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To close out 2014, Planet Experts is doing a roundup of the most important environmental stories that we covered this year. This article features some of the most promising news for the planet. For more environmental roundups, check out ‘The Top 10 Solar Stories of 2014,’ ‘The 10 Most Depressing Climate Change Stories of 2014’ and ‘The Top 10 Things We Learned About the Ocean in 2014.’

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Here at Planet Experts, we’re the first ones to admit that there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the environmental media. Depending on how cynical you are, you might say that’s to be expected when doing things the dirty way is so much cheaper. But we’d be lying if we said the environment didn’t score some major wins in 2014.

Here are the 10 stories we’ve been happiest to report this year:

10) Not All Republicans Have Abandoned Science

Christine Todd WhitmanWhat do Christine Todd Whitman, William K. Reilly, Lee M. Thomas and William D. Ruckelshaus have in common? All four served as head of the EPA under a Republican president. And what do all four of them want? For the Republican party to stop playing partisan politics and to get serious about climate change. Next question: What do Bob Inglis, Arthur Laffer and George Shultz all have in common? All are prominent former Republican politicians who endorse a carbon tax. Finally, special mention goes to Wyoming State Representative John Patton. Despite the fact that he’s a Republican in the country’s top producing coal state, Patton refused to let special interests or party dogma get in the way of teaching students facts. Patton wants to overturn a statewide ban on teaching climate change in the classroom. When asked why, he said, “I think it’s the right thing to do. The state Legislature has no business trying to decide what students can and can’t learn.”

9) The Era of Zero Emission Cars Has Begun

Tesla RoadsterIn truth, it began some years ago, but 2014 was a turning point for zero emission cars for two big reasons: The Tesla Roadster 3.0 and the Toyota Mirai. The Mirai launched in Japan on December 15 and is one of the first commercially-available hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the world. It has a driving range of 300 miles per tank of hydrogen, it can be refueled in five minutes and, best of all, government subsidies in both Japan and the U.S. make it affordable for a middle-class household. The new Tesla Roadster, an electric vehicle, can allegedly travel 400 miles on a single charge. Both cars emit zero pollutants, so do we care whether hydrogen or electric wins the green race?

8) Fossil Fuel Divestment Gains Momentum Across the U.S.

rockefellerplazaIn May, Stanford University announced that it was done with coal. In July, the World Council of Churches (comprising 345 churches and half a billion Christians worldwide) announced it would pull its investments from all fossil fuel companies. But it wasn’t until September that people really started to take notice of the divestment movement. That’s when the Rockefellers, a family whose name was synonymous with oil in the 19th and 20th centuries, announced that they were joining Global Divest-Invest and that they would sell off all fossil fuel assets from their Rockefeller Brothers Fund. As the divestment movement gains steam, more investors are becoming aware of the risk fossil fuels pose in the coming century. As fossil fuels become fuel non grata in a more climate-conscious world, they run the risk of becoming “stranded assets.” Read More…

7) Pope Francis Is Not Kidding When It Comes to Climate Change

Pope FrancisEarlier this year, the Catholic church announced that Pope Francis was working on a papal encyclical about man’s relationship to nature. In May, the Pope delivered a sermon in which he said that mankind has a responsibility to protect the planet. “If we destroy Creation,” he told a Roman audience, “Creation will Destroy us!” This month, it was announced that Pope Francis will not only deliver his encyclical to the world’s bishops (who will, in turn, disseminate it amongst the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics), he will also speak about climate change at the UN general assembly and call a summit for the world’s leading religions. See More…

6) The EPA Proposes a 30 Percent Reduction in Carbon Emissions by 2030

In June, President Obama proposed a new rule that would cut American carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 (from 2005 levels). The rule is actually very fair in terms of how it intends to go about the reduction: A coal dependent state like Kentucky will only be mandated to cut emissions by 18 percent by 2030, whereas a state that already uses little coal, like Washington, will cut emissions by 72 percent. Read More…

5) The U.S. and China Agree to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 2030

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: REUTERS / © Jason Reed

Why did this one get a lower spot on the list than the EPA’s carbon reduction proposal? Because it’s a bigger deal, both politically and environmentally. Together, the U.S. and China emit about 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. The fact that the leaders of the world’s only two superpowers actually hashed out a plan to limit their carbon emissions and begin to actively reduce them is a sign that not all is lost in the dirty business of politics. Of course, whether or not these two can make good on their commitments remains to be seen – that’s why we’ve reserved the last four slots for actual environmental progress. Read More…

4) Illinois Becomes the First State in the Country to Ban Plastic Microbeads

Plastic MicrobeadsIn June, Illinois became the first state in the country to ban the sale and production of plastic microbeads in personal care products. Microbeads are plastics formed from polyethylene or polypropylene and range in size between 0.0004 – 1.24 mm, too small to be captured by wastewater treatment plants. However, this microplastic contributes to the 269,000 tons of plastic waste currently floating in the world’s oceans and can become a carrier for toxins such as mercury and DDT, which are absorbed by the fish that eat them and eventually end up on your dinner plate. See More…

3) New York Becomes the First State in the Country to Ban Fracking

In December, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ended years of uncertainty and delay by announcing that he would officially ban hydraulic fracturing in the state. The controversial mining process has been linked to earthquakes in states that have never recorded earthquakes before, respiratory illness in nearby communities and water contamination in hundreds of cases across the country. Honestly, the New York ban is long past due, and we sum up the myriad reasons why in this exhaustive article. Read More…

2) California Becomes the First State in the Country to Ban Plastic Bags

They said it couldn’t be done. Hell, it very nearly wasn’t done. But in the end, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 270 and made his state the first in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. Starting in July 2015, grocery stores and pharmacies will be prohibited from selling single-use plastic bags to customers. By July 2016, the ban will extend to convenience stores and liquor stores. Read More…

1) Over 400,000 Activists Join the People’s Climate March

They said it would be big, but no one predicted it would be this big. To raise awareness for the UN’s Climate Summit in New York, some 1,500 environmental groups invited activists, environmentalists and everyday people to come join them at Central Park West. The summit itself would claim successes of its own, such as a sweeping set of initiatives from President Obama and the signing of the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge, but nothing matched the extraordinary spectacle of 400,000 people marching for climate action.

Planet Experts was there, speaking to native activists and filming the incredible sight.

 

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One Response

  1. Dirk Gielen says:

    Mine should have made the news but not yet. I was in technical pursue of electrical 100% fumes neutralizing filters for oil based vehicles and more. What can a machine not do.? Imagine what cars simply for couple hundred dollar, no longer poluting.
    Well, many ignored it already, but I know it is the best solution for now and possible in no time.

    I hope this comment helps us to understand this simple way of thinking rather than the big solutions for something what needs small thing(s) really.

    Have a nice day.

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