Heroes

5 things happening now that should give you hope about climate change.

Finally, the world is stepping up its game against global warming.

5 things happening now that should give you hope about climate change.
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League of Conservation Voters

Admit it — talking about climate change can be super depressing.

Sea levels could rise to terrifying levels, droughts are getting worse, storms are getting more severe, and ... this one's tough ... even beer is being ruined.

But don't let all the doom and gloom rain on your parade. Because although, yes, we certainly need to continue acting on climate change (like, yesterday), the world has taken many encouraging, consequential steps forward as of late. And you have every right to feel good about that.


Here are five reasons to feel hopeful in the fight to keep global temperatures down.

1. Carbon emissions are expected to stall — or even fall — this year.

Yeah, you read correctly — decline.

Photo via iStock.

New data presented at the UN climate talks in Paris earlier this month suggests global carbon emissions will have dropped 0.6% in 2015.

Even though that figure might sound measly (no one's saying we don't have our work cut out for us), this is pretty big. It marks the very first time carbon emissions have dropped during a year of global economic growth.

What have we been doing differently lately? Well, the world is using more renewable energy, the data found, and China — one of global warming's worst offenders — is slowly kicking its dirty coal habit to the curb, which helped a lot.

2. More and more people around the world are taking climate change seriously.

Photo via iStock.

Just last month, Pew Research Center found that in all 40 countries where it polled respondents, majorities agreed that climate change is a "serious problem."

What's more, a median of 78% of global respondents were in favor of their country agreeing to limit greenhouse gas emissions to halt rising temperatures.

It's OK to celebrate these numbers because, naturally, the more people believe in the science behind climate change, the harder they'll fight to do something about it.

And that leads me to #3:

3. The biggest carbon-emitting culprits just united in Paris to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN hosted the largest-ever gathering of heads of state this month in France at COP21— a summit focused on setting ambitious global goals to drastically reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Photo via iStock.

Yes, plenty of international climate conferences have happened before, and many have failed on reaching their prospective benchmarks. But this time looks especially promising, seeing as 195 nations around the world committed to dramatically reducing their carbon footprints.

"The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis," President Obama said of the agreement. "It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way."

But it's not just politicians (finally) trying to pull their weight against global warming...

4. Big names with deep pockets are stepping up to share the burden of a warming planet.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a UN Messenger of Peace on the climate, was also in France for COP21, encouraging about 1,000 mayors and leaders from around the world to go big on renewable energy.


“Model cities like Vancouver, Sydney, Stockholm and Las Vegas have already committed to using 100% renewable energy in the coming decades," he said in a speech. “So to all the mayors and governors in this room today, I implore you to join with your peers to commit to moving to no less than 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. Do not wait another day.”

And billionaire philanthropist and cool dude Bill Gates? He announced a massive carbon-fighting initiative that will use both billions of dollars from private investors (like Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg) as well as clean energy commitments from several countries to help prevent catastrophically high global temperatures.


"It is great to see so many government leaders and investors making these commitments and showing how the public and private sectors can come together to work on big problems," Gates wrote on his blog.

"I am optimistic that we can invent the tools we need to generate clean, affordable, reliable energy that will help the poorest improve their lives and also stop climate change."

5. The worst of climate change is still avoidable! And the urgency we've seen to act is a positive sign.

Yes, rising temperatures will continue to affect our planet in big, costly ways. But, if ambitious goals are met, we will have a green future ahead of us.

"I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world," Obama said, praising the new climate agreement as "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got."

See? There's no need to feel demoralized. However, there still is a need to act. Demand the U.S. step up its clean energy game by signing this petition by the League of Conservation Voters.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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