5 Climate Change Success Stories
Climate change news can be incredibly depressing and very overwhelming. In the last year alone, we have seen an increase in intense heatwaves, massive wildfires, destructive hurricanes and flash floods all across the globe. Much of the news we have watched and read over the past 12 months has been filled with urgent, imminent, and life-altering implications. However, it’s not all doom and gloom.
Every year we see new and exciting innovations in sustainable transportation. Last year, during the height of the pandemic we saw travel behaviour change on a worldwide scale and as a result, policies changed overnight to open up the streets for more active forms of transportation like cycling, walking and scooting. We saw a rise in electric vehicles, in particular the e-bike (both in the private and public space) and some early adopters in the EV charging space have even committed to powering their fast charging network with renewable energy.
However, change does not usually happen overnight, especially within the transportation sector. Our vision of a sustainable transportation eco-system, significantly reducing GHG emissions and effectively turning the tide on climate change, just isn’t progressing as fast as we would like and this can be disheartening.
That being said, we have seen climate change success stories over the last few years, that have given us hope and the encouragement to continue working to reduce GHG emissions and to fight climate change.
In this article we will share:
- 5 climate change success stories that have given us hope
- 3 ways in which you can make a difference
1. The Ozone Hole is Recovering
According to a 2018 study by the UN, the Ozone layer that shields life from cancer-causing solar rays is recovering at a rate of one to three percent per decade, reversing years of dangerous depletion caused by the release of harmful chemicals.
The report is a four-yearly review of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 ban on synthetic gases that damage the ozone layer, found long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone.
“The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing to occur every year. As a result of the Montreal Protocol much more severe ozone depletion in the polar regions has been avoided,” the report said.
The Antarctic ozone hole was expected to gradually close, returning to 1980 levels in the 2060s, the report said.
“Evidence presented by the authors shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 percent per decade since 2000… At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060.”U.N. Environment and the World Meteorological Organization
However, in recent news, the hole in the ozone layer that develops annually is “rather larger than usual” this year and is currently bigger than Antartica.
According to researchers from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, the 2021 ozone hole is now among the 25% largest in their records since 1979, but the process is still under way. In a statement by Vincent-Henri Peuch, the service’s director, he said.
“We will keep monitoring its development in the next weeks. A large or small ozone hole in one year does not necessarily mean that the overall recovery process is not going ahead as expected, but it can signal that special attention needs to be paid and research can be directed to study the reasons behind a specific ozone hole event.”
Hopefully, this will not be a recurring event. It is going to take time to see the effects of the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are expected to be phased out by 2030, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
2. The Reduction of Acid Rain
At its worst, acid rain stripped forests bare in Europe, wiped lakes clear of life in parts of Canada and the US, and harmed human health and crops in China. The cause of acid rain is sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by fossil fuel combustion by cars and industrial facilities like smelters and coal-burning utilities. When combined with water and oxygen in the atmosphere, these air pollutants chemically transform into sulphuric and nitric acid, which then then fall as rain, snow or hail.
Acid rain was dealt with mainly in the 1980s and 1990s. By switching from coal to gas and installing “scrubbers” to clean up power station and factory emissions, huge reductions were made in acid rain pollution in Europe. Catalytic convertors on car exhausts reduced nitrogen oxide emissions. The US Clean Air Act Amendments, designed in part to control sulphur dioxide emissions, were passed in 1990.
The results of these efforts were dramatic: According to the US National Emissions Inventory, sulfur dioxide emissions from all sources fell from nearly 26 million tons in 1980 to 11.4 million tons in 2008. Nitrogen oxides decreased from 27 million tons to 16.3 million tons in the same time frame. China’s sulfur dioxide emissions have also fallen by 75 percent since 2007.
However, India’s emissions have increased by 50 percent which suggests that India may soon become, if it is not already, the world’s top emitter of sulfur dioxide.
3. Chernobyl: Nuclear Disaster to Environmental Success
In 1986, the world experienced its worst nuclear accident to date. The damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant released large quantities of radioactive material into the environment, necessitating evacuation of an area now known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ).
