21 years ago, smart people said global warming would change our world. They were right.

A lot can happen in 21 years of trying to save the world.

In June 1992, the leaders of 154 nations gathered in Rio de Janeiro.

They signed a pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global climate change. Two years later, those pledges became the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, solving the issue of global warming completely and letting the world get on with the important business of developing actual hoverboards (#justsayin).


No article about climate change is complete without the mandatory T-rex on a hoverboard GIF.

Except, uh, no.

Instead, governments have spent the last 21 years hammering out the details of how a global climate deal will work. After marathon talks in 2011, they agreed on a 2015 deadline. For negotiators in Paris right now, that is less than two days away.

In the meantime, the world is very different from how it was when the talks began. How different? Well...

In 1994, pop culture was so earnest and adorable.

Ace of Base had three songs on the Billboard Top 100. Everybody bought "The Lion King" soundtrack. Seinfeld was the most popular show on TV, George Clooney was still on "E.R.," and Captain Planet and the Planeteers saved the world from Hoggish Greedly every Saturday morning.

In 1994, everyone wanted "The Rachel."

Stylish people — and not just Tour de France riders — were excited to wear spandex bike shorts in public. People, like The Rock, unironically sported fanny packs, stonewashed denim vests, and jeans that did up with little padlocks instead of a button fly.

Seriously, the Rock wore that. Image via The Rock/Facebook.

You probably knew at least one person who tried to wear their wear their pants backwards.

In 1994, Bill Clinton was in the second year of his first term as President of the USA.

Vice-President Al Gore had helped implement some U.S. climate policies but hadn't yet made "An Inconvenient Truth" or won the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, 1994's Barack Obama was a community organizer, an associate at a Chicago law firm, and still two years from being eligible to run for president at all. Oh, and Mark Zuckerberg was 10, which was fine because most people could only access the Internet via dial-up connections, and a "social network" was what your grandmother called her friends who came over to play bridge.

In 1994, the global concentration of CO2 was around 356 parts per million.

As of last week, it is officially 400 parts per million worldwide. Here's why that's bad.

In 1994, 5.6 billion people lived on Earth — 1.7 billion fewer than today.

Image via Andres Ubierna/Flickr.

China and India were developing nations, just starting to embrace industrialization. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, just six months after apartheid ended and four years after being released from a 27-year prison sentence. Poverty, inequality, and disease were huge issues across the developing world — a sad constant that remains today.

In 1994, we didn't need new colors to map extreme heat in Australia.

Or new classifications for superstorms like Haiyan in the Philippines or Sandy in the U.S. The first small island states were still 15 years from needing to evacuate their homes from rising sea levels. We knew about the hole in the ozone layer, but we hadn't yet discovered how warming seas were bleaching and dissolving coral reefs or that plastic pollution created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Say hi to the giant blue hole in the ozone. Image via NASA/Flickr.

If you were a baby born on the day the UNFCCC came to be in 1994, you probably wouldn't be reading this right now because you'd be at a bar somewhere buying alcohol legally.

Think about that — in the time it has taken world leaders to agree on what to do about climate change, a child has grown from a tiny chubby-cheeked blanket burrito who doesn't know it has a nose to an adult who can vote, join the Army and graduate from college in a few months.

In the past 21 years, we've seen great advances in renewable energy technology.

Fancy solar panel doing its thing. Image via The ReGeneration/Flickr.

Hybrid and electric cars are freely available. Business, industry, and government are all adapting to make climate change part of their current operation and future plans. Taking action on climate change inspires global mobilizations, music, and movies.

At the same time, we've seen the real impacts climate change is already making on our planet as extreme weather drives droughts, storms, and sea-level rise, sending species to extinction and displacing tens of millions of people.

So while it may have taken two decades to get here, the world has never been more ready for climate action than it is now.

Heroes

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

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via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

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