The earth we plan to leave our youth is looking grim. With the recent election, many may feel disillusioned and disheartened about our national government's capacity to facilitate progress on environmental issues including climate change. However, despite the transition in leadership in the senate committee on environment and public works, the overall political shift in congress, and rapidly falling oil prices, there are some silver linings. Here are six major reasons to remain hopeful about the future of our planet and our kids:
1. In the midst of historic international rivalry and political tension, the U.S. and China shook hands in an agreement to address carbon emissions and forge "a bridge over troubled water." The new agreement requires the U.S. to reduce emissions 26-28 percent by 2025, denoting a doubling in the rate of reduction after 2020. China has agreed that their reliance on renewable energy will rise 20 percent by 2030.
2. Obama's recent actions on climate change, including his historic agreement with China to reduce carbon emissions may in part be a political strategy to prime the upcoming presidential elections. With the goal to decrease greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent by 2025, he has effectively imparted the obligation to his successor to meet that goal, setting up climate change as a potential game-changing, winning issue on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.
3. The World Bank has decided to invest heavily in clean energy, assuring it will only fund coal projects in "circumstances of extreme need," where climate change eclipses efforts to eliminate extreme poverty. The evidence for warming trends and recent extreme, unprecedented weather events has caught the attention of the World Bank to address the urgency of climate change.
4. As one of the most prominent greenhouse gas polluters, China is transitioning to becoming one of the leaders in renewable energy. China has spent $175 billion in the last year on clean energy projects. This fall Chinese solar investment reached a record $12.2 billion, potentially adding more than 14 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity this year.
5. According to the New York times, a variety of polls show that a majority of American voters believe that climate change is happening, are worried about it and likely to support candidates who back policies to mitigate it. A poll conducted by Stanford University in 2013 showed that 73 percent of Americans believe in earth's warming trend over the past 100 years and 81 percent of Americans think global warming poses a serious threat to the United States.
6. Emphasis on climate change and other human impact topics has reached the U.S. education system with the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Although some states are challenging the content of NGSS, twelve states and Washington D.C. have already adopted the new standards. Science role model Bill Nye has publicly spoken about NGSS claiming they "are great, they're fine," and that challengers stand "outside the mainstream of scientific thought." Learn more about NGSS at nextgenscience.org or see the new standards in action at greenninja.org.
Image adopted from www.rinnovabili.it