November was undoubtedly a rough month for the planet, but it’s not all bad. These five stories highlight the actions that nations and companies are taking to make the planet more hospitable.
5) Obama Bars Further Drilling in the Arctic
We’ve given Obama flak for his flip-floppery in the Arctic, but it seems the President wants to strike a final, positive note on this issue before he leaves the oval office behind him. Late last month the White House announced that it will prohibit further oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean, specifically in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the Alaskan coast. The planned sanctions will also prevent oil companies from drilling in the Atlantic off four southeastern states. Scientists and conservationists have warned that Arctic drilling exacerbates global warming and endangers marine ecosystems. Major catastrophes involving offshore rigs, such as the Deepwater Horizon in 2010, can also be devastating to local economies.
4) Tesla Powers an Entire Island With Solar Panels
You know that one hippy dippy friend of yours who swears that if she had billions of dollars she’d do nothing but make the world a better place? Elon Musk really seems to fit that bill…which only strengthens my belief that he’s secretly building an army of renewably-powered robots to conquer Earth. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our perilous freedom by celebrating his company’s audacious plan to power the entire island of Ta’u in American Samoa with solar power.
Previously powered by diesel generators, the volcanic island of 600 residents will soon be producing clean energy from a 5,328 solar microgrid built by SolarCity and Tesla, which will include 60 Tesla Powerpacks for storage.
Wait. Ta’u is a volcanic island? I’m calling it right now, Musk’s just using this PR stunt to cover for his secret base of robot soldiers.
“Ta’u is not a postcard from the future, it’s a snapshot of what is possible right now,” SolarCity proclaimed in a blog post. “Renewable power is an economical, practical solution for a growing number of locations and energy needs, and islands that have traditionally relied on fossil fuels can easily transition to microgrids powered by solar and storage today.”
3) India Completes the World’s Largest Solar Power Plant
Built in just eight months and with a capacity of 648 MW, the solar power plant in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, India, is now the largest in the world. At its full capacity, the plant will allegedly generate enough clean electricity to power 150,000 homes. The subcontinent is currently the third largest emitter of global greenhouse gases (trailing behind China and the U.S.), and this new plant will bump its total solar capacity over 10 GW.
2) Major Countries Are Phasing Out Coal
Here’s the thing about coal: It’s cheap electricity, but it’s dirty electricity. No other fossil fuel generates as much carbon – and included with that carbon is particulate matter that lodges in soft tissues and leads to strokes, heart disease and cancer. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which Donald Trump has threatened to scrap) is our domestic answer to that mess. It mandates a 32 percent in carbon emissions by 2030, and the best way to do that is to prioritize renewable power over dirty emitters like coal.
The future of America’s CPP may be in jeopardy, but across the pond countries are taking climate change seriously. Six major nations – including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Canada – have all announced plans to phase out their coal-fired power plants. This follows the enactment of the Paris Climate Agreement, an international initiative to cut global carbon emissions in the face of global warming. As of this writing, 115 parties (representing over half the planet’s emissions) have ratified the Agreement.
1) 47 Nations Have Pledged to Go 100% Renewable by 2050
The 47 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum have pledged to power their countries with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. A slight wrinkle in this good news is that the CVF represents the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged nations. Unfortunately, though most of the man-made carbon emissions hail from wealthy countries, it is the weakest that are disproportionately impacted. Still, the CVF’s precarious position means that its member nations have no choice but to green their economies as swiftly as possibly. The CVF is setting the standard for responsible climate action by implementing both immediate and long-term goals, regardless of the superpowers.
“We don’t know what countries are still waiting for to move towards net carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy,” said Edgar Gutierrez, Costa Rica’s minister for the environment, at the recent climate conference in Marrakech. “All parties should start the transition, otherwise we will all suffer.”