2015 was a significant year for climate change, with both positive and negative aspects. Record temperatures added to the increasing evidence that the effects of global warning are already being felt. Simultaneously, the Paris climate agreement and new levels of legislative and private sector action made for an encouraging trend of an increase in meaningful action.
It was yet another year of record breaking temperatures across the globe. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere brought extreme snowfalls and unusually low temperatures, particularly in the US and Canada. Summer then saw record heat across a number of continents. These trends were compounded by extreme weather, including flooding, fires, draught, and other damaging events, bringing the fact that climate change is already having a dangerous impact on local weather systems into sharp perspective.
It was also a significant year for renewable energy, as the price of solar power dropped considerably. However, at the same time, renewable energy’s ability to be competitive was affected by low oil prices caused by a global surplus. This price drop had a negative impact on the North American oil industry as heavily debt-ridden companies struggled to stay afloat. In a further blow to the North American industry the Obama administration rejected the Keystone pipeline on environmental grounds. However, globally, cheap oil meant a slow down in the transition to renewables. These factors combined for an overall mixed year for renewable energy outlook.
2015 was perhaps most noteworthy as a defining year for global climate action. Many countries made pledges and outlined strategies. The US in particular took practical steps with the use of Obama’s executive orders. Meanwhile, Pope Francis threw his support behind climate change action, taking global interest to new levels. This global action culminated with the COP21 in Paris where a landmark agreement was finally made between the world powers.
2016 will reveal whether or not these agreements and pledges will translate into meaningful action as the damaging impacts of climate change continue to emerge.