Sure, we're not the world's top emitters of greenhouse gases. We’re only number two, behind China, whose coal-powered economic rise has shrouded its cities in toxic haze. Nor are we the top manufacturers of renewable-energy technologies—that’s also China. But we are in a singular position to take the lead in helping the world abandon fossil fuels and meet other urgent environmental challenges. We’ve all heard the apocalyptic warnings about rising seas, vanishing species, bullheaded science deniers... What we need now is encouragement. Here are 13 reasons not to give up hope on America’s ability to show the way to a more sustainable future. —Julian Sancton
The Government and Big (or Not-Yet-Big) Business
Investing in Eco-Friendly Practices Right Now
Why major climate change initiatives don't need to—and can't afford to—wait for "miracles." Read the story »
"Tech Moguls Unite Against Climate Change"
It's not a cheesy headline; it's a goal, and one that could make major waves in cooling the Earth. Read the story »
Learning From Past Success
The U.S. government helped reduce smog by staggering amounts in the last 50 years, and it can do the same for other pollutants. Read the story »
...And Learning from Past Failures, Too
While solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra's vision did not pan out, it set in motion an unprecedented boom in renewable energy. Read the story »
The New Guy: Tesla
The revolutionary company just opened the first phase of its major "Gigafactory," and that's hardly it for Elon Musk's aspirations. Read the story »
And the Stalwart: General Motors
The fallen-from-grace auto company is bouncing back, with vehicles that guzzle less gas and perform extremely well. Read the story »
Preserving (And Re-Inventing) Landmarks
Fortifying the Levees
After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is doing its bit to make sure a the city is not compromised again—and other cities should take notes. Read the story »
Bringing Back the Wolves
The Yellowstone Wolf Restoration Project has been working to bring back the park's native population, and its efforts are paying off. Read the story »
The L.A. River's Future
Inside the project to bring back what was once America's most majestic waterway. Read the story »
Beyond Solar and Wind Power
Ocean Thermal Energy Protection (OTEC) is another alternative energy source that has emerged in recent years. Read the story »
A Power-Generating Kite
How one start-up's quirky idea just got the backing of Google. Read the story »
How To Save Nature? Imitate It.
Biomimicry, the belief that complex problems can be solved by imitating the processes of nature, may help reverse global warming. Read the story »
Obama and the Ocean
The President's green thumb will be a hallmark of his legacy. Read the story »
In 2014, the growth of U.S. carbon emissions slowed—for the third year in a row—to less than 1 percent, even as the economy recovered. Growth is still positive but is nearing a stall.
In 2004, $5.4 billion was invested in renewable energy in the U.S. In 2014, $38.3 billion was invested.
The number of U.S. jobs lost in extractive industries (oil and gas) is 17,000. The number of U.S. jobs added in renewable industries is 35,000.
Ben Adler covers environmental policy and politics for Grist; Brett Berk is writer-at-large for The Drive; Bill Bradley writes about urban policy for Next City, among other publications; Mark Hertsgaard is a correspondent for The Nation and the author of Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt); Austin Merrill is a regular DEPARTURES contributor, focusing on the environment; David Wolman is a contributing editor at Wired.