January 16, 2017 · by andrewhattle · in climate change, energy, politics. ·
Climate activists in the Lusatia coal fields of Germany shut down one of Europe’s largest open cast coal mines in May 2016 as part of the Ende Gelände campaign. Photo credit: Ende Gelände/350.org via Flickr.
By Andrew Hattle
Arctic sea ice continued to melt, forests were felled and coral died en masse, in 2016 there were ominous predictions surrounding the longevity of summertime polar ice caps and greenwashing merely persisted as a thing. Even the most earnest of environmentalists must be, by now, completely desensitised to last year’s string of broken/records, and has since returned to twitter to vent on #ExxonKnew.
Trump, his cabinet picks, and Brexit were of little comfort and succeeded only in perpetuating uncertainties surrounding U.S. and UK environmental ambitions and the dour narrative of the climate debate in general. Yet whilst western establishments adjusted to new status quos, atmospheric carbon failed in all 12 months of last year to drop below 400 parts per million, encroached on an already dwindling carbon budget and helped average global temperatures surpass 1.5 ℃ above pre-industrial levels in February and March.
So where are the success stories? The pick-me-ups to be taken from what is at first glance, a truly awful year for environmental news.
Despair less – inside and out of political and economic circles 2016 showed that policy, grassroots and technological responses can coax an increasingly inclusive environmental movement forward when faced with big, petite-handed hurdles that you seem to think you’ve met before.
A report released in March by the UN Environment Programme showed record increases of renewable capacity during 2015, especially in developing countries and documented a 5% increase in renewable energy investment globally, doubling those of fossil fuels suffering from dwindling oil and gas prices. The International Energy Association (IEA) confirmed that carbon emissions had been decoupled from economic growth (for a second year running), consolidating renewables as a mainstream energy source able to compete with fossil fuels in business as usual markets, replace coal and help stall global emissions. The reports followed falling costs in renewable power production and preceded increased solar and wind capacity across the globe.
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In hindsight: environmental optimism from 2016
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