And people didn't hesitate to talk about it. Here are the 20 most popular hashtags on Twitter inspired by environmental progress made in 2015:
Climate change is not a political issue. It’s a people and a planet issue. #ActOnClimate https://t.co/z7yGgERVVn— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1451316420.0
Activists ramped up the pressure on world leaders to reach a strong, global agreement on climate change at the UN COP21 Paris climate talks, calling it "our last, best chance" to do so. Climate change received far more attention from mainstream media outlets this year, and according to recent polling, more Americans than ever accept the science on global warming.
I can't even. #BlackFridayIn3Words— Melissa Knowles (@Melissa Knowles)1448297018.0
"My soul went Black Friday shopping. First on the list? Adventure." -Instagram's _gentry__ #OptOutside https://t.co/5yNC03G22b— REI (@REI)1448744407.0
REI made waves when it announced that it would be closing all of its 143 retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. All 12,000 full- and part-time employees received paid time off as the company encouraged them and everyone else to go outside instead.
This U.S. town plans to #Go100percent #renewables #OffGrid https://t.co/F20s2tJVPA via @ecowatch https://t.co/CFQ5MoArbZ— Climate Council (@Climate Council)1450671726.0
Costa Rica ran on renewables for almost all of 2015. From small towns like Nassau, New York to major cities such as San Diego, Vancouver and Las Vegas, pledges were made to go 100 percent renewable. Sweden vowed to as well. And Hawaii pledged to do so by 2045—the most ambitious standard set by a U.S. state thus far.
It's simple: If we're serious about reducing carbon emissions, #renewables are key to meeting our goals https://t.co/4JPwrCmOLR— American Renewable Energy (@American Renewable Energy)1451064602.0
Renewables had another record-breaking year with solar and wind power growing like crazy—providing more than 5 percent of the nation’s electricity for the first time—and the country’s first offshore wind power project is finally under construction.
Extreme #weather across the globe linked to #ClimateChange and #ElNino: https://t.co/LJghdo3MfJ #Climate #Ocean https://t.co/3byGICtVqW— The TerraMar Project (@The TerraMar Project)1451317580.0
The so-called "Monster El Niño" delivered the globe some powerful extreme weather this year. The World Meteorological Organization's Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the combination of a record-strength El Niño and climate change is putting us in "uncharted territory." This year will undoubtedly go down as the hottest on record and the UK Met Office has already forecasted 2016 to be even hotter still.
Here, enjoy this street art from #BuenosAires #ShellNo #climatechange https://t.co/mmEQyAenJS— Rebecca Cooke (@Rebecca Cooke)1448548023.0
Activists were relentless in calling for President Barack Obama to revoke oil and gas exploration leases in the Chukchi Sea. In July, 13 Greenpeace activists suspended themselves from a bridge in Portland, Oregon, to block Shell’s ice breaker from leaving the port headed for the Arctic Ocean. The 40-hour standoff ended with a call for Obama to "join the millions of people who are speaking with one voice to say it loud and clear: ShellNo.”
This is what community looks like! Donald Trump has got to go #DumpTrump https://t.co/jV068hvWxc— Alexandra Rosenmann (@Alexandra Rosenmann)1450645915.0
Despite the fact that Donald Trump has maintained his place at the top of polls for months, many Americans loathe the man. Civil rights groups have demanded everyone, including Saturday Night Live, dump Trump.
Don't be fooled by the media. @BernieSanders is winning the hearts and minds of the people. #FeelTheBern @CTDems https://t.co/RxX99UBjtT— OurRev-CT Team (@OurRev-CT Team)1451148462.0
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is drawing massive crowds and generating intense passion among his supporters. He has even set the record for the biggest campaign turnout this year. And yet, an analysis by the Tyndall Report earlier this month revealed a so-called "Bernie Blackout" in which major news programs such as ABC Word News Tonight devoted a total 81 minutes this year to Trump’s campaign and just about 20 seconds to Sanders’ candidacy.
