5 good news stories about climate change

Getty Images/ Taro Hama @ e-kamakura, Gerald Matzka/picture alliance

It’s giving optimism.

Impact
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

From reports of rising temperatures to increased natural disasters, climate news sometimes comes off as all doom and gloom. The world is heading to an apocalypse and all of our efforts to stop it are futile, right?

Wrong.

I won’t lie: We have a long way to go in solving climate change and its underlying causes, like colonialism and capitalism. But with any major social movement like this, you need to learn how to identify the small wins as they come. Otherwise, you’ll burn the fuck out.

The small wins are out there, though! Don’t believe me? Check out this running list of good climate news that showcases the world is far from being a lost cause.

Week of May 9

1. Clean energy hit 20% in the U.S.

While oil and gas prices are rising, clean energy has been picking up the slack at record levels. According to a new report published by global energy think tank Ember, the United States saw 20% of its energy production come from clean energy production for the first time ever in April.

This is a pretty big deal, honestly. First, it’s a massive uptick from where the U.S. was last year, when 14% of electricity was generated by clean power sources – and a nearly fourfold increase from where we were just seven years ago. But more than that, it puts the U.S. on track for an essential benchmark. According to the International Energy Agency, one-fifth of electricity worldwide needs to come from clean energy sources. The U.S. has reached that mark early. Now we just have to sustain it.

2. Airlines are trying to turn cooking oil into fuel.

If you happen to be flying through Dallas, order some fries while you’re at the airport. You just might save the planet. According to a report from local Dallas news station NBCDFW, the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is converting used cooking oil into a fuel source that can be used by the planes that are flying out of the travel hub.

According to the report, McDonald’s and other restaurants within DFW are saving their cooking oil, straining it out of their fryers, and handing it over to the airport. It is then converted into sustainable aviation fuel through a process that adds hydrogen to create a mixture that can be poured into plane fuel tanks. The process could help make flights more sustainable and less harmful to the environment.

3. Portugal launched a massive floating solar panel park.

In Portugal’s Alqueva reservoir, two massive ships have set up shop. They are dragging two separate platforms that are the combined size of four soccer fields, and they contain nothing but solar panels set to soak up the sun and provide power to the country.

The floating islands contain more than 12,000 solar panels in their array, making the Alqueva project the largest of its kind in Europe. The farms — operated by Portugal’s largest utility company, EDP — will generate enough energy to power 1,500 households. It’s the latest in an attempt to get Portugal to 100% renewable energy by 2030, and the country is on track: Seventy-eight percent of EDP’s electricity comes from clean sources now.

4. We’re doing much better with livestock emissions.

A new meta-analysis of studies published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if we just stick to the plans that we’ve already created, we can mitigate the methane emissions from livestock and keep warming beneath the ​​1.5 degrees Celsius target by 2030. We’re still going to need to make some changes to maintain that progress into the future, but you can still enjoy an occasional burger at the cookout for now.

5. The European Union is getting serious about ditching Russia’s oil.

Russia’s war on Ukraine has ramped up Europe’s urge to kick the habit of counting on oil from the invading country. The European Union’s European Commission announced a $205 billion investment plan that will help the region ditch Russian oil by 2027.

Included in the plan: ramping up clean energy production to 45% by the end of the decade, decreasing overall energy consumption by 13%, and outright banning Russian imports. The outcome, if all goes well, will be a much cleaner Europe and, in turn, a much cleaner planet.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of May 2

1. California had an almost entirely green day.

On the last day of April, a new era started in California. For the first time in history, the state ran entirely on clean, renewable energy — well, almost. Officially, 99.87% of energy generated for electricity usage came from renewable sources. That’s an improvement over the Golden State’s previous record, set April 3, when it ran on over 97% renewable energy.

Solar led the way, generating nearly two-thirds of the 18,000 gigawatts needed to meet demand. Wind, geothermal and other renewable sources fulfilled the rest.

The achievement lasted just one day, but it’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless. California has set a goal of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2045, and this marks a major step toward consistently achieving that goal. One day at a time.

2. Train travel in Japan is going completely clean.

In Japan, you can hop a train in Yokohama, travel 16 miles to the Shibuya region of Tokyo, and ride back without creating any greenhouse gas emissions. This is possible thanks to Tokyu Railways, which recently announced that its full line of trains in the regions surrounding Japan’s capital city now run entirely on clean energy sources.

An estimated 2.2 million people ride Tokyu’s railways every day. By becoming the first train operator in Japan to go green, the company estimates that it will prevent 56,000 households worth of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.

3. Telehealth is cutting down on carbon emissions.

Remember when coronavirus first struck and much of the world went into lockdown, ultimately leading to a short-term dip in greenhouse gas emissions? Well, it turns out we might actually be able to keep some of those emissions off the books for the long haul. A new study found that the expansion of telehealth services is helping cut down on the amount of gas that we’re burning to get to and from doctors appointments.

According to researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, going to telehealth visits has saved 50 million miles of travel, 2.2 million gallons of gas, 25 tons of waste that would have been generated during visits, and 17,500 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere. It turns out making health care more accessible isn’t just good for patients, it’s good for the planet.

