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  • 12.23.16

Welcome To The Anthropocene: 2016 In Environment Stories

It’s very hot here.

It’s late December, but I’m sweating. In my case, it’s because I’m in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s summer. But there’s a very good chance you could be sweating no matter where you are. 2016 is on track to be the hottest–and perhaps worst–year on record. Air and ocean temperatures hit record levels, passing 2015’s historic highs. (See all the places in America that smashed heat records this summer.) Sea levels kept rising, too, and there was more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than ever before.

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All these things are wreaking havoc on our natural environments: New endangered species are appearing everywhere, and elephants, gorillas, lions, and more of the world’s largest animals will likely become extinct over the next quarter century.

While president-elect Donald Trump says that “nobody really knows” whether climate change is a real thing, let’s not overcomplicate matters. The American Southwest is facing down a 30-year megadrought due to climate change and Louisiana has been hit with “1,000-year” floods. Of course, the wider impacts of climate change can already be seen around the world, whether you’re looking at outbreaks of armed conflict (because heat makes us more violent) or natural disasters like earthquakes, which are happening ever-more frequently. Also, the Arctic could be essentially ice-free as soon as next summer. Yikes.

You and me and the other 7 billion people on earth are now officially (per officials) the strongest force on the planet. Welcome to the Anthropocene. We did it, together. And it’s very hot.

1: The World Is Unprepared For The “Truly Staggering” Warming Of The Oceans

Fisheries and corals are in grave danger, hurricanes are increasing, and toxic algae blooms are on the rise. The world is ignoring the oceans at its peril.

[Photo: Benjamin Grant]

2: These Breathtaking Aerial Photos Of Earth Show How Humans Have Changed The Planet
From massive mines in Africa to dizzying freeway interchanges, these images capture the strange beauty—and horror—of humanity’s footprint.

3: The Greatest Coral Reef In The World Is In Mortal Danger
Warm waters are causing unprecedented bleaching episodes in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

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4: Climate Change Is Already Disrupting Delicately Balanced Penguin Colonies
In Antarctica, warming temperatures are wreaking havoc on Adélie penguins’ breeding habitat.

5: These Time-Lapse Videos From Space Show How Much The World Has Changed In 30 Years
Humans have become exceptionally good at altering the planet.

6: This Map Shows How Climate Change May Force Animals To Find New Homes
People better get prepared to see new species settling in near them.

7: The Most Detailed 3D World Map Ever Reveals A Changing Planet
From glaciers to tropical rainforests, it’s now much easier to see from above how the topographic landscape is changing.

8: Trees Stop Climate Change—Can We Pay People To Stop Cutting Them Down?
New programs are offering the people who benefit most from cutting down trees to instead take a cash payment. And it seems to be a good investment.

9: In Many Parts Of The World, Fighting For The Environment Can Be A Deadly Profession
Two of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize reflect on the murder of one of last year’s winners—and the risks they’ve taken on to protect the ecosystems of their homes.

10: The Destructive Havoc That Fracking Has Caused To The Environment, By The Numbers
If this is the bridge to a clean energy future, we might need to burn the bridge.

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11: Now It’s Possible To Link A Heat Wave Or Drought To Climate Change, In Real Time
Scientists are getting more assertive about quickly connecting extreme weather to long-term warming trends.

12: These Aerial Photos Of California Make The Damage From The Drought Look Beautiful
Thomas Heinser shows what a world without water would look like.

About the author

John Converse Townsend covers smart solutions to social problems as a writer and social media producer for Fast Company. He likes: black coffee, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and long runs.

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