- Thomson Reuters
When thinking about the world’s climate, it’s easy to focus on the negative – daunting reports of future disasters and current crises can be found almost daily.
While it’s true that September was the hottest month on record (again), that rising global temperatures are making forest fires worse, and that the UN estimates climate change could push 122 million more people into poverty, October has actually been an unprecedentedly positive month for the planet.
The Paris Agreement goes into effect November 4th.
- Vincent Kessler/Reuters
81 countries, including the US, India, and Brazil, have agreed to take measures that will keep the world’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. The Agreement, which was reached in December 2015, was designed to go into effect once it got enough signatories to account for more than 55% of the world’s carbon emissions.
On October 5th, long before many expected, the accord crossed that threshold after the European Parliament voted in favor of it.
The agreement suggests an ideal temperature rise of 1.5 degrees, though many climate scientists believe it’s too late to hit that goal. Even keeping temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees is a lofty goal, considering it would require emissions reductions to begin immediately. But the quick ratification of the deal at least signals that countries around the world are committed to fighting climate change.
More than 170 countries agreed to a worldwide ban on planet-warming chemical compounds called hydrofluorocarbons.
- Sergio Moraes/Reuters
HFCs, planet-warming chemical compounds primarily used in air conditioning units and refrigerators, only make up a small portion of the greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. But they’re extra potent, and can trap 1,000 times as much heat as carbon dioxide.
The new deal to limit them, which was reached in Kigali, Rwanda, is expected to lead to the reduction of the equivalent of 70 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to the New York Times.
The agreement dictates that wealthier countries halt production of hydrofluorocarbons before poorer countries do, with the richest nations freezing production and consumption by 2018, most of the rest of the world doing the same by 2024, and the planet’s hottest countries (like India and Saudi Arabia) freezing HFC use by 2028.
The first pact to limit the emissions of a single industry was overwhelmingly ratified by the UN.
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A day after the Paris accord passed the necessary threshold for implementation, 191 countries agreed to put a cap on carbon emissions from airlines. According to the agreement, carriers will have to keep emissions below the levels they reach in 2020. If they go over, they’ll have to buy credits from other industries and projects that lower emissions, according to the AP.
The first phase of the agreement (2021-2017) is optional, but the second, which goes until 2035, will be mandatory. If all countries comply with the agreement for the full 15 years, the Environmental Defense Fund suggests the agreement could keep 2.5 billion tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere.
Obama suggested that he expected the agreement to pass in a conversation at the White House’s South by South Lawn festival, but its proximity to the Paris milestone lent an extra sense of progress. Plus, the agreement could set the stage for similar international accords that regulate certain pollutant industries.
Canada announced plans for a carbon tax.
- Thomson Reuters
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced early in October that he is giving Canadian provinces until 2018 to adopt carbon-pricing systems. Those could come in the form of cap-and-trade schemes or direct carbon prices. But if they don’t meet a federally determined floor price, the country’s government will implement a plan for them.
When the policy goes into effect, that minimum price will start at $10 per ton of carbon, and will increase by $10 each year to reach $50 per ton in 2022. The provinces will keep whatever revenue their system generates.
Carbon tax proposals have been met with resistance in the US, and neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump supports one. Bernie Sanders, however, introduced a plan for a carbon pricing system in his platform as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. For now, however, Canada is leading the way.
Scotland joined a small list of nations with the capacity to power their entire country on alternative fuels.
- David Moir/Reuters
Though not as monumental as the Paris Agreement, Scotland made a promising announcement October 15: On one day in August, the country generated enough wind power to provide electricity to its entire population.
Of course, August 7 happened to be an exceptionally windy day in Scotland. But it demonstrated for the first time that the country could be capable of using 100% renewable power in the near future.
The milestone also put Scotland on a short but growing list of countries on their way to achieving that feat. Among them are Costa Rica, which ran entirely on renewable energy sources for an impressive 285 days in 2015, and Denmark, which also operated solely on wind power for one day in September 2015. Denmark broke the world record for wind power production last year, with 42% of its electricity coming from turbines.
The US government made its biggest clean energy purchase in history,
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Officials are calling a recent acquisition of solar power the government’s largest ever investment in clean energy.
On October 14, the Navy announced a deal to buy energy from a solar array located in Maricopa County, Arizona. The electricity will go to 14 Naval bases in California, accounting for approximately a third of their total power usage, according to the Washington Post. The array is owned by Sempra Energy, but the agreement sets a fixed price for the solar power for the next 25 years, which the White House estimates could save more than $90 million.
Since 2010, the government estimates that it has increased its use of solar power five-fold.