5 good news stories about climate change
delicious fun gummy bear pattern
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It’s giving optimism.

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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?


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 Aug. 22

1. California will ban gas cars by 2035.

One of the keys to facilitating a green energy transition is getting gas-guzzling vehicles off the road. California is planning on doing exactly that by banning the sale of cars that run on fossil fuels by 2035. The plan sets benchmarks along the way, including making sure at least 35% of all new passenger vehicles sold by 2026 produce zero emissions — with a goal of getting that up to 68% by 2030.

The new policy is a major one that’s likely to have implications well beyond California — though it’ll be a big deal there in particular, given there are more than 29 million registered vehicles on the state’s roads. California is the country’s largest automotive market, and manufacturers will have to meet the demands of the state, likely accelerating the production of electric vehicles and making them more readily available nationwide.

2. The world set a new record for global investment in clean energy.

Lots of money gets spent on investing in energy — whether it’s good for the planet or not. But increasingly, the money is shifting away from fossil fuels and into clean energy projects. According to a new report from Bloomberg NEF, countries across the planet are pouring record-setting amounts of money into renewable energy, with more investments and new developments to follow.

A whopping $226 billion has been spent on clean energy development alone during the first quarter of 2022. It’s an 11% spike in investment from the year prior, with solar seeing a 33% jump and wind investments increasing by 18% globally. China, the United States, and Japan are among the biggest backers of these new projects, which is a big deal because they are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, too. These countries moving money away from dirty fuel sources and toward clean energy suggests a major shift is underway.

3. A scientific breakthrough may eliminate “forever chemicals” from water.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS or forever chemicals, are everywhere, including in our water supply. This is a problem, as these man-made chemicals that come from plastic production can lead to all sorts of adverse health outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, immune system problems, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease. But scientists may have discovered a way to eliminate them from water in a way that is both cheap and simple.

According to research published in the journal Science, scientists have found that PFAS can be broken down by introducing a simple solution made of water, soap, and a common household chemical. They were able to break down the forever chemicals and turn them into harmless byproducts in a matter of hours and eliminate them completely over the course of a few days. The solution will need to be scaled to truly help get rid of these dangerous chemicals, but the findings present the possibility of an accessible, easy solution to this major problem.

4. A new use for wind turbine blades: gummy bears.

One of the issues that people like to point to with wind turbines is figuring out what to do with the massive machines when they break down or need to be replaced. It’s a problem that needs a solution, as we start to ramp up the amount of wind power that we rely on and wind farms continue to be built across the globe. Here’s one novel idea scientists recently presented at the American Chemical Society: Turn them into gummy bears.

It turns out that the composite material used in wind turbines is quite malleable when you break it down. One of the materials that you get from these materials is potassium lactate, which can be used to create sweets like gummy bears and sports drinks. But you can also produce lots of other things, too: material for windows and car taillights, diapers, and more. Put simply, there are a lot of lives that a wind turbine can live after it is done generating energy, including potentially giving you a sugar rush.

5. The U.S. might get its first freshwater wind farm.

Most shore-based wind farms are built on the coasts of oceans. But America has lots of lakes that could be the sites of lots of energy generation — and the first freshwater wind farm in the country just cleared a major hurdle that could lead to construction in the near future. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a wind farm set to be built on the shore of Lake Eerie can go forward, as it passed all necessary environmental checks required.

The wind farm, which is slated to be built about 8 miles from Cleveland, is expected to generate a modest 20.7 megawatts of energy, which could provide power up to 20,000 homes. It’s set to be a test for potentially larger freshwater developments that could follow, which would help to expand America’s wind infrastructure.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of Aug. 15

1. Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest influx of climate spending in history.

This week President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which allotts $369 billion for climate and energy spending. Early indicators suggest that they’ll make a major difference in the fight to address climate change. A federal assessment found that new spending on climate-related programs should help cut down on the country’s emissions by 40% by 2030.

That figure is about in line with some other third-party assessments too. Rhodium Group estimated emissions reductions up to 44% if the new initiatives are implemented, and Climate Action Tracker said emissions could be cut by as much as 42%. That still isn’t enough to get us to the 50% reduction that Biden pledged to reach by the start of next decade, but it gets us way closer to being on track than we ever have been.

2. Pennsylvania held an oil company accountable for pollution.

In 2018, the Revolution Pipeline that ran for 40 miles through Western Pennsylvania exploded. In 2020, the Sunoco Pipeline leaked 8,100 gallons of liquid gas into Marsh Creek Lake, a popular tourist location in the state, leading to the complete closure of the recreation site. Both pipelines were operated by the same company: Energy Transfer. Now that company is going to pay for the pollution and damage it caused.

The Texas-based company pleaded “no contest” on more than a dozen criminal charges brought against it by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro for its ongoing pollution that has done considerable damage to communities and water supplies within the state. Energy Transfer will also pay $10 million toward projects aimed to improve water quality, marking a major victory in environmental enforcement that may encourage other states to follow suit and pursue criminal charges against malicious actors who pollute within their borders.

3. New York’s study on congestion pricing showed it would significantly improve air quality.

In 2019, the New York legislature passed a law that would charge surge pricing on motorists who clog up the city’s streets trying to drive into busy and heavily populated areas. Three years later, that law is almost ready to go into effect. The plan cleared a big regulatory hurdle this month, and now could finally be implemented next year, per The New York Times.

And, turns out, charging people for driving will probably result in significantly less of it — likely improving air quality throughout the city and cutting back on emissions.

According to the environmental assessment performed by the state, the congestion pricing will reduce the amount of traffic heading into Manhattan by up to 10% per day, and could see as much as a 20% decrease in the total amount of traffic in the region over time. The result, the assessment suggests, is a significant improvement in overall air quality, which will ultimately lead to better health outcomes for citizens and fewer emissions in the atmosphere.

4. Zero-emissions buses are going to be all over the place.

In the last couple of years, the United States has made heavy investments in infrastructure. While that usually means roads and bridges, one of the areas that is seeing the biggest boost will actually cut down on the number of vehicles that will be using that traditional infrastructure. According to the Federal Transit Administration, the country is set to see the number of zero-emissions buses double in the coming years.

This is the result of $1.6 billion that has been awarded to transit operators across the country. That money will buy more than 1,800 new buses, the vast majority of which will not require fossil fuels to operate. These zero-emissions buses are expected to crop up in 48 states, and will significantly expand the availability of public transit across the country. That’s a double-play for reducing emissions: The buses will run on clean energy, and more people can ride them rather than drive.

5. Chicago committed to buying 100% clean energy by 2025.

Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, which means it has a considerable carbon footprint. But it is about to put a major dent in its emissions. The city announced a new agreement to reach 100% clean energy on all of the facilities that it owns and operates by as soon as 2025 — a plan that is expected to massively increase the amount of wind and solar projects being built within the state.

The move is a significant one, given the considerable amount of city-owned infrastructure in the area. Everything from buildings to streetlights will run off clean energy, with plans to expand until everything including airports and utility plants are all running off wind and solar. The city has set a goal of being 100% powered by clean energy as soon as 2035, and this is a major step toward achieving that.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of Aug. 8

1. The CHIPS Act looks like a quietly major win for mitigating climate change.

The United States Senate managed to successfully pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill that includes the largest ever boost of climate spending in the U.S. But that wasn’t the only major victory that lawmakers notched recently in the fight against global warming. Research suggests that the CHIPS Act, which was designed to boost the U.S. semiconductor industry, will be a major boost to the development of clean energy technology.

Baked into the CHIPS Act, which passed with bipartisan support, is about $67 billion in spending that will go toward the development of nanotechnology, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence — all of which will be essential in improving climate modeling and building the technology needed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. It’ll also increase spending on disaster-resilience research and improve access to semiconductors necessary for clean energy infrastructure.

2. San Diego voted to ban fossil fuels from all new construction.

As cities grow, they typically require more fossil fuels for every part of the process, from the development of building materials to the electricity provided to the new properties. San Diego is trying to do away with this overreliance on dirty burning fuels while continuing to grow. The city council voted unanimously to ban fossil fuels from all new construction, whether it is residential homes or commercial businesses.

The ban will last for 12 years and represents a major step toward achieving the city’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2035. The crackdown would prohibit the use of natural gas hookups on new buildings and would make developers electrify construction right off the bat, including installing electric heaters and other systems. On top of that, the city is going to push to eliminate 90% of natural gas usage from existing buildings, lessening the flow of natural gas to a drizzle by the next decade.

3. Scaling back farmland is actually good for wildlife.

One of the things that we don’t consider enough when it comes to agriculture is how negatively it impacts biodiversity. Oftentimes, land that would normally be home to many different species of plants is converted into land that is used for a single crop. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A new study conducted over the last decade by the United Kingdom’s Center for Ecology and Hydrology found that giving back farmland for wildlife and natural growth can vastly increase biodiversity without having negative impacts on crops.

The study is a breakthrough for a number of reasons, including its scale. But more important is the fact that scientists found that increasing biodiversity around agricultural land is quite good for the crops. It enhances the overall output of the crops despite giving up some of the land used to grow them. Meanwhile, it significantly improves wildlife in surrounding areas, helping species thrive in spaces they were previously pushed from.

4. The Great Barrier Reef is getting healthy.

The Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Australia, is the largest coral reef system on the planet and an essential part of both local and global ecosystems. Unfortunately, it’s lost more than half of its coral over the last three decades. But things appear to be turning around. According to the latest assessment of the reef system, the Great Barrier Reef is returning to levels not seen since the 1980s.

According to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, areas of the reef have increased by more than one-third over the last year. While other parts of the reef are still experiencing loss and mass bleaching events, the findings offer a glimmer of hope: The planet can recover from the damage that we’ve done, we just need to give it time and the right conditions to thrive.

5. The EPA is cracking down on plastic waste.

At this point, we know that we ingest plastic at an alarming rate. Part of the reason for that is just the simple fact that plastic is in everything. The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to get some of the worst plastics out of the products that we interact with regularly. A new rule implemented by the agency will list di-isononyl phthalate chemicals on the Toxics Release Inventory, a federally regulated list of dangerous chemicals.

You’d be shocked to know just how often you come into contact with di-isononyl phthalate chemicals. These colorless substances are present in so many everyday objects, from kids' toys to clothing to flooring. By listing the chemical on the federal registry, it will be more heavily regulated and subject to much tougher restrictions that will help to limit its use in products that we interact with — which has the added benefit of keeping it out of waste facilities and waterways.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of Aug. 1

1. The United Nations declares a healthy environment is a human right.

There are certain rights that we believe should be guaranteed to humans, no matter where they are born on this planet. Finally, the right to a healthy environment is one of them. The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a historic resolution that recognized the universal human right to live in a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

The motion had near-universal support, with 161 nations voting in favor while just eight nations abstained. While the resolution doesn’t have any specific binding requirements, it can be used as a tool for establishing new initiatives that seek to combat inequity and injustice that stems from environmental abuses. Countries across the world may use the resolution to institute new constitutional requirements, environmental protections, and other efforts to protect the planet.

2. Hawaii is done with coal for good.

As a small island state 2,500 miles from the United States mainland, Hawaii relies on lots of imports to keep its lights on, including tons of coal to fuel its primary power plant. But, according to the state’s governor, David Ige, Hawaii has taken its last load of coal ever. As part of its transition to clean energy, it’s shutting down its coal power plant for good.

Hawaii has one of the most aggressive plans of any state to embrace clean energy. It was the first state to make a net-zero pledge, and it plans to reach 100% renewable energy for its electricity generation by 2045. In 2020, the state’s legislature banned coal power plants, and that rule has finally gone into effect two years later. It marks the biggest step in the state’s clean transition to date, and it’s a welcome one for this island and the planet as a whole.

3. Biden quietly makes solar more accessible for renters.

The U.S. federal government has done a decent job offering incentives to homeowners to encourage them to put solar panels on their roofs and generate their own clean energy. Just one problem: Lots of people don’t own homes. President Biden recently signed an executive order to address that by helping connect people in subsidized housing areas to community solar projects. The result should be cheaper energy costs.

By helping these areas connect to solar farms, the White House estimated that as many as 4.5 million households could get access to solar power, which could cut their overall energy costs by more than 10% per year. Because low-income households tend to pay a larger portion of their income to cover this essential utility than any other demographic, the effort could make a major difference for the people who need it the most.

4. Tigers are making a comeback.

Climate change and human intervention that destroys natural habitats have pushed tiger populations to the brink of extinction. But new evidence suggests the big cats are making a comeback. Experts report that the population of tigers across Asia has seen nearly 40% growth over the last half-decade, the result of crackdowns on poaching and new efforts to preserve the animals’ land.

Tigers are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem in many of the areas they call home, serving as a primary predator that helps to regulate other populations. Protecting them also means protecting essential watersheds that provide freshwater to millions of people across Asia, keeping pests and disease from wreaking havoc.

5. The world’s first sand battery goes online in Finland.

With the growing clean energy movement, we need a way to store power generated by sources like wind turbines and solar farms. While lots of research has gone into developing batteries that can help maintain this power, researchers in Finland have tapped into a more natural solution: using sand to store excess energy.

The project uses tens of thousands of cubic meters worth of low-grade sand packed into an insulated silo to retain energy generated by clean energy sources. The energy is stored as heat, which can be released back to the grid up to one year after the point that it has been captured. This development will allow the country to release stored energy during winter months when less energy is being generated, keeping homes heated even when wind turbines aren’t turning and the sun isn’t shining on solar panels.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of July 25

1. Scientists may have created a truly carbon-neutral jet fuel.

Air travel contributes nearly 3% of all emissions on its own. Most of that comes from burning jet fuel. That makes this breakthrough noteworthy: Researchers believe they may be on track to develop a completely carbon-neutral jet fuel that could set the entire industry toward the path of net-zero emissions.

To create this fuel, scientists built a tower layered with solar panels that capture solar energy and use it to power a solar reactor that can convert water and carbon dioxide into synthetic kerosene. That output is run through a gas-to-liquid converter, which processes it and turns it into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that can be used to power a plane. The research marks the first time this conversion has been completed outside a lab setting and is a major step forward in decarbonizing air transportation.

2. The Midwest’s electrical grid will get a massive expansion for renewable energy.

Usually, when electrical grids are in the news, it’s because something went wrong — like when Texas’s grid experienced widespread outages after cold weather hit the state. The operator of the Midwest’s grid — Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) — is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. It announced a $10 billion investment in grid upgrades that will prepare for more renewable energy and higher demand from electric vehicles.

The upgrade, which is expected to come online fully in 2028, will significantly expand the grid’s capabilities. The operator will build 18 new lines that will add reliability across the region. It’ll also get the grid ready to support up to 53 gigawatts of renewable energy, which could power up to 12 million homes. The investment marks the largest ever in clean energy transmission and will be viewed as a model for the rest of the nation to follow.

3. Electric vehicles will help protect wildlife.

It’s not hard to see how electric vehicles will improve the transportation industry by cutting down emissions produced on roadways across the world. But it’s a little more challenging to see some of the add-on benefits that making the shift to electric can have. Here’s one: New research found that not only will electric cars be good for cutting emissions and improving air quality, but they will also help us protect wildlife habitats and improve biodiversity.

It might sound odd that electric cars could protect land, but it follows if you know how our current fuel is made. About 10% of any fuel mix used in America contains ethanol, which comes from corn. By cutting down on the amount of gas used, we’ll also cut down on the amount of corn needed, which will ultimately save about 4.4 million hectares of land. That can be used to farm more diverse food sources or allow wildlands to return and develop a full ecosystem — all because we’re using less gas.

4. The Biden administration committed to planting 1 billion trees.

Deforestation and destructive wildfires have wiped out tons of trees in the last decade — destroying ecosystems and upending biodiversity in affected regions. The Biden administration intends to restore forests to their previous glory with a new initiative that will seek to plant up to 1 billion new trees over the course of the next decade.

The effort will be a sizable undertaking, but an absolutely necessary one to make forests more resilient to natural disasters that will likely keep coming until we cut down on carbon emissions. Currently, the United States has a backlog of 4.1 million acres of forest that needs replanting due to forest fires. This initiative will seek to nearly quadruple the amount of planned tree planting, to restore the forests and protect our natural environments.

5. Researchers moved closer to developing windows that generate solar power.

We have so many buildings with so, so many windows. Just imagine if all that glass was solar panels instead. That’s exactly what researchers at the University of Michigan are doing. According to a new paper, it is possible to develop windows that can generate solar electricity, opening up the possibility of turning large buildings into significant energy generators.

The research addresses the problem that solar panels are often not transparent enough to serve as a standard window. To do so, they’ve used dye-like materials that are easier to see through than the standard tinted solar panel, along with tiny lines of metal that are essentially invisible to the human eye. The windows aren’t yet as efficient at generating solar energy as standard panels, but the findings move us one step closer to windows that create energy for us.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of July 18

1. The U.K. had its biggest ever renewable energy auction.

We’ve heard plenty about oil auctions in the U.S., with the government selling off plots of land to corporations to use for oil extraction. In the U.K., the largest auction ever just concluded — except it was for renewable energy projects instead of dirty burning fuels. The auction asked companies to bid on contracts to provide clean energy to the country, and it was wildly successful.

In total, the U.K. government sold contracts to generate nearly 11 gigawatts of clean energy, which would nearly double the capacity that the country sold in previous auctions. Once the contracts are completed, the government expects they should have enough carbon-free electricity to power about 12 million houses.

2. Wave energy gains steam.

Lots is made of wind and solar power — and for good reason, as the clean energy sources are proving to be increasingly reliable and affordable. But there are other options for carbon-free energy, too, and they are worth exploring. That is exactly what the state of New Jersey is doing by investing in research into wave energy. The latest budget from the state includes $500,000 to look into harnessing the energy in the motion of waves.

Wave energy taps into the ebb and flow of the tides, which create kinetic energy as they come in toward shore. It’s possible to harness that energy through generators and convert it to electricity. New Jersey, which has lots of coastlines, will look into whether wave energy has a place alongside offshore wind turbines and other types of clean energy that the state has already embraced.

3. Berlin is planning a carbon-neutral community.

One of the biggest challenges in reducing carbon emissions is the fact that so much of our infrastructure is already built around cars and other emissions-burning processes. But if you build an eco-friendly neighborhood from scratch, it might look something like the one that is being constructed right now in Berlin. The site of Berlin’s old Tegel Airport is being converted into a carbon-neutral, car-free neighborhood.

The plan will turn the old airport into more than 5,000 new apartments. The rest of the facility will be dedicated to storefronts, businesses, and schools, which will be designed to primarily be walkable and cyclable. Construction of the city is being done with the environment in mind and will cut down on 80% of the emissions of a standard construction site, per Fast Company. It’s expected to be ready by 2027.

4. Spain will offer free train transit to cut down on domestic flights.

The Spanish government is setting out to make those alternative travel options to airplanes much more viable. The country announced that it will offer free transportation on its rail system in order to cut down on short flights and reduce overall emissions.

The free transport period will run from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year, encouraging people to skip a flight and take a train instead for their holiday travels. Spain had already been reducing the cost of train tickets, but the free period is set to push even more people into the train system to show how viable trains are for domestic travel. Spain is considering banning short-haul flights within its borders altogether, so the train program is a possible glimpse at the future.

5. A court in the U.K. ordered government accountability on carbon reduction plans.

Just about every country in the world has set goals to reduce carbon emission and achieve net zero by mid-century or so, but there is no real mechanism to hold any of these governments accountable. In the United Kingdom, that appears to be changing. A lawsuit brought by a number of activist groups has won favor in one of the country’s high courts, which has asked the government to outline exactly how it plans to implement its net zero policies.

The ruling will require the U.K.’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy to prepare and deliver a report that will provide details as to how the government will meet its carbon reduction goals. That report will have to be presented to parliament by April 2023.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of July 11

1. The U.S. Department of Transportation implemented a new method of tracking emissions.

America’s roadways are associated with the largest share of carbon emissions, with transportation emitting 27% of all greenhouse gas produced by the U.S. Cutting down on those emissions will require a multi-pronged effort, and the Department of Transportation is tackling an important part of the equation: requiring states and large cities to measure the amount of carbon dioxide being released on major roadways.

The new rule is the first step to reducing emissions, and it all starts with quantifying them. Once municipalities know how much is being emitted, they will be tasked with reducing those emissions. Failing to hit targets could result in a reduction in federal funding.

2. Ditching cement for algae could help to cut down on emissions.

Cement is a major contributor to climate change, as its production uses lots of material and creates plenty of emissions along the way. The concrete industry is responsible for 8% of all carbon emissions globally. In Colorado, an effort is underway to reinvent cement by using natural algae to help produce a less carbon-intensive version of concrete that can be used for future building projects.

The novel solution taps into how coral reefs create their natural limestone. By doing that at scale and utilizing algae for the process instead of quarries, experts believe that they can eliminate as much as 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions per year — the equivalent of taking more than 400 million vehicles off the road. That’s assuming a total industry shift, which will take some effort — but the potential is there for major change.

3. Bison are back, boding well for biodiversity.

Bison have been on the brink of extinction, hunted to the point where there were few remaining in the 1800s and pushed from their natural habitats in the 1900s. But, against all odds as more and more species are challenged by climate change, bison are back. Indigenous tribes have successfully helped the species recover to the point where they are once again thriving — an achievement that might hold possibilities for protecting other endangered species.

The return of the bison is a great achievement, and it’s great for the planet. The massive creatures are important because they are prolific grazers. By maintaining the grass in the prairies and fields, they help other species of plants to coexist. This helps other creatures too, from insects to birds and beyond.

4. Electric cars hit an important threshold.

Electric cars, finally, are starting to catch on. According to Bloomberg, electric cars now make up 5% of all vehicle sales, which is the tipping point for pushing toward mass adoption.

The idea is that adoption of new technology follows an S-shaped curve, with a slow start that eventually reaches a breaking point that leads to lots and lots of people getting in on the trend. According to the research, electric cars could account for 1 out of every 4 new vehicle sales by as early as 2025. It’s the start of a massive shift that will help to significantly reduce the amount of emissions created by transportation across the country.

5. China’s emissions are expected to peak earlier than expected.

China has always served as something of a bellwether for addressing climate change. The country is responsible for the most carbon emissions in the world and has been slower than other nations in adopting emission reduction goals. But new research suggests that the country has actually been performing better than expected when it comes to adopting clean energy, with the rapid expansion of solar and wind infrastructure — and it may reach its peak emissions much sooner than expected.

According to Carbon Brief, the latest data out of China shows the country is on track to reach its peak emissions point before 2030 and will see its emissions drop from that point on. That puts the nation closer to being in line with global goals for carbon reduction and could help in keeping global warming below the 2-degree Celsius threshold set by the Paris Agreement.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of July 4

1. India banned many single-use plastics.

India generates about 3.5 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. No more. The nation of nearly 1.4 billion people announced a ban on single-use plastic materials, with a phase-in that will take effect almost immediately. To start, India will rid itself of 19 items deemed to be unnecessary, including plastic straws and cups. Over time, more items like bottles and bags will be phased out — and until then, the government has mandated that manufacturers take responsibility for recycling or disposing of the waste.

The restrictions on plastic is a meaningful one for the country, which has set a date of 2070 to reach net-zero carbon emissions. The plastic ban is a very small part of achieving that goal, but the federal mandate is a sign of a serious, unified effort to reduce pollution and waste.

2. The U.S. has managed to keep emissions down post-pandemic.

Remember when the coronavirus pandemic left all of us quarantined and carbon emissions rapidly declined? While there were concerns that we’d just return to business as usual once the pandemic slowed, it turns out that the United States may have actually kept its emissions down. New research published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that the country is likely to keep carbon emissions below peak levels from the mid-2000s.

The pandemic certainly put a dent in the overall emissions, but things had actually been trending this way for a little bit — albeit slowly. Coal emissions are way down and oil emissions are on the decline while clean energy production, particularly for the nation’s electric grid, is way up. The trend is projected to continue through 2023, and there’s no reason that we can’t keep the trendline moving in the right direction beyond that.

3. The European Union will require emissions-free cars by 2035.

Road transportation is the biggest source of carbon emissions across the European Union, responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gasses the region creates. That’s why lawmakers have made it a point to target the sector for a major overhaul. Leaders in the EU have come to terms on an agreement that will require any vehicle sold in any of the 27 member nations to be emissions-free by 2035.

The decision is an important one, as there are nearly a quarter of a billion cars on the road in the EU currently. The region will rapidly expand infrastructure to support electric cars and other vehicles that are carbon-neutral. Not only will the move put a dent in the region’s emissions, but it could also spur additional interest in electric cars around the world, as some of the largest car makers in the EU shift to making carbon-free vehicles.

4. New York returned land to Indigenous people.

The Onondaga Nation called the land that is now the state of New York home long before Europeans made their way over to these shores. Now they are getting some of that land back. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an agreement to return over 1,000 acres of land to the Onondaga people, marking one of the largest transfers of land to an indigenous nation by a state.

The land that is now once again under the control of the Onondaga tribe includes about 980 acres of forests and trees, 45 acres of wetlands, and the Onondaga Creek. It’s home to a variety of wildlife, including trout, blue heron, bald eagles, hawks, and white-tailed deer. The nation will oversee stewardship of the land and promises to preserve it for future generations.

5. A massive build-out of electric vehicle chargers is underway in the U.S.

President Biden is hoping that by 2030, half of all cars on America’s roadways will be electric. In order to achieve that, there are going to need to be some changes to the country’s infrastructure, including the addition of lots of charging stations. Luckily, the Biden administration is investing heavily in exactly that. The White House announced $700 million in new spending on electric vehicle charging, with the goal of making it more accessible and more affordable.

The influx of new cash will ultimately create 250,000 new charging stations, which will be installed across the country to facilitate interstate travel with electric cars. That is a massive expansion of what is currently available, as current estimates suggest there are under 50,000 total charging stations in the country for electric vehicles.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of June 27

1. There’s a new carbon removal plant in Iceland.

Climeworks, a Swiss company that is leading the way on carbon removal technology, is taking another step toward sucking carbon right out of the air. The company announced that it is opening a new carbon removal plant in Iceland that could be fully operational next year.

The new facility will be able to remove 36,000 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year, the company says — a small fraction of the total amount that we produce, but a major step toward turning a theoretical technology into a real one that works at scale. Climeworks plans to remove millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere by the end of the decade.

2. Science says fighting for the planet is a mood booster.

There are lots of benefits to fighting climate change, from keeping the air and water clean to protecting biodiversity to, you know, not destroying the place we live. It turns out there is another benefit, too: It makes us feel good. A new study found that people who spend their time helping the environment are generally happier and experience a “warm glow” from their work.

This idea isn’t totally new: Lots of people get a nice buzz from being altruistic. But there is something special about doing right by nature. We help the planet, our fellow humans, and ourselves. Despite the often fatalistic way that we talk about climate change, people who are actually trying to do something about it are happy.

3. Biden and East Coast states are going all-in on wind.

Offshore drilling isn’t the only way to generate power by utilizing the coastlines. President Biden is looking to rapidly expand the U.S.’s clean energy capacity, and he’s working with the governors of East Coast states to do it, with a new agreement with 11 states along the Atlantic coast to expand offshore projects — including building the material and installing the farms to produce clean energy.

The agreement is a significant one, as the Biden administration is pushing to generate 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2030. That would be enough to provide electricity for 10 million homes. The Department of the Interior is in the process of approving 10 new offshore wind projects, and the new agreement clears the way for greenlighting even more.

4. NATO prepared a plan to decarbonize defense.

Military activity is destructive to the planet. From the actual violence to the massive amount of gas burned in order to execute military actions, the planet is not prepared to support more war. Fortunately, a meeting between NATO nations focused on how to decarbonize defense and reduce the footprint of militaries. The idea was to formally integrate climate change into the military alliance’s agreement for the first time, as well as create the framework for decarbonizing its military operations. In the end, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced that the military alliance would “reduce emissions by at least 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” per NBC News. “It will not be easy, but it can be done,” Stoltenberg said.

5. California passed an ambitious plastic reduction bill.

The U.S. generates 35 million tons of plastic waste every year. California is looking to cut that number down significantly by passing one of the most ambitious plastic reduction plans in the country. The state passed legislation recently that calls for a 25% reduction in plastic production by 2032.

The law would put a major dent in the amount of plastic that California burns through; one estimate suggests that it could eliminate as much as 26 million tons of plastic waste over the next decade. And that’s just from one state. The legislation should be a template for other states looking to reduce their plastic waste.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of June 20

1. Colombia is ready to ditch fossil fuels.

Gustavo Petro, the first leftist president ever elected to office in Colombia, intends to change a lot about the way his country does things — and top of the list is ditching its reliance on fossil fuels.

Despite Colombia’s status as a fossil fuel-rich country — oil accounts for 40% of exports, and 12% of overall income — Petro is planning to wean the nation off the dirty-burning fuel source. He plans to boost agriculture and tourism to make up the lost revenue, all while banning large-scale mining and cutting back on coal and oil usage. All new oil permits will be canceled on day one, and Petro hopes to ditch fossil fuels entirely in the coming decades. Critics warn that it is a radical shift, but if a country reliant on oil can undertake the challenge, so can the rest of us.

2. Finland commits to being a carbon-negative country.

Most countries have set target dates for becoming carbon-neutral, but Finland is going above and beyond. The country’s Parliament approved a new Climate Change Act that won’t just seek to reach carbon-neutral status by 2035 — it’ll push to become one of the world’s first carbon-negative countries by 2040.

By becoming a carbon-negative country, Finland would remove more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than it contributes. This can happen in a number of ways, and Finland still has to figure out exactly how it will achieve the goal, but the legislation is a big deal: Finland is the first country to legally bind itself to becoming a carbon negative country.

3. Canada calls it quits on single-use plastic.

Single-use plastic creates 130 million metric tons of waste every year. While some cities and municipalities have managed to ditch some plastic, like straws or grocery bags, Canada is going to tackle it all at once. The country announced that it will ban the manufacturing and import of any single-use plastic by the end of this year.

With a few exceptions made for medical uses, the goal for Canada is to do away with all single-use plastic material in the coming years. The country will try to help the rest of the world kick the habit, too, by banning exports of plastics in 2025. It’s the most serious attempt to crack down on the massive waste producer yet.

4. Polar bears are adapting to climate change better than expected.

We know that polar bears have been on the receiving end of some of the worst effects of climate change, but new research suggests the bears might be more resilient than we initially gave them credit for. Scientists have discovered a group of polar bears in Greenland who have managed to adapt to the changing conditions in the region and survive despite the shrinking amount of sea ice that the species typically relies on for hunting.

These polar bears have figured out how to do their hunting on platforms of freshwater snow and ice, which is a departure from how the species typically tracks and pursues its food. What is particularly interesting about these bears is that they appear to be genetically distinct from other species in the region, suggesting that nature might be adapting to the conditions that we’ve unfortunately created.

5. The U.K. is building the world’s largest vertical farm.

Vertical farming reimagines agriculture in a way that doesn’t require all the land of more traditional methods, which cuts back on the overall impact to the environment. The United Kingdom is going all-in on this concept and is building the largest vertical farm the world has seen so far.

The farm project — being built by the ​​Jones Food Company in Lincolnshire, England — is the size of 96 tennis courts stacked on top of each other, offering 13,500 square meters of growing space. It’ll be fully powered by clean energy and will reportedly require 95% less water than traditional farming.

—AJ Dellinger

Week of June 13

1. Ikea will start selling solar panels.

Want solar panels for your home? Now you can get them from the same place that sells your favorite furniture (and meatballs). Swedish retail giant Ikea is getting ready to sell home solar panel kits in its retail stores in California. As part of a partnership with SunPower, the company will allow people to pick out a rooftop solar system and battery storage unit, which will be installed by professionals — saving you from having to try to decipher the instructions.

This isn’t the first time Ikea has offered retail solar panels. It launched a similar program in the United Kingdom a few years ago, selling the photovoltaics for about $9,000. The fact that it is making its way to the U.S. could help to expand access to solar panels, which can often be cost-prohibitive and difficult to navigate.

2. Australia is building a high-rise powered by the sun.

Imagine a skyscraper that is entirely self-sustaining. That’s exactly what Australia is seeking to build. In Melbourne, construction is underway on a new high-rise office building that will be entirely powered by solar panels that will be plastered all over the building’s exterior.

Not only will the building be carbon-neutral, but the developers believe that it will also eventually generate enough solar power that can be sold to utility companies that it will be able to pay off the carbon debt of construction, too. As far as the atmosphere is concerned, it’ll be like the building never even existed. The plan is for the building to go into use as soon as next year.

3. The FAA has new rules to limit emissions on commercial flights.

Commercial flights account for more than 3% of all carbon emissions generated by the United States each year, and the Federal Aviation Administration is looking to cut that figure down considerably. A new plan proposed by the agency would seek to push the aviation industry closer to the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The rule would impose new efficiency requirements on all commercial planes that are certified after 2028, requiring them to significantly reduce their emissions. The rule is open-ended, so manufacturers and airlines can either pursue more sustainable fuel sources or explore other innovations in aerodynamics — just as long as they are reducing emissions.

4. The Pentagon is testing floating solar panels.

A new plan being explored by the Department of Defense would place solar panels on barges and float them on the Big Muddy Lake in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The plan is for the array to generate enough energy to power the nearby military training grounds, providing carbon-free electricity in the region. Floating solar panels are particularly appealing because they can be located on lakes, where there is no tree cover and ample sun. Should the Fort Bragg plan work as intended, similar projects may start cropping up across the country.

5. Wood turbines might give wind power a boost.

Wind and solar power is considerably cleaner than the fossil fuel-burning alternatives, but manufacturing the materials that generate the energy still releases emissions. One of the world’s oldest timber companies is seeking to address that by building massive wind turbines entirely out of wood.

Stora Enso is creating a 330-foot prototype of its wooden wind turbine to prove that not only would the material cut down on construction emissions, but could also actually provide more stability. The higher you build a steel tower, the more material is needed to hold the weight. Wood doesn’t require the same reinforcement, meaning less material is needed.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of June 6

1. Biden used emergency measures to produce more solar power.

The climate crisis is absolutely an emergency, and the best way to address it is to acknowledge that fact. The Biden administration took one step toward doing that this week, with President Biden invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of solar panels. He also waived some tariffs on solar-related imports in order to help meet the moment.

The decision is significant, as the federal government appears to be all-in on clean energy production. Between this and its recent embrace of heat pumps, the Biden administration appears ready to significantly reduce the emissions produced by the national electric grid, which currently contributes 25% of all carbon production. The goal is to reach 100% clean energy production by 2035, and solar will be a key piece of that.

2. Colorado is banning PFAS in oil- and gas-based products.

You might be shocked to learn all of the things that come from gas and oil. Plastics, cosmetics, glasses, and so many other everyday items all involve the use of petroleum to produce. It sucks, but Colorado is trying to make it suck a little less. The state is banning the sale of all petroleum-based products that intentionally contain PFAS — industrial chemicals that have been linked to adverse health effects in humans.

Starting in 2024, everything from food packaging to household products that are sold within Colorado’s borders will have to be PFAS-free. According to the state, the chemicals “are not necessary in many products and could be replaced with less harmful chemicals or technologies.” PFAS have also been linked to climate change, so getting them out of the product cycle is a win for the health of humans and the planet.

3. Research shows the U.S. can cut emissions in half by 2030.

Before taking office, Joe Biden set out the ambitious but necessary goal of reducing U.S. emissions by half before the start of the next decade. It turns out that goal is eminently accomplishable, as long as we don’t half-ass it. Researchers recently published a paper in Science that shows the U.S. can absolutely halve its emissions in less than 10 years — and there are multiple pathways to get there that are readily available for us to take.

The study found that embracing emissions reductions won’t carry much of a cost, and investors likely won’t lose out on any of their sweet, sweet profits if we make the shift. It just requires embracing the right policies to get us there, and the Biden administration is already pursuing a number of the ones needed to accomplish the goal. The study shows that we’re getting close to being on track — we just have to keep going.

4. Boston gets roadside compost pickup.

More than 100 billion pounds of food ends up in U.S. landfills each year. One of the best ways to combat that waste is through composting — and one of the nation’s biggest cities is embracing a new initiative to offer curbside pick-up for compostable waste, which will turn tossed food into clean energy.

Boston residents will be able to opt into a weekly compost pick up, which will take place curbside much like waste and recycling pickups do. According to the city, one-third of its trash collection is food waste, so the program will shift that into a more sustainable alternative. It will also convert the compost into fertilizer and biogas to actively utilize the waste, instead of burning it or letting it decompose.

5. Single-use plastic is getting the boot from national parks.

Single-use plastics are terrible for the environment, so there’s always a kind of sick irony in using these planet-destroying products while enjoying nature. The U.S. Interior Department sees the contradiction and is finally correcting it by banning single-use plastics from national parks.

The phase-out, which will take place by 2032, will see our national parks replace the wasteful plastics with more sustainable alternatives. That includes ditching all of the currently wasteful versions of straws, food containers, cutlery, bags, cups, bottles, and more that are utilized across the country’s nature reserves.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of May 30

1. Seagrass is adapting to climate change and turning into a carbon sink.

Coral reefs have long been a reliable carbon sink, sequestering the emissions that we produce and keeping them from reaching the atmosphere. But while the reefs have been struggling with climate change, another underwater carbon lover is emerging, and seems to be successfully adapting to the conditions caused by our excessive emissions.

Seagrasses — not to be confused with seaweeds — have been growing on the ocean floor at an incredible rate. A new study found that a species of the underwater plant known as Poseidon’s ribbon weed has been effectively cloning itself for the last 4,500 years and now covers an area the size of Cincinnati. The way that it reproduces has helped it stay resilient, and now it is serving as both an effective water purifier and a source of carbon storage.

2. The European Union cut emissions 34%.

The European Union made a promise to cut its emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. Now, a new analysis shows that not only did the countries achieve this goal — they blew it away.

According to data published by the European Environment Agency, the EU managed to cut its emissions by 34% below 1990 levels. While part of that drop was the result of the pandemic, the EU had already hit its 20% target by 2019, so even an uptick in 2021 wouldn’t dent the accomplishment. The success has the region targeting even more ambitious goals for the end of the decade.

3. A U.S. company is building the world’s largest bioreactors for no-kill meat.

Meat production is quietly one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. It can be hard to change that without having people change their diets, but a U.S.-based company is investing in an alternative that should make meat lovers happy. Good Meat announced it has signed a contract to building massive bioreactors, the largest in the world, to produce cultivated meat.

This isn’t plant-based protein or some other alternative. Cultivated meat uses animal cells that are collected from eggs or cell banks. This means no actual animal is raised or slaughtered, which not only makes the production more ethical but also significantly reduces its carbon footprint. Good Meat claims it will be able to produce as much as 13,700 metric tons of meat by 2030 in its bioreactors.

4. The G7 countries made good on their pledge to end overseas fossil fuel developments.

One of the biggest achievements of the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) held last year was a pledge by a number of developed nations to end fossil fuel drilling overseas. This week, the G7 countries — Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Italy, and France — made the promise a reality and signed a formal agreement to stop funding foreign oil exploration.

Not only will this arrangement end the flow of foreign cash into land exploitation projects, but it is also projected to lead to new investments in clean energy. As much as $33 billion will leave the fossil fuel business and should flow into efforts to build infrastructure for wind and solar power instead.

5. Electric vehicles are taking lots of gas off the road.

The transportation sector is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. Luckily, electric vehicles are gaining in popularity. The result: A surprising amount of emissions have been taken off the road while people fuel up by merely plugging in. According to a new analysis published by BloombergNEF, electric cars have resulted in ​​1.5 million barrels per day less oil being burned.

EVs are trending way up, too. The leading sources of oil reduction have actually come from two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles. Buses accounted for just 16% and passenger vehicles for 13% of the lessened oil demand. While that is lower than you might expect, those two sections are the fastest growing — and the areas with the most room for growth. That means more EVs should be on the road soon, and the need for oil should keep dropping.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of May 23

1. Australia elected a climate-conscious prime minister.

For more than a decade, Australia has been under the leadership of the country’s conservative party, which has failed to take climate change seriously. That inaction led to a revolt at the ballot box last week, as voters across the country led a green wave by electing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who has pledged to address the ongoing environmental crisis.

The vote in Australia isn’t just a major win for the country — which will now aggressively target carbon reduction, with plans to cut emissions nearly in half by the end of the decade — but a win for environmentalism as a whole. Candidates can run on climate change and win; voters understand it is an existential threat. The key, of course, is that politicians actually make good on their promises.

2. Heat pumps, a massive improvement over air conditioning, get a boost.

The world is getting hotter, which means we need to try harder to stay cool. But air conditioning can contribute to climate change due to its massive energy use. There is an alternative though: heat pumps, which are way more efficient and can cut down on cooling emissions.

A new safety standard issued by the ​​International Electrotechnical Commission will make heat pumps even better by approving the use of climate-friendly refrigerants. And America is about to go all in on heat pumps, too: A new bill will increase domestic production and offer major tax breaks for homeowners to adopt them. Combined, this could put a major dent in our greenhouse gas emissions, especially as we increasingly rely on artificial cooling to keep us safe from the heat.

3. Exxon will go to trial over covering up climate change.

Exxon knew about the effects that burning fossil fuels would have on the planet and covered it up. Now, it’ll have to stand trial for the crime. This week, a Massachusetts court ruled that a lawsuit against Exxon brought by the state’s attorney general can move forward.

A number of legal challenges have been brought against Exxon, but this case moving forward is a big deal. It opens Exxon up to the discovery process, during which state investigators can request documents and other information from the company. Regardless of how the lawsuit resolves, it should allow the public to learn much more about exactly how much Exxon knew and when it knew it.

4. Activist investors score wins inside fossil fuel companies.

Investors in both Exxon and Chevron brought several climate-related proposals to the companies' respective shareholder meetings this week, and won majority support. At Exxon, activist investors got a majority of shareholders to support a resolution asking the company to provide an analysis on how a decline in fossil fuel demand would affect it — which should provide more insight into the company’s plan to transition away from dirty burning fuel sources. Meanwhile, Chevron shareholders got the big oil firm to start measuring its methane emissions.

5. California details some ambitious plans for wind.

California is already leading the country in solar capacity, and it’s looking to do the same with wind power. A roadmap for wind farm adoption presented by the California Energy Commission laid out plans for massive offshore wind turbine expansion that could bring tons of clean energy to the state. The plan includes adding three gigawatts of capacity from wind farms to the state’s coasts by 2030, and 10 to 15 gigawatts of energy generation by 2045. That would be enough to power as many as 15 million homes with wind power.

-AJ Dellinger

Week of May 16

1. The Department of Energy made a major investment in carbon removal.

We need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, and one way to do that is to just straight up suck the carbon right out of the air, the same way that trees and the ocean do it. The United States Department of Energy is planning to kickstart this practice by using $3.5 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to build carbon removal facilities.

The core of the project will be building four carbon capture hubs that will each be capable of removing a total of 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. Each plant will provide the equivalent relief of taking around 200,000 gas-guzzling vehicles off the road. Carbon capture is still a new technology, but the Department of Energy getting involved will likely spur lots of investment in the field.

2. Heinz will start packaging ketchup in sustainable paper.

Plastic is recyclable in theory, but most of our plastic bottles don’t get reused — they end up in landfills. So Heinz has a new plan: The company is going fully sustainable by 2025, and part of its path will include launching paper bottles. That’s right, the classic condiment will come in a bottle made from sustainably sourced wood pulp and will be fully recyclable.

According to Heinz, the new packaging will reduce the carbon footprint of its bottles by as much as 30% compared to plastic and 90% compared to glass alternatives. It’s a major step in the right direction for a company that produces more than 650 million bottles each year.

3. Swiss scientists notched a major fusion energy breakthrough.

One path to sustainable energy production, outside of using more renewables, is developing fusion power. While we’re still likely a ways away from cracking this technology, a major breakthrough occurred recently that could help get us there. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne have discovered that ignition — the process of a fusion reactor generating more energy than was required to create the reaction — is possible. This could change the way fusion reactors are built and operated, opening up the possibility for new breakthroughs in the field.

4. An Indian court granted nature legal status.

We personify the planet by referring to it as Mother Nature, but one of the highest courts in India has taken this even further: They’ve granted nature the same legal status as a human being. By doing so, the court has extended to the planet all of the protections that are afforded to a human, including a right to life.

The case on its own may not have much meaning outside of India, but it’s the latest in a series of “rights of nature” rulings that seek to extend protections to the environment that we often grant to people — and corporations, for that matter. Other countries including Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, and New Zealand have also provided similar protections.

5. A human rights commission in the Phillippines laid the groundwork for possible lawsuits against fossil fuel companies.

For the last seven years, the Philippines’s Commission on Human Rights has been looking into climate change, including its effects and what parties are responsible for causing it. The commission found that fossil fuel companies played a major role in the crisis, not only by producing massive amounts of emissions that pollute the planet and result in rising temperatures, but also by blocking action that would address the issue. The report includes information that could be key to seeking lawsuits against big oil firms for their role in wrecking the planet.

-AJ Dellinger

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