Despite the extensive and immediate damage to the ecosystem of the Exclusion Zone, it now covers 2,800 square km of northern Ukraine, which represents the third-largest nature reserve in mainland Europe. The biodiversity of the area has also increased rapidly over the past thirty years. Rare species like the lynx and the vulnerable European bison have seen a resurgence. In the Belarussian part of the exclusion zone, researchers have found that boar, elk, and roe deer populations boomed in the 10 years following the disaster. Wolves were also observed to have increased sevenfold.
Sergiy Zibtsev, a forestry expert at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, says it’s ironic that it’s taken a nuclear accident to create a richer forest ecosystem in the CEZ. “The pine plantations that were there in 1986 have given way to more biodiverse primary forests, which are more resilient to climate change and wildfires and better able to sequester carbon.”
Additionally, the central part of the CEZ is now home to a major new solar farm development and wind farm development is being considered. This post-accident landscape is now contributing to a sustainable future.
4. “Carbon-Negative” Bhutan
China and India, high up Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan spans approximately 14,800 square miles and its forests cover approximately 70% of the country. As a result, according to its own figures, it removes nearly three times as much CO2 as it produces.
For the past 46 years the Bhutanese government has opted to measure progress not through its Gross Domestic Product, but through “Gross National Happiness,” which places great emphasis on the protection of the country’s rich natural environment.
Environmental protection is enshrined in their constitution, which states that a minimum of 60% of Bhutan’s total land should be maintained under forest cover for all time. The country even banned logging exports in 1999.
Almost all the country’s electricity comes from hydropower. It produces so much hydroelectricity that it sells it to neighboring countries, which Bhutan claims offsets another 4.4 million tons of annual CO2 emissions. And Bhutan says that by 2025, increased hydroelectricity exports will let the country offset up to 22.4 million tons of CO2 per year in the region.
Bhutan is a small and developing country, but with strong leadership and astute environmental goals, it is a country that we can and should learn much from.
5. EU surpassing GHG emissions 2030 target
Last year, European Union leaders agreed to strengthen the Continent’s climate goals and pledged a new target of 55 percent greenhouse-gas reduction by 2030. The EU was expecting to surpass it’s previous goal of 40%. The EU’s new 2030 climate objective is meant to bring the EU in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the bloc’s longer-term goal of reaching climate neutrality by mid-century.
Although reaching climate neutrality will destroy six million jobs across Europe by 2050, it will also create an additional 11 million jobs in new sectors, such as renewable energy according to a report published earlier this month by McKinsey. The EU is the world’s third-biggest carbon polluter, responsible for about 8 percent of emissions, yet this new deal shows how political stability can drive climate diplomacy.
3 Ways You Can Make A Difference & Help Fight Climate Change
- Turn off lights, computers, televisions, video games, and other electrical equipment when you’re not using them.
- Buy equipment that uses less electricity, including lights, air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, and washing machines. Such equipment might have the Energy Star label.
- Try to limit the use of air conditioning.
- Eat low on the food chain. Livestock—meat and dairy—is responsible for 14.5 percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions
- Choose organic and local foods that are in season. Transporting food from far away, whether by truck, ship, rail or plane, uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from spoiling.
- Buy foodstuffs in bulk when possible using your own reusable container.
- Reduce your food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers.
- Compost your food waste if possible.
- Try to reduce the use of a private vehicle – use shared mobility services.
- Go electric. Electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream in the fight to reduce GHG emissions.
- Maintain your ride. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you can cut down on the amount of gas needed to fuel your vehicle.
- To help cut down on air pollution from cars, you can carpool or take public transportation, such as buses and trains.
- Fly less. Air transport is a major contributor to climate pollution.
Learn more how to reduce your carbon footprint in our latest Multimodal Mondays webinar, where Sandra is joined by Anna Bohn to discuss the ‘Lighter Footprint’ app that Anna is developing with BCIT.