Saturday, December 24, 2016

Top 5 Environmental Predictions for 2017

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It is an end of the year tradition at On the Brink to post several end of the year lists. Today I list my top 5 environmental predictions for 2017. If you have any other suggestions, please post your thoughts in the comments of the blog.

1. Greater accountability for climate change denial frauds. There are many smoking guns that emerged in recent years that show that many in the climate change denial crowd were very aware and accepting of climate change science. They denied climate change as a reality for economic reasons for their companies or for their own personal gain even though they fully understood and aware of the issues of climate change science and policy. More of these fraudsters will be revealed and some will be called to account as places like Miami and the coastal northeast continue to feel the impact of sea level rise.

2. Rebirth of activism and growth of environmental majors. Many basic environmental rules are under assault. As a result, we will see a renewal of environmental activism similar to what we saw in the late 1960's and the mid 1980's. Expect to see more civil disobedience inspired by the 2016 Standing Rock Indian Reservation protests. Also expect to see significant growth in college students declaring environmental majors. Growth in these fields always occurs when the environment is under assault.

3. Rebirth of local sustainability initiatives. Prior to President Obama's election, sustainability accounting and management infused local governments and decision making. After his election, local governments took their cues from the federal and state governments. Given the predicted lack of interest in advancing President Obama's environmental initiatives, we will see that local leadership will once again become more significant.

4. 3-D Printing and genetically engineering climate change solutions. Scientists have applied high-tech solutions to a number of modern problems. However, we have not yet fully embraced technical solutions to climate change via geoengineering or other technological approaches. Look to some out of the box ideas to emerge in the coming year. Can we use carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to "print" limestone? Can we develop organisms that are especially effective at reef building?

5. Growing concerns about carrying capacity of the planet. While many have blithely suggested that the world can hold many more billions of people, we are quickly coming to terms with the carrying capacity of the planet. Whether it is water resources in Yemen or healthy fisheries in the northeastern United States, we are starting to come face to face with some distinct resource limitations. Of course, at the same time, we are seeing greater ecosystem changes that are causing extinctions of many animals and plants. As populations continue to grow, and as some regions begin to experience greater resource limitations in 2017, expect to see greater discussion in the public and in the scientific community about these limitation issues. Given today's anti-globalization vibe, there will be growing geographic disparities in terms of access to basic resources like food, water, and shelter.

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