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We’re on the cusp of an energy revolution

Solar will soon overtake coal as the world’s leading source of power. Getty

“Enough with the doom and gloom!” says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Human beings have a natural bias towards bad news, which has kept us “alert and alive” for millennia, but the “constant gush” of grim headlines has become ridiculous. Especially when the truth is that “this may still be the best time ever to be alive”. Global child mortality, for example, continues to fall. A child today is half as likely to die as in 2000, and a quarter as likely as in 1970. The numbers of people living in extreme poverty or suffering from famine are falling, too.

Where we are really excelling, though, is tech. Solar capacity is on track to triple over the next five years, overtaking coal as the world’s leading source of power. MIT researchers recently invented thin and flexible solar panels that can turn almost any outdoor surface into a power source, and for the first time a nuclear fusion experiment produced more energy than was needed to run it. We’re about to enjoy “cheaper, more reliable and more portable power than ever before”, allowing us to, for example, run desalination plants that could help us permanently solve drought. We’re also in a “golden age for vaccine development” and gene editing, which should lead to the eradication of diseases from malaria to sickle cell anaemia and AIDS. Yes, there’s plenty of bad stuff out there. But it’s important to acknowledge our wins and remember that “when we put our shoulder to it”, progress happens. “Onward!”