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

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.

Pexels / Julia M Cameron
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In the last 20 years, the internet has become almost as essential as water or air. Every day, many of us wake up and check it for the news, sports, work, and social media. We log on from our phones, our computers, even our watches. It's a luxury so often taken for granted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, as many now work from home and children are going to school online, home access is a more critical service than ever before.

On the flip side, some 3.6 billion people live without affordable access to the internet. This digital divide — which has only widened over the past 20 years — has worsened wealth inequality within countries, divided developed and developing economies and intensified the global gender gap. It has allowed new billionaires to rise, and contributed to keeping billions of others in poverty.

In the US, lack of internet access at home prevents nearly one in five teens from finishing their homework. One third of households with school-age children and income below $30,000 don't have internet in their homes, with Black and Hispanic households particularly affected.

The United Nations is working to highlight the costs of the digital divide and to rapidly close it. In September 2019, for example, the UN's International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF launched Giga, an initiative aimed at connecting every school and every child to the internet by 2030.

Closing digital inequity gaps also remains a top priority for the UN Secretary-General. His office recently released a new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The UN Foundation has been supporting both this work, and the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, which made a series of recommendations to ensure all people are connected, respected, and protected in the digital age. Civil society, technologists and communications companies, such as Verizon, played a critical role in informing those consultations. In addition, the UN Foundation houses the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), which advances digital inclusion through streamlining technology, unlocking markets and accelerating digitally enabled services as it works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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We're more than nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and things are only getting worse. On Wednesday, December 2, America had its deadliest day yet with nearly 3,000 people succumbing to the virus.

America is experiencing its greatest public health crisis in generations and the only way we're getting out of it is by widespread administration of a vaccine.

However, if people don't take the vaccine, there will be no end to this horror story.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Sometimes it seems like social media is too full of trolls and misinformation to justify its continued existence, but then something comes along that makes it all worth it.

Apparently, a song many of us have never heard of shot to the top of the charts in Italy in 1972 for the most intriguing reason. The song, written and performed by Adriano Celentano and is called "Prisencolinensinainciusol" which means...well, nothing. It's gibberish. In fact, the entire song is nonsense lyrics made to sound like English, and oddly, it does.

Occasionally, you can hear what sounds like a real word or phrase here and there—"eyes" and "color balls died" and "alright" a few times, for example—but it mostly just sounds like English without actually being English. It's like an auditory illusion and it does some super trippy things to your brain to listen to it.

Plus the video someone shared to go with it is fantastic. It's gone crazy viral because how could it not.

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With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

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