Every day, we are adding to the “climate of innovation”—the new wave of techniques and technologies being developed to reduce emissions and address impacts. For example, scientists are using new GPS technology to understand the daily changes in deforestation in the Amazon, and using new ocean-mapping technology to see the effects of coastal resilience on the U.S. East Coast. New approaches are being suggested, like adapting the service-oriented business models of Uber and Spotify to increase uptake of energy efficiency. These ideas are being shared between governments and in the private sector.
As a consequence, the options for clean energy here in the United States are reaching levels never before seen. The ability to choose your own energy generation source and have clean, affordable, reliable energy allows everyone to see his or her life through a new lens. The cost reductions, electricity market deregulation and financial creativity of the last 15 years have combined to produce more accessible renewable products for consumers.
With all this change, it’s no wonder that the public’s attitudes are changing, too, more clearly recognizing the bright future ahead. A recent study by the New Climate Economy, an international project led by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and British economist Nicholas Stern, reviewed more than 430,000 English-language social media posts between 2013 and the end of COP21 on Dec. 12, 2015. Their analysis showed huge uptick—on the order of 700 percent—in the discussion of economic co-benefits of addressing global warming while boosting economic growth.
The boldest step in 2015 was the Paris Agreement on climate change, reached by more than 180 nations, which have now committed themselves to lower emissions and limiting climate impact. This bottom-up approach enables nations to pursue their own commitments, based on the respective needs and abilities of their infrastructure, while still contributing to a common cause that will hopefully see the world stay on a path toward a 1.5 Celsius degree temperature increase or less. The specificity of the commitments from the participating nations brings an increased clarity, an ability to understand precisely what we can achieve with current commitments and what remains to be done.
The idea behind a resolution is empowerment, using the new energy of a new year to tackle a problem that until now we’ve had trouble mastering, whether that’s getting fit or eating healthy or turning off the television. As we look to 2016, I encourage everyone to take a few moments to reflect on that other type of resolution. We’ve gained a clearer vision of how to address the challenges of climate change, by empowering individuals, policymakers and the private sector. Together, we have a great opportunity to step up and help shift the world towards a low-carbon future.