6 Positive Climate Change Stories You Probably Missed This Year

6 Positive Climate Change Stories You Probably Missed This Year Philip David Williams / shutterstock

Climate change news can be incredibly depressing. In 2018 alone, The Conversation covered the loss of three trillion tonnes of ice in Antarctica; Brazil’s new president and why he will be disastrous for the Amazon rainforest; a rise in global CO₂ emissions; and a major IPCC report which warned we are unlikely to avoid 1.5℃ of warming.

Then there were the rogue hurricanes, intense heatwaves, massive wildfires and the possibility we are emitting our way towards a Hothouse Earth. Global warming has left some wintery animals with mismatched camouflage, and it may even cause a global beer shortage.

But things cannot be entirely bad, can they? We asked some climate researchers to peer through the smog and highlight a few more positive stories from 2018.

Renewable energy is being set up faster than ever

Rick Greenough, professor of energy systems, De Montfort University

2018 saw the largest annual increase in global renewable generation capacity ever, with new solar photovoltaic capacity outstripping additions in coal, natural gas and nuclear power combined.

This is one of several hopeful signs that the “cleantech” sector is rising to the challenge of climate change. The UK, for instance, set new records for wind generation. And now that subsidy-free solar generation has proven possible, there are plans for the UK’s largest solar farm to provide the cheapest electricity on the grid, thanks to battery backup (crucial for intermittent renewable technology). Tesla, meanwhile, installed the world’s largest lithium battery in Australia and it is set to pay back a third of its cost within one year.

Chernobyl fights against climate change

Mike Wood, reader in applied ecology, University of Salford

Three decades ago, the world experienced its worst nuclear accident to date. The damaged Chernobyl nuclear power plant released large quantities of radioactive material into the environment, necessitating evacuation of an area now known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ). But forget the popularised imagery of a nuclear wasteland; Chernobyl is now home to an amazing diversity of wildlife, its forests are expanding and the future of this region is looking positive.

6 Positive Climate Change Stories You Probably Missed This Year 6 Positive Climate Change Stories You Probably Missed This Year Forests have reclaimed the ‘abandoned city’ of Pipyat near Chernobyl. podorojniy / shutterstock

In the fight against climate change, there is a global need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase the removal and storage of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (a process known as carbon sequestration). The ongoing expansion of Chernobyl’s forests means more atmospheric carbon is becoming incorporated into the trees. Additionally, the central part of the CEZ is now home to a major new solar farm development and wind farm development is being considered. Consequently, this post-accident landscape is now contributing to a sustainable future.

A new mobilising force for climate action

Anna Pigott, researcher in environmental humanities, Swansea University

The Extinction Rebellion direct action movement might not be the most obvious choice for positivity, what with its use of skull imagery and banners such as the one hung over Westminster Bridge in November reading: “Climate Change: We’re F****d”. But a closer look suggests that the movement’s acknowledgement of personal and collective despair in the face of environmental collapse might be a very positive move indeed.

As its co-founder Gail Bradbrook explains, “grief is welcome here – it is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity”. Poets and scholars alike have long spoken about how grief mobilises awareness and action, but rarely has this wisdom found its way into large environmental movements.

Pain usefully alerts us to problems that need our attention, and, in the case of climate change and species loss, our grief is a sign that we care deeply. Now is not the time to turn our back on such emotions. As the poet Mary Oliver has written: “You tell me your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” For many, the Extinction Rebellion movement has given them permission to grieve, and to share this grief with others. And this could be the most mobilising force for climate action yet.

Global economic growth may have peaked

Daniele Malerba, honorary research fellow, University of Manchester

Expansion in the global economy may have peaked, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The economic think-tank is worried by the slowdown, but it may actually be good news for the climate and possibly for society too. This is because less global economic growth means less production, less consumption – and lower emissions.

But any slowdown or eventual reversal in growth must happen in an equitable way to make sure that human well-being still increases. This is why an increasing number of researchers, politicians and citizens are advocating for degrowth.