4. Scientists developed an enzyme that can eat plastic.

More than 90% of plastic disposed of in the United States is not recycled. Instead, it ends up in landfills. We send more than 30 million tons of the stuff to waste facilities across the country every year, where it sits for hundreds of years and slowly decomposes while releasing harmful greenhouse gasses. A hungry, hungry enzyme might change all that.

Researchers at the University of Texas have discovered a plastic eating enzyme variant that can break down plastic in as little as 24 hours. This could help cut down on the overflowing waste piling up at landfills across the country that results in plastics making their way into our waterways and doing harm to the environment.

5. Buses and bike lanes got a big federal push.

Last year, the Biden administration passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. That money is starting to get dispersed, and one of the first big chunks of it will help reduce carbon emissions. The Transportation Department is issuing $6.4 billion in grants that will be available to cities that want to fund projects to expand bike lanes, bus paths, and other forms of low-emissions transportation.

Cities looking to expand electric vehicle charging stations, expand rail transportation options, build new paths for pedestrians, and anything else that might make cities more navigable without requiring more gas can start applying for funds. The goal is to cut transportation emissions nationwide in half by 2030, and this funding will be a step in that direction.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of April 25

1. The U.S. is finally planning to plug up harmful oil wells.

There are thousands of oil and gas wells across the United States that are leaking methane. Sealing these abandoned sites would cut down on emissions of a particularly noxious greenhouse gas.

The Biden administration is finally tackling this scourge, setting aside $4.7 billion to address the issue. That includes identifying the leaking wells and taking action to fix the problem.

And if that’s not enough all on its own, here’s a nice little bonus: Finding and sealing these leaking wells will create jobs — as many as 120,000, in fact.

2. The Biden administration signaled big moves for renewables.

We have to kick our fossil fuel habit, and adopting clean energy alternatives is one of the best ways for us to do it. The latest report shows that the U.S. is doing just that.

According to a report published by the Department of the Interior, the country is on pace to approve nearly 50 new wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects by the end of 2025. Those clean energy efforts will produce enough electricity to power nearly 9.5 million homes.

3. Governments and NGOs stepped up big for the oceans.

Our oceans are essential to our overall ecosystem, serving as a major carbon sink and providing us with all kinds of valuable resources. Representatives from around the world are recognizing this and stepping up to protect them.

At the Our Ocean Conference, hosted by John Kerry, the former secretary of state and current U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, governments and organizations pledged more than $16 billion toward initiatives to protect the ocean.

A total of 410 commitments were made, all with the goal of keeping the oceans safe. Initiatives included funding for reviving barrier reefs, protecting endangered species, and increasing regulations on fisheries.

4. Coal usage is way down.

There is perhaps no worse fuel source for the planet than coal, which burns dirty, pollutes the air at alarming rates, and creates carbon emissions that warm the planet. Luckily, just about the entire world is shifting away from it.

New data published by the Global Energy Monitor found that coal usage has been steadily declining across the globe for the last half-decade, and 2021 saw the lowest level of reliance on this fuel source yet.

5. Climate denialism lost a big platform.

There is a scientific consensus around climate change that recognizes it is real, happening now, and the result of human activity. Want to deny that reality? Well, you can’t anymore, at least on Twitter.

The social media site that has been in the news for other reasons recently implemented a ban on any advertisements that deny the reality of climate change. Misleading information about the topic can no longer be monetized or promoted through paid campaigns.

Twitter might still be home to plenty of misinformation, but clearing out some of the climate denialism is a welcome change.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of April 18

1. Wind beat out coal and nuclear energy for a day.

On March 29, wind turbines created more energy than coal and nuclear energy combined over a 24-hour period for the first time ever.

Just one day might not seem impressive. But according to Grist, wind turbines have only ever beaten out either coal or nuclear energy — never both at the same time.

The new record signals that the United States is making progress when it comes to renewable energy.

2. The Paris Agreement might actually work.

The Paris Agreement is by no means the world’s strongest treaty. And yet, researchers say we may be able to meet its goal of preventing global temperatures from increasng by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

There are some caveats. Each nation has to stick to its pledges — including those made as part of the recent Glasgow Climate Pact at the U.N.’s COP26 summit. Still, it’s a big improvement from where we were.

3. California ran almost entirely on renewable energy.

On April 3, California’s state main grid ran on over 97% renewable energy. Just a week before, California had set a 96.4% record.

“While these all-time highs are for a brief time, they solidly demonstrate the advances being made to reliably achieve California’s clean energy goals,” Elliot Mainzer, president of the California Independent System Operator, said in a statement.

4. California is building the world’s largest wildlife bridge.

In another win for California, the state will break ground on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing on Earth Day 2022.

The massive corridor will run across ten lanes of Route 101 in Agoura Hills, near Los Angeles. With its construction, it will help safely support the many animals that live in and near the Santa Monica Mountains.

5. The Biden administration restored some environmental regulations.

I wouldn’t call President Biden a friend of the environment just yet.

But this week, the White House finalized a rule that will reverse some Trump-era rollbacks of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Per the Associated Press, the restored regulations guide environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects like building highways and pipelines.

-Vanessa Taylor

This article was originally published on