Combating the climate crisis means taking on some of the most seismic challenges humanity has ever faced — and it’d be fair to say things aren’t going as well as they could be. But all hope is not lost: The past few months offer up a number of positive climate developments.
The US Joins the Climate Fight
The US passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which, despite the name, contains the most sweeping climate measures in American history. Through tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage, the law aims to cut US greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Seville Digs Sustainable Cooling
Seville is building subterranean canals powered by renewable energy to help cool part of the city above. The CartujaQanat project brings a technology that was used in ancient Persia to modern-day Spain. Vertical shafts pierced along the canals allow the cooler air to escape, reducing the increasingly sweltering air temperature above the surface.
German Ticket Cuts Emissions
Germany’s three-month experiment with super-cheap public transportation saved 1.8 million tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to powering about 350,000 homes for a year. The €9 ticket, which included nationwide travel on trains, subways, trams and buses, was designed to combat inflation but had a climate-friendly side effect as Germans used their cars less, according to the VDV public transport lobby.
California Bans Gasoline-Powered Cars
California’s air regulator approved plans to phase out sales of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, a world first (New York soon followed suit). The state’s initial goal is to increase the share of electric vehicle sales to 35% by 2026. California then hopes to cut climate-warming pollution from cars, pickups and SUVs by 395 million metric tons by 2040.
Peat Gets Protection
To protect degraded moorlands, the British government will ban the sale of peat for use as a fertilizer in private gardens and allotments by 2024. In addition to filtering water, preventing flooding downstream and nurturing wildlife, peatlands are major carbon sinks, helping to mitigate global warming.
India Scales Green Hydrogen
India will increase its green hydrogen production capacity to an annual 25 million tons by 2047 as it weans itself off fossil fuels. Green hydrogen is expected to play a major role in efforts to decarbonize heavy industry and meet the country’s goal of reaching net-zero by 2070. India’s current output comes from a handful of pilot projects.
Congo Creates Marine Reserves
The Republic of Congo will establish its first three marine reserves in the Atlantic, an organization that advises the government said. The reserves will cover 12% of the West African country’s ocean zone and protect breeding grounds used by humpback whales and leatherback turtles. The reserves will also cover areas inhabited by whale sharks, the world’s largest fish.
Americans Go Solar
US households will install a record number of solar-power systems this year to help reduce electricity bills, according to a BloombergNEF analysis. Residential solar installations will increase by about 5.6 gigawatts in 2022, led by Florida, Texas, the Midwest and California. Households are expected to add three times more solar this year than commercial building owners, the researcher said.
Sweden Tests Clean Air Travel
Sweden’s Braathens Regional Airlines said it operated the first flight of a commercial aircraft powered entirely by sustainable fuel in June. Sustainable fuel is seen as the most realistic route to reducing carbon emissions in aviation as electric and hydrogen-powered planes remain years away. Fuel maker Neste Oyj said its alternative reduces life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80% compared with kerosene.
Fin Whales Return to Antarctic
Brought to near extinction by industrial whaling, the fin whales of the Southern Hemisphere have returned to their ancestral feeding grounds in the Antarctic in high densities, according to a report published in July in the journal Nature. The recovery of fin whales, good in itself, could also help restore bacteria crucial to helping the ocean absorb carbon.
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Leslie Kaufman in New York at email@example.com
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