Happy new year! Now that 2016 has come to a close, here are this year’s top 10 environmental news stories, ranked by their global influence, difficulty in implementation, and popularity.
10. Brexit’s Impact on the Environment
The United Kingdom’s historic vote to leave the European Union on June 23 has cast questions of uncertainty on the future of the environment. The fear among some is that the regulations that have helped protect the environment will be weakened outside the EU. For example, funding for the birds directive, habitat directive, and the UK Wildlife Fund may be reduced.
9. World’s Largest Beach Cleanup in Mumbai
The world’s largest beach cleanup on Versova Beach in Mumbai has cleared 4 million pounds of debris from the shoreline since it began in October of last year. The initiative involves UNEP representatives and Mumbai citizens, even attracting the attention of Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans.
8. Great Barrier Reef is Dying
This year, the Great Barrier Reef has seen the largest coral die-off ever recorded, and global warming means it’s not going to rebound soon. Experts have been tracking the destruction for months, announcing their final conclusions on Nov. 29. They found that across a long stretch of the northern end of the reef, an average of 67 percent of the coral died, with the bright colors replaced by white bleached coral.
7. Giant Panda No Longer Endangered
As of September 5th, the giant panda is no longer endangered! After significant conservation efforts and habitat restoration, the giant panda population has significantly grown over the past decade. They are now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List. The number of panda reserves has jumped to 67, which now protect nearly two-thirds of all wild pandas.
6. China to Ban Ivory Trade by End of 2017
China announced on Dec 30 that it will ban all domestic ivory trade within a year, closing the door to the world's biggest end-market for poached ivory. "China's announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation. The large-scale trade of ivory now faces its twilight years, and the future is brighter for wild elephants, said Carter Roberts, the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund.
5. Biggest Marine Monument Established
On August 26th, President Obama announced that he would expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii to cover half a million square miles, making it the world’s largest marine reserve at over twice the size of Texas. Many of the more than 7,000 marine species found in the reserve are endemic, meaning they aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
4. Four Major Cities to Ban Diesel Cars by 2025
On December 2, at the C40 conference of mayors on climate change in Mexico, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City announced that their nations would ban diesel cars and vans by 2025 to tackle air pollution. Diesel engines emit nitrogen dioxide, a harmful gas, and particulate matter that can lodge in the lungs and cause respiratory illnesses.
3. The Election of Donald Trump
The election of Donald Trump as the President-elect of the United States has changed everything for the future of our nation, and the future of the environment. Not only is Trump a climate change denier himself, but so far he has appointed Rex Tillerson, CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil as Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt, a fellow climate change skeptic, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Oh, the irony. This has undoubtedly raised concern over the state of our planet in the years to come.
2. Victory at Standing Rock
On December 4th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers legally blocked the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which signified a historic, although temporary win for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. This came after months of protests over concerns that the oil pipeline would run through sacred lands and potentially pollute the drinking water.
1. Paris Climate Accord
The Paris Agreement on climate change became official on Nov. 4 in Marrakech, Morocco. The agreement commits world leaders to keep global warming below 2C, seen as the threshold for safety by scientists, and pursue a tougher target of 1.5 C. This marks the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises. Governments that have ratified the accord include the US, China, India, and the European Union.
Thank you for watching! Let’s hope 2017 brings even more environmental feats!