Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Top Environmental Predictions for 2019

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Each year I try to highlight my top environmental predictions for the coming year. I think I did pretty good with last year's predictions, although one could argue with some of the specifics. As we look forward to another tumultuous year ahead, below are my top ten environmental predictions that may or may not come true.

1. Significantly worse news on biodiversity. News reports over the last year have noted ecosystem problems in many parts of the world. Expect more bad news from Africa on megafauna, from Australia on the barrier reefs, and from the Arctic on changing habitat due to climate change.

2. Greater isolation of politicians who deny climate change. As we start to see accelerated impacts due to climate change, it will be harder for politicians to continue to deny the science of climate change. Politicians who deny climate change will become toxic to a national audience.

3. Environmental justice concerns grow in autocratic countries. In places like China, Russia, and Venezuela, there is little real opposition to centralized national power. As a result, there is little voice to those who face environmental consequences of national actions. Expect to see greater focus on environmental justice in these places in the coming year.

4. Good news on plastics. The world is starting to get more serious about plastic pollution as we see greater pollution problems around the world. The coming year will see a variety of actions at the local, national, and global levels. Expect to see more plastic straw bans and serious initiatives to clean up ocean plastics.

5. Water supply woes continue around the world. While there is good news coming on plastics, there is bad news coming on water. Many areas around the world have passed their ability to sustainably provide water to their populations. Whether it is Yemen or Las Vegas, many places are having more challenges to maintaining a steady water supply.

6. Rewilding of abandoned areas. As populations have become more urban around the world, some places are reverting back to wilderness. Expect this trend to continue in areas seeing rural population declines.

7. Questions on resiliency. Over the last several years, many have used the term resiliency to refer to the ability of populations to react to a variety of challenges such as climate change or severe storms. A number of initiatives have moved forward around the world to try to make communities more resilient. Expect to see critical evaluations of these initiatives in the coming years.

8. Food quality problems grow. Last year there were several problems that emerged in the quality of the food supply. These problems will continue in the coming year as producers struggle with how to maintain high quality standards in food that needs to be shipped great distances.

9. Advances in green energy technology. Each year, there are magnificent advances in green energy technology that allow us to reduce our use of fossil fuels. There will be great advances in non-battery storage of green energy (wind and solar) to allow temporal stabilization of energy supply.

10. Rejection of consumerism. It is becoming more and more uncool among young people to be associated with big-ticket luxury items. The young see the previous generation as responsible for many or the problems that they are facing--particularly economic and environmental problems. They see luxury items as symbolic of the generational rift. Expect to see a greater rejection of consumerism in the coming generation.

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