It’s been quite the year!
Most of us know that the climate is changing (with the ironic exception of the man recently selected to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and who is a climate denier.)
And we know that there’s a good chance the changes will be more extreme and rapid than predicted.
But when you make ice cream for a living, you tend to focus on the sweet side— which might explain why, when we look back on 2016, we can’t help but also see how much progress has been made, especially in the fight against climate change.
The positive developments from the past year have created a momentum that’s all but unstoppable.
Item number 1
Standing (and Celebrating) with Standing Rock
As our friend activist Bill McKibben wrote recently, “indigenous activists have won a smashing victory, one that shows what nonviolent unity can accomplish.”
The Standing Rock Sioux’s protest against the North Dakota Access Pipeline has gone on for months. It’s been marked by violence against protesters, courtroom battles, and increasingly cold and snowy weather but, finally, on December 4, the victory that too often seemed unlikely became a reality. The Department of the Army announced that it would NOT allow the pipeline to be built near the Standing Rock reservation.
This is a big win for the Sioux people, as well as for everyone everywhere who puts clean water and tribal sovereignty above profits and the antiquated fossil fuel economy. So it’s time to celebrate—but we shouldn’t let our guard down. After all, the president-elect's pick for Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, sits conspicuously on the board of the company constructing the pipeline.
Item number 2
The Market Has Chosen Clean Energy
We love economists (who doesn’t love economists?), especially when they say things like this: Regardless of the president-elect’s economic policies, the marketplace and evolving technology will keep us on track to a clean-energy future. Coal won’t be coming back and renewables are on the rise. Believe it.
Item number 3
The Jobs Future is So Bright
Speaking of renewables, jobs in the renewables sector (solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc.) are CRUSHING those in the fossil fuels industry. In the US, solar-energy employment surpassed oil, natural gas, and coal employment for the first time in 2015. It’s predicted that there could be 24 million jobs in renewables worldwide by 2030.
Item number 4
Doing Good While Doing Well
This is legitimately hopeful news. Over 2014 and 2015, economic growth (in terms of GDP) increased worldwide while greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat. Get this: 21 countries around the globe saw a rise in GDP while reducing greenhouse emissions!
Item number 5
Electric Cars are Finally Breaking Through
In 2010, there were two electric vehicles on the market. By last September, there were 27 different models! That kind of variety, along with increased affordability and investment in EV infrastructure nationwide, has led to more EV cars being on the road than ever before.
Item number 6
Sunshine on Sale
The sun is up there, shining all day. Might as well harness as much of its energy as we can, right? That’s not a new idea, but it IS a far more affordable one now than it ever was before. Prices are falling, innovations (like Tesla’s solar roof) keep coming, and it looks like solar will soon be within the reach of most large- and small-scale users alike.
Item number 7
The World Isn’t Waiting
The world has shown that it is no longer content to wait and see what the US—the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses—does with respect to climate change. Global leaders condemned our president-elect’s views and insisted that they would go forward with implementing the Paris Climate Agreement no matter what, considering that implementation an “urgent duty.”
Item number 8
Friends in High Places
Pope Francis said recently (and not for the first time) that there has “never been such a clear need for science” to guide our actions in protecting the earth and its people from the effects of climate change. So the pope is pro-science, pro-planet, and against economic policies and politics that put “profit above all else.” Sounds about right to us!
Item number 9
California is the world’s sixth largest economy. Kind of hard to believe, but that just makes the climate change legislation that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law in September that much more significant. The plan is to cut greenhouse emissions 40% (under 1990 levels) by 2030, a very ambitious target. And the governor vowed not to back down, regardless of the new administration’s priorities.
Now is not the time for any of us to back down. Our energy and focus and commitment to the environment and a clean-energy future is needed now more than ever. Together, let’s do everything we can to add to this list of victories in 2017.