Ecocentricity Blog: A Climate Year in Review

Dec 20, 2017 10:30 AM ET
Campaign: Ecocentricity Blog

Ecocentricity Blog: A Climate Year in Review

Cliché? Absolutely. Tacky? I don’t think so, but reasonable people could disagree. Am I going to try to pull it off? You betcha.

No, I’m not talking about wearing an ugly Christmas sweater every day until it’s 2018. I don’t actually own an ugly Christmas sweater (and I like it that way, for the record). I’m talking about the “reflecting back on the past year” blog post, and this one will be with a climate change lens. Let’s get to it.

A lot has happened this year (but I could say that most any year). In June, the United States announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. While that process will take nearly four years to become effective, it took mere days for the #WeAreStillIn response to spread. Many states, cities, and companies pledged to do their part to have the United States meet its emission reduction targets notwithstanding the Federal government’s withdrawal. I was heartened to see responsibility for climate action embraced at these lower levels.

In July, the Larsen C Ice Shelf broke away, creating a trillion-ton iceberg that will now float around and eventually dissolve into the ocean. While that iceberg won’t directly contribute to sea level rise (it was ocean ice before breaking off, and ice floating in the ocean already displaces the same amount of water as if it were liquid water), it’s still troubling. The ice shelf was a barrier protecting some land-locked glaciers that might now advance into the ocean faster. Moreover, it was a striking reminder of the changes that are occurring at our planet’s poles.

As I’ve written about in the past, there’s been some notable infighting this year in the solar industry. Suniva and SolarWorld have worked to get a tariff imposed on imported solar cells into the United States. That process is nearing a resolution, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll only see a small tariff. In general though, I don’t like to see any artificial market interventions that will harm the competitiveness of renewable energy. We need to speed up the transition to renewables, not slow it down.

On the natural disaster front, we’ve taken a pretty good thumping as a country this fall. Texas was flooded by Harvey, Florida and Georgia felt the wrath of Irma, and Puerto Rico was brought to its knees by Maria. Northern California struggled with raging wildfires in October, just to then see Southern California endure the same two months later. While we can’t definitively say that these disasters were caused by climate change, events like them will be more and more common.

Despite all of the bad news friends, I care more about the good news. 2017 saw Tesla start rolling Model 3s off their assembly line, and they have meaningful competition from Chevrolet and Nissan. Electric vehicles are getting there. Renewables had another strong year, with continued growth in installations and decline in costs. It seemed to me as well that climate change remained in public discourse throughout the year. We need to be mindful of this challenge and its urgency.

Above all else, I will remember 2017 as the year that Drawdown was introduced to the world. Thanks to the work of Paul Hawken and his team at Project Drawdown, we now definitively know the most substantive solutions to reverse global warming. We can do so much more than any of us have realized. And as the book makes clear, it’s not game over for humanity and climate change; it’s game on.

So let’s get to work. 2018 is going to be a big year.