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Remains of a house in the eastern part of Puerto Rico. Lorie Shaull / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Eoin Higgins

A group of Democratic Senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, are again pushing to have Puerto Rico's debt forgiven in the wake of dual hurricanes that hit the island in 2017 — an announcement that came as activists from the U.S. territory were on Capitol Hill to find a solution to the island's economic woes.

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Aerial view of Florence, Nichols, Conway and Waccamaw, South Carolina, impacted by floodwaters on Sept. 21. South Carolina Air National Guard

By Sharon Kelly

2018 is set to rank as the fourth warmest year on record—and the fourth year in a row reflecting a full degree Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) temperature rise from the late 1800s, climate scientists say.

This was the year that introduced us to fire tornadoes, bomb cyclones and in Death Valley, a five-day streak of 125°F temperatures, part of the hottest month ever documented at a U.S. weather station.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Richard Branson's Necker Island was hit by two hurricanes in two weeks. @richardbranson / Instagram

Virgin Group's BMR Energy announced Tuesday that it bought a 4-megawatt solar plant from NRG Energy, Inc. in St. Croix that was badly damaged during Hurricane Maria.

BMR Energy will take over the power purchase agreement and restoration efforts of the solar farm, the company said in a press release.

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Alaska's Columbia glacier has melted away, leaving a pool of water in its wake. NASA

By Jeremy Deaton

President Trump's proposed 2019 budget would slash funding for NASA's Earth Science Division, and while his budget hasn't gained traction in Congress, it is an important statement of the administration's priorities. In a nod to his allies in the fossil fuel industry, Trump is calling for the elimination of vital programs that monitor carbon pollution and climate change.

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By Adam Lynch

Marámellys Castro-Pérez is a Puerto Rican refugee living in Orlando with her husband and twins after the one-two punch of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Maria, in particular, scrubbed the island clean of electricity, working toilets and phone service. It dragged Castro-Pérez's world into the dark ages and pitted the island's modern, cosmopolitan populace against the once-tamed perils of hunger, biting insects and disease.

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Gage Skidmore / Flickr

By Jeremy Deaton

All press is good press—except when it isn't.

For those who are happy about President Trump's attacks on climate science and policy, this will come as bad news. By shining a spotlight on the issue, Trump drove media coverage of climate change last year.

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New Castle Causeway. PREP Community / Facebook

By Cameron Wake

The year 2017 painted a grim picture of coastal storms in the eastern U.S. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were deadly and destructive harbingers of how climate change contributes to bigger storms with stronger winds, greater extreme precipitation, and higher storm surge due to rising seas.

Unfortunately, there's a long-standing cultural divide around climate change. On a political level, this has made it difficult for coastal states to act on—or even acknowledge—the growing risk of coastal flooding from climate change.

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UK Department for International Development / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Lornet Turnbull

There's a popular quote often attributed to Mark Twain that was used in a radio ad in the Virgin Islands many years ago: "Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it…."

It always seemed strangely inappropriate in a place where people seldom talk about the weather, and where blue skies produce picture postcard days and temperatures seldom vary from the mid-80s. In the islands, the saying goes, as in much of the Caribbean, the weather is pretty predictable.

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By Arnoldo Valle-Levinson and Andrea Dutton

For Americans who live along the east and Gulf of Mexico coasts, the end of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season on Nov. 30 was a relief. This year forecasters recorded 17 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes. Six were major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger), and three made landfall: Harvey in Texas, Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, and Maria in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. It was the most costly season ever, inflicting more than $200 billion in damages.

Many scientists have found evidence that climate change is amplifying the impacts of hurricanes. For example, several studies just published this month conclude that human-induced climate change made rainfall during Hurricane Harvey more intense. But climate change is not the only factor making hurricanes more damaging.

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NOAA

As we look back on the most noteworthy environmental stories of 2017, one cannot help but start with the extreme weather that has caused so much destruction to so many around the globe. And with that, the year brought heightened concern for protecting our planet with focused attention on issues like renewable energy, electric vehicles and plastic pollution. And while 2017 was also marked by challenges with the U.S. pulling out of the Paris agreement and making other questionable environmental policy changes, we all enter a new year with the ability to make positive change.

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Neighborhood homes destroyed in the Thomas Fire burning in the Ventura area of California. KTLA / Twitter

By Joe Sandler Clarke and Unearthed reporters

From the finest American journalism chronicling the worst excesses of the Trump administration to international stories showing the impact of climate change on the developing world, here are the stories we wish we had written this year.

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