Degrowth addresses the issue technological improvements are not enough to avoid climate change and an alternative to capitalism is urgently needed. The recent protests in France show that environmental and social issues need to go hand-in-hand. And this is critical in a situation when populist movements are spreading. Degrowth is the solution. As Ghandi once said, we have enough for everybody’s needs, but not everybody’s greed.

Glimmer of hope in emissions reduction

6 Positive Climate Change Stories You Probably Missed This Year  ‘Grief is welcome here’: Extinction Rebellion protesters in London, November 2018. Rupert Rivett / Shutterstock

Parakram Pyakurel, researcher, Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, Solent University

A lot still needs to be done to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions but not all is doom and gloom. For instance, the US, UK and Japan are among the countries whose total carbon emissions from energy fell in 2017 (the most recent year available), according to BP’s statistical review of world energy.

Interestingly, Ukraine showed the greatest reduction, with its 2017 energy emissions around 10% lower than in the previous year. This was thanks to a big fall in coal use, perhaps part of the country’s grand vision of a 2050 low emission development strategy, though it remains to be seen whether Kiev will take the strategy seriously in the long term.

Other nations that managed to reduce their energy emissions include South Africa, Argentina, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. We’ll need to carefully monitor the statistics in upcoming years to see whether they continue on this path.

Local community energy is doing well

Rory Telford and Stuart Galloway, Department of Engineering, University of Strathclyde

Renewable generation technologies such as wind turbines or solar photovoltaics are now a familiar sight, but many may not realise that communities themselves are accelerating the transition towards low carbon energy. In Scotland, the government’s programme to support local involvement in renewable energy has been a success. An initial target of having 500MW of community and local owned energy was achieved early and with policy stability and continued effort the new 1GW target by 2020 also looks achievable.

The Smart Fintry project based in Stirlingshire is an excellent example of a community approach to decentralised energy provision. The project balances local renewable electricity generation with community energy needs via dynamic energy management technology and an innovative tariff. This offers far greater flexibility to the network and cheaper energy for households.The Conversation

About The Author

Rick Greenough, Professor of Energy Systems, De Montfort University; Anna Pigott, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Geography Department, Swansea University, Swansea University; Daniele Malerba, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester; Mike Wood, Reader in Applied Ecology, University of Salford; Parakram Pyakurel, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, Southampton Solent University; Rory Telford, Research Fellow, Electronic And Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde , and Stuart Galloway, Professor of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyde

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

List Price: $21.99
Sale Price: $21.99 $15.99 You save: $6.00

List Price: $27.00
Sale Price: $27.00 $15.69 You save: $11.31

List Price: $18.99
Sale Price: $18.99 $11.60 You save: $7.39


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email



Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.
The New Normal: Climate Change Poses Challenges For Minnesota Farmers
by KMSP-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul
Spring brought a deluge of rain in southern Minnesota and it never seemed to stop.
Report: Today's Kids' Health Will Be Imperiled by Climate Change
by VOA News
An international report from researchers at 35 institutions says climate change will threaten the health and quality of…
How Supercharged Trash Gas Could Produce More Green Energy
by InnerSelf Staff
Synthetic compounds called “siloxanes” from everyday products like shampoo and motor oil are finding their way into…
300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…


Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
by Jennifer Lynes and Dan Murray
The Auditor General of Ontario’s recent report found the province’s current climate change plan is not based on “sound…
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
by InnerSelf Staff
Almost 40% of global land plant species are very rare, and these species are most at risk for extinction as the climate…
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
by Ian Wright and Jason Reynolds
The level of water stored by Australia’s capital cities has steadily fallen over the last six years. They are now…
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
by Alex Kirby
Food shortages and civil disturbances may result from changes in the jet stream winds which circle the Earth,…
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
by Heather Plumpton
Reforestation has enormous potential as a cheap and natural way of sucking heat-absorbing carbon dioxide out of the…
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
by Paul Brown
Investors are using their shareholdings to force polluting companies to change their ways and cut carbon emissions.
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
by Bobby Duffy
The world is often better and getting better than people think. Murder rates, deaths from terrorism and extreme poverty…
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
by Hussein A. Amery
People who fled Syria in recent years are often viewed as war refugees because of the violence that has engulfed much…