The world may seem like it’s headed toward a climate catastrophe soon. In 2020, the U.S. experienced record-breaking temperatures that alarmed scientists. We saw severe thunderstorms and floods strike many parts of the world, plus melting ice in the Arctic sea.
Reading the news makes it feel like we’re losing the fight against climate change. But surely there must be some good news about climate change, right?
Well, yes, we do. Scientists, activists, and politicians all around the world are making significant gains in the fight against climate change. Clean energies like solar power have become the cheapest source of electricity “in history” as the new Biden administration has pledged to make America climate-neutral by 2050.
There’s good news about climate change. It’s just that good news sometimes gets overshadowed by all the attention-grabbing disaster stories we see so often.
Are we making progress in the fight against climate change?
Thanks to greater awareness of climate issues, the fight against climate change has risen to the top of the global policy agenda in the past decade.
People from all walks of life, from eco-conscious consumers to grassroots activists to U.S. presidents, have helped advance climate action beyond scientific circles. We’ve come to recognize the threat that climate change poses to our future. And we’ve taken action to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In the past decade, the international community has convened symposiums to discuss the most promising climate change solutions. We’ve implemented carbon trading, clean energy technology, and climate financing initiatives to reduce our annual greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement to show their commitment to limit global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Since then, business corporations both big and small have declared their emissions-reduction targets to keep in line with the goals of the agreement.
And in November 2021, world leaders will gather in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference to follow up on the progress made since the Paris meeting. The goals of the meeting will be to accelerate global efforts to meet the targets set in Paris and assess each nation’s climate plan.
6 bits of good news in the fight against climate change
The fight against climate change might be difficult but it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve seen, and continue to see, significant political action being taken to implement low-carbon solutions in communities and cities across the planet.
Here are 6 pieces of good news that gave us hope that we’ll win the fight against climate change.
Governments are taking concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions
Just days after he was sworn in as president of the United States in January 2021, Joe Biden introduced a slew of bold climate policies that he hopes will make America carbon-neutral by 2050 or earlier.
President Biden has pledged to switch the entire federal fleet to electric, low-carbon vehicles. He has also promised to strengthen the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Energy Department to advance America’s low-carbon initiatives.
But perhaps the most significant order he gave was to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Long condemned by indigenous Canadians and Native-Americans for the potential destruction the pipeline could cause, this order came as a success for environmental justice and a signal to oil companies that fossil fuels have little relevance in America’s future.
In a similar vein, China has also announced its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060.
The pledge came as a surprise to many who did not expect China – responsible for around 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions – to set such a bold climate goal. It’s an announcement that could very likely put oil companies, and fossil fuels altogether, out of business in the next 40 years.
With China and America leading the fight against climate change, we may begin to see many other countries commit to similar goals and initiatives.
Large and small corporations have pledged to go green
It’s not just national governments that have made commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Large and small businesses have also promised to switch their business operations to renewables and cut their dependence on fossil fuels.
Leading the way are world-famous companies like Apple, Walmart, and Unilever NV.
Apple, for example, has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The company already relies on renewables for all of its electricity needs, but it’s now planning to make most of its suppliers switch to clean energy as well.
Following close behind is Walmart, which has cut nearly 230 million metric tons of greenhouse gases out of its supply chain between 2017 and 2020. It plans to go further by using environmentally-friendly packaging for its products and implementing conservation practices, such as reducing carbon emissions in its agricultural operations.
Even the household products giant Unilever NV has made a climate action pledge. The company aims to spend $1.2 billion to replace fossil fuels used in its cleaning products with renewable or recycled alternatives by 2030.
Significant breakthroughs in clean energy technology
To win the fight against climate change, we have to switch from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives like solar power for our energy needs. The good news is that we’re on track to make clean energy affordable for everyone.
The price of wind and solar power is now almost the same, if not cheaper, than fossil fuel-generated electricity. Cheap components, better efficiency of supply chains, and increased consumer demand have made solar and wind power the majority of the world’s new power generation. Nearly 45% of the world’s new electricity generation comes from solar power.
Experts estimate that clean energy will become available to many communities sooner than expected. The U.S. Department of Energy is now trying to get the cost of solar-generated electricity to less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, which could happen in the next decade or so thanks to new battery technologies.
Cities are adopting climate mitigation measures
Officials in France, for example, have turned Paris into a “15-minute city” where urbanites can buy groceries, meet friends, and travel to work all within 15 minutes of traveling by public transport or walking.
In China, the city of Shenzhen electrified 100% of its bus fleet, effectively turning its entire public transport infrastructure low-carbon. And in the Indian city of Gorakhpur, city officials have introduced green climate initiatives such as agricultural diversification to reduce flooding during the increasingly unpredictable monsoons.
Forests are being restored
Since the late 2000s, several countries in South America, North America, and South Asia have planted billions of trees to counter the effects of climate change. It’s believed that trees can help reduce air temperature by about 8 degrees celsius and filter out dust and other pollutants.
The reforestation projects are part of a global initiative to replant areas devastated by mineral extraction, agriculture, and human settlement. The 20×20 Initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, aims to do just that. Led by the World Resources Institute, the project aims to protect and restore 50 million ha of the forest by 2030.
To accomplish reforestation projects at this scale, large amounts of funding are required. Thankfully, multinational organizations and nonprofits such as the World Bank have invested millions of dollars into forest conservation and reforestation projects intending to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Natural habitats are being repopulated
As forests and other ecosystems get restored, natural habitats are coming back to life. Scientists, aided by political will, are helping restore populations of animals once deemed threatened by climate change and human activity.
In the Great Smoky Mountains, conservationists have succeeded in reintroducing elk thought to have gone extinct there in the mid-1800s. The National Park Service began bringing the species back to the area in 2001 and today, there are over 140 adult elk and calves roaming the mountains.
And in Australia, scientists are restoring parts of the Great Barrier Reef that were damaged by rising sea levels with nursery-grown coral fragments.
These natural solutions are important because they strengthen natural ecosystems and improve biodiversity. Research has found that healthy biodiversity makes natural environments more resistant to extreme climate change. It’s only with strong natural environments that the planet’s health will improve.
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