With only a few days left in 2018, it’s time to revisit some of the year’s top environmental stories. When I wrote my year-end newsletter in 2017, The Conversation Canada was barely six months old. This time, I have a year’s worth of contributions from stellar academics to reflect on.
This year saw the worst wildfire season in recorded history in British Columbia, beating out the previous record, set only in 2017. By the end of August, nearly 13,000 square kilometres were burning in B.C., sending smoke across the country and into the United States. People began feeling the heat in other ways too. Canada is a water-wealthy country, but we could face future shortages. And the global heatwave didn’t only play out on land: ocean heatwaves are getting hotter, lasting longer and doing more damage.
A major focus of 2018 was to minimize the world’s plastic pollution. Countries vowed to phase out single-use shopping bag, ban microbeads and straws, and our authors weighed in. Canada used its G7 presidency to shine the spotlight on ocean plastics and pollution, but we still don’t have an international plastics treaty. Plastics are fouling our rivers and lakes are too, though we know little about their effects.
Environmental coverage and research can be gloomy. But beneath the distress are stories of hope and connection, including new approaches to conservation that protect wildspaces and Indigenous cultural and food security, discovering that grasslands songbirds still sing their sexy songs above industrial noise, not to mention the video reveal of Greenland sharks and a first-time meeting of the three bears in northern Manitoba.
Perhaps we’re about to turn a corner. World leaders recently wrapped up their annual meeting on climate change, where they wrote the rulebook that will help put us closer to the goal of limiting warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. The preferred goal is 1.5C and “The Climate Clock” shows the significance of our actions. If we zero our emissions by 2080, we’ll postpone 1.5C by about five years. As the authors say, “the world is in trouble. But it’s not too late…”