The last year saw a whirlwind of environmental news stories. Here are the ones that ended in victory (or at least not defeat).
2013 was a big year for the environment, although most of the stories were downright dismal. We went over the atmospheric carbon tipping point, escalated natural gas fracking instead of banning it, and the fate of the Keystone XL is still up in the air.
Despite many disappointing milestones, the year’s top environmental stories show that 2013 wasn’t a complete loss. There were more than a couple of small, albeit significant, victories that should inspire you to keep up the good fight in 2014.
Top 5 Environmental News Stories That Ended Well In 2013
1. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement – Tired of trying to convince federal leaders that America needs to move away from fossil fuels, local governments, organizations and, perhaps most significantly, educational institutions began to take a stand. Fueled by grassroots leadership and fearless college students, dozens of city governments, universities, religious groups and even financial organizations have joined the divestment movement, pledging to take their money out of investment funds that support coal, oil and gas companies.
2. Coloradans Reject Dirty Energy – Xcel Energy is a major regional power company that while better than some, has used underhanded tactics to block and slow clean energy adoption. In one of the biggest environmental news stories of the year, grassroots groups led by student-run organization New Era Colorado were successful in crowdfunding a public information campaign that allowed the City of Boulder to buy out Xcel and establish their own electric power system.
3. California Launches a Cap-and-Trade System – Although the federal plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a cap and trade system failed in 2010, California pursued the idea–successfully–at the state level. In 2013, the country’s first carbon trading system went into effect. At the end of the year, officials were thrilled to report that carbon credits issued and bought generated almost $1.1 billion in revenue.
4. The War On Coal – As one of the world’s dirtiest and most dangerous fossil fuels, eliminating coal fired power plants would go a long way toward reducing global carbon emissions. In 2013, “the World Bank, the U.S., the U.K., and several Scandinavian countries have all pledged to no longer fund traditional coal plants abroad, representing a sea change in energy financing,” reports Mongabay. And instead of backing down from industry threats, President Obama and new EPA chief Gina McCarthy proposed new Clean Air Act standards that will cut carbon pollution from new power plants in order to combat climate change and improve public health.
5. National Climate Action Plan – Just a few months before the International Panel on Climate Change declared (with 95 percent confidence) that humans are making climate change worse, President Obama said the words that few environmental advocates thought we would ever hear: that climate change is no longer a distant threat — it’s here and we’re already experiencing the negative impacts. That day in June, the President introduced a National Climate Action Plan that would cut carbon pollution and better prepare our nation–and the world–for life on a changing planet, though it remains to be seen how many of the recommendations made that day will come to pass, or whether they’ll be implemented in time.
Related on Ecosalon
Attention Skeptics: Climate Change is Already Killing Fish and Polar Bears
Art, Environment and Activism: 5 Films To Change How You View The World
20 Photos of Female Activists Throughout History