In our year roundup, we are looking at current environmental issues and the biggest stories of 2018. The urgency of climate change and its impact on the world make this one of the most critical years. We have taken some significant steps forward in recent times, but the current administration in the USA is forcing some backward steps as well. So as we reach the end of the year, we revisit some of the biggest stories and think about the current environmental issues shaping the discourse.
Climate Change Weather and the New Normal
Freakish weather events are the new normal as the effects of climate change take hold for all to see. Hurricane season is more devastating every year, and global temperatures rise. But, perhaps the biggest story of the autumn was the wildfires in California. Although some would like to pretend that the wildfires have nothing to do with climate change, the evidence is irrefutable. Of the ten worst wildfires on record, six have come in the past 3 years. In Butte County, CA, Camp Fire raged for 17 days, claiming 86 lives and causing approximately $10 billion in property damage.
Trump’s Damaging Policies
The Paris Agreement of 2015 was a step forward for global action on climate change. Many people argued that it didn’t go far enough. Nevertheless, it represented a global unity of purpose on climate change that had never before existed. When Trump pulled the USA out of the accord, he adopted an isolated position, and for a time, the USA was the only country in the world that wasn’t signed up to the Paris Agreement. The power of the USA economy is such that where it leads, others follow. Since Trump pulled out, investors have returned to fossil fuels, and other countries, such as Russia, have refused to ratify the agreement. They cite Trump’s lead as their reduced commitment to achieving climate goals. Trump has provided an easy excuse and disrupted the global unity for climate action.
Pushback Against Trump
Despite Trump’s attempts to downplay the impact of climate change, the international spirit is still very much alive, particularly in the EU and China. Recent talks in Poland have sought to further the cause of the Paris Agreement. We have also witnessed new campaigning and protesting, particularly from a new wave of young activists. Trump’s presidency will be long gone when the new generation of environmentalists grows into a political class and tomorrow’s leaders. There’s also evidence that opinions on climate change are shifting; 8 in 10 Americans and two-thirds of Republicans now acknowledge that climate change is real. While vested interests still lead to climate change denial, the tide is turning. The question is: are things changing fast enough?
If you’re interested in current environmental issues, read our recent look at the effects of consumerism on the environment.
Image Credit: Still from Water Warriors (Winner: Eric Moe Award for Best Short on Sustainability)