From: Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published December 31, 2015 07:10 AM

2015 Year in Review

As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was.

This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada.

The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks.

Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.

1. The world committed to climate action in Paris in what will almost definitely be the hottest year on record.

In what was surely the biggest news of the year, negotiators representing nearly 200 countries reached a historic agreement to address climate change in Paris this December.

The Paris Agreement commits countries to curbing greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) relative to pre-industrial levels.

All signatories are required to take action toward meeting that goal by some combination of becoming more energy efficient, reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and burning less fossil fuels. That includes rich, industrialized nations like the United States and China as well as small, poor countries that are already struggling with the impacts of rising sea levels and temperatures.

Some elements of the agreement are legally binding, but most language related to emissions reductions is voluntary, an approach insisted on by U.S. negotiators because Republicans in Congress would never ratify a binding treaty — despite the fact that 2015 will almost definitely be the hottest year ever recorded, 2016 is looking to be even hotter, and the World Meteorological Organization is warning that inaction on climate change could mean that average global temperatures will rise by 6 degrees Celsius or more.

2. 2015 saw one of the worst and most prolonged periods of Indonesian haze ever.

The smog crisis created by wildfires in Indonesia is an annual occurrence, but this year it was especially bad as the El Niño event delayed the rainy season and caused dry, drought-like conditions in most provinces. In fact, this year’s haze might have even been the worst in history, with Indonesia alone reporting a death toll of 19, and half a million citizens suffering from respiratory ailments.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate, MONGABAY.COM.

2015 image via Shutterstock.

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