Another year is about to end, and many things have happened to our planet (as usual) in the last 365 days. And even if Lisa Hymas said that “Climate change is the story you missed in 2017, and media is to blame” here we are doing a round up of 11 of the most important and biggest climate change news of the year.
THE US WITHDRAWS FROM PARIS AGREEMENT
Arguably not surprising, given that President Donald Trump has been vocal about leaving the Paris Agreement. The United States submitted their formal notice of withdrawal last August after announcing his decision in June. However, a bit of good news is that the US cannot simply leave the agreement, at least not until November 4, 2020 which is exactly one day after the next presidential elections. So there may be some hope left, depending on who the next president will be. Watch Donald Trump’s full speech here:
SYRIA AND NICARAGUA JOIN PARIS AGREEMENT
On a more positive note, both Syria and Nicaragua have expressed that they will join the Paris Agreement and as of today, both have already signed and ratified the treaty. This leaves the United States as the only country to not take part in global climate action.
GLACIERS IN ANTARCTICA CRACKING AND BREAKING
It looks like this year is a year of many glacier news, and it is not looking good. In July, the Larsen C, an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg, was reported to have cracked. In September, the Pine Island Glacier, four times the size of Manhattan, also broke off. According to The Verge, “Icebergs calve off Antarctica all the time, but the chunks of ice that broke off Pine Island Glacier are somewhat unusual. The latest iceberg, for instance, cracked off from the center of the ice shelf rather than the sides. That could be because warmer ocean waters are eating away at the ice from beneath, weakening the glacier.” And to top it all, the Thwaites Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the planet and what scientists call “a threshold system,” is melting. According to Rolling Stones, “That means instead of melting slowly like an ice cube on a summer day, it is more like a house of cards: It’s stable until it is pushed too far, then it collapses.”
DISASTERS IN THE CARIBBEAN
If the glaciers and ice bergs weren’t enough to make us feel alarmed and depressed, we have to remember the string of disasters that hit the Caribbean this year. Hurricane Maria left Dominica “in a daze” while Hurricane Irma left Barbuda uninhabitable, leaving the island deserted for the first time in 300 years. This has left many people from the Caribbean becoming climate refugees.
WORST FLOODING IN SOUTH ASIA IN DECADES
South Asia has always had problems in flooding. This year, however, the flooding was the worst in decades, killing thousands, affecting millions, and people losing their homes and livelihood. Around 1,200 people were killed in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal when flooding happened during the monsoon season, leaving people with no access to food and clean water. In this video by Al Jazeera, elephants came to rescue 600 people in Nepal.
INNOVATIVE BREAKTHROUGHS IN C02 CAPTURE
2017 isn’t all bad news, technological advances has helped in developing carbon capture and storage. Many climate models say that CCS is needed if we are to reach our 1.5-2 degree target of global warming. Unfortunately though, there are still many questions about current technology, including land use (CCS technology are large scale and needs a lot of land). However, many countries like China, UAE, and Canada have started their projects on CCS and a recent development by Engineers this year has introduced a more cost effective way of recycling carbon dioxide and methane. Here’s a good article to read on “Can Carbon Dioxide Removal Save the World?” and here is an infographic how CCS works:
The California wildfire has been so massive this year that it has already burned 270,000 acres of the state, and is said to be “on course to become California’s largest ever wildfire.” According to this New York Times article, California may expect more future fires as the world heats: “The reason is an expected impact of climate change in California: increasing year-to-year variability in temperature and precipitation that will create greater contrast between drought years and wet years. And that can lead to much greater fire risk.”
UNITED KINGDOM WAS COAL FREE FOR A DAY
This April, the United Kingdom had one coal-free day, a first since the industrial revolution in 1880’s. This is good news, especially because the government has planned on shutting down all its coal-fired power plants by 2025 as part of its commitment to reduce carbon emissions. The United Kingdom was the first country in the world to have a coal-fired generating plant which opened in 1882 in London. The country has been dependent on coal (and later on, nuclear) for its energy needs for over a century. However, in 2015, renewable energy has accounted for 25% of the UK’s power supply.
C02 LEVEL AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH
Again, this might not come as a surprise. Scientists come up with new data so often that we are no longer in shock when we hear “last year was the hottest year on record” or “carbon dioxide emissions at an all time high.” Well, we are now at 403.3 parts per million of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the highest level of C02 concentration in 800,000 years. We should be alarmed, given that the safe number for us is 350 parts per million.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLAR BEARS
Climate change is affecting all species on Earth. The polar bear has been one of the iconic images of climate change. However, this year, a video and photo by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicken, captured a dying polar bear while they were filming at Baffin Island. Humans have always been fascinated by polar bears and many people have shared the said video on social media, some even angry at the photographer for not helping the said bear. While the story may have touched more people than other disasters and climate change news this year, it has no doubt allowed climate change to become a talked about topic. Watch the video here:
CITIES TAKING THE LEAD ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Well, we want to end this article hopeful and we sure are with cities taking the lead in climate action. Notably, mayors in the United States have committed to take action even if the federal government won’t. In June, 1,400 mayors committed to climate action despite Trump’s withdrawal from climate change. These mayors have vowed to commit to 100% renewable energy and fill the gap that the Trump administration will create. Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, has been quoted in The New York Times saying, “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed.” This gives us hope and reminds us that Donald Trump, although in a powerful position, is only but one person and the world has 8 billion more to rely on to act on climate change.