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Top 5 Environmental Wins of 2016

A polar bear rests on the Arctic sea ice under a clear blue sky. Photographed by Chase Dekker.

There are those that would say that 2016 had a lot of negative repercussions on the environment. While things may be looking down, there were quite a few promising steps in 2016 towards a more sustainable future. Whether it was global trends that seem to be on the upswing, or strong acts of conservation, 2016 did show us that an ever-increasing portion of the planet is taking steps to ensure we slow down the rising effects of climate change. It seems as though it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good news about the state of our planet as we are constantly bombarded by depressing news about the rapid state of decline. Here, we will instead take a look at five of the more positive accomplishments of 2016 that we can pat ourselves on the back for.

1) Paris Climate Agreement

While this accord is not perfect, it is definitely worth noting on this list. On April 22 (Earth Day), 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreements in an effort to address climate change. Many countries, including China and India, which are some of the top polluters, have voiced their concerns to keep global warming at a 2 degree Celsius cap, which would involve moving away from our traditional forms of energy to more renewable and environmentally friendly versions such as wind and solar power. 2016 marked the third year in a row that global temperature highs were hit, so the coming together of almost all the world’s nations cannot be stressed enough.

2) China Bans Ivory Trade

This has been a long time coming. Just when we thought 2016 was all over, China announced it was going to shut down it’s domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Even though there was a 1989 ban on ivory trade, poachers persisted in their efforts to kill elephants as China was still using it to carve into elaborate pieces. This was because the 1989 ban did not cover old ivory, which was still legal to be traded as many said the new ivory coming in was old. A bad loophole, but it is all in the past as China has stated they will educate their people on the consequences of killing Africa’s elephants. A few other countries still have an ivory trade, but with the largest importer declaring it's done, it is likely the last few supporters of the trade will shut down as well. 25 years ago, there were roughly one million elephants across Africa, and by the end of last year, estimates claimed there were around 500,000 left. This ban could not have come at a better time.

3) Renewable Energy Growth Accelerates

While the majority of our planet’s power is still produced from fossil fuels, renewable energy is on the rise and is predicted to overtake coal by 2040. While that seems far away, the more renewable energy we use now, the better. It will take some time for renewable energy, including solar, wind, and hydro to become the dominant source for our electricity and day to day lives. The majority (53.6% to be exact) of new energy sources installed, came from renewable methods. Around $300 billion is currently invested into renewables, while coal and gas received less than half of that investment, showing a decreasing trend of interest in a dying breed of energy. Currently, clean energy amounts to just around 12% of all the world’s electricity last year, but as both the developed and developing countries continue to invest in new ways to find power, that percentage should continue to grow.

4) Protecting the World’s Oceans

For many of us here in the United States, we saw a lot on the news about how President Obama banned all new offshore drilling in over 100 million acres across the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. This was a major victory in protecting an environment that is vanishing all too quickly, but many people did not notice all the other acts of ocean conservation being written in by other nations. During the same time Obama issued the Arctic drilling ban, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued a sister act in freezing all offshore drilling acts in his nation’s water, further protecting a large chunk of the northern seas. Further south, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Ecuador agreed to protect over 10,000 square miles of ocean near the Galápagos, an area used heavily by a wide-array of wildlife. Continuing further south, a group of 25 countries agreed to create a 600,000 square mile reserve off of Antarctica. This large section of the Ross Sea is now the largest marine reserve in the world and will help protect over 16,000 different species that call this cold environment home.

5) Cooling the Refrigerants

In October, more than 100 countries met in Rwanda to discuss the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are refrigerants used in refrigerators and air conditioners. These HFCs account for a small portion of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, but they are almost 3,900 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Not to mention they are extremely hard to dispose of as they have a lifetime of nearly 14 years. While carbon dioxide is still considered to be the biggest threat as it can also last for decades and there is a much greater quantity of it, HFCs are adding to the problem. The countries agreed that by 2019 (even though many will not start until 2024) they will gradually eliminate HFCs by replacing them with cleaner and safer solutions. Many scientists state that a complete disposal of HFCS could potentially reduce global warming by half a degree.


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Hey, I'm Chase Dekker, a wildlife and nature photographer looking to share my stories and expertise with as many people as possible. My blog gives you a glimpse into my life as a photographer - whether it be stories from my travels, or guides on how to make your own trips as successful and special as possible.

I hope to give you valuable insight on everything from travel, to animals, to photography tips and more!


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