This year is expected to bring a breakthrough for global climate action—and that includes the rapidly warming Arctic.
Starting in April, the United States will take over leadership of the Arctic Council, the intergovernmental body charged with coordinating the eight Arctic states: Canada; Denmark, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands; Finland; Iceland; Norway; Russia; Sweden and the United States—along with a number of observer nations, including China, India, Japan and South Korea. Though the council can't issue policy, it provides the main forum for consensus building in the region, and produces recommendations that the delegates can bring back to their home countries.
Concluding that global warming will be a toxic topic in the newly elected Congress, climate movement leaders say they will press for action by state and local authorities while encouraging President Barack Obama to advance his agenda for fighting climate change.
"D.C. has always been tough ground—the fossil fuel industry owns one party and terrifies the other," said Bill McKibben, an environmental activist and founder of the climate advocacy organization 350.org. "We're aware of the hardship, but undaunted."
Local and regional governments have initiated some of the most aggressive efforts to combat climate change in the U.S. This has been particularly true in cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. Climate leaders say they will lobby more states, cities and towns to start adaptation programs to stave off the worst effects of global warming, including rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and stronger storms. They also will advocate local and regional measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, expand renewable energy and public transit, and toughen building codes.
LAREDO, Texas—Burch Muldrow was absolutely fed up with Lewis Petroleum.
The oil company was bulldozing dirt over a pit full of black, oily sludge on the ranch where he worked as caretaker.
Recalling a dramatic incident that happened two years ago, Muldrow said recently that he couldn't just stand by and watch. So he grabbed an empty one-gallon plastic milk jug from the bed of his pickup.
He cut off the top and scooped up some of the waste, muck he described as having the consistency of thick cake batter and smelling like diesel fuel.
Fracking's impacts on air quality took the spotlight this year, fueled by new research and broad media coverage.
The modern shale boom has created a massive influx of oil-and-gas wells, compressor stations and other infrastructure that spew toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the air. The consequences for public health and climate change are increasingly recognized as serious issues, on par with the water contamination concerns that once dominated debates over the pros and cons of fracking.
In mid-December, New York banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within its borders, effectively closing off the state's shale gas resources to producers. New York's decision was based on a public health review which cited various health risks including "air impacts that could affect respiratory health due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust, or volatile organic chemicals."
It was January, and tennis players at the Australian Open were suffering through the scorcher that would be the year 2014.
They threw up and they fainted from the record-setting heat. They put on ice vests. The soles of their sneakers and the bottoms of their water bottles softened as the mercury marked 109 degrees Fahrenheit. They were knocked flat by the longest Melbourne heat wave in a century.
The new year seemed to be welcoming the world to the new normal.
Here are the top InsideClimate News stories of 2014, hand-picked by our editors—a mix of ebooks, award-winners, most popular, long-form, short takes, graphics and video. Part one here. Part two:
Meltdown: Terror at the Top of the World (ebook + video)
Here are the top InsideClimate News stories of 2014, hand-picked by our editors—a mix ofebooks, award-winners, most popular, long-form, short takes, graphics and video. Part 1 (Part 2 here):
Keystone and Beyond provides the most definitive account yet of the Keystone XL pipeline saga. It also upends the national debate over the pipeline by tracing its origins to policy decisions made by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the first months of their administration, and to expectations about energy supply and demand that have turned out to be wrong.
Texas' air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
This was the year the anti-fracking movement multiplied, diversified and suffered some growing pains.
It was also the year the energy industry pushed back hard, spending millions on anti-fracking election campaigns, recruiting experts on public relations for messaging help and filing lawsuits against successful bans.
At least 20 towns, counties and states across the country closed their borders to fracking and fracking waste in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of New York City in September demanding that world leaders act on global warming in the largest climate demonstration yet.
The passion and desperation of activists to inspire change radiated through the crowd that warm, muggy day.Bill McKibben, an environmental activist and founder of 350.org, one of the main organizers of the event, described the march as a moment for which he had waited his entire career.
"All I ever really wanted was to see a climate movement come together, to see that we were actually going to fight," he told InsideClimate News. "And finally that day I was fully convinced."
Emissions from oil-and-gas production pose a significant threat to human health, and immediate steps must be taken to reduce exposure to the toxic pollution, according to an analysis of scientific studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
After reviewing the findings of 24 studies conducted by both government agencies and academic organizations, the evidence shows that people living both close to and far from oil-and-gas drilling are exposed to fracking-related air pollution that can cause at least five major types of health problems, according to the NRDC's report, Fracking Fumes.
The report says fracking threatens air quality as much as it does water quality and calls for an immediate moratorium on any new wells until a comprehensive analysis of health effects can be performed.