2016 – present

US Secretary of State John Kerry, with his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle on his lap, signs a global climate change during a ceremony at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on April 22, 2016. (US State Dept. photo).  By 2017, the treaty will be rejected by the anti-science Trump administration.

Jan. 2 — Barrier islands on the US coast will be unlivable in 50 years, a University of Miami scientist predicts. 

Jan. 8 — Dramatic transformations of planet earth warrant the declaration of a new geological epoch – to be known as Anthropocene to reflect humanity’s role – according to a new paper published in the journal Science.

Jan. 20 — The year 2015 was the warmest on record, according to scientists with NASA and NOAA.     

Feb. 26 — Bees and other pollinators are at risk from pesticides according to a global assessment.  

Feb. 29 — Three former Tokyo Electric Power Company executives are indicted for roles in the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Five years after the March 11, 2011 meltdown, the status of the three reactors remains completely out of control and extremely dangerous. Among other impacts, the ongoing meltdowns are  jeopardizing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics  venue.  Meanwhile, US regulators have been slow to adopt the kinds of regulatory reforms indicated by an accident of this magnitude, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.    

March 17  — US native American tribe to relocate from Louisiana home due to sea level rise.

March 30 — Antarctic thaw could double sea level rise, scientists say.

April 5 — US judge approves $18.7 billion civil settlement by BP oil company over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout.  

April 15 — US Senator Bernie Sanders, at the Vatican, says the “immoral” gap between rich and poor has never been worse.    

April 20 — Criminal charges announced for officials in Flint Mich. water contamination scandal.       

April 22 — Paris Climate Pact signed by 175 countries.  It enters into force Nov. 4. The aim of the agreement is:

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

April 26 — Ukrainians recall Chernobyl nuclear disaster on 30th anniversary.  

April — Native Americans objecting to the Dakota Access Pipeline set up the Sacred Stone camp along an oil pipeline route in North Dakota, USA.  By autumn the camp attracts thousands of non-violent protesters.  Police use of biting dogs and other inhumane tactics draws more attention and protesters to the conflict. By Dec. 4, the confrontation eases as federal agencies decide to reconsider environmental impacts and alternative pipeline routes.  See “Nations Rising” in Earth Island Journal.

May 30 — Extensive bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef corals reported and confirmed in October.    

June 27 — Early deaths from air pollution will continue to rise if current policies are allowed to continue, the International Energy Agency says.    

July 26 — Solar photovoltaic powered airplane, the SolarImpulse, completes global circumnavigation.

Summer  and autumn of 2016 — Campaign for US president enters high gear as Republicans nominate Donald Trump and Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton. Stark differences between the two candidates are obvious in many areas, including environmental policy and coping with climate change.  Trump takes climate denialism to new lows, vowing to roll back environmental policies of all kinds.  Clinton emphasizes use of green energy as best strategy to fight climate change. 

Aug. 24 — President Obama creates new national monuments in Maine and Hawaii.

September – October — Sioux tribe’s fight over an oil pipeline in North Dakota becomes a national movement. On Sept. 9 the federal government announced a temporary halt to the pipeline, but protests accelerated when private police hired by the pipeline company mistreated protesters.  See this Wikipedia article.  

Sept.14 — Climate change is a significant and direct threat to US security, a team of military experts says.    

Sept. 15 — Marine sanctuaries — The US and 20 other nations join in the creation of 40 new marine sanctuaries in oceans around the world.    

Oct. 13  — António Guterres selected as next United Nations Secretary General, to begin in January 2017.  Guterres is a good choice for addressing climate change, according to the Daily Climate.

Oct. 25 — A turning point for renewable energy has been reached, according to International Energy Agency.

Oct 26 — Wildlife populations are down by 60 percent since 1970, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Federation.

Nicholas Stern, 2009

Nicholas Stern, 2009

 Oct. 27 — A low-carbon future is the only future, according to British economist  Nicholas Stern  on the 10th anniversary of the 2006  Stern report on the economics of climate change.    “We have delayed action,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “The potential damages now look bigger than I suggested then. In that sense I underplayed the consequences of not getting on with it. But the costs of action are a good deal lower than I indicated then, in that technical progress has been faster that we thought. The cost of solar power [for example] is not far off a factor of 10 less than in 2006.”

Oct. 28 – The world’s largest marine conservation reserve will be formed in  Antarctic by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, a group made up of 24 nations including the US, Russia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, France and others.

Nov. 8 — Trump wins. Donald Trump unexpectedly wins US presidential election, and his cabinet picks show that he intends a government of, by and for the oil industry.  Rex Tillerson, until recently CEO of Exxon-Mobil, will win confirmation as Secretary of State, and others with financial ties to the oil industry are confirmed as cabinet members.

Dec. 4 — Stand-off at Standing Rock reservation eases  as federal agencies decide to reconsider environmental impacts and alternative routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Dec. 22 — An appeals court opens the way for climate scientist Michael Mann to pursue his libel suit against right-wing critics who accused him of fraud.

The year 2016  in environmental news: 

2017

Jan 4 –Air pollution —  China issues national “red alert” as heavy smog blankets major cities.

Jan 5 — Climate Change — Two independent studies show that sea surface temperatures continued to increase in the 21st century.  Previously, scientists had found a slowing of the rate of warming in comparison to the 1950s to 1990s time frame.  However, the independent studies, once adjusted for differences in temperature recording methods, found that warming in the first 15 years of the 21st Century was “virtually indistinguishable” from the rate of warming between 1950-99. The studies included one by a team at UC Berkeley and another at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Jan 5 — Coal ash — Angry protests break out over loose coal ash in Port Augusta in south central Australia.

Jan 9 — Renewable energy trend is ‘irreversible,’ writes outgoing president Barack Obama in Science magazine.   The momentum will not be outdone during the Trump administration, he says.

Jan 18 — NASA scientists report that new, warmer temperature record has been set for 2016, the first time a three-year warming trend has been detected.

Jan 24 — Support for the environmental movement  shows a two and a half decade decline due to relentless politicization of once-bipartisan issues, according to Gallup Polls, which says that only 27% of Republicans and 56% of Democrats now consider themselves environmentalists.  Pew Research has a different take,  finding that two thirds of the US public still favors  renewable energy over fossil fuels —  a ratio consistent from the 1970s despite the relentless polarization of environmental issues.

Feb 17  — Scott Pruitt, a state attorney general who led the fight against the US Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama years,  is confirmed as Trump’s EPA secretary and takes charge.  Meanwhile, emails released from Pruitt’s years in Oklahoma show that he worked closely with oil and gas industries to destroy environmental protection.

March 7 — Former Nixon and Reagan head of EPA, Donald Ruckleshaus, writes in a New York Times op-ed that US president Trump’s approach to environment is not what American industry wants or needs.

March 11 — Six years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, costs are reaching the hundreds of billions, without any hope of containing the runaway nuclear reactions.