5 reasons 2017 was best year for climate action

ShutterstockAvivi Aharon
Israeli women protest against the U.S. Paris pullout at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv earlier this year.

As we approach the end of 2017, it’s easy to feel down about the state of our planet. We’ve experienced climate-fueled superstorms that leveled entire islands in the Caribbean and flooded Houston. Meanwhile, California continues to burn. And, of course, the Trump White House has done its best to undermine progress.

But I think 2017 was a great year for climate action. Here’s my top five reasons why.

1. Global momentum is now unleashed

It turns out, the Trump administration’s announcement that it would withdraw from Paris was precisely the fuel needed to put the agreement into action.

I just witnessed this firsthand in Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the One Planet Summit together with the World Bank and the United Nations. In this historic meeting, divestment from fossil fuels made huge progress as both the World Bank and a group of nations with $15 billion in sovereign wealth announced that they will no longer invest in the carbon-heavy fuels of the past.

That news caps of a full year of progress. In January, China canceled over 100 coal-fired power plants. In April, India’s energy minister set a target of ending petroleum-powered vehicles in that country by 2030. In November, France committed to filling the United States’ portion of funding for a crucial U.N. climate science panel. And in October, Brazil joined a partnership with Conservation International and others to undertake the largest tropical forest restoration project on the planet — a notable achievement as nature is currently the forgotten solution to climate change.           

As Macron told CBS News, the move by the United States to withdraw has created huge counter-momentum.

2. We, the people

The people of the United States have stepped up, with or without the White House. Thirty-eight states have passed laws mandating some level of clean energy for their electricity sector, representing 80 percent of the American public. The U.S. has closed over half of its coal-fired power plants, and the monthly pace of closing has actually increased since the president was inaugurated, according to the Sierra Club.

The message is clear: Despite what you hear from Washington, the United States is still in.

3. Dollars and sense

States and cities aren’t alone in their climate vigilantism. Technology and entrepreneurship have made clean energy one of America’s fastest growing industries and a boon to employment. As then-Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted in Paris, the fastest growing career in the United States is solar panel installer, and the second is wind turbine technician, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a result, the U.S. still could meet its Paris goals according to international leaders — all without the White House.

4. #ScienceMatters

Climate science is accepted by more Americans than ever. Since last year’s election, concern for global warming has grown in the United States to a three-decade high, according to a poll by Gallup and a majority of Americans in every state support the Paris Agreement.

5. Yes she can

In the age of Trump, women are leading the charge to save our planet. From the Norwegian prime minister to the president of the Marshall Islands to female leaders around the globe, some of the world’s strongest climate leaders are, not surprisingly, women.

Women also have an outsized role in addressing climate change. In his most recent book, "Drawdown," Paul Hawken ranks scores of potential climate solutions, from installing rooftop solar to eating a vegetarian diet. Among the most promising of all actions? Educating and empowering women and girls. Because when women are able to make decisions for their lives and their families, our planet is better off.

Trump’s withdrawal from Paris was a blow to anyone concerned about climate change. But the world’s response has been nothing short of inspiring. It turns out, we’re not beholden to the errors of the occupant of the Oval Office. We all have the power to change the trajectory of our climate.

Now, it’s up to all of us in 2018 to take that power and use it.