One of the things to dominate the headlines at the end of last year and the beginning of this year were Australia’s devastating bushfires. The disaster that’s ongoing to this day has already destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than a billion animals – many of them endangered – and poisoned the air for millions of Australians. Climate change is often blamed for this disastrous event, and with good reason: while it wasn’t the sole cause of the fires, it contributed significantly to this bushfire season being one of the most devastating to date.
Most news stories about climate change come with shocking, horrifying images of burning forests, devastating storms, flooded cities, and such, trying to shock us into action. Today, in turn, let’s do the opposite, and take a look at some examples of places and people who have taken action and succeeded – they may serve as an example to us all.
Samsø Island, Denmark
Samsø is a small island in the Kattegat, a sea area between the coast of Sweden and the Jutlandic peninsula. The 43 square mile island is home to about 3700 people living in the Samsø Municipality. And it is one of the few places on the planet that is almost completely carbon neutral.
Back in 1997, Samsø won a government competition for becoming a model of a community relying exclusively on renewable energy sources. The island was completely dependent on coal and oil at the time, both of the resources imported from the mainland.
By 2007, the municipality completed the construction of an offshore wind farm with 10 turbines that, along with 11 more on land, founded by the local population. Today, the island’s electric system is powered entirely by one of the world’s most popular renewable energy sources – wind, leaving even surplus to be exported. At the same time, the island’s homes have all transitioned to a central heating system powered by burning straw, and power many of their vehicles with biomass.
Samsø plans to become completely fossil-fuel free in the coming years by switching to electric and biofuel-powered vehicles in almost all areas of public and private transport and reducing the energy consumed for heating by up to 30% by 2030.
Iceland is a small country with a small population – around 365,000 people living on an island with a surface area of close to 40,000 square miles. It may be small but it’s mighty: almost all of its electricity is generated from renewable sources, namely hydroelectricity and geothermal power plants.
Iceland has run a groundbreaking Ecological City Transport System project between 2001 and 2005 to prove the viability of hydrogen as fuel in public transport. The test involved hydrogen-powered buses and filling stations that produced hydrogen on the spot using electrolysis, thus eliminating any issues and risks related to transporting this highly flammable gas.
Finally, let’s take a look at the policies enforced by Norway with the goal of reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and its vehicles’ carbon emissions.
Right now, Norway is the country with the largest fleet of plug-in electric and hybrid cars: in 2018, it had almost 300,000 of them, and this number has grown ever since. As most of Norway’s electricity is generated using hydropower, the country’s fleet of electric cars is the “cleanest” in the world. The country has achieved this performance through the introduction and enforcement of smart policies, from incentives to tax cuts and such. Their plan for the future is even more ambitious: they plan to reduce the sale of new fossil-fuel-powered cars and public transport vehicles to zero by 2025.
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