University of Vermont
A move is afoot to name the age we live in the Anthropocene Era to reflect the effect humans are having on the environment.

From Extinctions to Melting Ice: 10 Environmental Issues We'll See More of in 2015

Terri Hansen

The World Resources Institute is about to release its annual forecast of stories to watch for in the coming year. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled one of our own. Here is a list of currently environmental stories that could emerge, continue dominating, or grow in importance during 2015.

The ‘Anthropocene’ Era

Because we have cut trees faster than they mature, caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans, harvested fish more quickly than oceans can replenish them, and emitted more carbon into the atmosphere than forests and oceans can absorb, we have reached what is being dubbed the Anthropocene age—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new.” The appellation Anthropocene designates this geological period as one in which humans are a dominant influence on the environment, though unlike the Paleolithic and other eras it is not a formally defined geological unit of time. A proposal to formalize the Anthropocene name is being developed by the 'Anthropocene' Working Group, with a target date of 2016. Look for an uptick in news stories about this in 2015. 

Anthropocene is being used more and more by individuals who care about our planet and our environment. It speaks to overconsumption, sustainability and a host of environmental issues. So start bandying the word about yourself, you’re in the know!

Photo: University of Vermont

Climate Change People Power

During Peru’s United Nations Climate Summit, or COP20, in December, the United States and China announced plans to reduce carbon emissions—by 25 percent for the U.S. come 2025, while China pledged to stop CO2 emissions growth by 2030.

But it’s not just governments that need to act. Climate scientists say the future will be influenced not only by governments but also by people in all countries. We global citizens will have to become familiar with our need to reduce our carbon footprint if we are to save the planet from catastrophic climate change impacts.

Related: Has Global Warming Finally Become the Reason to Vote?

Watch for more news on personal responsibility based on issues raised at the COP20, as well as news from the COP21 climate summit in Paris in December 2015, where participating nations have agreed to produce a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, due to start in 2020 and last until at least 2030.

Related: Indigenous Rights Get Little Mention in 2014 Climate Agreement

Climate developments themselves could continue dominating the news, what with 2015 shaping up to be the hottest year on record, hotter even than 2014, which was the hottest year so far, according to records dating back to 1880.

People's Climate March, New York City, 2014

Nuclear Energy

In November 2013, four top climate and energy scientists—James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel and Tom Wigley—published an open letter calling on world leaders to support a new generation of safer nuclear power systems in the face of catastrophic climate changes.

A lot of environmentalists did not agree. But in 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report stating that because rapid carbon emission cuts were vital to stop the severe impacts of climate change, the world must build more than 400 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years, in addition to aggressively expanding its sources of renewable energy. Watch for action on that to begin in 2015.

Nuclear Reactor. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy)


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