywhere. Clean, carbon-free renewable energy is now the fastest-growing source of energy worldwide, and in many places the cost of renewable energy is competitive and even lower than traditional fossil energy sources (certainly this is the case in the U.S. despite what is happening on the political side). Rapid global renewable energy development is not only reducing energy-related carbon emissions, it is providing new sources of high-quality jobs, expanded energy access and security, and economic development opportunities. The ISES vision of a 100% renewable energy world has already been successfully achieved or approached in many cities, hamlets, and regions, and by numerous corporations and enterprises. The growth of solar and wind systems worldwide has far exceeded the projections that were made even less than ten years ago. We are seeing dramatic improvements in electric vehicle (EV) technologies, so that within the next few years EVs will be outselling internal combustion (ICs) vehicles in many markets, and some regions and countries will soon be forbidding the sale of ICs. A growing technological work force, including members of ISES, is dramatically advancing the clean energy revolution, and I thank all of you for your significant contributions through your innovative and creative actions to mitigate the environmental, economic, and energy challenges facing society.
So, as we end a year of significant political, social, and technological events, I am optimistic that, in 2018, thanks to you and to the millions of global citizens who are supporting and transforming our energy system with the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, we are on a path towards a more equitable, prosperous, and healthy society.
Again, I thank you for your excellent work and for your support of ISES, and wish all of you a very fulfilling holiday season and happy new year