Glimmers of Progress…

According to several scientific sources, 2014 was the warmest year on record. The planet, and the oceans, are continuing to warm. The world’s oceans are also rising, and are getting more acidic. Along with a host of other problems, we humans aren’t on a great track, to say the least. But, I’ve seen some glimmers of progress lately, signs that we might be beginning to turn the tide. As an example, consider these two recent articles in The Economist, which each contain some bits of good news—

First, world CO2 emissions did not increase last year, (“CO2 and the Climate: Flatlining“) despite growth in the world economy. This is the first time this has ever happened, and was due to efficiency improvements and to increases in renewable-energy generation. So for all of you out there that have changed some light bulbs to LED ones, or acquired more fuel efficient cars (or electric vehicles), or added solar panels, or purchased renewable power from your electric company, or weatherized your house, or participated in these efforts politically, or grown more of your own food, my hat is off to you. Good job; all of these efforts, large and small, by governments and by individuals, are starting to register.

The second article (“Coal Mining: In the Depths“) is about how worldwide political and economic winds are turning against the coal industry. According to the article, the Dow Jones coal index has fallen by 76% in the last six years, 2/3 of planned coal-fired power plants worldwide since 2010 have been stalled or scrapped, and a strong divestment movement is occurring due to concerns of coal’s role in climate change and health risks.

To put these pieces of news in perspective, consider this—just two years ago I was writing posts where I was discussing how worldwide CO2 emissions were accelerating, and how 1,200 new coal-fired power plants were planned. Neither of those facts is true anymore; these are real changes.

Now, neither of these glimmers of progress is nearly enough, we have much more to do. CO2 in the atmosphere will stay potent for many decades, and total accumulations are still headed upward with no perceptible slowdown. Total coal consumption is still slowly rising, despite the pressures the industry faces. But the type of news I began with is what we should expect to see as things start to change. For years I’ve used the analogy that the task we’re involved in is akin to pushing with our hands on the side of a ship like the Titanic, while it is alongside a dock. We’ve all been pushing, for years, and the ship is finally starting to move. Momentum is gathering. Economies are shifting. Attitudes are changing. So, take a tiny bit of satisfaction from news like this, and then keep on pushing. Your efforts are working.


The only planet we’ve got…

 Image credit: NASA