Friday, October 21, 2016

Top 5 Environmental News Stories We Missed During the Presidential Election

Every four years, the U.S. presidential election takes all of the news oxygen in the room. Newspapers and television stations focus on the day to day election dramas that have us all breathless waiting for the latest gaffe, insult, or faux pas of the candidates. As a result, we often miss other significant events. Today, I highlight the top 5 environmental news stories we missed during this year's presidential election.

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1. Hottest summer and hottest months on record. During last several months many worldwide temperature records were broken. We had the hottest summer on record and we broke record temperatures for all but one month in the last year. We continue to see that planetary temperatures are ramping up.

2. Hurricane Matthew devastates parts of the Caribbean and the U.S. The environmental damage from the storm continues to evolve, but public health issues in places like Haiti and North Carolina from flooding remain a concern weeks after the storm. Some point out that the warming waters in the region will only increase the intensity and likelihood of large storms in this region.

3. North Dakota Access Pipeline controversy heats up. In recent years, fracking of oil shale in North Dakota made it one of the most productive energy states in the U.S. However, the region has limited infrastructure for moving the oil from the sparsely populated state to places that can process the crude and distribute it to consumers. Recently, in an effort to improve infrastructure for the movement of oil, a pipeline called the North Dakota Access Pipeline was permitted to cross Native American lands. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is suing the government for permitting the pipeline without proper consultation. The case has many interesting implications that include issues of tribal sovereignty, fracking regulation, and economic development.

4. Sinkhole in mining area causes polluted water to enter subsurface. In August, a major sinkhole opened up underneath a slightly radioactive mining waste pile that held millions of gallons of polluted water. The water entered the subsurface and local residents were not told about the potential risk for weeks. 

5. Paris agreement moves forward. After the Paris climate agreement of December 2015, countries had to ratify the agreement. This was achieved on October 5th and the agreement goes into effect November 4th. It is the most aggressive global agreement on climate change to date, although it is probably not aggressive enough to stop global climate change. The targets are not as aggressive as many hoped. Plus, much of the agreement is not binding.

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