For many of us — Global Citizens included — reading the headlines about the impact of the climate crisis on nature can feel like we’re on a never-ending merry-go-round of devastating headlines.
From the 14 million tons of plastic that end up in the ocean every year to scientists discovering yet another animal is on the brink of extinction, it’s easy to feel numb, frustrated, or frankly, hopeless, when confronted with this news.
Without downplaying the severity of a crisis that scientists and campaigners have been warning of for decades, or the urgency with which world leaders must act, it’s important to note that it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to the fate of our planet. In fact, celebrating the wins isn’t just cute, it’s vital. When every media avenue is spelling the apocalypse, recognizing that there is good climate news is truly radical.
It is true, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at COP27, that we are “on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.” But hope is a powerful thing. It inspires us to believe in the impossible — and that’s exactly what we need right now.
Here are six incredible facts that should do just that.
1. The ozone layer is on track to recover.
The first sign that the ozone layer (a protective shield in the stratosphere that absorbs most of the sun's ultraviolet radiation) had been damaged came when three scientists from the British Antarctic Survey discovered a hole in it in 1985.
How did it happen? The burning and releasing of chemical compounds containing gaseous chlorine or bromine from industry work and other human activities.
Now for the good news. The Earth’s ozone layer is on track to fully recover within four decades thanks to global efforts to phase out those ozone-depleting chemicals, according to the UN.
Not only is this great news for the ozone, it also sets an inspiring precedent for the climate crisis. When the world is confronted with a global and existential threat, it is possible for countries to come together and take decisive and swift action for the common good.
2. Mangrove forests are sequestering carbon dioxide at incredible rates.
For all the clever climate tech in the world, nature-based solutions are proving that they also pack a punch. That’s because land and water ecosystems — and the biodiversity they contain — are natural carbon sinks.
Mangrove forests, for example, suck up carbon dioxide from the air to store in their roots and branches, as well as the sediment that collects around them. They do this so well that they can store up to 10 times more carbon than forests.
The good news? The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is helping communities in Cuba to plant mangroves and foster their natural regeneration.
3. Rewilding just 9 species could contribute over 95% to extracting 500bn metric tons of CO2.
While many climate change solutions focus primarily on protecting and restoring ecosystems like forests and grasslands, animals could play a huge role in helping us extract CO2 from the atmosphere too.
How? Through their movement and behavior, animals distribute seeds and nutrients and disturb the soil through digging, trampling, and nest building. All this action helps plants grow and store more carbon.
In Africa’s Serengeti, for instance, almost half a century of wildebeest population recovery has resulted in the sequestration of as much carbon yearly to offset all of East Africa’s fossil fuel emissions.
In fact, a report published in March 2023, suggested that rewilding just nine wildlife species or species groups (African forest elephants, American bison, fish, grey wolves, musk oxen, sea otters, sharks, whales, and wildebeest) would contribute more than 95% towards the global target of extracting 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100.
4. Scotland’s forests are the largest they have been for 900 years.
A green revolution is happening in Scotland: its forests are expanding at breakneck speed.
This huge ocean of green sequesters 7.6 million tons of CO2 each year, the equivalent of 14% of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
5. From miles away, the Saharan desert is fertilizing the Amazon rainforest.
It’s hard to believe that from thousands of miles away, the world’s largest desert could be helping the world’s largest rainforest — but that’s exactly what’s taking place.
Every year, nutrient-rich Saharan dust is lifted off the desert floors and transported by wind across the Atlantic ocean and deposited in the Amazon basin.
Why is this dust such a hot commodity in the Amazon? It’s a delicious fertilizer that nourishes the rainforest with much-needed iron and phosphorus minerals.
Forests such as the Amazon play a major role in curbing climate change as they sequester more atmospheric carbon than they emit and act as a carbon sink. Over the course of 20 years, the Amazon rainforest collectively removed a net 340 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.
Degraded and deforested areas, however, release stored carbon and become carbon sources.
Another reason to be happy, then, is that Marina Silva is back as Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. When she was last in government, she introduced policies that led to an 80% fall in Amazon deforestation.
6. After 400 years, beavers are returning to London.
Guess who’s back? Back again? After almost going extinct in England during the 16th century, beavers have returned to London thanks to a decade of successful breeding programs.
Ian Barnes, who helped devise the project to bring the species back, said in an interview with the BBC: "They're not just beautiful creatures, they're so good in the ecosystem, they encourage other animals and insects because of the ponds and dams they make.”
The reintroduction of beavers to the city's waters is part of a larger hope that the animals will help restore biodiversity, as well as mitigate the impacts of flooding in local areas.