In a year that saw carbon pollution levels hit the milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere and brought record-breaking drought, fires, typhoons, and air pollution, it can be easy to forget there are climate champions out there, pushing back on those climate grinches. Here are a few of the climate heroes that made progress, inspired, or otherwise made an impact in 2013:

The Verb / Laura Owsianka

Naderev “Yeb” Saño

Three days after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, Philippines climate negotiator Naderev “Yeb” Saño told the delegation at the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that his island nation had run out of time for failed climate negotiations. Saño vowed to go on a hunger strike until “clear progress was made.” Saño challenged climate change deniers and countries less impacted by the effects of global warming, saying, “I dare them, I dare them to get off their ivory towers and away from the comfort of their armchairs. I dare them to go to the islands of the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling sea ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water become scarce. … And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.”

champions michael mann
Michael Mann

Michael Mann

Michael Mann, who directs Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center and is the creator of the “hockey-stick” graph, which illustrates the recent spike in global temperatures, has been the target of legal battles for years. He has been investigated by Penn after his email was hacked during so-called “Climategate” and in 2010 was accused of defrauding Virginia taxpayers while he was a faculty member at the University of Virginia. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli demanded access to every document relating to his research during that time. Mann has never been convicted of any wrongdoing and now, Cuccinelli has been defeated in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race. Climate denial was a central issue in the race with fossil fuel companies backing Cuccinelli, while climate activists spent millions for Terry McAullife. Cuccinelli’s “witch hunt” after Mann was held up as an example of Cuccinelli prioritizing his own radically conservative agenda over the concerns of his constituents. McAuliffe said that “the fact that UVA was forced to spend $600,000 to defend itself from its own Attorney General is outrageous.”

Jason Eppink

LA Times

The Los Angeles Times announced in 2013 that it will no longer publish letters from climate change deniers.