The Surging Tide of Clean Energy Worldwide

Clean is in the air. The wave of good news about clean energy fills us with optimism in the fight of our lives. Since the Paris Climate Agreement in December, the 21st Century's clean energy revolution is unstoppable.

San Diego, the U.S. fifth largest city, announced a few weeks ago it has committed to power itself with 100-percent clean energy by 2035. San Diego and its Republican mayor thus have joined 15 other U.S. cities that have made similar commitments. And the Sierra Club's just launched Ready for 100 Campaign is urging mayors across the land to follow suit.

But the tide of good news is global. In 2015, Costa Rica generated 99 percent of its power through renewable energy. Denmark, for the second year in a row, broke the world's record of wind energy generation. In 2015, it produced 42 percent of its electricity through wind. And according to credit rating giant Standard & Poor's, following the Paris Agreement, the world's nations have committed themselves to invest more than $16 trillion in renewable energy and other clean technologies through 2050.

And one could think with the nose-diving oil prices internationally -- less than $30 per barrel, the lowest level since 2004 -- clean energy would be doomed. Quite the opposite. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), solar, wind and other clean sources in 2015 attracted almost $330 billion in global investments, almost six times more than in 2004.

The dirty energy recession also seems to be unstoppable. Arch Coal, the country's second largest coal company, has filed for bankruptcy, thus contributing to the already hopeless situation for this industry. Moreover, in a historic decision, the Obama administration has blocked all new coal mining leases on public lands.

Yet there still is a lot of dirt in the air. The horrible Porter Ranch gas leak threatening the health of the city of Los Angeles is already considered the worst US environmental catastrophe since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And 2015 was by a country mile the hottest year since global temperatures started being recorded almost a century and a half ago. In fact, it was 20 percent warmer than the previous record, established in 2014.

This daily dirty fuel bombardment is taking a huge toll on all of us. A new study by Harvard University and University of California, Davis, researchers establishes a close link between high levels of pollution and the increase in crime rates. The report, conducted in Chicago, revealed that when wind pushes vehicular pollution from two major highways down towards nearby neighborhoods, crime rates spike up by 2.2 percent in those communities. Researchers concluded that the economic impact of car and truck pollution on crime rates costs Chicago up to $200 million a year.

Clean must be in the air. That's the solution. In a recent report, the Solar Foundation informed that in 2015 that industry grew by 20 percent, generated jobs 12 times faster than the economy in general and increased its workforce to almost 210,000. In fact, the global advance of clean energy, according to BNEF, is "irreversible," allowing developing nations to meet their energy needs much faster than with dirty fuels.

The surging tide of clean energy is indeed unstoppable.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC