5 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Climate Progress Right Now
As the southeastern United States continues to suffer the impacts of Hurricane Matthew, and Americans coast to coast reel from a particularly divisive Presidential campaign, we could all use some good news. Fortunately, if we look beyond the sensational headlines, we’ll find many positive stories out there about the progress we’re making on climate.
Here are five reasons why we should feel optimistic about the future of our planet.
1. The Paris Climate Agreement has been ratified. On October 5, less than eight months after the Paris Agreement was drafted at the COP21 summit last December, it reached an important milestone. 73 nations, representing 57 percent of global carbon emissions, have formally joined, meaning the agreement has enough support to enter force on November 4. President Obama hailed it as “a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations.” As ClimateNexus explains here, going into force means the agreement will become binding international law. Countries that have ratified the agreement cannot legally withdraw for four years (and that includes the U.S., no matter who is President).
2. Someone finally brought up energy at the debate. At the first and second Presidential debates, climate advocates hoped in vain that a question would be asked about climate change. The moderators didn’t bring it up – but at last Sunday’s debate, audience member Ken Bone, a coal plant operator from Illinois wearing a now-famous red sweater, salvaged the day with his question: “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly, and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?”
While he didn’t specifically mention climate change, his question gave the candidates an opportunity to share their wildly divergent energy policies. Mr. Bone’s cuddly sweater and equally cuddly demeanor made him an Internet sensation – one Twitter user called him the “human version of a hug.” Americans were grateful he added some calmness and sanity to the debate. I, personally, was grateful that he reminded everyone that energy issues are vitally important in this election.
3. Wind is becoming America’s new cash crop. As farmers in America’s heartland are suffering from falling crop prices, rising debt, and weather uncertainties, they are trading in their corn and cattle farms for wind farms. Low-income rural counties now house around 70 percent of our nation’s wind turbines. The income the farmers generate from leasing their land to wind companies is helping them keep their farms, while local schools are benefitting from higher tax revenues. Once again, clean energy proves to be a win-win.
4. The clean energy revolution isn’t coming – it’s here. As those farmers could tell you, wind energy has been expanding by leaps and bounds. So have solar energy and LED installations. A new report from the Department of Energy credits a major drop in the cost of clean energy technologies for this widespread deployment. Costs for land-based wind power, solar power, LED lights, batteries, and electric cars have all dropped anywhere from 41 to 94 percent since 2008.
5. Americans are united on protecting national treasures. The gap between America’s political parties can seem as wide as the Grand Canyon, so it’s refreshing as well as ironic to see them finding agreement on that very place. When likely voters were surveyed about a proposal to protect the public lands to the north and south of Grand Canyon National Park, 82 percent expressed approval, with 93 percent calling the Grand Canyon a “national treasure for all Americans.” This support reached across party and demographic lines, showing that we aren’t red or blue when it comes to the places we love. This collective desire to preserve our natural spaces for future generations is something to keep in mind as we look for common ground on climate change and explain the benefits of climate solutions.
We still have a long way to go on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and reaching national consensus on the climate policies we need. But we’ve come a long way too, and it’s important for us to share and celebrate our victories, both large and small, in order to keep the momentum building and inspire even more ambitious efforts.