That is the key takeaway from the National Climate Assessment, a major report released last week on the state of global warming in the United States.
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the authors declared.
Burning fossil fuels has led to water scarcity in arid regions, torrential downpours in wet regions, extreme heat waves, and larger and longer-burning wildfires.
Unless we are prepared to condemn our descendants to a world that could be 10 degrees warmer on average by 2100, we need to dramatically wean ourselves off fossil fuels.
That means embracing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power—which generate virtually no emissions and displace carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released by, say, the coal plant that’s also giving you asthma and cancer.
Herewith are nine awesome facts about wind energy.
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1. As early as 5000 B.C., ancient Egyptians used wind energy to propel boats up and down the Nile River.
2. In 1941, Palmer Putnam, an MIT-educated geologist, unveiled the Smith-Putman Wind Turbine in Vermont. The device was the first to send wind-sourced alternate-current power to an electric grid. “Slowly, like the movements of an awakening giant, two stainless-steel vanes—the size and shape of a bomber’s wings—began to rotate,” gaped the Sept. 8, 1941, issue of Time.
3. A modern wind turbine usually has three blades, which can reach rotational speeds of more than 200 miles per hour.
4. Around 70 percent of turbine equipment used at U.S. wind farms—that includes blades, gears, and generators—are made in America.
5. The United States has 60,000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity. This powers the energy needed by roughly 15 million American homes.
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6. America has barely scratched the surface of its wind energy potential. “The land-based wind energy resource in the United States is over 10,000,0000 megawatts, which could produce enough electricity to power the entire country 10 times over,” reports the American Wind Energy Association.
7. Wind energy accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the world’s electricity usage in 1997. This increased to 1.5 percent in 2008 and 2.5 percent in 2010. That’s progress, but there’s still a long way to go.
8. The U.S. generated 168 megawatt-hours of wind energy in 2013—or roughly the equivalent of removing 16 million cars from the road for an entire year.
9. In January, the world’s “largest and most powerful wind turbine” went online at an energy-testing center in Osterild, Denmark. The prototype is enormous: 720 feet tall, with 260-foot blades. It can generate eight megawatts of power, or enough to power 3,000 American households for an entire year.