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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Five positive environmental stories from 2016

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By Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney December 28, 2016 Wash Post

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…it’s not all bad news out there. The year saw some clear signs of environmental progress, too. Rare though they were, these five environmental stories were true bright spots:

1) Global carbon emissions appear to have stopped increasing. …the increase in emissions of carbon dioxide seems to be flattening, despite countries’ continuing use of fossil fuels. In the United States, emissions are actually going down….Data from the Global Carbon Project suggests that global emissions have not changed for three years straight. …What appears to be happening is a “decoupling” of economic growth from carbon emissions, thanks to more clean energy and other lower-emitting sources of energy like natural gas….

2) Worldwide, wind and solar are booming. The U.S. solar industry has experienced a blockbuster year. …That growth shows few signs of slowing. …Renewables still account for only about 23 percent of the electricity produced worldwide, according to the report. But the agency predicted that will increase to 28 percent by 2021, as the costs of building wind and solar farms continue to decline.

4) Technology is providing a glimmer of hope. …a potentially major advance in the growing effort to store carbon dioxide rather than allowing it to escape into the atmosphere, …Officials at Reykjavik Energy took carbon emissions from a geothermal plant (along with emissions of hydrogen sulfide, a dangerous gas) and stowed them away in the rocky ground 400 to 800 meters (1,300 to 2,600 feet) deep. Once injected into basalt rock, the carbon dioxide rapidly was mineralized, or turned into rock…

5) The oceans are finally getting the attention they deserve. A decade ago, only a fraction of the world’s oceans were protected from overfishing and other environmental threats. Slowly but surely, that has begun to change….This summer, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea (pronounced “Papa-HA-now-moh-koo-AH-kay-ah”) Marine National Monument to 582,578 square miles of land and sea, creating the largest ecologically protected area on the planet.  In September, the State Department hosted the third annual Our Ocean conference, a global gathering of government leaders, scientists and environmental activists aimed at hastening protections. Roughly 3 percent of the oceans are now safeguarded — far from the 30 percent to 40 percent that many scientists claim is necessary for the seas’ sustainability over the long term, but a vast improvement in only a few years….

 

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