Climate Good News Round Up: It’s Still a Beautiful World
By: Devon Downeysmith, Climate Communications & Outreach Manager
In light of recent current events, the desire to celebrate climate victories may feel a bit muted. However, despite all the negative news that seems to swirl around us, it’s that very negativity that makes it all the more important to pause and acknowledge the good. I don’t know about you, but my brain is programmed to either tune out all current events when I feel emotionally overwhelmed by bad news, or to draw broad conclusions about how the world is simply “going crazy” and use that as my excuse to disengage from being part of the solution.
Whether it’s the terrorist attacks in Paris, the shooting in California, or simply being aware of the ever-increasing pile of troubling environmental news that comes across my desk, it’s easy to see why people tune out. The severity of these events feels bigger than anything one person, even with the most committed heart, can tackle. But for me, as a woman about to have my first child literally any day now, I feel an almost primal sense of obligation to maintain my optimism for our future. I can’t give up on this world. I have a daughter about to enter it and I want to create a better future for her. So, are there bright spots in climate current events? Are there examples we can draw strength from of people coming together to help create a better world? Quite simply, yes.
- The Paris climate talks: 195 nations agree it is vital to stop the dangerous warming of our planet by reducing climate-changing pollution.
The talks brought together 40,000+ diplomats, experts and advocates to develop a new global climate treaty to avoid the worst effects of global warming. At the end of nearly two weeks of intense negotiations, often late into the night, 195 countries agreed to work together to keep global warming contained at levels that the best science suggests are necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change: well below 2 degrees Celsius, with a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim called the goal “far more ambitious than anyone imagined.”
- From the streets to the capitol, the West Coast is stepping up: The Paris Agreement is a critical step in the fight against climate disruption. But for real impact on the ground, cities and states have to be change makers. Read more from our Climate Program Director Jana Gastellum on how we’re hoping to make Oregon the “early bird that catches the worm” — leading the way to a clean energy future and reaping the benefits. For more inspiring commitment from the West Coast, read the group opinion column in the Seattle Times from California, Washington and Oregon’s governors, plus the premier of British Columbia. Also, at a summit hosted by Portland’s mayor Charlie Hales, five West Coast mayors renewed their commitment to reduce greenhouse gases 80% by the year 2050.
- Oregon’s clean energy economy is growing faster than the economy as a whole: In fact, job growth is occurring twice as fast on the west coast than any other segment of the economy. A new study, the Delphi Group’s West Coast Clean Economy: 2010-2014 Jobs Update, highlights how our region’s environmental policies are helping to clean air, water and our economy. The study found that Oregon added 4,800 clean economy jobs to total 48,321, growing 11 percent since 2010, faster than our state’s overall economy.
- The worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement reached a new milestone just this week: On day three of COP21, the public learned that more than 500 institutions (which account for more than $3.4 trillion in worldwide financial assets) have collectively made commitments to at least partially divest from fossil fuels. This number represents a huge jump from the $2.6 trillion announced in September and the $50 billion committed to just last year. It’s a big jump that signals a collective consciousness shift and highlights the growing political stigma associated with fossil fuels. Why does this matter? Because we’ve seen divestment used as a powerful tool to incite global change before. The South African divestment campaign of the 1980’s helped end apartheid, while more recent divestment campaigns have helped end violence in Darfur, and highlighted dangerous or unethical industries by divesting from tobacco, automatic weapons, sweatshop labor, landmines and more. By taking bold action to divest from fossil fuels, we’re part of the global movement to help break the hold these dirty industries have on our economy — and that hold is breaking now.
- New York’s new Clean Energy Mandate means 50% renewables by 2030: New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has issued a mandate, the Clean Energy Standard, to require that New York State achieve 50 percent of its power from renewable sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass or other renewable sources by 2030. This move has been praised by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), as well as the Solar Industries Association (SEIA.)
- New poll shows majority support for climate action: A new New York Times/CBS News poll found that two-thirds of Americans support the US joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions. Only a slim majority of Republicans remain opposed. Additionally, 63% of Americans, including a Republican majority, support President Obama’s domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants. All this is further evidence to show that climate action is a growing priority that’s being seen as a human rights issue, rather than a political one.
These are but a few examples. Take a moment to focus on the good. We are making a difference.