The TPP deal was just finalised. Now we have to stop it: https://t.co/DwREfZAeB4 via: @sumofus— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1451270204.0
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has rocked 2015 with controversy. It's the largest regional trade accord in history involving the U.S., Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, who all together represent two-fifths of the global economy. The countries reached a final agreement on the accord, but it still needs to be ratified by each participating country. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune called the agreement a "fast track to disaster" and Sanders vowed to stop the "disastrous" deal.
Does bodywash really have to hurt wildlife? Tell @POTUS to ban microbeads! https://t.co/74wVFrYNCt #BanTheBead https://t.co/WRaqANV2Gr— WCS (@WCS)1450506989.0
Earlier this month, Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act, and Monday, Obama signed a bill that will phase out the manufacturing of face wash, toothpaste and shampoo containing plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017, and the sale of such beauty products by July 1, 2018. This will eliminate a significant source of plastic pollution in oceans.
Fast fashion came under intense scrutiny in 2015 thanks to the work of nonprofits such as Greenpeace and Natural Resources Defense Council, and John Oliver's exposé on the fashion industry. Documentary series such as Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion and The True Cost also helped shine a spotlight on the industry, which one fashion industry executive called the "the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil.”
#TedCruz Offers @AlGore Some ‘Inconvenient Truths:’ Most Outrageous #ClimateDenier Stunt Yet https://t.co/eY8BKeAaHo https://t.co/Kh0ZOX0xxa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1449765084.0
Organizing for Action sponsored a Climate Change Fantasy Tournament highlighting climate denial in Congress and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) took the trophy in the Denial Finals. He serves as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Last winter, he tossed a snowball on the floor of the Senate, claiming he had thereby disproved global warming. Earlier this month during the Paris climate talks, he told a group of deniers that they were doing "the Lord's work."
#droughtshaming Green Valley Ranch Casino 2:20pm Dec24 @lvvwd https://t.co/SlPJjQgaQT— Renee Rhodes (@Renee Rhodes)1451010631.0
We're counting down our top 5 fav moments from 2015! #5 Celebrating #NoKXL https://t.co/LRlSuRukmU photo via @350 https://t.co/2g25tCMslw— Nobel Women (@Nobel Women)1451235742.0
Obama rejected the presidential permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline last month. "A head of state has never rejected a major fossil fuel project because of its climate impacts before," 350.org reported. "The president’s decision sets the standard for what climate action looks like: standing up to the fossil fuel industry and keeping fossil fuels in the ground."
A real good overview on #verticalfarming https://t.co/L2M8Oi3L7f #indoorfarming #infarming #agritech https://t.co/UNpR8QIeSV— INFARM (@INFARM)1450778715.0
The world’s largest vertical farm broke ground this summer in Newark, New Jersey. The world’s first hydraulic-driven vertical farm in Singapore can produce 1 ton of vegetables every other day. And Chicago-based FarmedHere, the first organically-certified indoor vertical aquaponic farm, announced it wants to expand to 18 more locations in the U.S.
"I'm not a scientist" became the GOP's tired schtick this year with almost all of the Republican presidential candidates responding this way when asked about the threat of climate change. That led Hillary Clinton to release a hilarious faux-horror video bashing her opponents for their stance a few months ago. And earlier this month, Americans United for Change released a video, “Still Not A Scientist,” a sequel to the Webby Award nominated video “Not A Scientist.”
#SaveThePlanetIn4Words Don't vote for Trump http://t.co/8kDwMoFtI8— Brendan McInnis (@Brendan McInnis)1443103922.0
People took to Twitter to offer their serious and not-so-serious ideas of how to #SaveThePlanetIn4Words. A common tweet: “Don’t Vote For Trump.”
My first #bearselfie of 2015 & hopefully not last! #alaska #bristolbay #katmai http://t.co/ty2BoVzPG3— Louisa Chu 朱功蕾 (@Louisa Chu 朱功蕾)1435881596.0
While "bear selfies" could mean a few different things, here we are referring to the recent phenomenon in which people have been getting way too close to bears, bison and other wildlife in state and national parks. It became such a problem that a park in the Denver area was forced to close for a period of time because people were putting themselves and the local bears in danger.
2015 set to be hottest year on record: UN, by @nina_larson https://t.co/UtcKfwfsBn https://t.co/HBU4ECvon8— AFP news agency (@AFP news agency)1448451963.0
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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