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Jan Lee headshot

5 Innovators That Transformed the Climate Change Battle in 2014

Words by Jan Lee

This was the year for transformative thinking when it came to climate change.

Sure, there has been plenty of hot-button debate over whether global warming truly exists (the comments sections for some of our articles speak loudly enough) and how to address a dilemma that is largely still in the making. But there have also been some remarkably forward-thinking innovators who haven't shied away from the challenge. From multi-national companies that have inspired global changes in sustainable palm oil sourcing, to a newly-minted nonprofits that created a new way to stop poaching in some of the world's densest and most remote rain forests, this year's accomplishments have been worth more than a footnote.

The following are just a handful of the many advancements that were undertaken by companies and nonprofits that saw the opportunity -- and need -- for change.

1. Reforesting the sea

In August, we reported on the efforts of Israeli researchers Dr. Baruch Rinkevich and Dr. Shai Safir to stop the degradation of the world's coral reefs, what could aptly be called the vibrant 'rain forests of the sea.' Their ecology is critical to the survival of numerous organisms that, in turn, help maintain a sustainable aquaculture and help reduce climate change by extension.

Scientists attempted to regenerate the Great Barrier Reef for years without success. Rinkevich and Safir developed an ingenious, if not painstaking, means for growing coral in the Red Sea that can then be transplanted in areas where coral has been denuded. They have also been successful in kickstarting similar projects in marine areas throughout the globe.

2. Sustainable palm oil

Unilever has been working for years to establish a sustainable sourcing mechanism for palm oil. Their real contribution, however, has been in proving that it can be done. Its partnership with World Resources Institute and the company's diligent effort to promote sustainable methods has led the way in transforming the palm oil market, which is indispensable to a wide spectrum of industries.

3. Eyes and ears for the forest

Rainforest Connection was barely a household name before it took up the mission to transform old cell phones into monitoring stations in Kalaweit Gibbon Sanctuary in Indonesia.

The Kickstarter campaign they launched to fund the program exceeded its goal of $100,000 by more than $67,000 and generated a host of interest -- not to mention a ready supply of outmoded phones to use. It will be interesting to see what next year's projects are.

4. Inspiring climate change reporting

Getting companies to disclose their climate change corporate performance to shareholders is difficult. But in September, members of the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) agreed to start disclosing climate change information in annual reports and other corporate statements. The 40-plus member organization has been calling on global companies and organizations to make this step a mainstream approach for all corporate disclosure statements in an effort to bolster "resilience of [all] financial markets in the 21st century."

5. Funding climate change research

The University of California's commitment to climate change research is proof that strides are often a give-and-take process, and valued for their success. In September, the university announced that it would invest $1 billion in climate change research. Where else would such investments be better undertaken than in a state that faces significant drought challenges and vulnerable coastlines? While its critics have noted that the donation is but one-tenth of what it has invested in fossil fuels, the UC commitment is proof that the call for change is being heard in all quarters.

Images of mid-water coral nursery in the Red Sea courtesy of Dr. Shai Shafir

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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