Resolving to fight climate change in 2018
Catastrophic hurricanes, severe flooding, and raging wildfires fueled by drought were prominent features of an eventful year for the environment in 2017. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it was the third warmest year ever on record, while the Rainforest Trust reports that “nearly 25 million acres of tropical forest, an area almost as large as the 6 state of Virginia, were deforested in 2017.”
Rainforest Trust’s first-annual Environmental Year-in-Review put the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on fighting global climate change at the top of the list of major events for the past 12 months. Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, pointed out that the withdrawal took place despite a scientific consensus that the warming climate is the driving force behind the extreme weather.
“What we’re basically seeing is hurricanes that are much more intense, flooding that is going to be much more catastrophic,” Salaman said. “[In 2017], we’ve had estimates of upwards of half-a-trillion dollars worth of property damage.” His organization’s report notes:
As of December 15, there are a total of 60 environmental rules and 7 regulations that are facing significant changes under the current U.S. presidential administration. Many of these changes are to wildlife and habitat protections, two things Rainforest Trust takes very seriously in its work to safeguard biodiversity. These changes include removing protections for whales and sea turtles, no longer listing Grizzly Bears as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species Act and lifting the hunting ban on wolves and bears in Alaska.
Both the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline were approved despite massive and lengthy protests—furthering our dependence on fossil fuels. On November 16, the Keystone XL pipeline had its largest oil spill yet at 210,000 gallons. Offshore drilling bans for the Atlantic and Arctic have also been overturned, while rollbacks are in progress for several other fossil fuel related rules such as exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, regulations on drilling in some national parks and fracking regulations on public lands.
Salaman said acting locally by planting a bee-friendly garden or volunteering to help clean up a local park in the coming year are easy steps people can take to begin to make a difference.
But he emphasized that global action is required, too.
“Our most important resolution will certainly be towards protecting habitat,” he said, “and really importantly, preserving rainforests that are really the lungs of the planet and the biggest stabilizing factor for the global climate.”
Salaman also noted that as little as $2, the price of a cup of coffee, can permanently protect an acre of rainforest.
While the federal government may be opting not to fight climate change, Salaman said other levels of government are stepping up to the challenge.
“The good thing is that many states and cities have come together across the US to balance this and really double their efforts towards reducing carbon emissions and becoming much more sustainable,” he said.
Andrea Sears is a reporter for the Commonwealth News Service.