Jen Robinson - Impact in Brief - 3 mins
After almost a year of nosediving approval ratings, President Biden just had a pretty good week. The US senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, his sweeping economic package designed to combat climate change, lower drug prices and tackle inflation. The bill, which looked like it might falter after holdouts from two conservative Democratic senators, narrowly passed when last minute concessions saw them change their minds. While the resulting measure has been watered down, it’s still pretty good news for the climate.
On the back of this, we think it’s the right time to look at reasons to be optimistic about climate change. Sometimes, the news can be so bad it feels paralysing. But there are many reasons to be hopeful.
According to The Guardian, independent analysis of the legislation shows that if adhered to, the bill could see the US reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by the end of the decade. More specifically, the report, made by Rhodium Group, estimates that by 2030, the United States could be at CO2 emissions levels that are between 31% and 44% below what they were in 2005.
This is great news for the climate. The US is responsible for 14% of all global carbon emissions, and comes in second after China in the league table of the world’s biggest polluters. In 2019, it pumped out some 5,416 million tons of CO2.
The never-ratified Green New Deal has been a hot button topic in American politics for years. Now, the EU has its own version of a green plan, albeit one with a narrower focus. The initiative, which just passed in the European parliament, means companies have to make sure products sold in the EU have not been produced on deforested land. The European assembly says it will stop the EU’s role in the destruction of “irreplaceable tropical forests”.
Deforestation is bad for the global climate. Trees and plants in forests store CO2 during photosynthesis, the process through which they convert light into energy. When forests are levelled, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere all over again.
The EU measure is a pretty important step, especially considering an area larger than the EU was lost to deforestation between 1990 and 2020.
Scientists just reported that they recorded the highest levels of coral cover in 36 years along the Great Barrier Reef. According to a report in The Guardian, a fast-growing species of coral has pushed cover up to levels not seen in decades.
The findings come from the north and central areas of the coral system, which lies off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The barrier is vital to the global fight against climate change. Coral reefs are known as “blue carbon sites”. This means they act a little bit like forests in the sea, in that they store carbon. Without them, ocean ecosystems would change drastically and carbon levels would rise considerably. To date, climate change has worn down coral systems, causing bleaching and ocean acidification.
Companies such as Beyond Meat, which is part of CIRCA5000’s Sustainable Future of Food fund, seem to have read the room. New research from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that protein-based food alternatives are not only a leading way to tackle the climate crisis, but consumers love them too.
Right now, the food system is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And animal agriculture alone is responsible for 15%. But moving to alternative proteins could see a reduction of the equivalent of 0.85 gigatons of CO2 worldwide by 2030, the report says. That’s about the same as decarbonising 95% of the aviation industry.
The research also showed that more than 30% of consumers had climate action in mind when they switched to protein alternatives. “Give credit to the consumer,” the researchers wrote. “People around the world are buying into alternative proteins — and are very happy with what they find.”
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