Below, we finish Earth Week by ranking the top 10 events that define the environmental movement since 1970. Let us know what you think!
#10: Three Mile Island (1979)
As we discussed earlier this week, Three Mile Island marked an inflection point in the global use of nuclear power. Without a vivid reminder of the grave risks of nuclear power, perhaps our fossil fuel addiction would have been weaned far earlier. Nonetheless, as cheap and renewable energy prevails, it’s quite plausible to imagine a cleaner grid in the not-too-distant future.
#9: Kyoto Protocol (1997)
As we wrote on Tuesday, Kyoto was the first first international treaty aimed at controlling and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, it highlighted boiling tensions regarding the division of responsibility between developed and developing nations, a question that to this day inhibits global cooperation on climate change.
#8: James Hansen (1988)
Academics and other observers mark Hansen’s 1988 testimony as a tipping point in climate science and broad-based understanding of climate change, particularly within governmental bodies like the US Congress.
#7: An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
An Inconvenient Truth stimulated dialogue regarding the climate crisis that serves as a defining moment in climate change communications. Al Gore’s standing undoubtedly gave his documentary added credibility. The former VP earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, but 14 years later, the struggle continues to convince the general populace that Earth is warming and it’s our fault.
#6: First UN climate conference (1972)
The summit formally led to the creation of the UN Environmental Programme. Bigger picture, as summit attendee Jan-Gustav Strandenaes said, it “put environment on the political agenda” around the world.
#5: Montreal Protocol (1987)
Montreal is widely recognized as the most effective international environment-related agreement to date. The treaty banned the use of CFCs, which in addition to burning the ozone layer contribute far more to the greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide.
#4: Youth Climate Movement (2018)
Just as Muhammad Ali shook up the world by beating Sonny Liston in 1964, Greta Thunberg shook up the world by protesting alone in front of the Swedish Parliament. If a 15-year-old girl can create such a tremendous impact by herself, imagine what could happen if more people united to fight for the planet.
#3: First Earth Day (1970)
The first Earth Day constituted the largest protest in American history. Earth Day raised awareness of environmental issues to an unprecedented degree. 50 years later, the results have been mixed, but Earth Day continues as an annual reminder of how much work we have to do to protect and preserve Earth.
#2: COVID-19 Outbreak (2020)
It’s admittedly speculative to rank the coronavirus pandemic as the second most impactful environmental development of the last 50 years. We made this power ranking based on how it might be perceived in the future, and from that lens, coronavirus will indelibly reshape our societies in fundamental ways. We anticipate it may heighten environmental consciousness and give the world some momentum as we all seek to draw down greenhouse gas emissions quickly to prevent some of the scariest impacts of climate change.
#1: Paris Agreement (2015)
Despite skepticism over the robustness of the Paris Agreement, we believe it will serve as a lodestar to guide climate policy over the coming years and decades. As the climate emergency becomes increasingly damaging in our everyday lives, we can only wish that governments will use the Paris Agreement as inspiration to act on behalf of the planet.
This is our top 10 Environmental Moments in the last 50 years since the first Earth Day.
Let us know what you think of our rankings in the comments below!