Climate Change, Science

The environment: what’s going up and what’s going down?

It’s looking up for green urban spaces, as Barcelona’s Mayor, Ada Colau, plans to transform the Catalonian city through a series of “superblocks” over the next decade. These blocks are intended to transform the city centre and Eixample district into a greener, pedestrian friendly, nearly car-free area. A 2020 report from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health estimates that the 503 superblocks planned across the city would reduce private vehicle usage by 230,000 journeys a week. This will prevent as many as 667 premature deaths from air pollution a year and bring nitrous oxide levels within the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommended limits.  

According to C40, ‘Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions’, whilst road transport alone contributed to 21% of total European carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 – equating to over 93 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Therefore, re-envisioning our transport systems and urban areas are vital steps in preventing a 4°C rise in global temperatures. 

It’s all going downhill for the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in New Mexico, as Donald Trump uses his last months of presidential power to approve fossil fuel exploitation and extraction in valuable natural sites and parks across the US. The Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is a sacred area for local native Navajo and Pueblo people, as well as an environmental haven. It has already been targeted by Trump’s extractivist agenda, as his administration fought to legalise increased logging and road-building in national forests. Now they are looking to drill for oil around the park too. 

This destructive policy choice is not an isolated incident. Trump is also planning to displace the local Gwich’in tribe in Northern Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as his administration auctions off the fossil fuel drilling rights for America’s largest protected wilderness. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to 200 species of birds, endangered polar bears and, notably, migratory caribou, which the Gwich’in tribe depends upon. Although Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris agreement, much of the destruction wrought by Trump is arguably irreparable without radical change across the United States.


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Meg Watts

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December 2021
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