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5 Huge Climate Success Stories 10 Years After the Release of Al Gore's ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Climate

Here's something to smile about. Check out five of our favorite climate successes in the past decade.

Ten years ago, An Inconvenient Truth brought the issue of climate change out into the open and into mainstream culture like never before. People began asking tough questions about our climate and wanted to know what they could do to make our planet a safer, healthier place for us all. And 10 years later, we can see the results. Last week, we shared in this blog post what's changed for our climate, for better or for worse, over the past decade. But with so many climate successes to choose from, we felt they deserved their own story. So today on the 10th anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth, here are five of our favorite moments of progress the world has made in solving climate change.

1. China—the World's Largest Carbon Emitter—Stepped Up

You know how U.S. fossil fuel interests used to stall pro-climate policies saying, “Well what about China? It doesn't matter what we do if they don't do anything."

Today, they're scrambling for a new line. You see, China is ahead of the game when it comes to deploying renewable energy and working to solve climate change. Last summer, China made one of the strongest national commitments to climate action leading up to the UN's COP 21 climate conference, pledging to expand total energy consumption from non-fossil fuel sources to around 20 percent by 2030. It will require China to deploy roughly 800–1,000 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel power by 2030 or about the total current electricity generation capacity in the U.S. This commitment solidified the progress China has made in recent years in combatting its dangerous air pollution problem.

As the world's largest carbon emitter since 2006, China making a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using more and more clean energy is a major breakthrough. And if China can get serious about cutting emissions and embracing renewables, other nations are going to have to follow suit.

2. The Growth of Renewable Energy and Clean-Energy Jobs

Renewable energy has surged in the past decade, with the cost of clean energies like solar and wind falling each year. And as the price continues to fall, demand continues to increase, which means the industry needs to expand to meet it. The result? Thousands of new jobs added each year.

Let's look at the solar industry. There are already more than 705,000 jobs in solar energy in the U.S., employing Americans in all 50 states. The industry added more than 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone and is showing no sign of slowing any time soon with solar companies projected to add more than 30,000 new workers in 2016.

The wind industry isn't far behind. The U.S. Energy Department predicts there will be more than 600,000 wind-related jobs by 2050, according to its Wind Vision Report, with high growth expected in fields like manufacturing, transportation and offshore wind. By the end of 2014, the U.S. had more than 73,000 jobs in wind energy and the state of Texas alone employed more than 17,000 people in wind-related jobs in 2014.

3. Pope Francis United People From All Faiths to Protect Our Planet

In 2015, Pope Francis made headlines when he released his landmark encyclical, Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. In the letter—written not just for Catholics, but for people of all faiths—he stressed some of the most important issues facing the world today, including climate change, the environment, poverty and the world economy.

The pope followed up Laudato Si' with a historic visit to the U.S. where he met with top government officials. Here, he echoed themes of his encyclical in public statements and private conversations and made the case for growing our economies through clean energy and new technologies. Above all else, Pope Francis urged the world to come together to take immediate action to protect our planet and allow people from all walks of life to flourish.

4. World Leaders Came Together to Reach the Paris Agreement

In the years following An Inconvenient Truth, world leaders attempted to reach a consensus about how to solve climate change throughout various global summits, but never truly succeeded. That is, until last December, when world leaders came together at the UN's COP 21 climate conference in Paris. The world watched as leaders from 195 countries negotiated for two weeks and finally reached a global agreement—known as the Paris agreement—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary factor driving climate change.

World leaders formally signed the Paris agreement this Earth Day, marking a turning point in the movement for climate solutions by setting a long-term goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. This is the most ambitious target ever formalized at this level—and a really big deal.

5. A Global Movement for Solving Climate Change Began

An Inconvenient Truth sparked a new kind of movement—one where people all over the world wanted to know how they could get involved in helping solve climate change. People realized their everyday actions had an impact on our planet and that they could be part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem.

Part of this movement involved a new group of activists called the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. These activists—called Climate Reality Leaders—are people from every level of society working to educate and inspire others in their communities about the climate crisis. Shortly after the film's release, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore trained the very first group of Climate Reality Leaders in Carthage, Tennessee in 2006. Since then, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps has trained thousands of citizens in 135 countries around the world.

If you want to learn more about becoming a Climate Reality Leader, sign up for information here.

Let's Recommit to Climate Action

Yes, we've seen a lot of great progress like the examples above over the past 10 years. But there's still more to do to ensure we stay on the path to ending climate change and building a safe, healthy future for our planet. First and foremost, we need to ensure our leaders fulfill their commitments in the Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gases. Pledge now to recommit to climate action and help us make certain world leaders live up to the promises they made in Paris.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.