Trump administration reverses course
Within minutes of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the climate change webpage on the official White House website disappeared. This foreshadowed a crackdown on climate science and Obama-era policies and signaled a seismic shift in policy under this new administration filled with climate deniers and fossil fuel advocates.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have helped lead a regulatory rollback of Obama-era policies. Since January 20, Trump has signed executive orders approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and expanding offshore drilling, Zinke has lifted a moratorium on coal leases on public lands and Pruitt has announced his intention to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.
The United States withdraws from the Paris Agreement, while Syria and Nicaragua join
In a widely criticized move, which Trump claimed was a “a reassertion of America’s sovereignty,” he announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on June 1. Trump blasted the agreement as a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries,” announcing his intention to end the United States’ implementation of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and its payments to the Green Climate Fund. The United States cannot officially withdraw from the agreement until November 4, 2020.
On October 25, Nicaragua’s Vice President Rosario Murillo stated that her country would be joining the Paris Agreement. Nicaragua had previously opposed the accord on the grounds that it was not ambitious enough.
During the second day of this year’s climate summit in November, Syrian delegates announced their intention to sign the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only nation opposed to the Paris Agreement.
Natural disasters dominate news cycle
2017 was not a normal year for natural disasters.
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive in history, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate causing devastation in the Caribbean, southern United States and Central America. Nate led to 22 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Hurricane Maria crippled Puerto Rico’s power grid and fresh water supply, sparking a humanitarian crisis. The United States suffered more $200 billion dollars from storms this season, making it the most expensive hurricane season ever.
— NASA (@NASA) September 28, 2017
Increasing sea level temperatures and changing atmospheric conditions from climate change in the Atlantic have helped intensify the hurricane season in recent years, with 2017 ranking as one of the seven most intense ever recorded.
More than 1,200 people died this summer in India, Nepal and Bangladesh from massive flooding during monsoon season. Rising sea temperatures in South Asia and changing atmospheric conditions have also helped intensify storms in this region.
Wildfires in northern California resulted in over 40 fatalities and billions of dollars of damage. Countries such as Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Croatia, Greece, Russia, Greenland and Canada were also heavily impacted by wildfires in 2017. Scientists have speculated that there is a climate component fueling these fires
One of the hottest years on record
As 2017 winds down, it is on track to be one of the three hottest years on record. This is coming off the warmest year ever in 2016, with the ten hottest years having all occured since 1998.
COP23 held in Bonn, Germany
This year’s climate negotiations in Bonn, hosted by the island-nation of Fiji, led to a resolution helping advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the launching of several initiatives and alliances, including:
Talanoa Dialogue: This inclusive and participatory process will facilitate the “sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling” among governments on how to implement the Paris Agreement and enhance action in countries’ nationally determined contributions.
Gender Action Plan: This initiative seeks to increase the role of women in climate change governance.
InsuRelience Global Partnership: The InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions was launched with the financial assistance of Germany and the United Kingdom, to help provide insurance and financial protection to populations vulnerable to climate change.
Powering Past Coal Alliance: Canada and the United Kingdom announced the formation of this alliance, which includes more than two dozen nations, two U.S. states and several Canadian provinces. The alliance’s members, which include Costa Rica, committed to “phasing out existing traditional coal power in their jurisdictions, and to a moratorium on any new traditional coal power stations without operational carbon capture and storage within their jurisdictions.”
America’s Pledge – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown held a launch event at the U.S. Climate Action Center for the America’s Pledge initiative, which brings together members of the private and public sectors in the United States committed to remaining in the Paris Agreement.
France and the United Kingdom make strides
Under a draft bill submitted in September, France will no longer issue new oil and gas exploration permits on its mainland and territories, and current concessions will be phased out by 2040. This bill is largely a symbolic move, as France imports the vast majority of its hydrocarbons used for consumption. Hulot also announced France will ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and has been vocal about reducing France’s dependence on nuclear energy.
Following France’s lead, the British government announced its intention to ban all petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced an effective ban on fracking after a public consultation demonstrated overwhelming opposition to the technology.
Tesla and Volvo make advances in electric vehicles
Tesla Semi drivetrain is guaranteed to last 1M miles = to more than 40 trips around the earth pic.twitter.com/xfWVocUdaB
— Tesla (@Tesla) November 17, 2017
Giant iceberg splits from Antarctica
An iceberg roughly one-ninth the size of Costa Rica and weighing one trillion tons, split from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. While it was unclear the extent that climate change played, this event was symbolic of the urgency of the threat global warming poses.
— NASA (@NASA) September 27, 2017