A look at 24 hours of (encouraging) climate reality

by Jeffrey Barbee | Climate Reality Project
Monday, 22 September 2014 12:15 GMT

Sun shines on a windmill at CookHouse Wind Farm in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. The Indian-built windmill is part of the largest wind farm in Africa. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Jeffrey Barbee

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Web broadcast looks around the world to where climate action is working

In South Africa, wind energy delivered to the national grid is now cheaper than new coal power for the first time. Exxaro, the country’s second largest coal mining company, is changing with the wind direction and investing $300 million into the continent’s biggest new wind energy project.

When coal mining companies start to realign their economic base into renewable, it’s evidence the game is changing quickly.

Is there hope in the climate movement? It’s been thin on the ground, but a new web series called 24 Hours of Climate Reality, hosted live from New York City, aims to highlight the changes already happening around the world that are creating energy security, food and a future for people around the world facing climate change.

The series, timed to get people talking about what they can do about climate change ahead of the weekend’s record-breaking climate marches, also aims to put pressure on the Ban Ki-moon Climate Summit in New York Tuesday, a gathering that will set the agenda for key climate talks in Paris next year.

In only six weeks the Climate Reality team compiled 24 hours of reports from all over the world, creating an up-to date account of positive climate change projects working from Toledo to Thailand.

As an environmental journalist that works around the world, I am well aware of the real dangers people are already facing because of climate change.  The usual narrative is that it is bad and getting worse.

However, this “business as usual” story does not take into account some of the most powerful stories unfolding around the world that my team and I discovered while working on this series. These are game changers that offer an alternate view, that we can face the climate crisis, learn from successes and make people healthier and wealthier.

SOLAR REVOLUTION

Besides our production on wind energy in South Africa, we also looked at a new generation of African visionaries revolutionising how rural people access electrical energy.

Helvetic Solar in Tanzania is bringing light and energy into some of the 78 percent of homes in the country that lack a basic connection to the electrical grid.  It is now listed by Forbes as one of the brightest companies in Africa, and has delivered energy to tens of thousands of Tanzanian households, leapfrogging the old grid technology of the past and helping create a rural solar revolution that is driving job growth and early adoption of clean energy.

Another impressive story focuses on Solar Sister, a programme that has created a sisterhood of African women who share clean solar and cooking technology with each other and help spread the word in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. 

Based on the 20th century Tupperware party, the women get together and sell each other small solar lamps and clean cook stoves that reduce wood use up to 70 percent, they say. In only 18 months the Solar Sisters have brought light and clean energy to 170,000 people in three countries.

The system is self sustaining, operates for a profit and gives the ladies income and business experience as they recruit yet more women entrepreneurs.

There are many more great stories on the climate reality website and YouTube channel. They keep me motivated – I hope they’ll do the same for you.

Jeffrey Barbee is a journalist and photographer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He focuses on environmental issues including climate change and energy.